How to use and market tractor services for your lawn care business.

When you are looking to scale up your equipment and expand the services your lawn care business offers, instead of simply buying the next larger sized ZTR mower, why not consider a tractor? A member of the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum did and it has opened the doors to many new services that make him stand out from local competitors. Most newer lawn care businesses don’t own a tractor so they simply won’t be able to compete with you.

He told us about the equipment is now using. “I have a quick connection on the front of my tractor which allows me to go from bucket to snow plow in under two minutes. It’s 6′ wide. I had John Deere put a special valve on so I can press a button and it switches the hydro from the curl on the loader to the angle on the plow or the top and tilt cylinder on the box blade, I just use the loader joystick rather than adding another control unit.”

For the readers considering going the route of buying a tractor and a snow plow vs a pickup and a snow plow can you tell us why you might want to go with one over the other?

What would you say are the pros vs cons of each?

“The advantage of using a truck to snow plow is that you can cover greater distances faster, the cost would be far less that a tractor I have bought.

The advantage of a tractor is it will take the abuse of plowing and never bat an eye, therefore maintenance costs are next to zip. I have been snow plowing with one of my tractors for 20 years and have had a total maintenance cost of less than $500.00. A tractor will use far less fuel as well. I can plow for 8 hours on $28.00 +/- diesel, I get better traction, and I have pulled probably 10 guys with plows on trucks out so far this season! Another advantage is the loader. I can pile snow high and widen driveways, clean bus stops, fire hydrants and I just picked up a contract for three fire halls.

The big advantage of these CUT’s (Compact Utility Tractors) is the attachments you can get. All of which will expand your business and make you good profits. The average hourly rate around here is $105.00 and because you can do so many things with them, there is good demand. I would take a tractor over a skid steer anyday as they are lighter and faster.”

Tractor with plow

Tractor with plow

For lawn care business owners who have a tractor or are thinking about getting one, what is the best way to market the services you can offer with a tractor?

“What I did was send a post card and cover letter to my current clients. I wanted to start with clients who live in what we quite often call the rich or upper scale are. The letter basically said I was expanding into mini excavation. From the 200 +/- letters I sent, I received just over 50 inquiries. We now have a few months of excavation work and quite a few lawn care contracts, some want snow removal as well.

Now what I did with snow removal was I was only interested in our area. So after or during a storm I would drive around in my truck. I had a card made up for snow removal. If a driveway wasn’t plowed I left the card in their door. If they were outside I stopped, introduced myself, said I offered snow removal if they wanted to give their back a break just give me a call. I offer snow plowing by the storm or every storm. I picked up just over 30 driveways which is more than enough. Word of mouth spread and I started getting calls from others.

What I did also was tell these people I offer lawn care, mini excavation, tree chipping. I try to take note of something I could do at their home, it’s tough as we have so much snow but if I saw a tree(s) that needed to be removed for example, I would simply say if you are interested we perform tree removal and chipping, give it some thought and give me a call in the spring/summer.

Next we have a medical clinic in our area with a free bill board for local services, I posted these cards there and at the local pizzeria and another take out restaurant. I have since taken all these down as I do not want any more driveways this season.

Here are the cards I had done up with magnetic sign to match the color of the truck also.

There is an area fairly close to here I call the retirement area so I did up a funny card which I will have mail dropped to this area only, probably in late April.

Snow plow postcard

Snow plow postcard

Lawn mowing post card

Lawn mowing post card

Now when it comes to buying a tractor, most of the CUT’s are similar, I believe JD is considered the most expensive however. What is critical is that you have a very good feeling about the dealer. It doesn’t matter much what brand although you should do some research but remember that things will break down and when you need service you need to know the dealer will back you up. That is #1 in my book. They can be expensive and if you are considering a tractor, I would encourage you to buy something a little bigger than you need. They hold their value very well.”

Should you network with others in your area and let them know you can be called to sub-contract out tractor work? Or should you market to your customers that you have a tractor and can do the following jobs?

“Personally I stay clear of sub contracting work. I can’t be bothered trying to collect money from a contractor that says they are trying to collect from the owner. I go direct and will go head on with a bigger more established company.

If you know the contractor well and are not concerned about payment, then yes this will get you a pile of work fast. I have had contractors call me but I tell them I really appreciate the consideration however we are booked solid at the moment. It’s a polite way of saying thanks but no thanks. I consider myself fortunate that I do not need the extra work at the moment.”

When you market these services, will you be including a photo of yourself on the tractor? What do you think is the best way to get across to the customer what your equipment looks like and what it can do? Or is that not so important?

“90%+ of the time it’s critical. People want to see what jobs you have done in the past. When you show up and they see the size of the tractor they will think there is no way that will do the job.

These smaller tractors have a big tractor attitude. I have been running tractors for over 30 years now in all sizes. When I first saw my smaller one I thought for the twenty grand I was about to spend there is no way it’s worth it as I doubt it will even plow my driveway. The salesman assured it would do whatever I asked and it did. In short it continues to shock me what they will do and it has never let me down.

Here is a suggestion on getting going. Advertise on the local bulletin board’s and explain what the equipment will do. When driving around and you see something you can do, stop and leave a note or do up a flyer if the people are outside talk to them and introduce yourself. Once you get going, word of mouth and neighbors of where you are working will keep you going. This worked for me and I had more work than I knew what to do with last summer.

This summer should be interesting. I have added a lot of attachments to expand what I can do and bigger equipment for the larger jobs. I met with two septic tank pumping companies yesterday as I was thinking people have to get their tanks cleaned every 8 years or so and most homeowners, would rather hire a backhoe to remove the soil for the truck to get at the top of the tank, One meeting went very well and he said they have been trying to find someone with a smaller backhoe to do this as the larger machinery damages the customer lawns. We struck a deal which he will include in his advertising. We won’t make a lot of money clearing off the tops, about $50.00 per dig, 6 a day on average and no float fee. However the goal here was to make new contacts and I know most people will have other chores that need done so I consider it a marketing expense/cost of doing business.

I also plan on contacting sprinkler installation companies, companies that install low voltage lighting, and garden stores that sell trees etc. Push the fact you are a value added resource for their company.”

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