Mailing list tips for your lawn care marketing material.

This is such a great discussion on the ins and outs of using mailing lists, I just had to include this discussion. Keith: “Chestin, In a previous thread, you spoke a bit about lists.

I am genuinely interested in this subject. Properly marketing a list is an art, I know.

I want to tap your knowledge on a few areas. When you’re thinking about these questions, look at them from two points of view. The first being that of the local lawn care guy who’s just trying to get 40 or 50 local customers. Then, think about them from the vantage point of someone who might be trying to reach 10’s of thousands of people in the hopes of attracting a few hundred franchisees.

1) Acquiring a list. Lawn Care companies are geocentric in their areas of coverage. So, it’s pretty easy to find a list of numbers for a limited area of coverage. You can acquire a list of all the phone numbers for a given zip code or even a single road in your neighborhood. Do you have any favorite places on where to acquire these lists? Phone Book, Reverse Directory, Property Tax office, etc. are good examples of free lists. Do you have any other favorites?

2) How about selected lists? There’s a proper term for this but I just can’t remember it right now. These are lists that have been pre-screened and show a tendency toward being receptive to telephone / direct mail marketing. Is the premium charged for these lists worthwhile? For example, would it be worth 50 cents per name to know that you are reaching motivated buyers?

3) Sample size: What would you consider an adequate sample size to get a viable response? If you call / mail 100 people and you get 3 customers, do you think that ratio will translate to larger sample groups. That is, would you get 30 from 1000? Is 100 enough to get a general feel for your expected response rate or do you need to start with a larger number?

4) Refining your pitch: You can make minor modifications to your pitch easily if you are voice cold calling. However, if you are direct mailing or using a demon dialer, how often should you refine your pitch?

5) Repeat contacts to declines: Should you call people back who have given negative responses? How long should you wait between contacts?

6)Repeat contacts to current acceptors: Should you make additional contact with people who have already accepted previous offers. Offering them more offers. I have a monthly calling strategy in mind for instance on the first of every month, you call current customer with this month’s offer.

For example: ring ring “It’s September, do you know leaves can clog gutters and lead to decay of roof decking around your gutters? This month we are offering 10% off gutter cleaning to all current clients of ‘Keith’s Lawn Care.’”

I have moderate experience using direct contact marketing and I want to refine my strategies.

Thanks for your expertise.”

Chestin said “Getting your hands on a good list really comes down to how much you can invest in terms of time or money. There are plenty of good free sources, as you already mentioned, but they require sweaty equity to get them. And, in most cases you’re not able to qualify these free sources like you could if you purchased a list. For example, pulling a list of home owners from the county tax office won’t tell you the income level, number of kids, or interests of the home owners.

With a purchased list, you can specify the EXACT criteria you want. So that being said, I always recommend purchasing a list IF your budget allows for it. Some good sources I’ve used previously include or Edith

As for free lists, you already mentioned some of the most popular, but the public library typically has resources available as well as your local government offices.

Franchisor: This one’s a little tougher to get a list for simply because it’s difficult to pinpoint who your market is. I’m not very familiar with who Tiger Time is trying to target so I really can’t speak to many specifics, but if I were him and I were trying to find small LCO’s looking to join a franchise, I’d compile a list of LCO’s that fit the criteria he’s targeting. In this case, you’d have to purchase a list from a broker to get the criteria you’re after. Again, is a good, easy to use source of this type of list. Another good source would be one of the industry magazines. This would be a little more expensive, but it would definitely be worth the added expense.

There are basically 2 types of lists, a compiled list and a managed list.

A compiled list is made up of names that have been compiled from directories or other sources such as government tax offices, surveys, etc. They typically have quite a bit of information about each name and can be very good sources, but keep in mind, they’re just names that have been compiled from a source so many cases there’s nothing to indicate how good a prospect they would be.

A managed list is made up of names of people that have bought something, are members of something, or at the very least have requested information about something. Examples of managed lists include subscribers to a magazine, association members, catalog shoppers, etc. These types of lists offer the highest quality prospects because they’ve taken some type of action that’s landed them on the list. This type of list is certainly more costly (which will depend on the individual list), but in many cases the added cost could be worth it.

When trying to decide between what type of list to get, it’s really going to depend on who you’re targeting. Also, many lists have minimum requirements for the number of names you have to buy (5K or so), especially managed lists, so that may preclude some lists as well.

For a small business looking to add new customers within a specific geographic area, you’re going to have a difficult time finding enough prospects from a managed list that meet your geographic requirements. Unless you live in a dense urban area, the chances of finding enough prospects from a managed list to create a list are pretty slim, although that’s not to say it can’t be done. You’re much more likely to find enough prospects from a compiled list and in most cases you should have enough selects available to allow you to create a very good list.

For a franchisor, you’re definitely better off trying to build a list of prospects from a managed list, simply because you know these people are predisposed to something (buy, are interested, etc.). The whole key with this though is to be sure you’re getting the proper list. Again, who are you targeting? Is it people interested in starting a franchise or is it people already in business looking to align with a well-known company?

This one applies to both LCO and franchisor. This principle should ALWAYS come into play with any type of marketing you do and that is TEST, TEST, TEST. It doesn’t matter if you’re dialing for dollars, doing direct mail, knocking on doors, running ads in the newspaper or phone directories, or any other type of marketing, you should ALWAYS be testing and tweaking.

The only difference between the various methods of marketing is the delay in the feedback loop. For example, when you’re dialing for dollars you’ll very quickly know whether or not your script is working. With something like direct mail however, it takes longer to know how well something is working simply because it takes longer to get a response back. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t track your responses and makes changes accordingly.

How often should you ‘tweak’ things? Every time you mail, call, knock, or what ever else you might do to engage a prospect. So the first time you mail a postcard, track its response. Then the next time you send one, make one change and one change only, mail it again, and again, track the response. Same thing the next time. And the next time. And the next time.

So, this then begs the question, what should I test? The easy answer is everything, but unfortunately I don’t think that would help anyone. Basically, just as there are 7 elements to any good sales message (call, letter, door knock, etc.), there are 7 things you should test. They are:

1. Headline - the opening line, should seize the prospect’s attention
2. Body - tell them a story and hold their attention
3. Offer - present them with something to buy or try
4. Risk reversal - a guarantee, testimonials, pictures, etc.
5. Urgency - a deadline, limited # available, etc.
6. Call to action - tell them EXACTLY how to respond
7. P.S. - the 2nd most read part of any sales letter (after the headline), reiterate the offer

Each one of these elements should be tested, tracked, and tweaked as necessary until you finally hit upon a winning formula, which as I’m sure you can expect isn’t going to happen overnight. It will take some time and discipline to make it happen, but having a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal really is worth its weight in gold.

This one applies to both LCO and franchisor. This is one of the most overlooked keys to marketing success by most businesses. And not just the small ones either. As most people have probably heard, for the average consumer it takes 5-7 contacts from a business/product/service before they actually buy.

So if that’s true, why do people send out one measly postcard / letter / flyer and then get disappointed when they don’t see results. Sure, it’s a reasonable expectation to get some response the first time, but you’re selling yourself incredibly short if you stop there.

I recommend to every client I work with that they contact their list NO LESS than 3 times. That’s the minimum. And even beyond that, I strongly suggest they continue contacting them and present them with offers another 10-12 times over the next year. That way, you develop some name recognition with these prospects and they come to know you as the one to call if they’re every in need or your service.

Another reason to contact them multiple times is the simple fact that they may not have been in a position of need/want for your service at the time they contacted you. People’s lives go through cycles and it’s a bit silly to expect everyone’s needs/wants to line up with your service at the very moment you decide to do your marketing. So by hitting them multiple times you increase your chances of connecting with them at a time they’re ready to purchase your service.

This is applies more to the LCO, but could apply to a franchisor if they have back-end products or services they can sell the franchisees.

Another overlooked principle that can do AMAZING things for any business, especially the small ones. You should constantly be contacting your existing customers with for new products, services, or a combination of both.

If we think about it for a moment, the largest expense of any business is trying to get new customers. It’s such a burden because you have to

1.      Find qualified, interested prospects
2.      Convince them you have the answer to their problem/need/want, and
3.      Gain enough trust with them that they’re willing to part with their hard earned money to give you a shot.

So, if this is such a challenge, wouldn’t it make sense to do everything possible to hold onto that relationship for dear life once they’ve made the leap of faith and become your customer?

Plus, once you have them as a customer, your goal should be to sell them as many additional services as possible as often as possible. That way, your business grows with a fraction of the marketing it would require if you tried to sell the same amount of services to new customers.

Your suggestion of a monthly call is an EXCELLENT idea. Another variation of this is a service I provide, which is a monthly printed newsletter sent to existing customers. It’s not the typical high gloss, filled with boring stuff newsletter, but a black and white, hard copy newsletter filled with interesting and engaging copy. It also includes a monthly special, which you suggested, to present your customers with another opportunity to purchase your services.

Now, one final thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to completely inundate your customers with offers. You want to create a healthy mix of relationship building (which EVERY business should do) and selling. If you’re doing enough relationship building, the selling part will come easy.

Almost every subscription based magazine in publication has a list for rent. To find the contact information one usually just needs to check the first few pages and you’ll see all the contacts listed. If not, they usually ALWAYS list at least one contact phone number so you could simply call that number and ask for the manager over list rentals.

The size of your list really depends on your budget. If you’re a little guy just starting out, I’d recommend at least 1,000-1,500 names. That way you can concentrate your efforts and dollars on a smaller, but highly targeted population.

If you’ve been in business for a number of years, I still wouldn’t recommend a list any larger than 2,500, at least initially.

It makes a whole lot more sense to concentrate your efforts on a small population instead of a broad audience simply because your marketing dollars go much further. With a large group such as 5K+, you water down your ability to develop name recognition and send multiple marketing pieces to. So, by cutting your list down to a manageable size you give yourself much more opportunity and flexibility when it comes to establishing a relationship.

For a guy just starting out 5K is WAYYYY too big. I’d liken it to trying to empty the ocean with an ice cream bucket. Good luck.

You’d be better of getting a list of 1K names that’s highly targeted, both geographically and demographically, and then sending that list 5 different marketing pieces spread over a period of a few months. You end up spending the same amount ,but you’ve contacted your targeted prospects multiple times, with multiple offers, giving them multiple opportunities to respond.

I GUARANTEE your results will be 10 fold what they’d be if you start off with a list of 5K.

It would be a difficult challenge, trying to find people not yet in business but considering it. Of course, there are multiple ‘opportunity seeker’ type magazines you MIGHT be able to get a list from, but you’d want to make sure they had numerous selects available to ensure you’re getting people interested in a lawn care business.

You’re definitely better off targeting new or existing lawn care businesses looking to align with a known name. And, the first place I’d suggest for getting a list would be any of the industry magazines. You know the prospects are already in business, and you would simply want to select a list of businesses that hadn’t been in business long or weren’t very big. You should definitely be able to add this select to your selection process.

I usually take a very conservative approach and anticipate at 1-2% response. If you base any financial projections on anything higher, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. At the same time, it’s not uncommon to see response rates of 3-5% and even more IF you have a carefully crafted marketing piece.

As far as how many responses will result in sale, it ultimately depends on what you’re offering and how good your follow-up processes are. If your initial offer is simply a free estimate (or 21 point lawn analysis as I’ve suggested), whether or not it converts to a sale comes down to how well you are at closing the deal. If your initial offer is a particular service, then every response should be a sale.

There are a number of ways to structure your sales process, but I like to offer an initial free, or low-cost trial that allows the prospect to try you out without committing to too much. Of course, as you’re there providing the initial estimate or fulfilling the offer, you should have an upsell script to try to get them to commit to additional, more expensive services. I could go on and on about this one, but I’ll save it for an additional post.

If I had a list of 1K names, I’d create 4 groups of 250 and use each one as a test group. I’d put 2 initial mailings, same everything except for the headline, and mail it out at the same time.

Which ever group produces the best result, take that mailing and send it to group #3. With group #4, I’d create a very similar mailing, except this time I’d change something else, like the offer. Then when you get the responses from these mailings start the process over.

As you get through the testing cycle, you should end up with the one piece that pulls the best. This piece will then become your control. Every time you mail something out, you’ll use the control piece as the benchmark and gage everything else to it. If something beats the control, that piece then becomes your control.

This is a bit of an abbreviated testing cycle simply because ideally you’d want to test several variations of each element, but with a limited budget you can’t really afford to go through too many iterations.

The 5-7 contacts does include any ‘touch’ such as a newspaper ad, word of mouth, etc. But remember, in most cases those 5-7 touches aren’t going to happen unless you’re proactive at reaching back out to your prospects. That’s why I recommend sending multiple pieces.

The method I typically recommend is to send a 3 letter series spaced 10-14 days apart, depending on the deadline or offer. Then, if they don’t respond to any of those, send them a follow-up offer at least once a month for the next year. Each month the offer should be something different or at the very least it should be a different message so the prospect stays interested.

As far as the medium for delivering this offer, after the initial 3 letter sequence, a postcard would be just fine. After the initial letters they’ll know who you are and if you’ve kept your previous communications interesting enough (i.e., NOT the boring image type advertising more businesses send), they’ll know who you are and actually look forward to your communication.

If you purchase the list from a list broker or from a managed list (magazines, etc.), you typically rent the list for one use. If you purchase a list from a compiled source (, then you own the list and can mail to it as often as you like.

And if you’re thinking about getting your list from a managed list source and then mailing multiple times, don’t. The list managers usually seed the list with dummy addresses that allow them to make sure you’re not using it multiple times.

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Lawn Care Business Books And Software.
How To Get Lawn Care Customers Vol. 2
The landscaping and lawn care business plan startup guide
A rebellious teenagers guide to starting a landscaping & lawn care business
The GopherHaul Lawn Care Business Show Episode Guide.
Stop Lowballing! A Lawn Care Business Owner\'s Guide To Success