Should you give away free fall leaf cleanups?

Early on in your lawn care business start up phase, you may find yourself desperate to try anything that will bring you lawn care customers. Ideas that may not be logical to veterans of the lawn care industry may be experimented with by new business owners and come with disastrous results. As we will see in this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, giving away services for free can lead to big problems.

One lawn care business owner wrote “last fall I gave away free fall leaf cleanups as a way to gain new lawn care customers for the next year. Let me give you a little background to explain where this idea came from and what came out of it for me.

The idea first came from a discussion I was having with a family member on what I should be doing to promote my lawn care business further. At first, I wasn’t sure if the idea would work or not so I tried it but now I am convinced that following this person’s suggestions/business advice would cause me to go broke and run me into bankruptcy.

The idea he thought of was, ‘give away fall cleanups for free, it will get you lawn care customers in the spring.’

What actually happened was this. When you give away fall cleanups, you will have no real income for the fall, but you will be spending spending spending… It takes a lot of time and gas to do cleanups.

When I experimented with this last year, it was my first year running my lawn care business and I was desperate to try what ever I could to get my footing. My choices at the time were simple:

1. Don’t offer fall cleanups = no profit, no loss.

2. Charge for Fall Cleanups = Profit.

3. Discount and offer fall cleanups = Minor profit, more satisfied customers.

4. Give away free fall cleanups and hope they translate to spring mowing customers = Big potential future Profit.

Sure choice #4 looked appealing and I thought it would do the trick on getting me customers but now that I look back, I can’t say it got me BUSINESS as I made no money - and I didn’t get any additional spring customers from it.

Unfortunately, and very obviously it did me no good. The lesson I learned from this experiment is to never offer anything for free, because it will drain you.

Now that a year has passed I have learned once you do something free the first time, it becomes expected the second time. Then when you don’t do it free again the second time, you find yourself getting on a customer’s bad side. The customer will then complain to you that ‘you performed whatever service for free last time, now you want to charge me for it?’ This is something I really don’t like putting up with and neither will you.

If you can’t make money on the services you provide, then don’t do them. When we offer discounts or free service for a specific function then it quickly becomes an expectation.

There are better ways to spend your time marketing your lawn care business. Instead of spending hours at one potential customer’s house performing leaf cleanups, you could distribute hundreds of door hangers door to door in your area. The more people you reach out to, the better your chances are of signing them up as lawn care customers. So spend your time wisely and get the biggest return you can on your money or time investment.”

You may want to use this Return on investment calculator for Android to see what kind of returns you will get on your lawn care marketing efforts.

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