To give or not to give a free lawn mowing.

Newer lawn care business owners tend to come up with a lot of creative inducements to try and get customers to behave in one manner or another. As you are in business longer, you tend to scale that back as you don’t need freebies to attract and keep customers. But what should you do if you offer a freebie and a customer sort of goes along with your requirements to get it? That’s what happened to this entrepreneur when he brought up the topic on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum. He got a couple of interesting response to think about.

He wrote “last year, when the mowing season was almost over, I sent letters out to all my lawn care customers pretty much telling them that if they sign up for lawn care next year (this year), they’d receive 3 free cuts. I gave them all until December 31, to sign up. Well, at the beginning of December, I sent out another letter as a reminder to sign up and get 3 cuts free. No one signed up, but I had one customer keep telling me, ’see you next year!’

He really liked my work and liked me. He was a very good customer, and I’ve even did little extras for him through out the year every now and then. Since the guy said ’see you next year,’ should I still give him the 3 cuts free even though he didn’t sign up? It wasn’t a contract that they were going to sign - well, maybe it was, but all it was basically going to say is that they were signing up for lawn care from my company for next year, and they would receive 3 cuts free.

I know the benefits of having a contract, but people around here really don’t want to be tied into that. One screw up and I’m gone! I am just kind of going with the flow. I’ve distributed a ton of coupons and no one has used them either. All they had to do was give them to me. Do you think that maybe they feel sorry for me because I’m doing all that work alone? Most of the work I do alone because I can handle it. I have help when I know I’ll need it, but do people really feel that way??? I hope not. I need some opinions on this. I’m really confused.”

A second lawn care business owner wrote “since he didn’t sign anything, he shouldn’t expect to get the 3 free cuts. It’s a nice gesture him saying see you next year, so maybe he is ok with paying and not receiving anything for free. And maybe in the past I don’t know his story but, he has had some bad experience with other lawn care businesses before? It sounds like he just wants to pay.

Residential accounts are different than commercial ones. They have a different mentality. I’m in the same boat as you with this as it has been difficult trying to get customers to commit to a new contract at the end of each year.”

A third lawn care business owner added “you really need to be careful about giving away services for free. I try to price my services fairly so I don”t have the markup to give away services. If you really are hell bent on having an offer where you are giving something away, make it a more simple upsell service. Choose something you are not selling as your bread and butter. However if your original offer was 3 free cuts if they sign up and someone signs up, I would honor my offer. Once that offer has expired you are under no further obligation. I try not to be a hard ass with my clients, but you set up the rules, if they want in, they want in. If not, don’t worry about it.

If a customer brings it up next year and seems to harp on it, I might say something like ‘that offer has expired but because you are a good customer I will give you one free mowing at the end of the year.’ That makes the customer feel like he is special. You still have a customer for the year. Don’t do the free cut(s) at the beginning of the season. You don’t want the customer to leave after he gets the free cuts and you don’t want to go almost a month without any income.

I try to do what I would like someone to do for me. Do what you think you should do. I’m sure you will do well.”

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