Should you use the phone book to market your lawn care business?

With a limited marketing budget, a small business owner really needs to spend their money wisely. You need the biggest return for your investment. Every ad salesperson out there is going to think their marketing method is the best so it’s up to you to decide which to choose. In this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, we see the question rise about placing an ad in the phone book. Is it worth it or not and why?

One lawn care business owner wrote “is it worthwhile putting an ad in the yellow pages and if so, how well does it work? A sales person called me up the other day and said the smallest ad package I could but would be $50.00 a month but I wonder if that would be worth it. That would come out to being about $600 a year for 2 little ads in phone book. I’d do it if I knew it would pay off.

For that price the ad size is 1″x1″ however you can get the size as big you want it. The bigger the costlier. They phone book company called me Friday and tried to sell their pitch about online classified ads too and this is interesting because they said only 4 people in my area do it and they are all successful businesses. There are many different ad levels packages for this but the gold level is $50.00 a month which includes a logo, website, and 4 sentences.

It makes me wonder if people are using the internet or the phone book or newspaper for property service companies? The sales lady said there are 200 hits per month in my area for lawn care and double for snow removal. So many choices… I know everybody says word of mouth is free. But from my experience, nothing in my world is ever free.

If I see a big lawn care company that is paying $50 a month or week for an ad, I wonder, do they pay that just so people see their name? Are they wasting $50/week/month on this ad? Or are they making money on it? What if I was next to them? Would anybody know how big or how small my business was compared to theirs? Would I get the same calls?

So, I bought a test run of the classified ad for November and I’ll go from there. ”

A second lawn care business owner said “I know there are stats that say people go to the internet now more often to find a local business before the yellow pages, but personally I don’t buy it. I think there are many factors involved with this. The business type, the area, and the age group. I myself use the internet every day yet I pick up the yellow pages too and rarely use the internet to find something local.

The phone book is worthwhile for some businesses in some areas. In my case though, for a business that basically has a 5 month operating season it’s not worth it. I use other ways to market my lawn care services including the local small community newspapers and I have found it pays off big time. For the most part I am coasting along using word of mouth. That brings in all the work I can handle and it’s now time to start winding the bigger projects down before the snow starts to fall.

Advertising is a very tough call. Based on talking with clients, most throw flyers in the garbage without ever having a look. I am the same way. Most ask friends for referrals or if they see a lawn care vehicle with signs on it they may call. I had a guy following me today that called me on my cell. I found it funny but it wasn’t the first time it’s happened. So I pulled over and talked. I later went to his place and picked up a four grand tree clearing and chipping job.

Anyhow, spend the money based on what you feel will have the biggest bang for the buck. Ask your clients or simply ask people. Just walk around with a clipboard and tell them you are doing a marketing survey. Ask when they need a service for their home, such as mowing, what media do they use to look for a company? If they respond ‘well I mow the grass myself,’ tell them that’s great but let’s say your mower broke, how would you find a service provider? You will get an answer.”

A third business owner said “in marketing you never know what will work until you experiment. There are many variables at play and you won’t know which ones are important until you tweak them and get positive results.

Another thing to consider is when companies get larger, they aren’t just larger with the amount of employees they have or equipment, but they are larger in an intangible way. They have a larger network within the community. They have had more time to reach out to this person or that person and then word spreads from there.

A smaller company can not see that intangible asset. They can see ads here or there but to simply be next to an ad of a larger company is missing the bigger picture of what you are competing against. To chase this as the trail of how to grow, won’t lead you to where you want to be. The ads are not sign posts to simply follow, copy, and become them.

This is part of the frustration of being a small business looking up at the larger ones. You sit there and think, I want to be that big. I can do it! I am ready! All I need is to just be bigger and I could compete against them.

But the thing is, unless there is some revolutionary transformation in the industry that will allow you to change the rules of the game, which could happen, what you need to compete is time and money.

You need time to build the contacts and the infrastructure and you need the money to scale up as you go. Now sure that is simplifying things but I think if you look around at some of the larger companies, ask yourself how long have they been in business? Getting to know more people over time, providing them great service and scaling up is normally the way the growth happens. The marketing always helps but its a part of the bigger picture.

Will the phone book ad work? It might, but you have to commit to a year with it and you can’t change that ad once the book is printed. With that in mind, why not experiment with other marketing methods that allow you to pay less money up front and be able to alter your ad to see which element changes, bring you more responses.”

Order the book “The Lawn Care Business Can Get Dirty, Ugly, And Mean.: Stories Of Survival And Success To Get You Through The Rough Times” today.

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