Bootstrapping a Lawn Care Business - Part 2
I'm devoting a whole article to this one aspect of starting a lawn care business because in my experience customers are truly the backbone of a successful lawn care business. I view my customer list as a living breathing entity. It is the collective total of all of the people who support and endorse my company, and it is a reflection of my overall success. It can shrink if i misstep or it can grow massively because of a shrewd business move. It is a snapshot of my current income stream.
Why am I placing so much emphasis on this? Because as you learn how to start a lawn care business you will use this as a gauge for your success. Every decision you make in regards to marketing, price setting, and how you interact with your customers will have a direct impact on the health of your customer list (both in terms of quality and quantity).
Psychology of a Customer
Customers have many reasons for why they choose a lawn care business. After interacting with lawn care customers for more than a decade I have tried my best to get inside their head. Here is a list based on my own personal experience as I learned how to start a lawn care business.
- Price – This one is rather obvious but it can't be overstated. Customers have a good idea of what they would like to pay for a certain service, as well as what their limit is. No amount of customer service is going to convince a customer to go with you if your price is 50% higher than their limit. This doesn't necessarily mean you need to adust your price, but it may mean you aren't the right service provider for that job.
- Integrity – People like working with people they trust. They do not want to feel like they are being taken advantage of. They are also entrusting you to be on their personal property, sometimes on a regular basis. Treat them with respect and let them know you appreciate them spending money with your company.
- Knowledge – People are willing to pay you more money if they are convinced that you are knowledgable. Providing facts on certain plants, or being able to spit out prices in an instant shows you are the real deal.
- Punctuality – I think the importance of this is massively underestimated, and it is the number one complaint customers tell my crew leaders about their previous lawn care service. It seems so simple and yet many companies take it for granted. If you have an appointment, KEEP IT. If you provide weekly services, do your best to show up at the same time weekly. That stability shows that you take your business seriously.
- Reputation – As you grow, word of your business will get out (good or bad). Word of mouth is the quickest, cheapest way to pick up additional business and it depends entirely on how your current customers view you and your company.
- Appearance – Although this is related to your reputation, I am listing it separately because this is more about your physical appearance. Customers care about your personal appearance as well as that of your trucks and equipment. Uniforms are always a good idea even if it's just matching t shirts. Strive to present your company in the best light, as much as your budget allows.
- Marketing – People are suckers for good marketing (myself included). Here's an example: take two products, product A and B. All other things being equal, a customer is always going to go with the brand they would rather be associated with. Maybe your marketing and branding makes them feel like they are part of an exclusive club, or maybe you really highlight the money they can save by going with you (This goes back to identifying your place in the market). We will go in depth on marketing your lawn care business in a later article!
- Personal Relationships – This aspect becomes more challenging as the size of your customer list grows, but people ALWAYS prefer to work with someone they have a relationship with. This can be started with something as simple as knowing their names, asking them about their weekend, or just a friendly smile. As I learned how to start a lawn care business this was by far the most important aspect for me personally. My company would never have grown so big if it weren't for the multitude of customers who have been with my company now for 5+ years. Think about the lifetime value of a customer who pays you monthly for 5+ years!
Lawntrepreneur Quote of the day
"Everyone has an idea, but it's really about executing the idea and attracting other people to help you with the idea."Jack Dorsey, Co-Founder of Twitter
Now that we've discussed how important your customers are, how do you go about acquiring customers? This topic is massive and we will focus on this aspect of how to start a lawn care business in great detail in a later article. Also check out the marketing resources offered here at StartMyLawnCareBusiness.com for more help. For now though here are some of the most successful ways I've found in my experience.
- Every Door Direct Mail Campaign – this can be done directly through the US Postal Service, or through a 3rd party company. The beauty of this approach is that you can target certain demographics and geographical areas with lazer focus. This type of campaign allows you to select individual mail routes. Choose residential locations, commercial locations or both. The size of the campaign is up to you.
- Flat Rate Service Postcards or Door Hangers – Do you know a certain neighborhood very well or offer a service that doesn't require a quote? I have had enormous success with this method of advertising as i learned how to start a lawn care business. Here are some examples: "For a limited time get your first cut for $50 – no quote needed" or "Pine Straw $20/bail – no quote needed". The truth is that the process of providing a quote is an extra step in the selling process that when possible should be removed to more quickly and efficiently close the sale.
- Email blasts – This will depend on you currently having customers, but as your customer base grows so too will your chance at repeat business. Email marketing is a great way to stay on the minds of your customers, and to promote ongoing specials. Don't forget to ask for email addresses for each new customer you acquire.
- Web Site – This is another area that is surprisingly underutilized among many lawn care business owners. Even if you don't get organic traffic to your site (yet), a respectable web presence is now an essential tool for any serious business. Refer customers to your site from all your print marketing. Use it to detail your services. Include an online quote system to streamline sales conversions. Once your budget supports it you can drive traffic to your site using Pay Per Click internet advertising through search engines like Google and Bing.
- Friends and Family – This option is more important for those just starting out learning how to start a lawn care business. Chances are you know people who know people who need lawn care services. Keep business cards handy and provide them to anyone who seems interested. Ask anyone with access to bulletin boards to leave a card there.
- Many, many more...
In Bootstrapping a Lawn Care Business - Part 3 we will dive into choosing equipment. we will discuss the importance of your customers.