Most business owners don’t have a B.S. in Business Management or Marketing – they learn from experience! Experience is always the best teacher of life – but it can be handy to review some of those business tools as you prepare to have an even better season next year. Below is our Ultimate Guide To Creating A Lawn Care Marketing Plan outlining the 4 P’s of Marketing. – Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. If you don’t have a firm marketing plan in place, now is a fabulous time to make one!
Four Steps To Create A Lawn Care Marketing Plan
Here at CLIP Lawn Care LLC we like to say that we are selling time.
Yes. We aren’t selling a mower, and we aren’t selling a gardener, we aren’t even really selling a manicured lawn. We sell our customers time so that they don’t have to fill up their weekends with yard maintenance. At CLIP Software, we sell time as well! CLIP Software gives our customers time to focus on making money instead of tracking their numbers or keeping up their routing system, or getting flooded with paperwork.
You might like to say that you are selling a perfect lawn, and maybe that is your focus. Perhaps you are selling tree work, or expert lawn care, or landscaping. Whatever you want to focus on as your product, you need to write down the exact perfect product that you like to sell (even if it’s honestly a service). Include all the services/products that you sell and focus on the ones that make you the most money.
How do you define your business?
Are you like CLIP Lawncare, where you want to save your customers time? To do this, we focus on mow, blow and go. Alternatively, do you want to be the “Green Industry Expert” that offers all kinds of services like Chemical Applications and Landscaping? Go through all the products and services you sell. Find out which ones you enjoy the most and which ones make you the most money. Reviewing all your services might take a while, but I promise you it will be worth it!
List every service and product you do and what your income has been on it over the past year. Remember to subtract any product costs in landscaping/chemicals/or hardscaping projects. Also, remember to subtract the cost you had in payroll for the amount of time spent on those services. Once you have those numbers all laid out, you should be able to see which services/products are making you the most money. If some products rank pretty equal on the profits they give you, then list them according to which ones you enjoy offering the most.
Once you know your perfect product/service to sell that makes you the most money you can know what you want to focus on selling next season!
Your first step in making the perfect price is, of course, man-hour ratings! When you know what your man-hour rating was last season, you can determine what you want to make next year. Check out our man-hour rating worksheet. Go over every one of your customers to see which ones made you money. Then, only raise the prices of your customers that don’t pay the man-hour rating you want.
It varies company to company, service to service, and location to location, but the average man-hour rating that a profitable company stays around is about $40. That means that every hour each of your employees work, they are making the company at least $40 a man-hour.
Firstly, you need to figure out your man-hour rating for the company. Then remember to add material and extra equipment costs to any jobs that include strange equipment rentals or materials to buy. You can find a helpful (and free) spreadsheet/instructions here that will help you find that number for your company.
Research Your Market:
When you make your price list, you should not try to be the cheapest in town. To some people, being the absolute cheapest in town looks like a huge advantage. In reality, it probably means you don’t have money to hire legal employees or pay for business insurance. That will bring problems of its own! Another problem with being the absolute cheapest in town is that you probably will get the absolute cheapest customers in town. They may fight you over every penny you are trying to earn from them.
You should set your company apart in a way besides the lowest prices. Some options are excellent work, or median price with low headaches, or lawn expertise. Just don’t only rely on having the lowest price. Having lower prices (that still make you money) is fine, as long as they are related to your super systems and tight routes – not skimping on legal employees or decent equipment.
We all know that the absolute cheapest in town can rarely afford business insurance or decent equipment. Nobody wants their headaches!
So do some research on your pricing compared to your competition. Find a range that works for your company (if you focus on lawn perfection, you might be on the higher side, if you focus on efficiency mow-blow-and-go, you may be on the lower side). Find the balance that makes you a good profit and set up your pricing for each job/service that you plan to offer.
Create A Price List:
Write down every job and service that you offer. Now look at the prices you charged for them last year and determine if they make the man-hour rating that you want next year. If they don’t, then raise them. If no one wanted to pay for them (because they were priced too high), and they are still worth charging less for – then maybe you can lower a few prices. Lay all your prices and services/jobs out and put down your perfect price for each of them. Then next year, you can start fresh with the perfect price for your market that keeps making you the profits you want!
Knowing in what place you want to market your products is essential. Once you have enough work to turn away customers, you should know exactly what area you want to service.
Are you looking for two-income families in townhouses that you can go in and out of with a trimmer? Conversely, do you want to service the two-acre lots in the suburbs where you can use your 52″ all day? Even more importantly, are you keeping your routes tight, so you aren’t paying for lots of travel time?
Get Out Your Product and Price Lists
Your product and pricing list that you already created can help with finding out what area’s best to work in. Are your products more focused on mow, blow and go or high-quality landscaping? Are your prices on the low end or high end of the pricing spectrum for the area? Focus on marketing to the area that would accept your prices and type of work. If you have the equipment for bigger properties, then focus on neighborhoods with bigger lots. If you make the most money on smaller jobs, then focus on smaller lots. Neighborhoods can vary greatly. Know exactly where your ideal customers are located based on your price and services that you make the most money on.
Check Out Where You Make Your Money
Where are most of your customers located now? Which ones are making you the most money (Find out your man hour rating here)? Is there a neighborhood that has some of your best clients?
Perhaps you can offer some of your best customers a gift card if they refer you to their neighbors. You can even ask if you can put a small sign in their yard that says “Maintenance/Landscaping by Insert Your Company Name – Your Neighborhood Lawn Company. Call us at 123-456-7890 to learn more.” At CLIP Lawn Care LLC, we once hosted a neighborhood picnic to get more customers in the area we wanted! There are often little local craft fairs or festivals that you could be a part of to get new customers in a particular area. One of the best and cheapest ways to market to your perfect place is to have your employees put sales door hangers on the neighbor’s properties of where they currently mow.
Don’t Drive All Day
When talking about the place that you sell to I can’t ignore that the most important thing. Don’t pay your employees (or even yourself), for hours and hours of travel time. In the long run that will keep you from making much of a profit. In the short run, it’s just annoying to be driving all day. Have planned routes that stay pretty close together. Focus on marketing to the neighborhoods that you mow in now. It will save you lots of travel time in the long run.
4. Promotion Part 1 — Digital
Are you trying to sell mow, blow and go weekly services? Are you focusing on landscaping jobs? The list you made about your most profitable (and enjoyable) work is key to how you want to promote your business! If you want landscaping jobs, you might want to focus on new neighborhoods going up with owners that are creative with some extra cash. If you want to mow, blow, and go – you should find people that have two incomes or busy lives, so they don’t want to deal with yard maintenance. Think through your favorite products and services that you want to promote, and make sure they are on your mind when you think of creative ways to promote yourself!
When you evaluated your prices, are they on the high end for your area, or the low end? This evaluation should tell you if your focus is on upper or medium income households. Keep your price range in mind as you brainstorm marketing ideas. It won’t help you to advertise to low-income families when you have high-income prices!
Always, always, always remember what location you want to serve! The last thing you ever want is to spend too much money on gas and payroll because of travel time and be stuck making much less than a profit on your jobs. It might seem like it doesn’t matter when you’re a one-person company, but your time would be worth something at any other job, so remember that it’s worth something now, as well!
Time To Brainstorm!
There are several different categories you should consider when deciding where to spend your time, money and efforts on promotion. Some of these are free but take time to do, others might require a bit of money but reap in the profits for your company.
Are your potential customers going to use the internet, check out Facebook or look up your webpage? Now days, there is almost NEVER a good excuse to not have an online presence. Here are some of the online tools you should make sure you are using.
There are so many resources out there to make a free website, almost anyone can make one! When you are creating your website make sure that it includes several keywords about your area and your services. You can even purchase a GoogleAdWords ad that lets you put up an ad (and link to your website) when someone searches for certain words (like “Lawn Service (Your Town)”). When the words are highly specific to your area and services, the cost can be pretty low, and the benefits can be awesome.
Promotion on Social Media
More and more people in their 20-40s are using Facebook every day. So why not have a Facebook page? It’s free, and it can be a great way to let people mention you and your company in their Facebook posts. You can link to articles on landscaping, advertise your services, post pictures of your work, direct people to your website, and so much more!
Twitter, YouTube, Email Blasts, Blogs and so many other online marketing options can be ways to get your name out.
- If you like making videos, think about doing a YouTube video showing a spring clean up (or something else you love doing).
- If you’re a writer, write a blog to link to your Facebook and website and write tips for landscaping that your customers might be interested in.
- Just be sure that your online side shows the products, services, and places that you want to do. Make sure that your online presence has lots of keywords that promote the things you want to sell in the area you want to work in.
5. Promotion Part 2 — Analog
Promotion can be done in so many ways in the Green Industry! You can market to customers through an online presence, through advertising, signs, local markets and festivals, passing out flyers door-to-door, and in so many other ways!
When you decide the best ways to promote your business, remember to keep in mind exactly what products, prices, and places you want to direct your marketing. Then let your imagination go! Besides having an online presence, let’s go over some other ideas that can help you bring your service to someone that needs it!
Promotion With Paper
In my personal definition of advertising, it is “The activity of producing information for promoting the sale of commercial products or services.” Since we already covered online advertising, I’d like to move on to “Paper” advertising – where you are creating something for people to have in their hands and read concerning your business.
Newspaper/Gazette/Yellow Pages Advertising
Before you spend your hard-earned advertising money on paper advertisements, think about whether you would use them yourself and also whether your perfect ideal customer would use them. As a man in my thirties, I use Google, so I’d be very hesitant to advertise to an audience under 50 using paper advertisements. Now, if advertising in their paper version means you also get an online advertisement that links to your website it *might* be something to check. Again, think of your audience and where they get their information. Advertising in a Newspaper or Yellow Pages can also be a difficult way to make sure your potential customers are in the actual neighborhoods that you want to service.
Mailers and Flyers
The great thing about sending out a mailer or passing out a flyer is that you can pick the specific neighborhoods where you want to work. The problem can be that if your message isn’t eye-catching enough it might just be tossed aside.
If you go this route, make sure that your marketing message catches their attention and immediately shows how you can fulfill a need they have. It can be costly to send out a big mailer or hire a teenager to pass out a bunch of flyers, but there is typically a 1-3% return on mailers and flyers. I imagine that if you work a neighborhood on a Saturday and take your time with people explaining your company, that return could easily be higher (but also more expensive because it takes a longer time). Your return can also be higher if you call through the neighborhood after you passed out the flyers to, “See if they received them and are interested.”
Find your perfect message that fulfills the needs of your potential customers.
For us, at CLIP Lawn Care, the message is “Get your Saturdays back and only pay $20 on your first cut”. We leave them an estimate at the first cut (basing it on the time it took us to cut it) and make it easy for them to sign up right away. That way we don’t spend extra time giving them an estimate, but actually get some money to get a perfect estimate (we know exactly how long it took!), and they have no question what their cost on the first cut is.
We have found that there is no downside to passing out a flyer to each neighbor of your current customers as you cut the property. Let me explain, you typically have two guys on a crew, so at some point, one is probably waiting a minute for the other to finish. During this waiting period, they’ll have plenty of time to put a flyer on both neighbor’s doors! Even if you have one-person crews, you should send a few flyers with them to pass out every Spring. You always want to add more customers to your route.
Markets and Festivals
An easy way to get the word out that you are a local company ready to serve can be getting a booth at local fairs, farmers markets, and festivals. That can also be very expensive, however, and doesn’t always guarantee that your potential customers are in the right neighborhoods that you want.
A simple and often effective way to get your name out in areas where you mow is to have signs with your company name, website and phone number (and maybe a motto as well) on your truck and your uniforms.
Some companies take this a step further and have a business card box on the side of their truck so they can hand out business cards to anyone asking.
If you are working on a long term landscape project, you should also ask the owner if you can put your sign in their lawn with your name and number. Make sure you do an awesome job though!
Word of Mouth: The Most Effective Marketing You’ll Ever Get
I can’t talk about promotion without telling you that the best marketing you’ll ever get is a good name. Your customers that love you will tell their neighbors, and the chain will keep on going.
If you do the services you said you would, show up when you say you will, answer your emails in good time, call back when you have a phone message, and do a good job – you will make your name known. It doesn’t take much to be above average.
Find a way every day to go above and beyond in your work and the word will get around.
And everyone, no matter how online, hip, experienced, or prestigious they are, wants to give their work to a dependable company with a good name.
The Key To Your Marketing Plan
Know exactly what product you want to sell, what price range you want to sell it for, and where you want to sell it! Then all your advertising, promotion, and other ideas can flow from it and give you the best marketing plan ever.