GMLC: I hear many people on here say, "Why didn't I get many calls from my door hangers? Or postcards? Or flyers?"
Just like a business plan, you need a marketing plan.
It's marketing 101: you must remember the rule of 13. It can take up to 13 views before a prospect even reads your ad. This doesn't mean you just put out door hangers 13 times. There is not one form of advertisement that works alone, they all work together. You need to have a plan and create a brand. Here are just some examples I use:
2: Ad in local paper running all year
3: Business cards (Hand out and hang at town hot spots)
5: Truck lettering
6: Trailer lettering
7: Door Hangers
8: Direct mail (post cards, introduction letters)
9: Letter head on everything you mail
10: Flyers (Hand out and hang in town hot spots)
12: Google, Yahoo, Bing places/maps presence, Craigslist in some areas
13: Signs that can be stuck in the ground when your truck and trailer can't be seen.
14: And, the most important, networking! Get active in your community so everyone knows who you are and what you do.
I know some of these can be expensive but many are free or can be made with Microsoft office or similar programs.
JCLawn and more: For me it's all Internet presence. I get calls in and secure jobs without them ever hearing about me or ever seeing me. I had 127 leads last year from one advertising source. Then if I include random phone calls though the phonebook or referrals, I would be looking at 150 to 160. When I first started out I found it to be effective to be the pursuer rather than let them come to me. I would call all the local businesses and ask if they were looking for quotes. I would hit all the property management companies. I worked for a few national companies as well and still do. Medicare pays for lawn care and they are usually looking for contractors. Getting in good with the local reality companies help too. Here is what I found is key. Word-of-mouth is the best form of advertising. Advertising is a tool to get word-of-mouth in key areas. I mainly use a lead service to do that for me and it works as well as I want it to.
newguy123: I wouldn't say I have a master marketing plan to the degree as GMLC does, but we definitely utilize almost everything he uses for marketing. Our go-tos are our website and door hangers. This year we'll put out at least 50,000 door hangers; next year's goal is 250,000 door hangers.
JCLawn and more: Have you figured the cost per customer for door hangers? I haven't made use of a website yet. I have a URL reserved when I did my DBA. I just haven't got around to it and when I do I want it top-notch and done right. My lead service had got me more clients than I can handle so a website has been on the back burner. The lead service gets me on first page or second page in all the areas I advertise.
newguy123: My average acquisition cost for last year was $100. Not bad considering the yield on average was 10 times that. As each customer continues from year to year, those acquisition costs nearly diminish.
Southern Lawn Care LLC: Me being newer to the industry as a business owner and going full time this year with my company, I agree with this post. Do ad words help? I'm thankful to be able to turn here and gather knowledge such as this. GMLC thank you for this write-up. Most of next week I will be putting together a few things and your list really helped with that to see what I need to work harder at.
GMLC: I have not tried ad words. My Google map presence ranks me near the top in my community so I haven't felt the need. In my opinion a strong Google, Yahoo and Bing map presence will direct a ton of traffic to a website as they pop up first above the normal search results.
I agree that flyers, door hangers and mailings will not yield good results alone or used as a primary advertisement. But, when used as a tool to compliment the marketing plan they yield great results. Basically if a potential client has seen your brand elsewhere they will be more apt to read your mailers or hangers.
The best way to get the word out for very little money is networking and being active in your community. Hand out business cards everywhere. Talk to people everywhere. Make sure people know who you are and what you do.
JCLawn and more: Yep, being known for your business helps a lot. People who know me think lawn care as much as they think of my name. What becomes hard is when you want to target your word-of-mouth in an area outside of your community where you don't know anyone.
dieselfuel: My ads in the local paper last year didn't work because I only posted two ads. One in early spring, one in early fall. You need to be consistent with them. I got one job from each ad which basically paid for the ad.
Also, I don't do lawn care, just design/build/tree work, so I have to approach it a tiny bit differently than looking for a weekly maintenance customer. I do not do door hangers or flyers.
My website is fantastic, but it needs to be updated. Honestly, I think it's too good, and it shows pictures that people who come to my site think I will be too expensive and unaffordable to most. So I'm working on that this spring with a pro.
I am in a unique position where I have a full-time job and use my personal truck (and get paid for it). So my truck is not lettered. Although, I could put my own logo on it and still use it at my salaried job (I get a lot of perks). I just haven't pulled the trigger on it yet since it's my personal truck and I just don't like everyone knowing where I am all the time. I do have two trucks, one work truck, one personal, but I'm about to sell the personal.
The logo/number on my dump trailer got me work last year from neighboring properties. I also let a buddy rent it from me and got a few calls and jobs when he was doing work making himself money with my trailer.
I had a branding firm develop my business name and logo, so I know they are concise. My logo and slogan are concise on my shirts, trailer, website, business cards, etc. But being basically a one-man team at the moment, doing it as side work, I have enough work to stay busy and pay my overhead. This year I want to have more presence in the community so it's not just a side business.
JimsLocalLawn: If I had the chance to do it all over again, I would have spent twice as much on advertising as I did on equipment. I think I made the mistake that most make, and that's focusing so much on equipment that you neglect your advertising funds. Not making that mistake next year!
cpllawncare: I've known from the beginning that marketing and lead generation was key to getting the business going, so I put a lot of my startup capital money in that area. I totally agree, it's really a mass of marketing that you have to do. You can market on a low budget, but you'll get low-budget results generally, especially in your early years. You have to market heavy in every possible venue you can. There are no real secrets to marketing, everybody has the same resources available to them, it's just using them. If you're just starting out, I recommend spending as much as you can possibly spend on marketing. As the business grows, and it will as long as you're doing good work, you can buy mowers and equipment accordingly. Make sure you're tracking every marketing effort you take on. What's the one way to reach as many people as you can these days? The Internet. Once you get that going, logo the truck and trailers, now you've got visibility going. Business cards? That's a given. Join the local chamber of commerce and sponsor some local events, that'll help, too.
TPendagast: I find most companies have a lackadaisical approach to truck signs and uniforms. They don't want to spend the money for uniforms, they don't want enforce dudes wearing them. They buy some random blue truck because it was cheap, but your trucks are green! They don't want to repaint it because it would cost money. Oh the excuses are endless.
sharperimagelawns: One thing I have learned through experience and reading a lot of things on this site: what works well and what doesn't has more to do with where you are located than anything else. What works in North Carolina may not necessarily work in Florida or Texas. That's why doing your homework is so important, keeping records of your advertising, keeping track of what worked and what didn't. Only from this feedback and researching the area where you live can you begin to build a truly "wise" marketing plan. Let's face it, when first starting out you are taking a shot in the dark. At least to a certain extent. Obviously there are a couple tried and true methods that work for everyone, but then there are several more that may or may not work depending on your area. For example: yellow pages was my all time biggest waste of money, and craigslist has generated more work for me than any other source. Is this true for LCO's in different areas? Probably not. Bottom line, know what works in the area where you live.
cplawncare: That's so true. Angie's List has been great for me, but it just depends on the market if it will work for you. Craigslist works to some degree around here, but usually it's bottom feeders. I've talked to a lot of the local LCO's and word-of-mouth seems to be the best, but then you never really know if they are telling the truth either.
Cedar Lawn Care: Concerning Angie's List here is what I have seen. I got a call and they told me that I could be one of their paid businesses for $1,200 a year. That was to advertise to about 100,000 people. I told them that was too much and that two-thirds of those people are irrelevant to me because my service area is only 30,000 people. They crunched some numbers and got it lowered to $360 for the year. On Angie's list the default setting is to show businesses with coupons at the top of the list. Only paying businesses have the ability to have coupons. Right now I show up on the top of the list because I decided to pay. I only have three reviews, but I have an "A" rating so I do stick out a little bit. I have a competitor with 12 reviews and another with five positive reviews, but I appear above them. I have no idea if this will be profitable, but I can let you know one year from now.
cplawncare: We've been on Angie's List for over two years now. Yes it cost us about $250 a month, but the ROI is way more. The frustrating part is they don't screen reviews so anybody can say anything. We have over 60 reviews and there are some doozies to say the least, but as long as you can explain the bad ones it's no big deal. By bad ones I mean we've had ones that posted bad reviews that we never did work for, so we politely replied, "We have no record of ever doing work for you" or something like that. It's not a perfect system for sure, but it does bring in a good bit of high-end of work. Depending on the size of your market it may or may not be worth it. We have about 100,000 in our market so it's big enough to be worth it. The only discount we give is 10 percent to veterans, which we do anyway.
"In Your Own Words" is contributed from the lawn care and landscape forum at www.LawnSite.com, which was named one of 10 Great Media Sites by Media Business magazine, and has been chosen as a winner of the Most Engaged Media Brands for 2010 by min, a firm that tracks the media industry. Visit them, and join in the discussions.