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Direct Mail Advice for Lawn Care Business Owners

Direct Mail is a key component to maximizing profits.  Watch this video for Direct Mail Advice.

Video Transcript

Tom: I’m going to speak to direct mail for a couple of minutes because it really does have a place in your marketing plan, and I think when we talk about the most successful or the source that will drive the most sales, direct mail can do that for you but you have to be careful with it because it can get very expensive and you’re kind of taking a risk with doing it.

It wasn’t that long ago where many lawn care service companies, and I’m talking mostly fertilization and some of the big companies, Truegreen and Scotts, their main source of sales came from direct mail, after telemarketing was let go how ever many years ago, it seems like forever now. When managers switched away from telemarketing to direct mail, they just pumped millions and millions of dollars into direct mail and it’s not always the most cost efficient means to make sales, but there’s absolutely a place for it, and somebody was asking about statistics in regards to direct mail.

Let me throw a couple of things out there and see what you guys think. Direct mail, you can typically expect a less than 1% response rate. When you send out a direct mail piece, 10,000, 100,000 or even, in some of the bigger companies, 1 million pieces. I remember one year at Lawn Dawg, we sent out 500,000 direct mail pieces and we got a spring northeastern. We got a snowstorm that wasn’t forecasted. It literally, I mean it was devastating. It was a lot of money to put into direct mail. That’s what I’m talking about in regards to the risk, but you should only expect about a 1% return from it, and basically, what you’re doing is you’re generating estimates.

You should be able to close those estimates at a pretty high rate, and I think at this particular plan, you’ve get them in at 62%. If we were going to generate 200 direct mail leads, we’re going to expect 124 sales from that. That’s a fairly high amount as a percent to what we’re doing from this entire plan, but it’s going to cost a few bucks to do that. Jonathan, have you had any experience with direct mail or what are you feelings on that in today’s day and age?

Jonathan: I think there’s a move away from direct mail because the web is so incredibly, it can be so successful for so many companies and it’s perceived to be near free, though it’s not really. I see direct mail as an awesome opportunity. I still love direct mail, but you nailed it. You nailed it on several fronts. There are guys who don’t even get a 1% return. Quick example, you’ve got to be very aware of your market. For example, if you’re mailing to a residential, if you’re mailing to a street where two out of every 10 people in that street are even a potential buyer of the service you’re selling, you’re mailing out an awful lot of marketing pieces that have zero chance of getting a return. Only two out of 10 even have a chance of even having a person in response.

The very first question to direct mail is, “Am I targeting exactly the right areas with the highest propensity to buy, the highest potential?” If you don’t, you returns could be 1/4 of 1%. They could be a disaster. You nailed it on the snow. I mean if it’s raining on the day the direct mail gets delivered or it’s overcast, it kills returns. There’s all these variables in direct mail that will just kill you. You can mail the same piece to the same area and you get a 2% return, and you mail it again three weeks later and you get 1/8 of 1% return and why, it’s hard to explain sometimes.

That doesn’t mean you don’t do it. I think the guys that do it are going to win in the long term. Tom, here’s how I look at direct mail. I think the web is it. I spend a lot of money on the web, and a lot of guys are shocked when they come to find out what it take to get good SEO ranking. It really does cost a lot of money, but it’s the best money you could spend, but the best way to grow your company from a profit standpoint is with direct mail, and here’s why.

This is my opinion of course, but my strategy, my belief is you spent a whole lot of money to get yourself out there on the web so that people are coming to you, so I’m using a residential example again, and they’re finding in you land on one street because you sell a client there, and then you land on another street a few miles away, and then you land on another street a few miles away from that, and if you only rely on the web, you have a business that’s scattered across your service market. All the money’s in density, and most guys hate residential, especially on the lawnmowing side because they don’t think there’s any money in it, but there’s a ton of money in it when you’re dense.

Direct mail is how you get dense. You can’t get dense just using the web, so the web drives where you land, and then when you land on that street, you go in to own that street and you own it through direct mail, and that’s why I’m a huge believer in direct mail. In the streets that the web drives you to and you land on those streets, to have a very low chance of many people in that street being a buyer of your service, you don’t direct mail to that street. You know your market and you only direct mail to the streets with the highest percentage of potential buyers and the strategy is you go in to own those streets and you do it direct mail.

That’s my belief and that’s why I so believe in direct mail, and yes it is expensive. It is a more expensive sale, but it’s the best sale because it leads to the most profit because you build density.

Tom: Yeah, and you know what, you’re nailing it, man and I can tell by the questions that are coming in here, density is absolutely the most important part of profitability, and when it comes to lawnmowing especially, if you can park that truck and do six lawns, that’s as good as having a 50,000 square foot property and plus, it’s going to be much more profitable. One of our branches in Portland at Lawn Dawg years ago, we had 750 customers in just one zip code, and the guy would literally just go and park his truck and treat like 15 lawns at a time. They were tiny little 3,000 square foot lawns, but he did 40 lawns before 1:00 in the afternoon, and it was by far the most profitable route.

People are asking questions, interesting that the way you talked about SEO or trying to generate leads on the web, and how direct mail does have a place in your marketing campaign, but many people are asking about that United States Postal Service ever do a direct mail option, and they really do reduce the cost of it, but I’m not a huge fan of it because it doesn’t allow you target the way a good list does. I think the importance of having a good list far outweighs, and it’s going to cost a little bit more, but I think instead of just blanketing certain carrier routes, if you can really drill down where you want to make the sales and where you want to mail those pieces, that’s about how you build density. That’s how you improve your profitability.

Jonathan: Yeah, can I make a quick comment there, Tom?

Tom: Yeah, go for it.

Jonathan: I think this is really, what you brought up something I think is worth just an extra minute on, because it is the difference maker in a profitable marketing strategy, and I’m going to give an exaggerated example, but if you use this mindset in thinking about marketing and especially direct mail, it will help. I’ll give you an example. Let’s again use residential example. You’re out and you’re doing estimates and you’re meeting with clients, and this is again a very exaggerated example, and you have all these clients and you go out there and you meet with them, and you walk away from the property and think, “I like that guy. Every time I meet with him, he’s a great guy. He’s a great customer.” You just keep having these little experiences.

One day you notice, and again this is a silly example, but one day you notice, “You know what, that guy that I just liked. He lives in about a $400,000 house and he’s got a BMW in the garage.” Then a week later, you’re like, “Oh, that guy, his house is about 400 and what do you know, he’s got a BMW in the garage.” What you start to do is you start to see these trends and you’re like, “You know, the guys I tend to like, they tend to be entrepreneurs, doctors, chiropractors, some kind of professional, who tend to live in about a $400,000 house.” What do you know, they tend to drive a BWM, and then you go to your mailing list company and you say, “Hey, I want to buy a list of everybody in my city that lives in a house between $350,000 and $450,000 that has a BMW and so on and so forth.”

Now, that’s a little more expensive list to buy. You’re going to spend some money to buy that list. It’s not free, but now you’re mailing to a group of people that the entire demographic probably has close to 100% chance of being your buyer, instead of mailing to a street where two out of every 10 people or three out every 10 people might be your buyer. What you’ve done is you’ve shifted some of your expense. If you’re spending 28 cents a piece to get bulk mail and post cards out the door, now you spend several pennies per name to buy the name, but you’ve immediately eliminated thousands of pieces that you would have sent that were a complete waste because you weren’t mailing to a specific list.

Exaggerated example, but that’s the mindset in direct mail, how can you narrow the market you’re focusing on and only get mail to the people that are your most likely buyers.

Tom: It’s almost as if you and I conspired about what to talk about during this and I want [crosstalk]

Jonathan: We didn’t.

Tom: We’re doing this on the fly, but what’s happening is, I think I wanted to happen is that we hit on specific things that literally make the biggest difference to implementing a marketing plan. Let’s stay on this for a minute because I think we need to actually take that exaggerated example that you gave of the BMW, but bring it down to a realistic point of view. In my opinion, a list is huge. Yes, it is more inexpensive to do that than if you do a direct mail. You can blanket as much as you want. Bulk mail is an option, but I’ve always been a firm believer in that if you can identify who your best prospects are, you’re going to increase your closing percentage drastically, or even your response.

If you’re getting a 3/4 of 1% direct mail response, by increasing the validity or the quality of your list, you can get 1% or even higher than 1% response, and when you’re talking about the numbers we’re dealing with direct mail, that’s a make or break 1/4 of 1%. I think that the BMW again is perfect, but when you get right down to it, you want to deal with a couple of parameters in regards to your list. You want to only deal with single-family dwelling units. If we’re talking about residential here, you want to clean out the condos, you want to clean out the apartments. You want to get rid of the renters. You want to deal with single-family dwelling units only and you want to use two things as your main cutoff with who you want to mail something to. It has to be home value and income level.

Most of these companies can actually take it beyond that, and you’re absolutely right, man. You can get lists based on specific interests, whether the people like to play golf, what kind of car they drive, whether they have a vacation home, kids, everything. In our case, if you’re trying to sell organic lawn care, whether or not somebody has children is a big deal, right? If you can specify that in your list, it’s very important, but I think it’s different in different types of the country, but you want home value and income level to be the two main things. I don’t know if you want to speak to that at all, Jonathan, but I think it’s important that we let you guys know that the list is a big deal.

Jonathan: Yeah, I’m going to second that with one little comment, and that is that’s not that expensive a list to buy. The common list is the one with the home value, the age, a few demographic pieces of information. For example, the age of the person. That’s a very common list to be able to get a hold of, so it’s not a lot. It’s not very expensive. When you go and add my exaggerated example of the BMW to it, that gets more expensive because now, you’re matching up multiple lists, so it ups the price. Tom, the list you’re talking about, it’s a very affordable, doable list and I’d add one little thing that I just learned over the years. Part of building your company is about building your company with clients you like, and clients that you like doing business with that pay you on time.

You don’t want to build your business around a company you hate because you’re dealing with a bunch of people that drive you crazy, and years ago, I spent $200, had this huge wall map of my market made. This was back when I was still working the phones at City Turf in the early days, hung this thing up on my wall and every time I got off the phone, I put a push pin in the wall for a lead and I put a different push pin in the wall for a sale. The thing that happened was I realized that in my market, there was this one section in my entire market that was about a 1/2 mile by 1 mile and that’s where all our best customers were. They would buy anything we want to sell. They weren’t million dollar homes. They were in $275,000 to $450,000 homes and just that little activity clued us in where we wanted to be, and then we bought, Tom a list exactly like what you just described.

We used that and we thought we bought that list in that area. That, so add to what you just said, what kind of homes, how old are they, now the next question is in what area, and you can get even more refined in just the zip code. That’s how we’ve done exactly Tom what you described many, many times, it’s a very successful, very affordable approach.

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Tip To Make Selling To Commercial Customers Easier

How To Make Selling To Commercial Customers So Much Easier…

Watch this video to learn the 1 simply trick (how you must think).

 This one concept will greatly simplify selling commercial work to large companies.

Video Transcript…

This tip will make selling to commercial clients and marketing to commercial clients so much easier. I am constantly asked questions about selling to commercial clients. There’s a huge intimidation factor. It almost feels to many like this big, giant unknown. How in the world do I do this? How in the world do I approach it? I’m going to give you one single concept in this video. It’s a mindset concept, but it’s critical to your success to, number one, selling, and number two, marketing.

The reason why I feel that I can actually answer this question and have experience in it is, for years, I was a partner in a commercial cleaning company. The only thing we did was sell to commercial clients. Not little commercial clients. Massive corporations. That was our focus. That was our niche. There was a more specific niche than massive corporations, but the guys we were dealing with were huge. Some were public companies. Some were very, very large companies that were privately owned. Some were very, very large companies that were owned by holding companies.

The point is that we had to get through all the layers of management to sell. That’s quite intimidating. Our clients all had properties all over the United States. Many had basically a footprint in almost every state within the United States. Again, huge companies.

Also, in the landscape business, I’ve had a lot of experience in selling to commercial, not as much as in the commercial cleaning business. In the landscape business, I’ve had experience selling to smaller properties, property managers, HOAs, condominiums, bigger companies, things of that sort.

Let me give you the key that makes it all so much easier. Because when you drive through your local market and you see the mall, and you see apartment complexes, and HOAs, and you see the big, multi-tenant buildings, and the multi-story buildings, and you look at that and you think, “Okay, I want to have my landscape company,” … let’s just put a name to it. Let’s say your landscape company’s named Total Landscape … “I want Total Landscape to sell to that giant six-story building that has all the grass and outdoor maintenance needs surrounding it.”

You’re picturing that outdoor building. Somewhere within that property is a guy that’s in charge. Let’s give him a name. Let’s say his name’s Larry. Or, the same could be true, you’re selling to Starbucks. Starbucks is this massive, somewhat faceless corporation that’s all over the world. There’s a Larry somewhere in Starbucks. There’s a Larry somewhere in this big six-story building.

Larry is not that different from you. Larry’s married. He’s got a wife. He’s been married for a number of years. He’s got two cars. He has a mortgage payment. He probably has a mortgage on at least one of his cars. He’s got at least a couple kids. One of his kids plays sports. Maybe one plays music of some kind, some kind of musical instrument.

They really want to take a big vacation this year. They’ve got a mother-in-law that is a little bit sick or ill that they’re sort of helping and caring for. He’s got some brothers and sisters that live in other states that they don’t see very often. He goes to church. He’s usually really busy on Sundays, and Saturdays are all about doing chores around the house, and doing the family thing, and going to all the kids’ sporting events. Then Monday through Friday, it’s back at the grind.

Then Monday through Friday, when he’s at work, he’s got stresses. He’s got a boss. He’s got all these employees that, some are great, some are causing him a lot of headaches. He’s got things that are falling through the cracks. He’s feeling ridiculous pressure, because everybody’s giving him too much work. Everybody wants one more thing. He’s got to sit through one more Monday meeting. He’s got to answer one more stupid question from the boss that he halfway feels might be slightly incompetent.

You can just imagine what goes on in Larry’s life. It’s just like everybody else. There’s all this junk going on. He wants his life to be simpler, better, easier. He wants his work life to be better. He wants to get all kinds of nightmares out of his job. If he could get them out of his job, things would be better.

Larry has a kid … that I gave the example … that maybe plays sports. Maybe a son plays baseball, and he’s on the baseball team. Larry loves baseball. He wishes that he could have played baseball in high school, or he could have continued after high school playing baseball. He loves sports. On Sundays, he watches sports.

I’m painting a long, detailed picture, but you’ve got to think about your client this way. If you picture Starbucks … “I’m selling to Starbucks,” or, “I’m selling to my HOA,” … and there’s a Larry on the HOA board that might be the president or might be the guy that’s not the president but he’s been tasked with finding this landscape company, when you think about you’re dealing with Larry and not the HOA, not Starbucks, not the six-story building, it’s so much easier to imagine selling to this person.

It’s so much easier to imagine putting together a 12-month marketing campaign where you’re mailing things to him, following up with phone calls. It’s so much easier to take a personal approach in both your conversation and in your marketing when you’re talking to Larry. Larry’s not that much different than you, or maybe not that much different than some of your friends that are very close friends. When you picture it that way, you can get in the door so much easier. You can make your marketing work.

For example, if you’re sending a marketing piece from my example, Total Landscape, to Starbucks, how do you write that? A lot of people write it as, “Hey Starbucks, we’re great. We’re wonderful. We’ll guarantee your satisfaction. You’ll love us. Do business with us here at Total Landscape. We’ll solve all of your needs.” That’s boring. That’s corporation-to-corporation speak.

If your marketing is personal … and imagine that you find out who Larry is, and you find out that his son loves baseball, and Larry played baseball all the way through high school … what if you initially send Larry a FedEx letter. It’s very personal to Larry, something personal, something that you wrote it directly to him. It has your name on it. It’s Jonathan … in my case … Jonathan writing a letter to Larry about how we can make his life better. It’s written in a personal tone, not a corporate-speak, business-speak tone.

Then you follow up with a phone call. Of course, you get his voicemail, so you leave a nice message. Then next month, you follow up with a lumpy package, kind of a box. Inside that box, there’s a baseball, and it’s got a signature from somebody that is a popular baseball player, maybe in the local market or maybe even in the local minor league market, maybe because later you’re going to send him a ticket or two to the local minor league game. I’m maybe giving you a bigger example than what you would be willing to spend money on, but it’s that kind of a concept.

What are you doing here? You’re now marketing … let’s use my name … Jonathan to Larry. I’m doing something personal. We’re connecting on a personal level. Corporations don’t matter. The corporate level doesn’t matter. We’re connecting as people with maybe common interests. That’s how I get Larry’s attention, because the other 20 guys that are trying to get his attention are using all this business-corporate speak.

In our commercial cleaning company, we grew that company 100 percent with relationships. We took guys to baseball games. We gave them football tickets to games in their local market. We flew them out to trade shows. It was very common to have trade shows in Vegas, so we’d fly some of our clients out to Vegas. We’d buy them dinner. We’d take them to shows. We sponsored their kids’ baseball games. We did a million different things, because it was all relationship-based stuff. The conversations all started, and we worked all conversations to get in the door. We tried to turn those into personal relationships.

Sometimes they didn’t turn into personal relationships. Sometimes we got the business because we had a personal relationship with somebody else who highly recommended us to their coworker that managed another property. Maybe we never developed a great personal relationship with them, but the core personal relationships through these companies are what got us in the door. Your core relationships with your property management company, or the person at the property management company, is going to spread you through the property management company, or at least give you the opportunity to bid a lot of work.

The key to everything is to think in terms of a person. When you’re writing a marketing piece, you are imagining a person and what their life is like, and what their day looks like, and what their weekend looks like. You’re writing something from you to that person. You’re imagining them. Imagine your closest friend, if you were sitting down writing them a letter, and trying to get them to use your service. How would you talk to them? It’s totally different than how you would talk to Starbucks. This completely and dramatically changes your marketing.

Then the same is true with the person selling. When you walk in the door and you’re trying to meet with something, it’s far less intimidating when you’re thinking about, “I’m dealing with Larry.” Yes, Larry works at this big, giant company, Starbucks, but honestly, Larry’s life isn’t exactly as exciting as it may seem. Larry goes home and has all the exact same problems that everybody else has. Yes, he works at this giant company, and maybe he’s the big purchasing manager or the facilities manager, or maybe he’s got a C-level title. Who knows what the case is, but at the end of the day, he’s a guy. He just happens to have done the work to be running the business. He’s still a guy with all the same stresses and concerns.

When you think about it that way, dealing with him is so, so much less intimidating. The idea of asking for the opportunity to talk to them, the idea of mailing something to them, the idea of following up with them, so much less intimidating. You’re just following up with some guy. He’s not super special. He’s just some guy.

Think about everything from that direction. I think in your mind, it will simplify this task of breaking into the commercial market. It will simplify getting commercial accounts. Then, it will guide the way you speak, and talk, and present, and act. The relationship of it all is how you grow this business. That’s why it’s an investment. You don’t suddenly start a commercial business, and tomorrow have 10 million dollars in commercial work. You make an investment in people, an investment in relationships. It starts out slow, and if you work those and invest, in time, the whole thing blows up into this big company.

Very, very, very best sales guys have a network of relationships that they have spent an incredible amount of time developing, that they can go back to. That’s why, in the commercial business, when you’re hiring commercial sales guys, you go to get the guy that has the relationships. You go get him. He’ll cost you a lot of money, but he will grow you far faster than the guy that’s just starting out, that’s never done it, that knows nobody, because he has no network. He has no relationships. You have to build that. This is how you build it. Good luck.

How To Start Selling To Commercial Customers

Advice on Selling To Commercial Customers.  If you are interested in expanding into commercial lawn care or landscape maintenance this video provides tips about selling to commercial accounts and large commercial properties.


Video Transcript…

The question is how do I get commercial properties when I’m just getting started in the commercial business?

In this video I talk about how to start selling to commercial customers.

This could be a scenario where you are just starting your lawn care business or it could be a scenario where you’re predominantly residential maintenance and now you are expanding the company into the commercial market.

The commercial market is extremely competitive. There is a lot of price pressure, you will give a lot of proposals that you will never win and you will never win them for a million different reasons.

The commercial landscape maintenance market is completely different than residential lawn care.

In residential, your contract (sell) close percentage should be significantly higher than it will be when selling commercial contracts.

You have to essentially quote a ton of work in commercial to win a ton of work. There is just no way around it. Even the best companies, the best commercial sales guys, they are quoting a lot of work…  that is how it works.  There is a sales cycle to commercial that’s far longer than residential.

I’m going to talk about the sales cycle of commercial lawn care in a different video. This video is solely about how to get started in commercial landscape and how to sell to commercial customers.

I’m not going to give you every little trick in detail. That could be an entire course in and of itself. But let me give you some pointers.

As you drive down the road and you look around, you’re going to see malls and you’re going to see big commercial properties. Let’s put names to them. AMC Movie Theater, Regal Movie Theater, Home Depot, Lowe’s. You’re going to see all of these free standing stores, Chili’s the restaurant owned by Brinker, Red Lobster, there’s Olive Garden. You’re going to see all kinds of … those are all free standing buildings owned by big corporations and then you’re going to get into other parts of town where you see smaller stores. Maybe a Subway in a small town that’s free standing or a McDonald’s, usually free standing everywhere, as a freestanding building.

When I say standing, I’m referring to that building is a stand alone building that is not a multi-tenant building where there’s a tenant on either side of that property. For example a typical Subway in many markets in the US is within a multi-tenant building and there is another business on the left and right of the Subway store. And in some small towns you … or in other parts of town, you’ll see Subways be a free standing building, same with Starbuck. Sometimes Starbucks is a free standing building, sometimes Starbucks is within a multi-tenant building.

There’s all of these different types of properties and they’re controlled by different types of people. Property management or commercial, big corporations that manage their own property or big corporations that have essentially hired national property management companies to find them vendors. There are plenty of commercial properties out there where you deal directly with either the manager of that specific property, meaning the guy that’s running that business.

Let’s use Starbucks…. No, Starbucks is not a good example other than to say in Starbucks you have a manager that runs the store. I’m referring to that kind of a person. In some cases you’ll deal with the guy that runs the local store, whatever that store is, whatever that business is. And then in other cases, the guy that runs that local store, that local business might be the owner of it. It could be the franchisee or if you go into an office park, you could get into a scenario where there’s a lot of free standing buildings and you go into the front door of one of those free standing buildings and the person that company itself, maybe it’s a medical company of some form, the owner of that business also owns the real estate, and so you deal directly with them, he’s not using a property management company. There’s just so many scenarios.

When I got started in commercial, I started in 2 places. I started in warehouses and I started in basically commercial properties that were on office park and they were predominantly free standing buildings and I just walked door to door and I walked in and I … it’s not something I enjoyed at all, I didn’t like it but it works and I would literally walk in the front door and I would ask if they have a company and then eventually I figured out that I should ask if you do have a company, when will you be asking for a bid? When will you put this out to bid? Or when is that contract up? Or that agreement up? A lot of times they don’t know but then you can ask for who should I contact and who should I talk to if you’re speaking with the front desk.

And clearly, most of the time when you walk in the front door, they don’t have no decide to talk to you, so you should ask for a business card.

This is an effective approach but you have to go see a lot of business, you got … essentially knock on a lot of doors.

But the real point here is so how do you get started?

If you imagine that you could bid a mall or you could go to an office park and you could bid a free standing building where the owner might also in the real estate, it’s way easier to walk in the door and get that business than just to get the mall. Or if you could figure out that in this part of town, a lot of the businesses there, office park businesses or whatever they might be, we’re just using office parks in this example. A lot of the businesses in the office park because they’re free standing buildings and not multi-tenant buildings because multi-tenant buildings are most … in my experience almost always owned … almost always managed by property management companies.

That’s why I designate multi-tenant versus free standing. There’s an absolute difference and plenty of free standing buildings are also managed by a property management company but you’re rarely ever going to walk into a suite in a multi-tenant building and find out that that guy in that suite is the guy that owns the building. It never happens, so you’re going to deal with the property management company in that case.

A lot of times you can call the sign or at least to get your foot in the door and to start working the process and figure … and do your investigative work. You can … from the leasing sign figure out where to start. That’s usually the property management company.

Jumping around a bit here.

But in a multi-tenant building, often time, the leasing sign is where you start to track back and say “Okay, who is the property management company in charge of these properties?”

Now, back to the free standing example. It just so happens that’s where I started in both warehouses and within office buildings and by walking into some of these free standing buildings, we won an awful lot of the business.

Now a lot of the free standing buildings turned out to be … let’s use an example that a lot of us would know, John Deere or John Deere acquired all of the Lesco stores a long time ago.

Well in my market, Lesco stores used to be a free standing building. I can walk in the Lesco. I used to have Estes, they were another chemical supplier we used to maintain Estes.

And so Estes was a scenario where we’d walk in and we’d maintain, we maintain their property. But were Estes stores all over. We just maintained their free standing building and that decision was made at that local store level. Lesco would be the same thing. They have a lot of free standing buildings.

Now I never maintained Lesco so I don’t know if they made their maintenance decisions at the store level or if they made their decisions at the corporate level. I couldn’t say. But the point is, that’s a free standing building and I was able to just walk in into those. In some percentage would be “Oh yes, we need somebody.” Some percent would be, “You know, we don’t need anybody but we’re really not that thrilled. Call us in 4 months.” But the vast majority had no interest and of that, I won some. I’m finally circling now to how do you get around to how do you get started?

You’ve got to have some references, you’ve got to have some examples you can point to.

I remember early on, I getting the question “Hey, give me some addresses, I want to see some of the properties you maintain.” That was a real challenge in the beginning.

We won a number of properties in the beginning that we really severely underbid because we didn’t know what we’re doing. The only side benefit to that was that we at least had some clients now that we could point to, we had some references.

We also started learning about the selling process and we also started learning about maintaining of these bigger properties, so now I could talk the language when I spoke with the property management company or when I spoke with an HOA board. I knew how they thought and the questions they would ask and what was of importance to them and I learned that by getting some properties. That’s point number 1.

Finally, this far end of the video.

Point number 1 is that you have to first just get some properties. My opinion wouldn’t be don’t look at the malls, don’t look ay the giant corporations, go get the little stuff. Just start small.

I mean even if that … I had some warehouses that paid 45 bucks a week to cut but that was commercial, that got me in, that made me start learning it and I have another commercial property just down the street paid 125 a week. I this example, most of them just wanted it mowed. It was a pretty simple thing. They were warehouse district, industrial park type work.

But that got me in the door, that got me into commercial and then from there it expanded into some HOAs and then my first HOA, if I remember correctly, came from one of the free standing buildings that we won. They recommended us to somebody they knew with the HOA, we ended up bidding against some other people and winning the HOA.

We first had one, a small office park building, just a free standing buildings for a medical company and that lead to then a referral to a HOA. Now I understood HOAs, then I could get some other HOAs. Then one time when a big condo association called based on our website, we knew the language, we knew how to do the work and then we won that and it just sort of daisy chained in a sense, it built up on itself.

But the point was, what happened, I didn’t start with … I didn’t start with a mall, I didn’t start with something huge. I started with smaller stuff and grew and that’s important.

I would start with properties that you can go get and you can walk through, then you can from there buy a … once you know your deal, once you know what you’re doing, you know your language, then you can start buying a mailing list, you can watch the video where I talk about who are the people, what are the titles of the people you need to talk to? Well not, once you figure out what you’re doing with some small properties, then you could go out and buy a mailing list and market to these people.

There’s a cell cycle. It takes time. You’ve got to work with. Marketing is really important in the commercial space if you do it, but remember, one little tidbit, when you’re marketing to a commercial company, you’re marketing to a human being, you’re not marketing to Home Depot or Starbucks, you’re marketing to Jim at Starbucks store number 9604. You’re marketing to Larry at the Home Depot on the west side of your town and Larry goes home and has kids and Jim goes home and he has a wife that’s frustrated with how many hours he’s putting at the store and mad at the vendor that screwed up hi parking lot when he restriped it and he’s fed up with the guy that works in the back of the warehouse that keeps screwing stuff up with the forklift.

He has problems just like you. And on Saturday he’s going to go to his daughter’s volleyball game. You’re marketing to him. You’re not marketing to Home Depot; you’re not marketing Starbucks. That’s very important understanding this.

And so as you’re thinking about this, point number 1, start with some smaller stuff.

Point number 2, once you know what you’re doing, you can buy a mailing list and now you start your marketing campaign to the purchasing manager, to the store manager, to the facility manager. I don’t know who. But you’re marketing to that person as an individual. You’re building a relationship.

This entire commercial business, growing a commercial business all about relationships.

I used to be a partner in a big commercial cleaning company. The entire business was built on relationships. Taking guys to games, taking people to sporting events, flying them to the trade show in Las Vegas and paying for it and going with them, sponsoring their kids soccer games and baseball games and their … sponsoring their teams. It was all relationships. We built deep relationships and we started with one property, build relationships, they would recommend us to others or you’d go into using another Home Depot example which I’ve never been in Home Depot or never had any Home Depot clients.

You win over the trust of the guy that’s running your local Home Depot store and then when his buddy in another market is fed up and done, he say “Man, you should try the guys I have. You should talk to them, just talk to them because I don’t have any problems anymore.” And then you get the next door and then you get the next store and then eventually they recommend you to corporate office and then the regional manager knows about you.

It’s … that how it works in commercial, even in property management, that’s how it works. You gain with the property management company, let’s you try a few properties, you do a bang up job, he gives you a few more. Before long, he knows that you eliminate all the headaches in his life. By the way, still have to give really good pricing because it’s a very price sensitive business, the commercial market. But you earn his trust and he starts giving you more and more and more and then he knows another property management guy and he tells you … tells them about you and it grows but it starts slow.

But boy, if you really get in with the right property management companies, this business can explode quickly. They can give you tons and tons and tons of work.

My third point to think about in getting started is, is there a niche? What can you be an expert at?

In my cleaning business that I was a partner in, we were in niche. There are a bazillion buildings in the world to clean, of all different types. We chose one specific industry to clean buildings for and we only clean … we got out of everything else and only clean buildings for that industry and we became the guys in that industry and that’s how we built the business all over the United States is by being the experts in cleaning for that industry.

Now, is there something you could be … and that for us was plenty of business. You could build a huge, huge, huge, huge company just being in that niche.

Is there something that you could be the very best at in your market? You are the HOA guy, you are the restaurant guy. And I’m not saying that you should be either one of those 2 things. But just think about it, what could you be the best at? What is the thing that a lot of properties in your commercial marker need? Is it come kind of specialized enhancement? Are there retention ponds? And it’s often hard to find people to clean retention pond so you are the retention pond expert which then opens the door for you to get into all kinds of other commercial properties.

Are you the expert at power washing? Something a little outside of what you do but you’re so good at it that that then opens a door for you to win other business. But you’re an expert at power washing some certain type of building.

I don’t know what that is but think about the concept of the niche. What is it that could be considered the best at that you have this giant market you want to sell to and you could shrink it down and be it when it comes to that market?

Again, it all takes a while to grow this but then once you’re considered the guy, then everybody calls you. Everybody says “Oh well, yeah, for me, my business is different. I need to talk to the guy that is the expert at power washing the front of hospitals. I can only deal with the guy that understands hospitals.” And you’re the guy that specializes in outdoor maintenance for medical facilities and all the security and concern that goes into that.

Think about niching as your third way to make yourself standout out and break into the commercial market because it’s a massive market and you need some way to look different and you need a portfolio of properties to present and you need all these things to really start to blow up your business and built it.

Think about those 3 points in terms of how you get started and ignore a lot of the stuff that everybody else wants and everybody’s competing for.

Everybody wants the local McDonald’s. Everybody wants the fancy property on the corner of some big street in your Everybody wants the mall.  Everybody wants the fanciest HOA in the market.  Everybody’s competing for that. Where is … where can you go that not everybody’s competing and start there. And eventually, you gain the reputation that you win the fanciest stuff. But that’s years down the road.

Basically, shrink your market, shrink your goal in some scents and figure out where you can start, dominate that and build from that. This is a long-term game. You are just trying to get a foot hold so you can take over. Got get your foot hold.

What’s the smallest way you can get a foot hold and get it fast.

Who Do I Contact When Selling To Big Companies?

Contacting the right person when trying to sell commercial contracts makes all the difference.

Learn the title of the person you should contact when selling to big companies.


Video Transcript:

The question is, I am trying to build the commercial side of my business so I’m selling to commercial clients. Who am I looking for? Who do I talk to? Who do I talk to to get a bid or have the opportunity to bid the work? So, let’s talk through this, but I’m going to give you a couple of names first and then I’ll clarify some stuff.

So, you’re looking for a Property Manager at a property management company. If it’s a small property management company as in its an owner with a couple of assistants, then you might be dealing directly with the owner of the property management company. But, in many cases you’re dealing with a Property Manager at a property management company.

You might be dealing with a Purchasing Manager. So, let’s say that you have a big operation that you’re trying to sell to. So, I’m going to make up a name … Home Depot. I don’t know, I’ve never worked with Home Depot so I don’t know how Home Depot works, but let’s say Home Depot. Home Depot might have a Purchasing Manager over the Home Depot stores. Now, generally, he might have final say or he might sign off, but he’s not necessarily the guy that you talk to to negotiate every deal. What you might end up doing, you might talk to the Manager of the Home Depot. Again, please keep in mind, my example here, I’ve never dealt with Home Depot, I’ve haven’t the faintest idea how Home Depot works, but I’ve dealt with this a lot in both the landscape industry and the commercial cleaning industries. I do have a lot of experience in this area. I’m just using Home Depot to put a name to this.

Home Depot might be structured where, again, might being a very key word, Home Depot could be structure where Home Depot has stores in all of these different markets. Within a market, you would have possibly a Store Manager, I don’t know what they call them in Home Depot, that runs that store. He’s responsible for the P&L of the store, he’s responsible for the store. He may or may not have decision making authority on who his vendors are. I have seen within big corporations that this varies. Some big corporations basically will hire a couple vendors and they will push those vendors down to the Store Manager and other corporations will let the Store Manager make all of their buying decisions, chose all of their vendors because they’re ultimately responsible for their P&L at their store. So, it can vary.

A typical hierarchy tends to be, so we’re no longer talking about a property management scenario. In this example we are assuming that Home Depot operates with a Store Manager. Above that Store Manager, in many cases, will be a District Manager.  This will be someone that controls X number of Home Depots and the Store Managers report to this individual. Often above that District Manager might be a Regional Manager that is responsible for some territory within the United States that multiple District Managers report to that individual. Then above that might be a Purchasing Manager. Everybody’s different, but this is a kind of way to think about it. I’ve seen this scenario many, many times.

Now, at a property sometimes you will start with … usually you’ll start with the Manager of that property. You’ll start with the Store Manager in the Home Depot example. They may move you up the food chain and say “Hey, that decision’s made a corporate office.” In that case you need to find out who you need to talk to at corporate office. If it’s made at corporate office, a lot of times now you’re dealing with the Purchasing Manager. In some cases, you may be dealing with the equivalent of a Facility Manager. You could have a Facility Manager at the local Home Depot store that’s responsible for that store or you could have a Facility Manager that roams and covers multiple stores that is essentially over that store.

So example, in the landscape industry, one time I had a client, Neiman Marcus. At Neiman Marcus the person I dealt with there was essentially a Facilities Manager or Facilities Director. I’m not quite sure what his title was. In our local Dallas market, there’s a big mall called North Park and there’s all these other malls and he would have been over any mall that had his Neiman Marcus store within it. Any of the malls in the Dallas-Ft. Worth marketplace where there was a Neiman Marcus store, he would have been at the Facility Manager. Therefore, he was making buying decisions. He would tell us “We need you to do this, we need you to bid that.” He wasn’t working for the mall. He was in charge of the store within the mall, Neiman Marcus.

You might think about this sometimes when you think about a mall you picture “I want to get the landscape for the whole mall.” Well, there is manager of that. Even within that there could be a manager that’s over things like their A/C units within the store or the landscape right directly around their store or the flowerbeds around their store or we did a lot of work around the area where their air conditioning units were, their massive air conditioning units, and we did a lot of gravel work and different types of work, multiple different jobs.  They also had warehouses. So we would take care of their warehouses that weren’t anywhere even near the mall. These were in warehouse districts but that one person made all the buying decisions for the different warehouses that we maintained the property for as well as the store connected to the mall. We didn’t mow any of the grass around the mall but we did other things because they were responsible for certain things.

I used to be in the cleaning industry and we would deal with big, big corporations that owned free-standing buildings all over the United States. We would often deal with either a manager at the store level. Let’s say we had a client in Ohio, we would deal with the manager at that property in Ohio. He would make all of his decisions. In other scenarios with direct competitors to this client we took care of, their direct competitors. In other cases, we wouldn’t deal with the manager. Now, the manager would tell us what to do or not to do but we had to deal with the District Manager and the District Manager would approve everything.

So, you’re looking for Property Managers vary, that’s one, Purchasing Managers possibility, Facility Managers is another one, and then it could be the Store Manager or a District Manager or a Regional Manager. There’s other scenarios, but these are the ones that I see most often.

In HOA’s it could be that you deal with the property management company. So, again, you’re dealing with the Property Manager. The HOA could have a property management company, but you’d deal with the President of the HOA or the board of the HOA. You go directly to them and then the property management sort of facilitates the process. In HOA work, I’ve seen both Where I deal or have dealt directly with the property management company and the HOA basically just says “Yeah, we agree we want to do that,” but property management did all the leg work.

I’ve also had the scenario where we do all the work directly with the President of the HOA and the HOA. This is the more  predominate one, but understand, I’m not a big HOA person. In my experience, most of my scenarios have been dealing with the HOA President and any board members associated, typically with the President and then one or two choice people that took a big involvement in that part of the HOA, meaning the outdoor services, the perimeter of the property and such.

These are the titles that you’re usually dealing with when you’re getting into the commercial market and you’re trying to sell work into the commercial market.

Who Should I Use To Print Lawn Care Business Cards?

Need to create and print lawn care business cards for your business?

We recommend this fast and inexpensive company if you need to print business cards…

 

Video Transcript

The question is, “I need business cards, where do you recommend I go to get business cards?”  Real simple.  I suggest that you just go to GotPrint.com.

I’ve got the site up here: GotPrint.com.

Once on their site, look down the menu for the business card menu option.

The more you print, the cheaper they become.  Even for small quantities GotPrint is a fast cheap way to print business cards for your landscape company.

You can do a little bit of additional investigation, from my experience these guys are super cheap, I have used them many times for all types of printing from business cards to postcards to brochures.

If you are planning to print in huge bulk you should consider a company in your local market that specializes in the type of printing you need.  However, even in your local market, these guys are hard to beat for business card printing.

You just upload your file, you tell the system a few parameters about how to print your business cards, you pay, and they ship the business cards to you.  I think you can round the corners, you can do a bunch of creative stuff on their website.

They do have a tool where you can design it but I would recommend you hire a contractor (or use 99Designs) to create a really good business card for you.  Once you receive the final art / design upload it to GotPrint.

GotPrint is the way to go.  Cheap and easy and fast.  Good luck.

Idea: Inexpensive Lawn Care Logo Design

Learn how to find a very affordable lawn care logo design company.

This video recommends a logo design company you might want to try that won’t cost your landscape business much money.

 

The question is, “I need a logo for my business, what is a cheap and inexpensive way to get a logo?”

I suggest 99designs.  I have the website up, it’s just 99designs.com.  It’s a pretty cool concept, you can use this service for more than just logo design.

I’m not saying don’t use or consider a more expensive designer.  I’m simply saying this is a great inexpensive logo design option for your company.

Especially, if you’re wanting to keep your cost down.  On their website click on the how it works link and read about it.  Basically, the gist is, you submit the design speck for what you want.  A bunch of designers compete by producing a design, you then give  feedback, they can rework that design and resubmit.

You pick the winner and you pay only the winner.

It’s cool deal.  Likewise, it’s cheap enough that if you don’t like any of the designs, oh well, you do it again or you go to a designer in your local market.  Logo design can get pricey and so you might try this first.  If you want a professional inexpensive logo custom designed for your business… try 99designs.com.

Why Are My Lawn Care Business Profits Shrinking As My Company Grows?

Learn why your lawn care business profits will shrink as your company grows…

The culprit of declining profits is almost always one of two things:

1) increased overhead you didn’t expect and therefore budget for or

2) incorrect pricing of the work you sold (often because you are unaware how much overhead cost you will incur to perform the work, especially as the business grows)

The good news is your lawn care profits (profit margin of your business) do not have to decline.  You can protect your margins by understanding overhead and how overhead will change as you grow your company.  With this understanding in mind you will be able to price work correctly to maintain your desired profit margins.

Watch this video to learn how to avoid the trap of declining profit margins.

Video Transcript

Hey, it’s Jonathan.  I get this question, but it’s never specifically asked the way I’m about to say it.  It’s just asked in all kinds of different variations.  Basically the question is, “Why is it that as my company keeps growing I’m becoming less profitable”, or “Why is it as my company keeps growing I have less and less money”.  Let me give you some numbers first and set this up and then let’s talk about it.

There’s a lot of reasons why this might be.  The one I’m going to point out, in this video I’m going to talk about is specific to overhead.  Let me give you an example first just to build up a scenario and then let me talk through this.  Don’t get caught up in my numbers.  Don’t get caught up in the numbers being perfect.  Don’t get caught in the math, it’s just for the sake of an example.

Let’s say that you make $10.  We could even say $10 a year.  However you want to think about this, you make $10 a week.  Let’s use you bring in $10 in revenue.  You start out in your company, you’re out there doing the work, you’re spraying the lawns, you’re mowing, you’re doing whatever, you make $10 today.  Let’s use a daily rate.  I made $10 today.

If I’m spraying lawns I had $2 in material cost, I had some gas in my truck, I had a few costs and I had $2.  At the end of the day I have $8 left over.  I made $8 today.  That’s 80% on my $10.  In gross revenue I made 80%.  Good day, I made $8.  Obviously it’s not a good day, but just for the sake of math.

You start growing the company a little bit more and you start selling a lot more accounts and now you need some help.  You still make $10 a day, but now you need somebody else to go do the work for you.  You’re not on the truck, you’re sending somebody else out to do this work for you.  You have $10 in revenue for the day, you have that same $2 in cost as when you were doing the work, but now you have $5 in cost to send somebody out to do that job for you.  Now you have $3 left over.  That’s 30%, 30% is awesome, that’s a great margin, again oversimplification here.

Then you start going a little bit more.  You get more accounts, you get a few more employees, you keep adding to it, and then you have to go get an office.  Then maybe you have to hire a salesperson and then you’ve got to hire an office manager to work the phones.  You’ve got to get an accountant, you’ve got to buy some computers, you’ve got to do a million different things called overhead.

Now that same analogy.  You make $10 bucks for the day, you have $2 in cost, you have $5 in employee costs, but now this overhead.  The people answering the phone, the cost of the office, all this other stuff, a truck for you the manager.  Once you divide that out you figure out that it costs me, with all this overhead that doesn’t produce revenue.  Overhead is what it takes to run and make the business function and operate.  It’s not producing revenue in my example here.

Once you figure it out it costs me about $1.50 a day in overhead.  Now take that $1.50 out.  So $10 you made today, minus $2 for costs, minus $5 for employees, minus $1.50 in overhead, we’ve got 50 cents leftover, that’s 5%.  You can quickly see how in a business if you price…  For example when you first get in business and you go out and you price a lawn and say I can make a lot of money.  I’m mowing the lawn, if I do 10 of these lawns a day or if I spray 10 of these properties a day based on what I’m charging, I’m going to make a nice living.  It’s definitely better than the living I used to make when I worked for somebody.

Then the business, because you’re pricing your work really well, very competitively and you’re doing a great job because you’re the guy, you’re the owner, you’re all invested, you’ll do whatever it takes, business starts growing.  Then you have to start having other people do the work for you and they don’t work quite as fast as you work and there’s all these other factors.

Now you need to build some infrastructure in your business to support them, again called overhead, then you start adding all of these costs, but yet you’re still pricing exactly the same way when it was just you and you had virtually no costs.  You can’t, with that old pricing model, absorb all of the costs in your business that has now been created to run this bigger business.

I think of True Green as being a highly inefficient business.  I don’t know, I’ve never worked at True Green.  I could be crazy, maybe they’re not.  I view them as being a highly inefficient company.  Why does True Green have to charge more money than most other companies and even companies that are a good size?  It’s all because of the layers of overhead.  It’s the offices, it’s the management, it’s the layers of management, it’s all the overhead.

They’ve also become a real organization.  They have laws to comply with.  They have legal concerns.  They have all kinds of business risk that they’re trying to mitigate and eliminate and they have to put more people in place.  They have to cover their butt.  They’ve got to do more paperwork.  Now they have to hire more people to do that paperwork.  They have to make sure that they’re doing their safety meetings because they don’t want to get sued.  They’ve got to make sure that they’re taking every precaution with their chemicals.

This stuff just keeps adding up and adding up and adding up.  Also as you get further down the food chain from the owner, who was all in on this company, this is his baby, you bring in other people that are a little less passionate, work a little less hard, aren’t going to do 70 hours a week because this ain’t their thing.  They’ll work hard and they want your company to do well, but at the end of the day they’re not going to do what you were willing to do.  Why should they?  They don’t make or have the potential to make the kind of money you have.  You get a little less efficiency from all of those people and that costs your company money.

You can see how all of these little things add up.  The point I want to go back to, and all of that’s overhead, the reason that a lot of businesses get themselves in trouble is when they started they priced their business one way.  Yeah, they took a little bit of a price increase here or there, or maybe they only took a price increase on new clients.  You cannot generally follow your pricing levels from when you started your business or even a couple of years into the business.  Those levels have to evolve, they have to change and they have to go up.

There’s a reason that bigger companies price higher, they have to because they have all kinds of overhead to run a company of that size.  If you want to build a real company some day with a management team, maybe even a president that runs the company for you, you better price in a lot of overhead because it takes a lot of people to do that, to build that kind of a company.  You can’t operate off of yesterday’s pricing models.

This is one of the dangers of a lot of guys that get into business is they don’t understand up front all of the costs that are coming down the road.  There’s no way you could.  If you read and think about it, yeah you can project a few, but you’ll never fully be able to project all future expenses.  Given that, you want to, when you start your business, don’t underprice the market.  Do not.  Price, if at all possible, from day one just like you have all the overhead.  That will leave you more margin in profit to grow the company faster and reinvest.

Price like the market, at least at average market price, from day one in my opinion.  That way you have the money there and your contracts and work that you’ve already sold is priced correctly to allow you to grow.  What happens is a lot of guys start and they have all of these customers and they made a bunch money and as the company grows they become disenfranchised with their original clients because they don’t make enough money on them.  Then they start to neglect them, that hurts your reputation.  You don’t want to do that.  You don’t want to play that game so price it right.

Later you only have two choices, you fire that client or you raise their prices.  At some point you’ve got to get your prices right or you’ll never have profits in your business and you’ll wonder, “Why is my business not doing very good.  Oh, it’s all the low ballers, oh it’s this, it’s that.”  No, it’s just that oftentimes you didn’t know better.  I didn’t know better.  We didn’t know better.  When we started our companies we didn’t know exactly how to price and we didn’t price in all the overhead that was coming down the road to grow a real, sustainable, great business.

As your business grows you’ve got to consistently re-price work, sell it at the right prices.  You’ve got to pay attention to that.  Then you might have to go back to old clients and raise the price.  That’s the only way around it.  If you don’t you’ll slowly put yourself out of business.  It’s an invisible thing that’s happening.  As the business gets big it’s really hard to figure out where the leaks and the problems and the holes are where the underpricing is at.

This thing creeps up on you and it’s something to be very aware of.  This is how you end up with a low margin, low performing business, that you’d like to sell or get out of at some point because it’s not producing what you thought you could produce or what you experienced when you first started the business and then chose to grow it bigger because you thought, “Oh this is going to be great.  I’m going to make a ton of money.”

That’s how you look at it.  If you’re aware of that you can solve this problem or you can prevent this problem altogether as you grow.  Good luck.

Mistakes To Avoid: Advice on Buying Equipment & Lawn Care Marketing

02:14 – Lawn Care Equipment Advice
03:05 – Remember: You are In the Business of Selling Time
04:20 – Marketing Campaign / Direct Mail Advice – Tips to consider
08:50 – How To Know when you absolutely should not buy a new piece of lawn care equipment
13:32 – Snow Plowing Business Advice (should I be in the snow business?)

Video Transcript

This question is from Matt.  It’s a long question.  I’m going to read it, it’s about five questions in one and then I’m going to break it down.  The gist of it is, he’s new in business, he’s about to do his very first marketing campaign, marketing mailer, he has small mowers but he’s thinking about buying some bigger equipment so that he can mow some bigger properties and he’s also asking about snow plowing.

Let me read the question and then I’m going to break it down.  I started a lawn care business in July of 2013, by the way, I’m recording this in January of ’14, I have 22 inch Toro self propelled and love it.  I took your advice, I have five or so properties, not very big.  A fellow landscaper friend has a 31 inch mower for $300, he’s going to sell it to me.

However, I got Dan Kennedy’s magnetic marketing and from that I have got a first of three letters written and I have contacted a mailing list agent and they are charging $150 for 3,000 names.  I’m going to mail 100, maybe 200 out on February 12th.

My friend who owns a two acre lot said he would like it if I took care of him. I can’t take care of him with the mowers I have, the guy who has the 31 inch mower said I should stay away from small lawns now.  Excuse me, stay with small lawns now.

If I got a bunch of great properties that would be financially to get the bigger mower, the 48 inch mower, but really not until then.  I have someone that would help me financially, however 7,000 or more for a new mower seems steep.

Jonathon, I’m really excited about the upcoming season, I want to take advantage of the beginning of the season rush, do you know anything about snow plowing with you living in Texas, I would think not.  It’s snowing like crazy here and I wish I had a four wheel drive with a plow, maybe next year.

I would appreciate any information you can send my way.  Matt.

2:00:00  -  All right, so I wanted to read the question so you got gist, this video is going to be just a bit longer but I want to break this down into pieces, moving from the top to the bottom.  Matt says he’s got five properties, he’s using small equipment and he’s got a friend that will sell him a 31 inch mower for $300.  I can’t really comment on that, $300 is not much money so assuming that that piece of equipment isn’t going to constantly breakdown on you then go with it.

I’ll say this to you that with our small equipment, this is something we’ve done as we’ve become a bigger company.  With our small equipment, we sell it off every single year and just buy brand new equipment because the real cost is in the breakdowns and the loss of productivity.

Your biggest expense in your business because keep in mind you’re selling time, is your labor, the people you’re paying or if it’s you by yourself, it’s your time.  You’ve got to value your time, it’s worth a lot.  Because with your time, you’re going to build your business.  If you eat up all your time doing dumb, small little things, you aren’t going to grow your business because you’re not going to have any time.

Think about production, you’re selling time.  Every dollar, every minute, every hour you lose.  Let me say that again, every minute or every hour you lose is money you’re losing.  You can buy a $300 mower, that’s cheap today.

Tomorrow, next week when it breaks down, you’ve got the repair bills, you’ve got the parts.  You’ve got the time that was lost, you have the client that you made unhappy that now might not recommend you to someone else.  There’s all kinds of invisible little things that happen downstream.

The game is we’re selling time.  You want to maximize the amount of time you can sell, so you have minimize downtime.  I’m not saying that a $300 mower for 31 inches is short sighted, I have absolutely no idea.  I’m just saying make sure it’s one that will hold up, it will last.  Otherwise, you’re better saving your money and buying something better or buy it, use it just as long as need while you’re building money.  Sell it and then buy a better piece of equipment.

There’s several strategies here, but just remember the business you’re in.  You’re selling time, production is everything and downtime is a killer.  That’s called unbillable or unproductive time, it will ruin a business, sucks all the profits out of the business.

You bought Dan Kennedy’s magnetic marketing system, that’s great.  That was something that Dan built back years and years ago and it’s all still applicable.  A great little lesson there.  Some of the stuff that’s 20 years old, I’ve gone back and read marketing books from the early 1900′s and I’m amazed that they read very similar to the marketing books that I’ve read that were written two years ago.

Guys are regurgitating information.  People are still people.  All the same selling techniques to some degree work, it’s all still based on psychology so on and so forth.  Don’t ever discount the fact that something’s older, such as Dan Kennedy’s  magnetic marketing, I don’t know how old it is, maybe 20 years but great system.

Also recommend you buy all of his books on Amazon, especially all the ones that say “The Ultimate something” or “No BS”.  When you look on Amazon, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

You’ve built your first three letter campaign, you’ve never done this before so you’re probably not going to do a very good job at it.  No shot against you, you went through Dan’s stuff, you’re writing your first series of letters.  They may or may not work.

A couple of points here on this one.  You’re going to mail 100 to 200 of these on February 12th.  First thing I think of, February 12th so what does your letters say.  All right, so does your letters say, “I’d like to mow your lawn.”  Let’s just assume it does.

On February 12th, is the grass growing?  Are there any weeds popping up?  Is anybody sitting inside their home watching the Super Bowl thinking, “Man, I need to get out there and mow my grass” because if they’re not, don’t send those letters yet.  They will work best when your prospective client has pain.

When he gets up in the morning, goes out, gets in his car, pulls out of the driveway and looks at his yard and says, “I’ve got to do something about this today or my wife’s going to be all over me” or whatever the case might be.  He’s got pain, that’s when you want  your letter or your door hanger or your whatever to show up in his mailbox, on his front door, whatever.

Make sure for maximum results that you get this piece to him when he has pain.  No sooner, no later.  Timing is a challenge in direct mail but that’s the key.

You’re also starting out, doing your very first campaign.  If you mail too early, mail too late, mail to the wrong people, it doesn’t work, you might think, “You know what, this marketing thing doesn’t really work for me.  Jonathon, his company, they’re just getting lucky over there.  They’re Texas market, that’s different.  Not as much competition, plenty of employees”, who knows what you might imagine.  You’ll be wrong.

Everybody makes this mistake or most people do.  They think that because it doesn’t work for them, somebody else is lucky.  It works and I’m not saying that you’re thinking this way at all.  I just want to give you a little encouragement here, especially starting out.  Right now, it is critical, critical that you get some wins and you get some success that will build your confidence and you’ll keep plowing money into it and you’ll keep going.

I want you to be super successful with this.  Mail it when they have pain.  If that means you can’t time these at first then walk to 200 doors and put them on the door.  Get them out at the right time.  Two hundred is a very small number.  Two hundred could potentially yield you zero results.  I know that’s not exciting to hear but when you’re mailing, there’s so many factors in play.

Are the people that you’re sending these to really buyers?  Are you sure that these are people that buy lawn care service?  Of the 200, you’re mailing might 150 not really even be buyers, only 50 really hire out your service.  That’s critical because if you mail 200 and only 50 are really buyers then you only have an opportunity to sell at best case, 50 of these people and of those 50, only so many even need you right now or are even thinking about it or are even unhappy with their current company.

You’ve got to be really careful in this area.  Make sure the timing is right, make sure it’s going to the right people that are potential buyers and make sure that you’re saying the right thing.  You don’t know if you’re saying the right thing and you won’t know that until you try a few things.  I like that you’re doing a small amount, a couple of hundred but then you want to tweak it maybe a bit and do a couple hundred more.

Focus first on your headline, but you’ve learned a lot of that from Dan Kennedy, I’m sure.  Keep that education going, buy the rest of his books.

Then you go on to say that I have a friend who owns a two acre lot, he said that he could take care of me or I could take care of his property.  The problem is you need a 48 inch mower, I know very little about the situation here but my first thought is do not do that.  Bad idea.

Your advice that you got from another landscaper that says focus on the small properties.  I don’t know your market, I think he’s right.  It is by far the best, best, best, best scenario is to focus.  I’ve been incredibly guilty of not focusing in the past and what I’ve learned in every business system, the more you are focused, the more money you make.

The less focused you are, the less money you make.  Happens 100% of the time.  I believe it without question.  I’ve gone down the wrong road to know so focus is everything.  In my market, I’m 5,000 clients and my market, I have everything.  I have acre properties, two acres properties, huge commercial, small commercial, big residential, small residential, you name it, we’ve got it.  We’ve got a lot of it.

We’ve got a million competitors but we have decided to focus on very specific residential properties under a certain size and ignore everybody else and I am a bigger company.  Focus is still absolutely critical to my business.  Imagine how critical it is to your business, you have five clients.  You’re just getting started.

When you have 100 or 200 then think about maybe going to a different market.  I call a different market, bigger properties, different type of clientèle.  It’s not a totally a different business but it’s quite different.

Here’s the dilemma.  You’re going to go out and drop thousands of dollars on a piece of equipment to mow one lawn.  Let’s say that one lawn pays you $150 a week and that’s probably being generous.  How long is it going to take you mowing that one lawn to get back your 7,000.  Hypothetically, 7,000 because you mentioned that in the message.

Now that 7,000 could have been put to all kinds of other use.  It could have bought you a couple more small mowers, it could have when your truck breaks down get you out of a bind so you can keep the truck, the company running.  It could have done a bunch of marketing.

Let’s just focus on marketing.  What if your 200 mailers you sent out work but you went and bought a 48 inch mower to mow the one property you’ve got and now you have no money to send out 200 more mailers.  Now that’s a bad plan.  You just screwed up your whole season.  You really want to focus on optimal use of your money, which is how you’re thinking about this and the recommendation you’ve got from your friend was dead on.

Focus on the small stuff that way you can keep your equipment small, you can keep your costs down.  You can really learn how to do those properties just right.  You can learn how to exactly bid them, you learn all the new onsets, you know what those kind of clients care about, what they worry about, what they want and you can talk their language and you can get in and get out fast on those jobs because you know them.  Instead of being all over the board.

Get a bunch of those and then one day you say, “You know what, I’m so confident in my marketing and I’ve got a base of money that’s coming in that’s financing my business.  Now I’m going to get into the bigger stuff and I’m so confident in my marketing and my ability that I know that I can go get a bunch of big stuff to keep this $7,000 piece of equipment I bought running all the time”.

There’s nothing worse than buying a $7,000 piece of equipment to run it for two hours a week.  That is a horrible use of money.  You want that piece of equipment running eight hours a day, 10 hours a day, every day of the week.  At least five days of the week.  That way you’re totally utilizing your asset, your piece of equipment.

If you’re not utilizing it, you’re burning money, you’ve wasted money.  You might as well go rent that thing once a week somewhere and mow that property and then turn it back in because that would be a better use of $7,000.  Think about it that way.  I’m saying don’t do it, focus on the little stuff, go crazy with that.  Market to those clients, blow that business up then think about diversifying.

Moving on.  I’m looking at your notes here.

I made the point use your money to grow.  I think that’s a big, big point.  Anytime you can avoid spending the money, delaying the spend on the money, putting it off into the future that gives you flexibility, that gives you freedom and that’s what you’re trying to buy because you’ve limited capital.  Keep your money free because you never know what opportunity might show up.

If you put that money into a $7,000 piece of equipment unnecessarily, tomorrow a big opportunity shows up maybe a guy wants out of the business and he’ll sell his accounts for $30 an account, you can’t buy them, you have no money.  You want to always be liquid enough with your money that you can take action on opportunity and so delay expenditures to the last minute.

It’s easy to run down the street and buy a piece of equipment.  You can buy it in an hour so hold that money to the last minute.  That gives you the most opportunity.

Your last question, snow plowing.  You’re totally right.  I know virtually nothing about snow plowing.  However because of service autopilot, we have a lot of clients that plow snow.  I’ve spent a lot of time talking to them, even have been to Chicago and flew … Or brought a bunch of companies in, flew in some clients, put them up in hotels, spent a weekend with them and learned about the snow business so that we can build snow portion of our software.

I’ve learned about snow but I’m in no way a snow expert.  What I’ve learned, it’s a hard business.  Most everybody I talked to hates the business but it makes them money.  Almost everybody I’ve talked to would love to not be in the business but it provides consistency throughout the year.

You have your mowing season then you have your dip, snow provides consistency.  Huge value but a hard business.  I would say to this one, it’s the same answer to everything I said before, focus as long as you can.  When you start building employees, you’re going to have to find something to keep them busy so you can retain them.  Snow might be that thing.

If you’re going to have to go out and buy a bunch of equipment, four wheel drive truck, a plow.  How many accounts can you realistically sell?  If you can’t sell a bunch then don’t do it.  Here’s what else could happen to you.  You could go out and spend all this money on this truck and this equipment, you can only sell a few of your own accounts so then you subcontract to somebody else to keep yourself busy and then you start living on that income that you’re getting as a contractor.

You start depending on it and then the next thing you know, you are practically an employee because they keep you so busy, you don’t have time to build your own business that’s a trap.  Be careful on that one but you should probably put off the snow for a bit, a period of time.  Focus on the lawn side and then diversify into snow when you’ve got some capital and you’re ready.

Hope that helps you out and I will also send you my ebook on how to start a business, a lawn care company.  I think that will give you some more clues here on what you might want to do.

Thanks Matt, good luck.

“Who Else Is Afraid to Start a Lawn Care Business?” – Advice to Make It Happen!

Advice and Encouragement to finally Start a Lawn Care Business.

Video Transcript

The question is from John and he is asking for encouragement on getting started with his lawn care business so let’s talk about that. I’m going to read his question. Hey, Jonathan we plan to use your software in the future. My wife and I are in the very early stages of starting our lawn care business. We haven’t even purchased a used truck or any of that equipment that we need yet. We have saved up one year of living expenses but I need to muster up the courage to leave my job. Do you have any words of encouragement?

First and foremost, saving up a year of money is a big so that’s awesome. That is a huge deal that isn’t entirely necessary to launch your business but man what a pad that that gives you. Now, with that being said I do think that there’s a risk of saying to yourself, based on what I just said, well you know what, I’m going to save for the next couple years and then I’ll start that business. Here’s your problem, you probably never get to it. Something else always happens. There’s always another reason to plan a little more. Get just a little bit more prepared. Have a little bit more money in the bank. Wait just a little bit longer. The longer you put this off, the longer it will be till you get any benefit, any of the benefits that come from owning the company. You’re going do your time so in terms of giving encouragement let’s be factual first.

Starting and building a company is hard. It’s a lot of work. It will not be easy. It will absolutely be at times like, why in the world am I doing this. It would just be easier to do what I used to do or go back and get a job or whatever the case maybe. That’s part of it. That’s going to happen for two reasons.

One, it’s just fricking hard. There’s a lot of stuff you have to do and you got to wear a lot of hats. You got to do a lot of the activities because you don’t have enough money to hire people yet. Two, there’s something going on that’s bigger than just building a business and it’s that you as a person, you’re growing, because it doesn’t matter if you’re running a $50,000 a year business or a $10 million a year company. At every stage and there’s all these stages as you’re growing this company, you have to develop into a new person to get that company over the next hump to the next financial level. There’s a reason why most guys hit a wall at $300,000 or half a million and just never get past it.

It’s a little bit to do with the challenges of the business. It’s mainly to do with the stuff in their head. It’s we are and I am my limiting factor. I know that and so we are the ones that hold our companies back. We either delay hiring more people because we don’t have confidence. We don’t spend the money on marketing. We don’t know what to do so we never take action because we’re not willing to learn whatever is we have to learn. We’re not willing to spend the money to consult with the guys that have already been down the road ahead of us. We’re not willing to read the books.

Oh, I’ve got a family and I’ve got kids and I just don’t really have any time. Oh, I’ve got all these other commitments or I have all these little things that I have to do in my business and we put all that other crap in front of what we’ve really got to get accomplished. Don’t take that wrong. I’m not saying you don’t spend time with your family or kids. I’m just saying if you want to be successful you figure it out. You create a plan and you make it happen so that they get time and your business gets time. When you’re working on your business you’re focusing on the right stuff and you’re not wasting time on anything you don’t have to waste time on so that you can be learning and educating and growing your skill set so that you can have breakthroughs in your business and get you past those humps. This is tough. It’s a tough business but that’s also the exciting thing about this business or any business to that degree.

When you as a person, you go through this pain and you develop your skill set, your ability. You have this confidence and you know that if it all falls apart you can take that skill and you can go on to the next thing, the next business. Where after you build this business, if you build it to a certain size, you can do it again maybe in a completely different industry. There’s real power that comes with that and that’s exciting but you got to go through a bunch of pain to do it. That’s part of the process but it’s totally worth it. You’ve got to just, I guess you’d say, dig deep and stay the course. It will payoff if you’re getting an education and doing the right things and learning. I say doing the right things very intentionally because you could do 10 years or 20 years and get nothing because you’re doing the wrong things or you’re thinking inaccurately.

You can tell yourself all kinds of stories and say, well if I just do this or that or if I just market this way or marketing doesn’t work. There’s a million things you can tell yourself but if you’re wrong you tell yourself this story well marketing doesn’t work. I’ve just did my market got to go slower and got to get my business through referrals because marketing just doesn’t work here. The clients in my market they don’t ever use the internet. They don’t find companies like us on the internet or in my market direct mail doesn’t work or whatever the case maybe. You could be telling yourself that story and hinder your growth but you could be dead wrong. You’ve got to make sure that you’re thinking accurately and that comes from educating yourself. Surrounding yourself with people that have done it so that’s first.

One, it’s going to be hard. Two, you’ve got to develop yourself. Not developing yourself is going to only let you get so far. You may become a million dollar company but you won’t become five. You may become a $500,000 company but you may not become a million because you didn’t develop your ability enough and so you were the limiting factor. The next point I’ll point out so I’m giving you all these negatives first but let me. I hope there’s some encouragement here. As you develop yourself that is huge. That is just huge. Would you want to go back and be a 15 year old kid again and not know all the stuff you know now and all the dumb things and all the stuff you could’ve avoided or done better? Probably not.

It’s the same kind of thing after you really develop your ability and your skill set and your know how. You don’t really want to give that up because it’s so incredibly valuable and you realize how few of your competitors and how few people actually will do what it takes. You put tremendous value into that ability that you’ve invested greatly and gone through a little pain to gain. There’s tremendous value in satisfaction. It comes from that so let that be a little bit of encouragement. You are going to go through some stuff but on the other side you will be a totally different person and it’s nice to be a totally different person than everybody else. It’s nice to have confidence that you can take care of your family or you could go build the next thing if the whole world or your whole business falls apart. It’s nice to know that you can make it happen. That’s big. That I hope is a huge encouragement for you.

Next to be living in the world of reality, if you’re married, if you have a spouse. Your spouse has to be bought it. This is not a scenario where you start a company and next year you guys are living in a big old huge house, driving awesome cars, and taking vacations anytime you want. This is an investment. You both have to believe together that look we’re going to have to spend some time investing in this thing, building it but on the other side it will be big.

In the short term yeah, we’re going to go through some pain here but on the long term, for the rest of our life, we’re going to have this thing that takes care of us and provides for us financially and gives us and maybe our kids totally different lifestyle than they could’ve ever got. Where if you have kids, shows them a completely different example of what is possible in life. What they can become. What they could achieve. How maybe they can live life on their terms versus what everybody else says they have to do in life. The way everybody else says they have to act and conform. Going off slightly here but maybe that’s a bit of encouragement. Think about that.

One, it’s hard and your spouse has to be bought it because if he or she is not then that’s going to be a massive drain on your mental capacity because you come home at night and there’s all this stress and you’re not both moving together down the same road. That’s tough. You’ve got to have that support and you both need to be realistic. This is going to take a number of years. It’s going to take a number of years to get comfortable where okay, we can kind of breath a sigh of relief here. We’re okay. We’re not getting rich but we’re okay. Then after that it’s going to take a number of years of additional investment to really get the business to a point where it’s doing really really well.

Let’s say five years. Let’s say it’s five years before you’re really rocking and rolling. It takes time and five years may sound like too long of an investment. Well, if you’d rather be an employee or you’d rather do whatever your doing now, that you dislike, because you’re not willing to do five years  of time. Well, then that means that whatever this thing you’re doing now, that you don’t like, you can do it for the rest of your life because you weren’t willing to do five years of pain. I’m not even saying it’s going to be five years of pain. I’m just saying it’s going to take a number of years to really get this thing rocking and rolling. You’re going to go through some period of pain. Heck you could be making $400,000 a year take home and you’re going to go through pain because you’re going to be getting your company to the next level and dealing with some of that problem.

This stuff never goes away you just encounter new challenges. Go into this with your spouse knowing that this is going to take years of investment but on the back end we’re building something big here. Let that be encouragement to you but also be realistic about it. Have that conversation with your spouse. Together you guys will have a far better life in the long term by doing this together and pushing through and knowing that it’s going to be challenging, maybe a bit scary.

Next, I would say in terms of giving yourself encouragement or giving you encouragement the way you’re going to get confidence to do this is you’ve got to learn sales and marketing. I have this thing that this conclusion I’ve come to and that is that marketing know how, real marketing know how, is confidence. Confidence let’s you make big decisions. It gives you again, the confidence to go hire somebody so office help or office secretary, an operations manager, an assistant. Go ahead and hire another person for the crew that you think you might start in a couple months.

You don’t have that confidence if you’re not certain you can drive new business, get new business. You’ve got to become a marketing expert. You don’t have to be the best you just need to learn this stuff because then you know you can bring in business. Then you know you can spend money. Then you know you can hire people. Then you know you can invest in your business. Then you know you can do all these things that make you better than all of your competitors but if you don’t know where the foods going to come from tomorrow because you don’t know where the new clients are going to come from or if your clients are going to come back, you have no control. Therefore, you have no confidence.

It all goes back to marketing so to encourage you here if you and don’t wait to become a marketing expert. Don’t do that first before you start your business. Do it at the same time. So start your business but start educating yourself at the same time on marketing that way you have the confidence to build this thing. That should be big encouragement. That’s the secret. If you will learn marketing then it will change everything and you will be ahead of everybody else so do that. Educate yourself. Spend the time and you will be successful.

The reason most people fail is because they can’t get enough business. If they can get enough business, the next reason most people fail is because they can’t cash flow that business. They run out of money. They overspend. They live too big of a lifestyle. They don’t manage their money properly and they didn’t price right so they don’t have enough profit. There’s a bunch of scenarios but the first one is you got to drive business. You’ve got to bring in business. That’s your marketing. That breeds confidence so solve that problem. Then the next hump is cash flow and profit and correct pricing. If you’re on top of that one, you’ll get past that hump too. You’ll be successful. So know that you will be successful by learning marketing so just do it. There is no alternative.

I’ll end with this. No amount of planning, that means no amount of writing a business plan that I think is pretty close to a complete waste of time but most people disagree with me. This over planning stuff. This I’m going to save a little bit more money stuff and there’s some value in saving money. Don’t get me wrong there because having a pad and not running yourself into big debt, that’s a big deal. It’s so easy to tell ourself a story and say, oh, if I just get this one thing right or if I learn this one more thing or if I just prepare this thing or if I just write my business plan a little bit better. By the way, the reason I dislike business plans. I don’t mind having a plan. You should have a plan but you don’t need a 20 page business plan because you’re not going to follow it.

Day one, it’s all out the window. You do whatever you got to do to eat so you can have a plan and you should make notes about your plan but you don’t need an official business plan. Total waste of time. Don’t get caught up in the over planning. Do it. You can plan, read. You can do all of that all day long. The day you start the business again all out the window. Everything will change.

You’ll quickly realize that wow, all the advice I’ve been getting from guys that have little bitty businesses or have never done it. All the books I’ve been reading. Ah, you know what, that was helpful but it’s not really. It’s not a big help. That stuff will resonate with you. That learning will most resonate with you when you’re in the middle of having the pain growing the business. I can have you read a marketing book right now but until you experience it. Until you do it. Until you grow your business to a certain size where you’ve got to actually solve that problem. You could reread that same book and suddenly something resonates. You read that before but it never meant anything to you. Now you’re in the middle of it. Now you’re dealing with it. Then you read it, wow, it’s the answer.

Some of this stuff that you’re going to read and plan for are going to be meaningless till you’re actually at a point where you have pain and you need that help. Then when you read that stuff it makes sense so you can’t just read and consume information in advance. You’ve got to get started. You got to do it. If you don’t do it you have no hope of ever learning the lessons you’ve got to learn to get past the first several years that are a challenge so just do it. Go for it. It will change everything.

The encouragement here is you get to run the show. That means you have a lot more responsibility than going to a 9 to 5 but that’s also kind of cool. You will grow your ability, your skill set, yourself as a person, in a massive way. That’s awesome in my opinion. You will have the potential to maybe make more money. You will have and hopefully so if you build it right you will. You’ll have the potential to eventually take better care of your family and take more vacations. All of these things are possible. Money is just a part of it. It’s all the other stuff that I think is super exciting. It’s the who you become in the process. Knowing that you are in control. Knowing that you are guiding your future. You’ve just got to do it and I hope you will because it will absolutely totally change your life. Good luck.

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