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New customers....jeez

Discussion in 'Business Fundamentals' started by Landscape80, Jan 5, 2004.

  1. Landscape80

    Landscape80 Senior Member
    Messages: 167

    I have a pretty good business going for plowing in the winter and landscaping in the summer...BUT, I can always use new and more customers (can't we all?) I've been busting my ass to get em' but only a few reply (as compared to how many letters, flyers, calls etc. that I have made)....any way to make my marketing better? I specialize in mid to high-end residential and small to mid-size commercial jobs, my marketing goes as follows:

    Stopping in: 0%

    Sending letters: 50% +/-

    Cold calls: 0%

    Customers calling me: 25%

    Flyers: 25%

    Now, the most return I have had was for sending out letters to property mgrs......so you can imagine how much $$ I have spent so far (too much) How do I get it so that more customers call me just out of the blue for my services (plowing and landscaping)? I'm getting sick of spending money:help:

    Chris
    Meadowbrook Landscaping
     
  2. bcx400

    bcx400 Junior Member
    from pa
    Messages: 10

    Landscape80- After 20 years in the landscaping business, I have found referrals to be hands-down the best way of getting new customers. Ask your existing customers for referrals. If you have not been in business long, you'll need to tough it out for a few years to build a client base. If you do good work, new customers will come your way.

    Yellow pages advertising stinks. The people who answer the ads are interested in PRICE ONLY. I have never been a fan of advertising for plowing or landscaping- potential customers want to know whom there friends and neighbors have used to plow/landscape.

    Marketing your services through associations may bring you new business. As a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, I have landed several large jobs through internet listings. Also, look into civic associations (not just chambers of commerce). Get to know people.
     
  3. bcx400

    bcx400 Junior Member
    from pa
    Messages: 10

    one other thing- If you haven't already checked it out, go to lawnsite.com (same people run as plowsite). You'll find a lot of landscape issues/forums.
     
  4. Mdirrigation

    Mdirrigation Senior Member
    Messages: 408

    Another method to aquire customers fast , aquire the competition.
    Almost everything is for sale . There are guys out there ready to get out . If the price was right my business and house and shop are for sale . It is something to explore.
     
  5. Landscape80

    Landscape80 Senior Member
    Messages: 167

    Thanks for the info guys. But 'mdirrigation' I have been getting work tossed my way for free (knock on wood) why would I want to buy someone else's business when I can wait a lil' while and get thrown plenty more customers for free. I have been approached by an individual who runs a small (well, I don't wanna say super small, but it kinda is) company, he nets $220 a week just from mowing, and he'll sell his accounts for $2000.....I don't really want to part with $2000 right at this moment, plus, people die, companies get underbid, etc. etc. I'm still not sure what I want to do about that proposition. He wants $2000, if I offer him $1000-$1200 cash on the spot for his accounts would that be a fair gamble?

    Chris
     
  6. parrothead

    parrothead Senior Member
    Messages: 157

    it sounds like your spending money and getting a fair amount of business but you would like to get more by spending less.why aren't you knocking on doors. it doesnt cost anything and all they can do is tell you no. if you are looking for residentials, go to a neighborhood you feel comfortable in and ask for the business. tell them you are just starting a business and will plow their drive for 20,30 or whatever the market will bear.keep your eyes open when you drive around and look at the retail areas and commercial lots and if somebody isnt done in a reasonable amount of time, say by noon, ask them for their business, say mr store owner, we can have you done by 7 am and my price is alot cheaper than having a slip and fall.and then get it done by 7 am! i would spend say 25 or 35 dollars on business cards and spend less on flyers. if your like me, when you get a flyer, you probably throw it away. i target customers year round and keep a mental note of whos doing the lot and how they take care of the lot owner. stop in, introduce yourself and remember, people want to do business with a friend. at least, maybe the person providing snow removal now is not giving very good service and you've approached the person and seem eager, you may be surprised how far that can get you. i would definately recommend knocking on doors and find out who makes the decision about snow removal. dont give out price right away, find out what they like and dislike about the current provider. look for the new buildings going up in the summer time, if there is a realtor sign or a bank sign, talk to them and find out who the owner is and get in the door that way. its not too early to talk about snow removal in april! just remember, talk is cheap and all they can tell you is no and if they say yes , then you go with referrals and word of mouth next year, good luck, sorry so long. rob
     
  7. Landscape80

    Landscape80 Senior Member
    Messages: 167

    I've been running my co. for 5 years, not the longest out there by any means, but not a newbie. I have had my fair share of ups-n-downs in this business. I have done residentials for a while, and still do, and I'll probably never stop, but mid to large size commercials are where the $$ is. I guess that I should have specified earlier how to get more commercials to call me. I mean, I like mowing and plowing, but lets face it...its a mondane job, both of them (plowing more than mowing) but installs are what I really like to do, like walls, planting, all that good stuff. I guess that what I want is more commercial mowing and more installs on residentials and larger comercials.
    Example:
    We just had a TARGET put in here in West York....Davis Landscape got the initial seedwork and landscape install, and today I drove past and there was a Salem Springs Landscape truck there for either a mowing bid or a plowing bid.

    I wouldn't really want the plowing, I mean the parking lot is as big as a WAL-MART, but if they would have contacted me, I would have given them a bid. But half the battle is getting them to contact me......is there a way that I can find out who these property mgrs are? Meet with them? Suck up to them?! :)
    Ok, my post is getting too long so I'll stop here, but keep the advice coming, its appreciated, Thanks

    Chris
     
  8. gpin

    gpin Senior Member
    Messages: 390

    SUB: For something as big as a Walmart you want to sub for the main contracter if it's too much for you to handle. Sub work is a good way to learn and grow your business. If you handle the initial work well the main contractor usually takes care of you. Some of these huge contractors get incredible numbers for lots so there is room for a good subcontractor.
     
  9. gt_racer50

    gt_racer50 Senior Member
    from Ohio
    Messages: 484

    Get to know other contractors, we picked up two plowing contracts this year from a friend of my son. He is in the mowing business but doesn't plow, he got a hold of my son and that was all it took, couple of bids and bam, they were ours. We also do some subcontract work on mowing, the contractor gives us a few jobs every year that he feels are too small or fit into our route better than into his. It's all about networking. I give jobs to guy's also that I don't want to do or that don't fit into our route. I've always kind of felt, that if there was more of this going on, we could all have tight routes, not pass each other all day long every day, and all of us still make money, probably more money because of less travel time. But alot of guys are just to greedy, they would rather travel, take on more work than they can do and then lose it vs networking. I mean face it, there is not a shortage of work out there. There's more than enough for everybody.
     
  10. gpin

    gpin Senior Member
    Messages: 390

    GT is right. Start slow and do the best job possible and your business will grow by referall.
     
  11. classicman

    classicman Member
    Messages: 67

    Getting new customers

    You may have read in other posts about "consolidation of their route". As you're out there plowing, have you ever noticed the guys running around with their (usually brand new) plow, but not doing anything? They wind up bottom fishing at the end of the storm, often times taxing their equipment because of the size of the storm/ weight of the now not fresh snow. I have been a small-time operator since 1979, and in most years, regardless of where I have lived and based my business, have made excellent money. To me the key has been keeping my route "tight", and by that I mean geographically. 10 miles as a one-truck operation might as well be 10,000 miles if you have equipment failure.

    I never advertise in the newspaper or yellow pages, AND I TELL MY POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS WHY... In order to maintain efficiency and speed of service. I do letters, and I do my homework first. I do not know what county you live in, but here in Dauphin County (and most of the counties in the U.S.), you can look up online for free who owns what home (and it's assessed value) by street. I never send a letter that says "resident" on it- a pure invitation for the letter to be tossed @ .37 + labor ea. I pick up my fill of residential usually with a 100 mailing... for me that's usually 12 residentials off the letter. I'm not done, though. Remember that list of homeowners? I now get the phone numbers of everyone on the same street as each of my accounts (anywho works pretty good).
    Because I am a Real Estate agent in real life, I also check the "do not call list" as it is a 10K fine for me to call them if they are on it, and many are, but if you're not a Realtor, what I do next is probably safe for you to do because of the "situation", but don't quote me on that. I plow my route. While I'm in mid-work or doing clean-up, dependent upon size of storm/forecast, and right outside the prospective customers home, I call them. "Hi Mr. and Mrs. Schmucatelli, this is Joseph Blow from Classic Maintenance, I've been over clearing out Dave and Linda's house next door and I noticed that no one has cleared you out yet... would you be interested in having me do so, I can do it right now." Ask any marketing "expert" about follow up phone calls to letters... letters are supposedly useless without the phone call. As often as not, they remember me at least vaguely, even if they threw the letter away without opening it, as I have my name on the return part of the letter I sent them originally. The only limitation I have is too much work and have to be careful not to get greedy on any particular storm, as I have an almost 100% retention rate of the customers I pick up during the storm. My advertising expenses: 37.00 stamps 100 envelopes 100 sheets of paper 1 gazillionth of my printer cartridge. My route: Tighter than a ticks south end heading north. Sorry for the length, but that's how this small time operator does his advertising.
     
  12. classicman

    classicman Member
    Messages: 67

    Oh, commercial, too- here in Pa

    I have not done this for plowing, but I'm confident it will work to make your mailings more effective if you are seeking commercial work here in Pa. Go to yahoo and type in Pennsylvania Secretary of State. At the web site, go to Corporation Directory. Now type in the business you are interested in securing... How 'bout that? You now know who owns it and their phone number... I suspect that when you address your letter (or call and ask for them- it's perfectly legal to call on a business) you will be more successful in your marketing endeavor. Just some more of my 2 cents.
     
  13. The Boss

    The Boss 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,099

    Word of mouth goes a long way! I don't run ads, flyers, or make calls at all anymore. Work comes to me. For instance, yesterday I pulled into a gas station to get some diesel and the owner asked me to cleanup the lot. Then he gave me the account permanantley plus 7 other stores. He had heard about the work I do from my girlfriend, who happens to be the manager at one of his stores. payup
     
  14. gpin

    gpin Senior Member
    Messages: 390

    I'm with the Boss. The most important part of working is getting paid and I am nervous on working for the unknown. My business grows from referall only and I have little or no accounts receivable. Be the best and control your own destiny.
     
  15. Hamptonplow

    Hamptonplow Member
    Messages: 42

    In my area, I've found referrals and an add in the local paper (which includes internet) to be the best for me. I have not found mailing flyers to be very effective in my area (even when I targeted people new to the area). I'll echo here: "Consolidate."
     
  16. Landscape80

    Landscape80 Senior Member
    Messages: 167

    'Classicman', tried the info that you provided and didn't come up with anything. Thanks for the info guys....Keep it comin':yow!:

    Chris
     
  17. rusty gmc

    rusty gmc Junior Member
    from maine
    Messages: 23

    bang on the door of your local real estate office. no b.s! this really works!these offices are always looking for people to step in and help them clean up a piece of property or plow out some camp for a showing.even if they have someone lined up,they still need a backup plan. going door to door can be a total waste of time as the homeowner may be a "do it myself" type and just slam the door in your face anyway.most real estate offices are staffed by people who may not know what to do if a client wants to look at a house and the owners are in florida and there is 5 ft of snow blocking the drive and door and the buyer has cash today. so by having your business card there or on the rolodex, you could save the day! instant hero and permanent contractor for the new homeownerpayup
     
  18. classicman

    classicman Member
    Messages: 67

    Chris- Try this

    You probably got hoodwinked by one of the commercial sites when you saw the results in Yahoo search. You want to make sure you are linking to the state site. Try it again, or if you still can't find, here is the precise URL
    https://www.dos.beta.state.pa.us/CorpsApp/Corpsweb/Search/wfFreeEntitySearch.aspx?Public=1

    Regarding rusty GMC and the advise to contact Realty offices-- You can PM me with your geographic requirements and I'll put the word out for you... I'm affiliated with Jack Gaughen and know a lot of the agents down in York.

    Dave
     
  19. classicman

    classicman Member
    Messages: 67

    Chris- it definitely works

    ok, I typed in the url and it goes direct to it... we gotta good administrator here :salute:
     
  20. classicman

    classicman Member
    Messages: 67

    The residential link

    O.K. Chris, the link I provided you above was for you to find out the owner of a business. The link I am providing you here is for you to find out the owner of a residence. I have read here what has failed for others and I agree with them. Flyers get thrown in the trash. I type a personalized letter in word, changing the name and address for each recipient, NEVER using a mailing label, but rather a direct to envelope print, the differences are subtle but large in their effect to get the potential client to open the letter... it is most effective if the return address is within close poximity to the recipients... people do not throw away letters from their neighbors without reading them. I looked at York county database and unfortunately it is not as sophisticated as Dauphin county, but it will certainly work. To others out there, you might want to look at your county database to see its level of information... I'm talking about the assessment information. As an example, here in Dauphin County, Pa. For free you can find out the current owners of a home and it's assessed value for free. As a paying subscriber - as a realtor it's worth my while- if you're a big-time landscaper this would be worth your while too I would imagine- I CAN OFTEN BID IT FROM HOME... how? Drive-by appraisal done by assessment office includes a high resolution photograph of subject property. I cannot tell you how impressed my potential client is when I call back off my message machine and say " You own that Spanish Ranch with the nice entrance foyer and the two-car garage off to the side, right? Anyway, here's the url to York County PA assessments. You can put just the street name under property location and you will get all homes on that street. http://207.140.67.68/york/

    Dave