Saturated market

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by Mike_Smith, Oct 29, 2000.

  1. Mike_Smith

    Mike_Smith Member
    Messages: 45

    I've never seen such a competitive and saturated market as the snow removal buisness. I tried marketing my snowplowing buisness(luckily it was a fake buisness and no money had been put in yet because I was waiting to see if I could sell the services first before I lost my money). Anyway I went door to door to about 100 homes in a day(residential) just to get an idea of how competitive it was. I went to new subdivisions and old houses, every possible market there was and I've never seen such a hard sell in my life! You couldn't target a specific competition or something that was stalling or ruining my selling. Every SINGLE person had a different reason for not buying my service, here are a few examples: "the local guy down the street has been doing it for 10 years and he does a great job", "I have a buisness and I trade my services for the snowplowing services", ect... ect.. It was ridiculous. I wasn't even about to dream about putting bids on commercial stores because I had no idea how much to put up, plus the commercial stores want references ect...

    How the hell did you guys get your startup company up and running?

    I've given up(after one day) Oh, I did the selling that one day back in late september so it had nothing to do with lateness. I'm just wondering how you "cometitive sharks in the water" got the buisness up and running. You guys must be some very savvy buisnessmen because I've never seen a harder sell than this.
  2. OP

    Mike_Smith Member
    Messages: 45


    Oh, just so you know, I was trying to sell in central northern conn.
  3. Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith 2000 Club Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,324

    I got into it with existing lawn care customers. It was easy. Then it grows from there. Then I chose to drop almost all my residentials, as I took on more commercial accounts. Residentials are easy to get, but there is a catch. Most of the time you end up with the ones no one else wants. Soon enough, you learn why. All backdragging, late paying, cars in the driveway in YOUR way, complainers, ones who call you the minute it starts to snow, ones who call 2 days after a snow, the list goes on and on.

    When I was starting out, I put a sign in the window at the gas station I got my fuel at. That alone got me 30 accounts my first year. Of those 30, today, I have none of them. They just weren't profitable, for me. That's not to say that "the other guy" wouldn't be perfectly happy with them.

    Another way I got some was through family. I did their driveways, then their neighbors asked me to do them. The same with my lawn care customers. I plowed them, and they told friends and family about me. Word of mouth is by far the best way to get new accounts much of the time.

    Then there is "flag downs". When you plow one driveway, and a neighbor comes out and flags you down.

    There are many ways to get residentials. The commercial ones, are hard to get, VERY hard, at least here. It's a very "cut throat" business.

    If I had to put my finger on the best way to get work, I'd have to say current lawn care customers. If you don't do lawn care, then you are out of luck on that path....

    The second best, or the best even, is word of mouth. Then again, if you have no truck, and no plow, then that option is out as well.

    Hopefully you'll get a lot of responses on this thread. This is my experience only, but I'm sure others will agree with me.

  4. OP

    Mike_Smith Member
    Messages: 45

    I don't have a lawn care buisness. If I did have one, I could understand how much easier this would be. So that solution is out of the question.
  5. Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith 2000 Club Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,324


    I said having them as lawn care customers was the easiest way to get them. I told you several other ways as well.
    It's "who you know" that can help you here. Do you get coffee at the same shop every morning? Do you get your gas at the same place every time? Do you go to a diner in town every Friday night? Do you have any friends that own businesses? Anyone that can help you, by letting you put up a small sign in their window? The local CVS has a bulliten board. Put up a flyer there. The local supermarkets usually have bulliten boards too. Put up a flyer there. Banks have bulliten boards often too.
    There's many ways to get customers. These are only a few offhand ways I can think of right now.

    You might be better off getting a snowblower to start. Much less up front, and if you do end up plowing, you'll need it anyway.

  6. Michael F

    Michael F Senior Member
    Messages: 203

    I personally haven't had to do this, I have a lawncare business and solid commercial references. But three of my friends also in the plowing business put ads in the local "Community News", the paper that comes in the mail each week, one said his phone didn't stop ringing. It costs around $ 15.00 per week, produces mostly residentials, I would imagine you would have to be priced on the low end of your market, but have heard it works.

    PINEISLAND1 Veteran
    Messages: 664

    A Small ad in the local paper will get those customers who are "currently" dissatisfied with their services and shopping for new contractors. Its almost always good for a couple each time an ad is run.

    The best way here is to target the new developments, which are literally everywhere around here. Many times they wait until the last minute to think of snow removal in their new homes.

    Most commercial re-bid every year, and price is the driving factor. Present yourself as professional, with professional bid sheets and correspondence, and most times the subject of referrels never comes up.

    Flyers and ad at the local hangouts wll usually produce, but often not untill the snow starts flying.
  8. John Allin

    John Allin Addict
    Messages: 1,327

    Try calling up a large snowplow contractor in your market. Ask him for advice, then ask for referrals. We have built three individuals plowing business by referring the overflow we cannot take on. Most successful plowing contractors cut off taking, or quoting, new business at some point, but still get calls. A good contractor won't have a problem referring off that type work as it makes him look professional to not leave a potential "in the lurch" by getting him someone to do his/her plowing. Of course, we have kept the cream, but some of what we refer off is cream too - we just can't service them because we're booked.

    If you ask for advice getting started (from the local successful plowing contractor) you earn his respect and his help. Plus, you might learn something in the process. At that point, all you'll have invested it some time.
  9. Greenman2ooo

    Greenman2ooo Banned
    Messages: 107



    You have given up too soon. Nothing worth having would come to you in such a short period of time. If you can't handle the "no's", you probably need to find another business. I'm not trying to discourage you, by any means, just stating what my experience has been in the lawncare end of business.

    For commercial accounts try this:

    IMHO, the best way to grow your business is with sales. Phone skills are one of my strong points, therefore, 99.9% of my contacts are originated by phone. Also, the phone is a great way to prequalify customers. "I'm Jim Smythe with New Guy Plowing Co., and I'm trying to add snowplowing to my customer base. Is your company currently accepting bids?" might be one way to approach it over the phone.

    You will get rude responses, people trying to get rid of you , etc. It won't be any different that when you went door to door. Just expect it. There will be those, too, that will ask for bids. Those are obviously the ones you want to pursue.

    I then follow up with visits if they are accepting bids. Have something tangible in hand at your face to face meeting. A professional looking Contract Proposal would be a good idea. Try setting up appointments with decision makers from small commercial accounts such as fast food, gas/convenience stores, etc. Deal with your customers like you are working on Wall Street. Dress casual, but neatly. A dress shirt and jeans isn't a bad combination.

    You don't probably have to sell people that much on, "I'll do a good job." People usually assume you will do the job well, but are afraid to take a chance on dependability. Stress your dependability to them and <font color="red"><b>show</b></font> them you are dependable by following up with phone calls or another appointment, etc. Many times they haven't even seen last years contractor once since the last snowfall of the previous season!

    Some expect the customers to come to them and in most markets, this just isn't reality. Selling is tough, but I know you can do it if you stay doggedly determined.

    For residential work:

    Make up some aesthetically pleasing, professional looking flyers on your computer. If you don't have a printer, put it on disk and take it to Kinko's or a similar type of copy store. If you aren't the artsy-fartsy type, find a friend or relative who is.

    Maybe give a price and hand them out only to certain properties that fit a particular profile. Example: pass them out to a development that has townhomes or duplexes with approximately similar sized drives and walks. This accomplishes two things: First, you are eliminating having to measure and bid dissimilar sized properties

    Don't expect your phone to ring off the hook. The calls are generally slow, but if you are reasonably priced, you should get a 2% response rate. If you pass out 1,000 (a bigger job than it sounds like, probably two days work if you are putting them on, not "in" mailboxes) you should get ~20 calls from potential customers.

    This may sound like a childish way of going about this, but it will get you some work right off. Also, keep in mind you can price slightly lower and make more money if you have more than one customer in a certain area.

    I hope something I said can help you out. Don't give up so soon, you can do it with hard work and determination.

    [Edited by Greenman2ooo on 10-29-2000 at 03:52 PM]
  10. SLC1

    SLC1 Senior Member
    Messages: 242

    I started with going through my own lawn maintenance customers and grew from there over the past 10 years. But if you have a truck with a plow you could either start by being a subcontractor for someone else or just by driving around during and after a storm, you would not belive how many people are looking for someone during a storm, commerical, residential anyone and they usually are pretty desperate to find someone, usually I have to turn them down because I am too busy with my own work and all my drivers have strict orders not to plow anyone not on there route, but I know if you went out during, before or after a storm you could pick up a few accounts. Just My two Cents
  11. Aspen Snow

    Aspen Snow Senior Member
    Messages: 148

    My first year snowplowing I ran an ad in the local newspaper and got about 20 accounts. We still have 15 of those accounts returning ever year.
  12. Snow Pro

    Snow Pro Senior Member
    Messages: 146

    My agree with subbing for someone else. We have several subs working for us that either couldn't or didn't want to sell. You can learn a lot by working for these guys a few years.

    The local newspapers also work well at this point. People will remember you're there when the snow starts flying and call you.

    Also drive around and ask people if they still have snow on the driveway.

    All these ideas were mentioned above, and I think they're the best way to go.

    Good luck!
  13. thelawnguy

    thelawnguy Addict
    Messages: 1,011

    I get most new business the day before the first snow of the season is forecast, when people realize the guy doing it for the past ten years died back in April.

    Im in the lawn business so most of my accounts are my current customers. But once it starts to snow my phone will ring off the hook, people who I never heard of who got my name from someone else wanting me to do their drive or lot.

    I do not advertise, and unless I can find reliable help I will not (actually cannot) take any more customers.

    I am in central CT.
  14. OP

    Mike_Smith Member
    Messages: 45


    Thanks for all the help. Do you think it is too late to start putting flyers in people's mailboxes and putting signs up in gas stations? The flakes are already flying today in central connecticut though not sticking exept to grass. Also, I don't want to buy a truck and plow when I don't know if its going to work out so can I get a snowblower to do say 20 residentials? How much does a desent electric(I can't take the exaust and I'm sure the residential clients wouldn't like it either) snowblower run?
    I already wrote up contracts, but I tore them into shreads because I was so pissed off, luckily I thinkt there still backed up on disk. I think I'll give this one more try. I'll also put ads in local newspaper.
  15. snow

    snow Veteran
    Messages: 1,002

    I'm just wondering if this is the same person who wanted to plow residential with a Kenworth? If not, well then welcome to the forum! If it's the same mike_smith , i guess you've lost the idea of plowing with the big truck. I'm in fairfield county, and we got flurries for about 2 hours yesterday. I tested my snowblower and I'm all ready for winter. A snowblower is slower than a small plow in some cases. if you don't want to spend a lot, look for a tractor with a plow. check out this; , there are a lot of tractors and plow under Tool- lawn and garden equipment. Hope this helps,

  16. John Allin

    John Allin Addict
    Messages: 1,327

    Now that the snow is flying (even though not sticking), it's a great time to advertise. Now they're thinking about snow.
  17. slplow

    slplow Veteran
    Messages: 623

    Mike, buy a used 3/4 ton truck with an 8ft plow and get a contract with your town or state. I hear CT pays. After the storm,when your done working for them, drive through neighborhoods and knock on doors that the driveways aren't done. Or, you may get flagged down by people to do their driveways. Guaranteed to get some extra cash - unless we don'e have any SNOW!!!!
  18. OP

    Mike_Smith Member
    Messages: 45

    Who do I talk to for a contract in my town/state?
  19. SLC1

    SLC1 Senior Member
    Messages: 242

    Mike, it is too late to contract with the State of Ct. the bids were awarded about 1 month ago as for towns the towns around here are already set, to do any town or state work you have to start around September. As said before go see a few local contractors and see how much they will pay for a 3/4 ton 8' plow the going rate around here is $55-65 per hour. As for trying to do driveways with an electric snow blower you will never be able to do more than 4 or 5 a storm and that would be out of the question. But like the other posts you should have no problem finding customers while it gets closer to the winter.Just MY Two cents
  20. Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith 2000 Club Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,324

    Just an FYI. Most towns run on a fiscal year that begins July 1st. By the time they get around to posting "Bids Wanted" it's late August, or early September. Not just plowing bids, but bids in general.

    The Federal Government begins their fiscal year October 1st. Seems we are the only ones (for the most part) that begin our business year in January.