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agrilawn
09-30-2008, 03:43 PM
I am the Marketing Manager for AgriLawn. We have been in business since 1991. Each Spring we usually send out a Direct Mail piece to all the Single Family Dwelling Households in the Metro area (printing around 300,000 pieces). In the past each household received up to 3 mail pieces from us in the Spring time. This past year we tried doing a little more targeted mailings. We narrowed some of the carrier routes to where we were targeting a specific income level and home value. Currently we are in the process of analyzing the information to see if the targeted mailing helped.

The reason I am bringing this up is to see what other companies do. This is my first year doing the marketing for AgriLawn. The founder has been working with me in the analyzing because this was her project in the past. After working with her on this for 2 days, she does not have a rhyme or reason to how she decides which zipcodes/carrier routes to mail or target. We have been looking at the history from the last 2 years to see how many customers we received from each carrier route, and what the average cost per customer is in that area. We are also looking at our saturation rate.

For example:
zip code 12345/c012
2006 we mailed 2x to 456 homes
we received 5 customers and have 60 in the area
Cost to obtain customer $40

2007 we mailed 3x to 456 homes
we received 2 customers
Cost to obtain customer $157

2008 we did targeted mailing 3x to 225 homes
we received 2 customers
Cost to obtain customer $84

From the example - 2006 we did pretty good mailing to the whole route. Saturation is pretty good in the area. But in 2007 we increased the mailing to 3x and the cost per customer shot way up. Since the saturation in that area is good we decided to try the targeted mailings 3x. The cost per customer went down but still not as good as we would like to see. (goal is around $60-70) Maybe if we had only mailed 2x the cost would be better?

We have come to the conclusion that the targeted mailing did good in some areas, but had no effect in others.

Now my question is, what kind of formula do you have to figure out what area you should mail to and how often?

Steve
09-30-2008, 05:43 PM
Welcome to our forum!

Very interesting question.

My first thought is to ask you are you sending out the same mailer each of the three times per year? Or do they differ?

Are you sending out the same one year after year?

Have you been experimenting with different elements to see which pull a better response?

cklandscapingorlando
09-30-2008, 07:45 PM
I would probley look at my routes.The more work in one area the less your over all cost are.Even if it cost you more per new client if you can stop needless driving your overall cost will go down.I would also use a diffrent mailer each time and explain why your diffrent.What do you do and more importantly how do I come out ahead.Identify the most common problems with your comp and point out how and why you dont have these problems.I know alot of people put out material in the spring and for good reason.But in the middle of summer we have chinch bug,fungus and drought trouble.All would seem to be a reason to put out your material.If a person is having a chinch problem and your mailer comes with imformation on how companies are having problems controling it.Then how your integrated aproach will control it and boost the asthetic quality of the grounds,you might get a call

Plan-It Graphics
09-30-2008, 11:52 PM
WOW!! Awesome post, lots of info, and something Im pretty familiar with. First... welcome to the site, and let me give you some info on my background. Not only do I own Plan-it Graphics, but own my own Lawn Care company also. Based on your website, your company and mine are very similar with a main focus on fertilizer and weed control services. I started the lawn care company in 1999.

First question I have is... You mention you mail out 300,000 pieces. What was your response rate from that many pieces? I have never done that amount in one year. The most i did was 25,000 in the spring and 10,000 in the fall.

On that amount, I can't see how you can be very saturated in one area. It seems your "territory" would be HUGE. But then again, Im not real familiar with the company or how many branches you have. Maybe you can shed some light on that matter?

Next question... You mention your mailings in previous years and they are nowhere near 300,000. Am I missing something?

Based on the amount you mailed i feel it is very difficult to accurately use those formulas as a "cost per sale." However, $40 is INSANELY low. I'll pay $40 all day long for a customer. I have not tracked my performance over the past few years as accurately as I used to. But about 5 years ago, my cost per sale for Direct Mail was about $79.00. I know that amount has gone up drastically over the past few. Direct mail just isn't what it used to be. I still feel it is one of the best, if not the best way to get customers. But the old days of a 2% response rate are over and it's more like .5%.

As far as a formula, i don't see anything your doing wrong. Mailing 2 or 3 times is perfect. I try to get at least 4 mailings out each year to my "bread and butter" areas. I'll make those mailings very targeted. Only about 1000 names on that list. My big mailer in the spring is less targeted with approx. 10,000 names I mail to twice.

For example, since we offer kind od the same services... My 1000 piece maiiing list... I'll send one out in late February & late March advertising spring services. One in early june for Grub control, then one in late august for Core Aeration/seeding.

So hopefully this helps, and once you answer the above questions, maybe I can offer more. So let me know.

Bob

agrilawn
10-01-2008, 08:01 AM
Welcome to our forum!

Very interesting question.

My first thought is to ask you are you sending out the same mailer each of the three times per year? Or do they differ?

Are you sending out the same one year after year?

Have you been experimenting with different elements to see which pull a better response?

The last couple of years each piece was similar, with small changes. This year I will be designing a different piece because to me there was too much information and it was too busy. We send it out 2-3 times to the same househould within 6-8 weeks during the spring time.

As far as I can tell they have not tried experiementing to see which pulls the better response. Next year I have planned for 3 different campaigns. The first one is the Spring Mailing that they do every year. The next one will be late spring early summer to just the targeted mailings for our pest control side. And then the final mailing will be in the fall to the targeted mailings again to gain customers for the following year. I plan on having a different piece each time to see measure the response and see which type is best.

agrilawn
10-01-2008, 08:26 AM
WOW!! Awesome post, lots of info, and something Im pretty familiar with. First... welcome to the site, and let me give you some info on my background. Not only do I own Plan-it Graphics, but own my own Lawn Care company also. Based on your website, your company and mine are very similar with a main focus on fertilizer and weed control services. I started the lawn care company in 1999.

First question I have is... You mention you mail out 300,000 pieces. What was your response rate from that many pieces? I have never done that amount in one year. The most i did was 25,000 in the spring and 10,000 in the fall.

On that amount, I can't see how you can be very saturated in one area. It seems your "territory" would be HUGE. But then again, Im not real familiar with the company or how many branches you have. Maybe you can shed some light on that matter?

Next question... You mention your mailings in previous years and they are nowhere near 300,000. Am I missing something?

Based on the amount you mailed i feel it is very difficult to accurately use those formulas as a "cost per sale." However, $40 is INSANELY low. I'll pay $40 all day long for a customer. I have not tracked my performance over the past few years as accurately as I used to. But about 5 years ago, my cost per sale for Direct Mail was about $79.00. I know that amount has gone up drastically over the past few. Direct mail just isn't what it used to be. I still feel it is one of the best, if not the best way to get customers. But the old days of a 2% response rate are over and it's more like .5%.

As far as a formula, i don't see anything your doing wrong. Mailing 2 or 3 times is perfect. I try to get at least 4 mailings out each year to my "bread and butter" areas. I'll make those mailings very targeted. Only about 1000 names on that list. My big mailer in the spring is less targeted with approx. 10,000 names I mail to twice.

For example, since we offer kind od the same services... My 1000 piece maiiing list... I'll send one out in late February & late March advertising spring services. One in early june for Grub control, then one in late august for Core Aeration/seeding.

So hopefully this helps, and once you answer the above questions, maybe I can offer more. So let me know.

Bob



We do cover a HUGE area, it is approximately a radius of 20-30 miles. We currently have over 8000 customers that we service (weed control & fertilization, Plant health care, and Pest Control). The saturation in some areas is better than others, but overall our average is about 10-12 homes in a carrier route (approx 600 carrier routes). We have a fleet of 18 lawn technicians.

The amount that was mailed each year was around 300,000. Last year it actually dropped to closer to 200,000 because of the targeted mailings. Our response rate past 2 years have been around 1.3%. Last year our response dropped to .8%

I think several years ago they may have done 2 different campaigns through-out the year, but since then it has always only been the spring direct mail piece. Since I started with the company I have brought in several different advertising campaigns. I advertise on google & several other search engines & websites, craigslist, phone directories. I began putting out a monthly newsletter through email. There are many other forms of advertising, but I can't think of them right now. I am trying to increase the new customers through-out the year, not just focusing on them during the spring season. I am trying to focus on referrals since that is one of our largest sources other than the direct mailing.

Plan-It Graphics
10-01-2008, 09:22 AM
I am trying to focus on referrals since that is one of our largest sources other than the direct mailing.

For referrals, I use this for my company. The postcard tears off and is postage paid so it simple for the customer. Every time we do a service this is left with the bill/invoice.

You figure, if you give out one to every customer only once, and get 50 sales (which is a very realistic number) your "cost per sale" is less than $20.

http://i77.photobucket.com/albums/j78/jetskibob1/sample.gif

agrilawn
10-01-2008, 10:18 AM
For referrals, I use this for my company. The postcard tears off and is postage paid so it simple for the customer. Every time we do a service this is left with the bill/invoice.

You figure, if you give out one to every customer only once, and get 50 sales (which is a very realistic number) your "cost per sale" is less than $20.

http://i77.photobucket.com/albums/j78/jetskibob1/sample.gif

We have something similar. We leave them at every stop. Each time someone calls in saying we were referred to them, I send the referrer a post card to thank you for sending "so and so" to us. That way the referrer is awknowledged and knows we care. Once the person actually signs up for a program the referrer will receive $15 off their next application and their name entered into a monthly drawing.

Steve
10-01-2008, 01:20 PM
Are you also using the clover-leaf marketing concept?

http://www.gophergraphics.com/forum/iB_html/uploads/post-9-29364-clover_leaf.jpg

agrilawn
10-01-2008, 01:27 PM
Are you also using the clover-leaf marketing concept?


We have used it in the past with success. This year we have not been able to use it. We has some bad ice storms come through late december, the cities around us put a ban on door to door sales due to the unlicensed contractors coming around trying to get jobs. Which includes placing door hangers and/or knocking. Each area requires a license for each person placing the door hangers. It can get very expensive. Towards the end of this year we are going to look into getting the required licenses for our sales staff, but pick our most saturated areas.

Steve
10-01-2008, 02:38 PM
It makes you wonder if you could put small yard signs that just stick in the ground. Would that still be door to door if you could do it from the street like this?

http://www.gopherforum.com/uploaded-files/images/halloween-yard-sign.jpg

agrilawn
10-01-2008, 03:11 PM
It makes you wonder if you could put small yard signs that just stick in the ground. Would that still be door to door if you could do it from the street like this?


Every lawn that we treat gets a yard sign depending on the type of treatment. We have the cardboard type with the stick or the flag type.

But some of the areas don't allow a sign of any type, so we have to watch what neighborhood we are in when we do put our signs up.

justin_time
10-01-2008, 06:22 PM
For example:
zip code 12345/c012
2006 we mailed 2x to 456 homes
we received 5 customers and have 60 in the area
Cost to obtain customer $40

2007 we mailed 3x to 456 homes
we received 2 customers
Cost to obtain customer $157

2008 we did targeted mailing 3x to 225 homes
we received 2 customers
Cost to obtain customer $84

From the example - 2006 we did pretty good mailing to the whole route. Saturation is pretty good in the area. But in 2007 we increased the mailing to 3x and the cost per customer shot way up. Since the saturation in that area is good we decided to try the targeted mailings 3x. The cost per customer went down but still not as good as we would like to see. (goal is around $60-70) Maybe if we had only mailed 2x the cost would be better?



So if I understand correctly, you ask the post office to specifically send these flyers to these neighborhoods ? I understand the direct mailing but I've never understood how it's done... if you guys understand me haha

Steve
10-01-2008, 09:13 PM
Every lawn that we treat gets a yard sign depending on the type of treatment. We have the cardboard type with the stick or the flag type.

But some of the areas don't allow a sign of any type, so we have to watch what neighborhood we are in when we do put our signs up.

What I was trying to say was could you use such signs and put them in the neighbor's yards as well that would promote your services.

Something like this

http://www.gopherforum.com/uploaded-files/images/Lawn_Care_Sign.jpg

agrilawn
10-02-2008, 07:57 AM
We actually purchase a list of Single Family Dwellings from our mail house. That list is then divided into zip code and down to the actual mail carrier route so we can see how many people are in each area. The more homes that we mail to by carrier route the bigger discount we receive on the postage.

agrilawn
10-02-2008, 07:58 AM
What I was trying to say was could you use such signs and put them in the neighbor's yards as well that would promote your services.

Something like this

http://www.gopherforum.com/uploaded-files/images/Lawn_Care_Sign.jpg

No that is not allowed. To put any type of sign up in a persons yard you mush have their permission.

LawncareMarketingMagic
10-03-2008, 12:52 PM
First off, great post and some great follow-up comments. I'll try to touch everything, but with all the different nuances and aspects to consider, this one could make for a lengthy discussion. Regardless, here goes....

In terms of the size of the mailings, 300K sounds like a lot, but it also sounds like you've got the budget to make it work. The key is to make sure you're targeting VERY SPECIFICALLY. You've already mentioned that you started targeting your lists, but make sure you're only mailing to those prospects that meet your exact criteria. Age, income, home value, # of kids, interests, etc. I couldn't tell from the post if you're doing this, but NEVER just buy a list of home owners within certain zip codes. Always take it to the next level and specify the individual criteria for each prospect.

As Bob mentioned, $40 is FANTASTIC. Do you know the average lifetime value of your customers? I bet it's WAY more than $40, probably somewhere in the $1,000's. The $60-80 range is a good target, but I'd be willing to bet you could spend close to $100/customer and still come out way ahead of the game.

With respect to the mailings you're doing, unless you're sending them at the same time of year, with the same offer, you're not really testing. To accurately test, you can only test one thing at a time. So if you're sending one piece, with a different headline, offer, deadline, call to action, testimonial, etc. in the spring, and then turning around sending a completely different piece in the summer, it's not a valid test. You'll never be able to pinpoint what's working and what isn't.

You've got to test your spring offers against your spring offers. Your summer offer against your summer offers. Etc. What I'd do, is break up your list into at least 2 groups and mail slightly different offers to each group. Maybe a different headline or offer, but everything else the same. Gauge the response, and make some changes for next time. If you really wanted some good data, split your list into 4 different groups so you have more opportunities to test. But the key to remember is that you can only change 1 thing each time to get an accurate test.

In terms of response rates, I'd look at your offers. Are you making a strong enough offer? Is it low risk enough? Is it something that motivates them to pick up the phone EVEN IF they're not ready to buy today?

I'm going to catch a ton of flack for this, but marketing has changed. You see, at any given time only 3% of your TARGET MARKET is ready to buy from you today. As a result, to create marketing that's truly effective you've got to appeal to not just the 3% that's ready to buy today, but also the 97% that is just starting to think about buying what you offer.

What this means is that brand building, presenting offers like 'Free Estimates', or '10% Off', are no longer powerful enough to motivate your prospects to respond because #1 everybody does it so you sound just like everybody else, and #2 I may not be at that stage of the buying process yet.

Next, when it comes to clover leafing the neighbors, send a postcard instead of the door hanger. Your list provider should be able to provide you a list of home owners immediately next door to your clients, and just time the mailings to coincide with the service visits. Same idea as the door hanger and the money you spend on postage will be time saved by not having to hang the door hangers.

Finally, focusing on developing referrals is a GREAT strategy. Use everything at your disposal to develop a good relationship with your clients and they'll reward you with referrals. Email is a great way and definitely something I'd recommend, but it's extremely easy to delete. Consider sending a hard copy, paper and ink newsletter on a monthly basis. Yes, it'll cost you some money, but $.80/mo for an account paying you at least $100/mo (I'd hope you're getting at least that), is a SMALL price to pay to strengthen the relationship and build a referral base. Believe me, a newsletter sent every month via snail mail, and NOT included with the invoice, will go a VERY long way to helping you build your business.

Okay, I'm sure there's more I could say, but I've probably lost everyone by now with my ramblings. Again, this is a great post, a very interesting topic, and a discussion MANY LCO's could learn a great deal from.

agrilawn
10-03-2008, 01:21 PM
That is exactly what I am looking for! Thank you.

The 300K that is being mailed is not 100% targeted. I would say maybe 20% was targeted. The rest just went to homeowners. I would love to do just the 100% targeted and do a split test. (hard to get people to change their habits) I am comparing only the Spring campaigns over the last 2-3 years. Each year the piece was very similiar with little changes. This year I want to completely change it up because I believe we need to focus more on how everyone looks at things. Like someone said before. You need to catch their attention within the first 10 seconds. Looking at a piece that has a bunch of information on it that may be speaking over their heads, there is no way I would even attempt to read it. I am trying to make it more eye appealing and easier to read for those that may be a first time homeowner and have no clue what it takes to get their lawns looking great.

Excellent idea on the cloverleafing!

Newsletters: We do send the email newsletter to our email database. I tried to get a hardcopy newsletter out a couple months ago, where the technicians would leave it with every stop, but they never did it. We are going to start the hardcopy newsletter again in Spring 2009 and a new one will be going out with each of our 7 rounds.

Steve
10-03-2008, 06:33 PM
So here you are, new in a larger lawn care business and find yourself trying to shake things up. What do you think is the best way to go about doing that? How do you plan on getting the owner to go along with your ideas on your marketing concepts?

It seems so difficult at times for businesses to shake off the old and continue pushing forwards. What is your view on all this?

LawncareMarketingMagic
10-03-2008, 10:44 PM
Agrilawn,

I would definitely target ALL of your mailings. You'll increase significantly the response you get, even if you don't change anything else.

However, if you really want to increase the response you MUST do more than just branding. If you're targeting your mailings, then you already know you're sending your piece to people that are qualified and interested in what you have to offer.

However, you're probably not the only one communicating with them. So you've got to do more than simply capturing their attention. Yes that's important too, but you've got to differentiate yourself from your competition and there's no way you can do that with the same tired old marketing everyone else is using.

Don't be afraid to use more text than what you think you should because IF your targeting your prospects correctly, assuming you capture their attention within the first 10 seconds, they'll read what you have to say.

Now that's not to say you write a whole bunch of fluff they won't read. You write as much as it takes to convince them to take you up on your offer, which should be a very low-risk offer that allows them to identify themselves as someone interested in what you have to offer.

I could go on and on, but I'll save all the explanation and reasoning for this for another post. If anyone's interested, let me know and I'll start a new post that talks about why it is everything most people think they know about marketing is wrong.

Steve
10-03-2008, 10:49 PM
I could go on and on, but I'll save all the explanation and reasoning for this for another post. If anyone's interested, let me know and I'll start a new post that talks about why it is everything most people think they know about marketing is wrong.

Chestin, you should go on here. This is a fantastic post lets keep the momentum rolling. I am sure he will find the information very useful in his future marketing plans.

quality green
10-05-2008, 12:10 AM
What kind of list are you mailing from?
Do you maintain a list inhouse or did you purchase?
We do alot of direct mail (no where near 300,000) but our inhouse list of 8500 is highly targeted to homeowners that already use a lawn care company (not ours) We live off other company's cancels. The cost of acquistions is small. (about $38.00).

We mail out 5 times a year to keep top awareness. 5 separate, personalized pieces.

Sounds like you are mailing bulk rather than targeted. Are you using any demographics when purchasing a list other than Zipcode?

Steve
10-05-2008, 12:24 AM
We mail out 5 times a year to keep top awareness. 5 separate, personalized pieces.

Could you give us some advice when you send out 5 times a year, are they the same? Or is each one different? Any suggestions on when mailings should be sent out and should they have certain specific topics at different times at different times of the year?

agrilawn
10-07-2008, 12:58 PM
So here you are, new in a larger lawn care business and find yourself trying to shake things up. What do you think is the best way to go about doing that? How do you plan on getting the owner to go along with your ideas on your marketing concepts?

It seems so difficult at times for businesses to shake off the old and continue pushing forwards. What is your view on all this?

I tried running my plan by the founder yesterday. Don't think she will go along with it. Her concern is that the purchased lists are not accurate.

For example: "We send out to only the targeted homeowners with our qualifications, what happens to the neighbor that didn't get one? The larger companies are going to send to everyone so they WILL receive a piece from them and not us." My reply was "if the homeowner that received our mail piece becomes a customer, the neighbor will see our trucks & techs working on their neighbors yard. They will also see our yard signs. If our customer is happy they may even refer the neighbor to us."

I don't know what else to do to try to convince her that we should go more targeted. She's done it her way for 10 years. She knows what her response rate should be if she mails so many pieces. I am continuing to draw up my plans to show her the possibilities, but I have a feeling it will go in one ear and out the other. They brought me on because I have the experience and all of the new ideas and plans but she is very hesitant about letting go.

What kind of list are you mailing from?
Do you maintain a list inhouse or did you purchase?
We do alot of direct mail (no where near 300,000) but our inhouse list of 8500 is highly targeted to homeowners that already use a lawn care company (not ours) We live off other company's cancels. The cost of acquistions is small. (about $38.00).

We mail out 5 times a year to keep top awareness. 5 separate, personalized pieces.

Sounds like you are mailing bulk rather than targeted. Are you using any demographics when purchasing a list other than Zipcode?

We do have an inhouse list that we work every year. We also purchase a list, it is targeted towards only Single Family Dwellings. Last Spring they tried doing a "tiny bit" of targeted mailing. They targeted 2 different groups. Homeowners with income of $50,000. And Homeowners with income of $70,000 & home value of $100,000. But like I said before it was maybe 20% targeted. Some of those that were targeted may have only received the piece once.

Steve
10-07-2008, 03:59 PM
I don't know what else to do to try to convince her that we should go more targeted. She's done it her way for 10 years. She knows what her response rate should be if she mails so many pieces. I am continuing to draw up my plans to show her the possibilities, but I have a feeling it will go in one ear and out the other. They brought me on because I have the experience and all of the new ideas and plans but she is very hesitant about letting go.

I think if it were me, I would say, give me a certain geographic area and let me do it my way in this area and then let us compare the results of my area vs all the other areas using your way. To me this would be the best way to do it. Hell, why not tell her that if you don't improve your results with your test area, she can fire you because she obviously isn't harnessing your talents!

If you could put together your dream marketing campaign concept what would you do differently?

agrilawn
10-07-2008, 05:05 PM
I think if it were me, I would say, give me a certain geographic area and let me do it my way in this area and then let us compare the results of my area vs all the other areas using your way. To me this would be the best way to do it.

I had actually thought about doing that this morning. After I layout my entire plan, I will pick out a couple areas and present that to her also.

If you could put together your dream marketing campaign concept what would you do differently?
As far as Direct Mail: I would Target in on a specific area every week to 2 weeks. Not concentrate on the WHOLE metro area. I would take it one zipcode at a time. Analyze the needs in each area and focus my mail pieces on them. I would concentrate my efforts on tightening the routes to help make the techs more effecient. Currently we cover about 70 zipcodes. Out of that, 20 of them have a good to decent penetration rate. We could make it even better by focus on it. I would rotate focusing on each area about 3 - 4 times a year.

Steve
10-07-2008, 05:44 PM
As far as Direct Mail: I would Target in on a specific area every week to 2 weeks. Not concentrate on the WHOLE metro area. I would take it one zipcode at a time. Analyze the needs in each area and focus my mail pieces on them.

Very interesting. What kinds of things are you thinking about that could differ from area to area? How much could one zip code area's needs differ from another? What kinds of things are you thinking about?

agrilawn
10-08-2008, 07:56 AM
Very interesting. What kinds of things are you thinking about that could differ from area to area? How much could one zip code area's needs differ from another? What kinds of things are you thinking about?

For example: In the NE part of the city the ground is mosty a Sandy Loam. In the SW part it is Clay. Just like in any city there are areas where the homes are more high class. Those areas normally have more to their landscaping. We could offer a special on Plant Health Care. Each area has something distinctive about them, so I would focus on that quality. On the east side the homes are older and smaller. On the North side they are expanding and new subdivisions are popping up all the time. Each area has more of one type of grass than the other. We could put a focus in the spring on Bermuda Hydroseeding for the area where bermuda grass is most popular. In the fall we could focus on the Fescue Hydroseeding for the area where fescue is most popular.

Steve
10-08-2008, 02:23 PM
I think those are fantastic ideas! I applaud you for your creativity!

Have you also been thinking of ways to promote your business outside of the mailings? Any community projects at all or do you want to focus mostly on your mailings?

agrilawn
10-08-2008, 03:45 PM
Have you also been thinking of ways to promote your business outside of the mailings? Any community projects at all or do you want to focus mostly on your mailings?

I have optimized our website for the search engines, so we are starting to get a steady stream of customers finding us on-line.

I am in the process of hiring a sales manager to where I will be able to work with them on contacting homeowners associations. I also want them to go to other businesses that could be connected to us, like lawn mower repair shops, real estate agents, builders, mortgage companies, etc. to work with them on sending us referrals.

Next year I would love to have an "open house/family day" to where we invite our current customers to the shop for a day of fun and information (to help them learn more about their lawns). Have BBQ, drinks, games, bouncy castles, etc.

Starting in January I will be creating a hardcopy newsletter for our techs to pass out to their customers. It will go out with each round. In the newsletter it will promote a new supplemental for the round, like flea & tick, aerations, seeding, soil testing, etc. This will help the techs sell more supplementals and keep our current customers informed of any changes.

2 months ago I started sending out a "Welcome Kit" It is in a nice green folder with our logo on it, saying "Welcome to AgriLawn". In the kit on one side is a letter welcoming them to the company, our mission statement, a list of FAQ's. On the other side is information on all the services we offer, along with a brochure on each major program we offer like plant health care and bug barricade. Also included is information on the supplementals that we are currently promoting, a referral card to pass on to friends or family, and our newsletter. I started these welcome kits to help the new customers understand who we are and what we have to offer. When researching our cancellation history I found that most of the cancelled accounts had been cancelled within the first 3-4 months. If they had been more informed from the beginning, maybe we could have saved the sale.

Steve
10-08-2008, 04:25 PM
Starting in January I will be creating a hardcopy newsletter for our techs to pass out to their customers. It will go out with each round. In the newsletter it will promote a new supplemental for the round, like flea & tick, aerations, seeding, soil testing, etc. This will help the techs sell more supplementals and keep our current customers informed of any changes.

This is a really good point too. Will you be training any of your techs as far as customer interaction? Like for instance are they trained to make sure they are the first ones to say hello when greeting the homeowner or family? Do you train them on asking any specific questions?
Also do you train them on how to upsell?

agrilawn
10-08-2008, 04:51 PM
This is a really good point too. Will you be training any of your techs as far as customer interaction? Like for instance are they trained to make sure they are the first ones to say hello when greeting the homeowner or family? Do you train them on asking any specific questions?
Also do you train them on how to upsell?

They had been trained in the past, but we have a bunch of new Techs. My new Sales Manager will be incharge of training them on the sales approach. They are trained to look for problems in the lawn. If the customer is not home, they will write a note on their invoice recommending a specific product/treatment. Our Techs always go to the door and knock before doing any treatment. If the customer is home they will see if there is anything specific they want them to look at.

Steve
10-08-2008, 05:04 PM
You had hit on a lot of great points here I wanted to expand upon. I never know when expanding on them is going to lead to more great ideas so let me jump in here.

Next year I would love to have an "open house/family day" to where we invite our current customers to the shop for a day of fun and information (to help them learn more about their lawns). Have BBQ, drinks, games, bouncy castles, etc.


I was thinking, could you open this up to more than just current customers? Could this be open to the community. Even for different seasons. Like a fall festival with pumpkin painting? Or maybe you have more thoughts on this. Could you involve other local businesses to help defray the costs?

Starting in January I will be creating a hardcopy newsletter for our techs to pass out to their customers. It will go out with each round. In the newsletter it will promote a new supplemental for the round, like flea & tick, aerations, seeding, soil testing, etc. This will help the techs sell more supplementals and keep our current customers informed of any changes.


Ideally how does this help the tech sell more? Would the customer see the newsletter and say I want that additional service? Or is this just to make the customer aware?


When researching our cancellation history I found that most of the cancelled accounts had been cancelled within the first 3-4 months. If they had been more informed from the beginning, maybe we could have saved the sale.

I think this is something most small lawn care businesses miss. They never find out why a customer is canceling. When a customer cancels with you do you ask them on the phone why? Or does a sales staff member talk to them?
Do you ask them any specific questions as to why they are canceling and do you offer any inducements to try and keep them with you for a little longer? How do you keep track of this? Does your staff have a check list of questions to ask?

agrilawn
10-09-2008, 08:10 AM
I was thinking, could you open this up to more than just current customers? Could this be open to the community. Even for different seasons. Like a fall festival with pumpkin painting? Or maybe you have more thoughts on this. Could you involve other local businesses to help defray the costs?

I wouldn't want to open it up to everyone, only because we cover such a large area. I would open it up to our current customers, friends & family. I haven't thought about the time of year, but that is a good idea. When I find the right sales manager, I am hoping that they will be able to contact the local businesses on the referral side and while doing that we could talk to them about helping with an event like this.



Ideally how does this help the tech sell more? Would the customer see the newsletter and say I want that additional service? Or is this just to make the customer aware?
It is mainly to make the customer aware of the services we offer. It will help the techs get a "jump start" with the customer. If the customer is already aware of the service it will make an easier sell.



I think this is something most small lawn care businesses miss. They never find out why a customer is canceling. When a customer cancels with you do you ask them on the phone why? Or does a sales staff member talk to them?
Do you ask them any specific questions as to why they are canceling and do you offer any inducements to try and keep them with you for a little longer? How do you keep track of this? Does your staff have a check list of questions to ask?
When a customer calls in to cancel, we alway ask if there is a specific reason. We always try to satisfy them or resolve the issue. If for some reason they still cancel, I send them a cancel letter along with a small survey asking more specific questions. A lot of times the customer does not tell us the real reason when we are talking to them over the phone, but they will tell us on the survey. During early spring when the weather is more difficult to work with, our techs can use this information to try to call the customer back up to gain their business again. Also when we receive the survy back, one of the managers that can handle the issue will give the customer a call to talk to them about it and try to resolve the issue.

Steve
10-09-2008, 02:28 PM
This sounds like a dream job in the sense that you have a large enough business to really experiment with all these great marketing concepts.

Have you been thinking about doing any publicity stunt kind of things to get the media to pay attention to you?

For instance doing some holiday makeover on a house with Christmas decorations. Or cleaning up a local park when your business slows down.

Have you been writing other ideas down to present if given the opportunity?

agrilawn
10-09-2008, 02:55 PM
This sounds like a dream job in the sense that you have a large enough business to really experiment with all these great marketing concepts.

Have you been thinking about doing any publicity stunt kind of things to get the media to pay attention to you?

For instance doing some holiday makeover on a house with Christmas decorations. Or cleaning up a local park when your business slows down.

Have you been writing other ideas down to present if given the opportunity?

In the past we have renovated the lawn and landscape of our Local Ronald McDonald House. We participate in Green Care for the Troops. We are the winner of 2008 Central Oklahoma Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Customer Service and Ethics in the Marketplace.

As far as experimenting with the marketing concepts... many those are what I would love to try, but they all depend on the approval of the founder & his wife. Right now I am just having a hard time trying to get them to do more of the targeted marketing for the Spring mail drop.

Greengrower
10-09-2008, 03:27 PM
When a customer calls in to cancel, we alway ask if there is a specific reason. We always try to satisfy them or resolve the issue. If for some reason they still cancel, I send them a cancel letter along with a small survey asking more specific questions. A lot of times the customer does not tell us the real reason when we are talking to them over the phone, but they will tell us on the survey. During early spring when the weather is more difficult to work with, our techs can use this information to try to call the customer back up to gain their business again. Also when we receive the survy back, one of the managers that can handle the issue will give the customer a call to talk to them about it and try to resolve the issue.

What should you send in a cancel letter or in a survey?

Steve
10-09-2008, 03:50 PM
As far as experimenting with the marketing concepts... many those are what I would love to try, but they all depend on the approval of the founder & his wife. Right now I am just having a hard time trying to get them to do more of the targeted marketing for the Spring mail drop.

You seem to have a big following here. Who knows, maybe you could start offering lawn care marketing consulting to newer lawn care businesses as a side project!

In the past we have renovated the lawn and landscape of our Local Ronald McDonald House. We participate in Green Care for the Troops. We are the winner of 2008 Central Oklahoma Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Customer Service and Ethics in the Marketplace.

Did you get much press coverage from that? Did it help you attract more customers? What types of things did you do to promote you were performing these great services?

agrilawn
10-10-2008, 03:03 PM
What should you send in a cancel letter or in a survey?

Here is a sample of what we send:

http://i305.photobucket.com/albums/nn211/agrilawn/cancelsurveyletter.jpg

agrilawn
10-10-2008, 03:11 PM
Did you get much press coverage from that? Did it help you attract more customers? What types of things did you do to promote you were performing these great services?

We did it in 2006. I believe they had an article in the newspaper and it may have been mentioned on the news. Each year we get invited to a red carpet galla for the Ronald McDonald House Charities. We continue to do free lawn & plant health care for them. We have the information and pictures posted on our website.

I am in the process of trying to contact the Extreme MakeOver Home Edition to offer free lawn service for a house that will be built in our area. So hopefully they will contact us when they are planning to do something near us. I think that would be a great opportunity for advertising and showing support for our community.

agrilawn
10-10-2008, 03:13 PM
You seem to have a big following here. Who knows, maybe you could start offering lawn care marketing consulting to newer lawn care businesses as a side project!


I've helped a few businesses grow and become prominent in their industry, but the lawn care business is new to me. I have loads of ideas, but I'm not sure who would pay me for consulting. That would be great though!:D

Steve
10-10-2008, 05:39 PM
but I'm not sure who would pay me for consulting. That would be great though!

Well right here. All of these posts could be potential free advertising for you!

Have you considered setting up a website? That would be cheap and a great way to get started. You can experiment on here and see how your ideas apply to the lawn care industry and as you go you could scale up and offer the services to more lawn care businesses.

I like the idea. It's a great way to express yourself and get a chance to really play with all those marketing ideas you have. If one business doesn't want to use them, others might.

I bet if you sat there and thought about it, you could come up with many many more ideas you thought were to wild or extreme but might just work!

Maybe we could do a marketing makeover for a current lawn care business on the forum as a way of promoting your talents.

Steve
10-13-2008, 02:46 PM
Another thing I was wondering, do you have any thoughts as to how this company got so big? What factors do you feel made them stand out enough to grow and expand while most other lawn care businesses stay small?

LawncareMarketingMagic
10-14-2008, 05:01 PM
Agrilawn,

You're definitely doing a lot of things right. Now if you could only convince the owner that they'd do a whole lot better if they simply targeted their mailings! The key to that is to simply show credibility or proof that it works. I've got some resources/numbers I'll post that you might be able to use as back-up. Until you get more targeted with your mailings, you might as well take a % of your marketing budget and throw it out the window because that's basically what you're already doing!

One comment about the customer cancellation rates. It's pretty typical in ANY business to see the majority of your cancels refunds occur very shortly after the purchase. It's called 'buyer's remorse'.

One of the things I suggest to my clients is to send a customer 'stick' letter/card shortly after the first visit or two, reminding them about your great service, why you're such a great VALUE, and of all the BENEFITS they'll be getting. You might even consider including in your 'welcome packet' (which is another FANSTATIC idea I recommend to all my clients as well) a customer survey asking what they're hoping to receive and/or the reasons they hired you. Consider including a postage paid envelope to make it easy for them to return, but when they do, send them a 'thank you' card with some type of gift card or other 'goodie' as a way of letting them know you appreciate their feedback.

Again, great job with a lot of what you're doing and it sounds like your biggest constraint is the owners. It may take a bit of work, but there are definitely ways you could persuade them to 'let go' so to speak.

Steve
10-14-2008, 06:14 PM
I've got some resources/numbers I'll post that you might be able to use as back-up. Until you get more targeted with your mailings, you might as well take a % of your marketing budget and throw it out the window because that's basically what you're already doing!

Could you tell us more of what you mean by that?

send them a 'thank you' card with some type of gift card or other 'goodie' as a way of letting them know you appreciate their feedback.

Any thoughts on what type of goodies would work well? How much value should it be worth?

“When researching our cancellation history I found that most of the cancelled lawn care accounts had been cancelled within the first 3-4 months. If they had been more informed from the beginning, maybe we could have saved the sale.”

Do you have any idea what % of the customers were canceling? This could help figure out how much money is being lost and how much value should be put into a 'goodie.'

agrilawn
10-17-2008, 10:11 AM
Another thing I was wondering, do you have any thoughts as to how this company got so big? What factors do you feel made them stand out enough to grow and expand while most other lawn care businesses stay small?

I think the fact that the founder is a OSU degreed Agronomist and a certified Arborist has helped a lot. We have also have several employees that went to school for horticulture. In a lot of our marketing material that is one of the things we promote. With the founder graduating from OSU and knowing the area it helps. He knows what works for the area and what don't. We are big on customer service, so I know when he started out, he did whatever the customer needed done. Many of the customers that he started out with are still with us. Another thing that may have helped are the employees. There are at least 6 employees that have been here for 10 or more years. The longitivity helps the customer get to know and trust their tech. The tech knows their yard and knows what to look for.

agrilawn
10-17-2008, 10:14 AM
Do you have any idea what % of the customers were canceling? This could help figure out how much money is being lost and how much value should be put into a 'goodie.'

We have about a 75% - 85% retention rate.

Steve
10-20-2008, 08:57 AM
Consider including a postage paid envelope to make it easy for them to return, but when they do, send them a 'thank you' card with some type of gift card or other 'goodie' as a way of letting them know you appreciate their feedback.

Have you thought about if you would send out some type of goodie to your new customers and what kind of things would you like to ideally send out?

Could this be something you experiment with a % of the new customers to compare and contrast their retention rate with the other customers?