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  • #16
    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

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

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    • #17
      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.
      Chestin

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      • #18
        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.

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        • #19
          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?
          - Subscribe to my Lawn Care Marketing Blog Feed and get daily tips sent to you. Free!
          Download your Free trial of Gopher Lawn Care Software.

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          • #20
            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.
            Chestin

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            • #21
              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.
              - Subscribe to my Lawn Care Marketing Blog Feed and get daily tips sent to you. Free!
              Download your Free trial of Gopher Lawn Care Software.

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              • #22
                How Targeted Is Your List?

                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?

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                • #23
                  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?
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                  Download your Free trial of Gopher Lawn Care Software.

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                  • #24
                    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.

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                    • #25
                      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?
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                      • #26
                        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.

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                        • #27
                          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?
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                          • #28
                            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.

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                            • #29
                              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?
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                              Download your Free trial of Gopher Lawn Care Software.

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                              • #30
                                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.

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