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What makes you think the customers belong to you? It's the same failed philosophy of selling a customer list along with equipment as if they somehow belong to the new business owner.
If the customer calls you, I say give them an estimate. If one of my customers call you and you offer better quality, better reliability or a better price then they have every right to hire you.
I do have 3 friends that I try not to compete against and if it happens I give them a courtesy call to explain the issue and ask them to try to correct it before I make a bid on the job. Otherwise capitalism works for the betterment of all involved.
I personally don't go around starting wars by purposely targeting other companies customers but if they call me I'll take the job. I'm not a hypocrite about it though, if they take all my work and shut me down, I'll put in an application with them the next day.
I would personally Not go knocking on the doors of competitors customers, unless you know the customer personally. Yes, go talk with the other guys and pick their brain. Find out what works and doesn't work to get customers. Ask if they have any customers they would like to give you to get started. Yes, it is competitive out here, but we do have an image that we need to adhere to and if someone wants to go to one of my customers and try to under bid me, I tell that customer of their intentions and remind them of my work ethics and that I have been and always will be there for them. If you price yourself and 'our' business low, then one day everyone will be low and no one can make a decent living doing what we do. That is to make someones yard look better than they can and act like we can't.
The OP posted the question on what we thought about stealing customers by going directly to the known customers houses in an attempt to steal the business away.
If he wanted to go throughout a neighborhood and promote his business, good for him, but that's just not how I read it.
The customers belong to me, just as I belong to them. I don't say "This is Mr. Anderson, a customer to a lawn care business"...no. I say: "This is Mr. Anderson, my customer". Just as the customer doesn't refer to me as "that guy who mows the lawns in the neighborhood"...they are more apt to say: "That's my landscaper". I've heard a customer say to a neighbor who wanted to speak with me "hey, don't steal him, he's mine".
We put possession to a lot of things. It's not weird to put possession on our customers.
I have no problem going to a customer that is not happy with the service they are getting, I had a guy call me last year as he saw me drive by. He was not happy with the guy doing his lawn . I gave him a quote and he hired me there on the lawn. He is now a regular customer for 2012 I had no problem taking that customer away from the other guy. He is lazy and inconsistent dose poor work and has no respect for his customers. He had split gas on this guys lawn while working on his broke lawn mower. But I will not go and knock on doors and shoot someone's work down. not even this guys work but I will canvases a neighborhood that I know is serviced by someone that is giving poor service, That's just business. I get 10 or so fliers in my door every spring and I am a lawn care operator.
I tell them that I'm not in the business of stealing customers, and that I would hope other companies do that same for me, and that they should talk to their current company about when they had planned to treat it. I mention that they might have a certain day or week they are plan to put chemicals down.
I don't really know what else to say...
I would have taken this customer in a flash, if the customer is not happy with ABC lawn Care I will take care of him better. Its money in your pocket if you keep giving out free advice and walking away you won't be in business very long.
I would personally Not go knocking on the doors of competitors customers, unless you know the customer personally.
When canvasing a neighborhood how am I to know who gets service and don't I go to every door and talk to who ever will talk to me, A sale is a sale.
As I said above I would not bad mouth any competitor I leave that to the customer.
... The customers belong to me, just as I belong to them. ... We put possession to a lot of things. It's not weird to put possession on our customers.
If they somehow belong to you, can you sue someone for taking them from you? Who will listen to your complaint and what judgment do you deserve?
My personal philosophy, and I hope that of many others, is that you call them "my customer" because they've given you a job. They've not given you themselves. They call you "my landscaper" because you give them work in exchange for money. You don't give them yourself. The only right you have is to fair exchange of their money for your effort. To me it feels more like an alignment than an ownership.
Do not badmouth other people/companies to get work - anything else is fair game. Marketing to a neighborhood because you think a lot of people there hire lawn companies is a smart move. People switch providers for many different reasons - day, time, price, frequency, quality of service, services you offer, customer service, billing practices. Don't feel bad when we get a customer that used to have another provider - don't feel bad when we lose one either. Its a business - some people forget that and take things personally that they shouldn't.
Last edited by shadrach; 02-03-2012, 12:29 PM.
i certainly would not be purposely knocking on peoples doors looking to steal anyones customers because i believe in the karma thing and what goes around comes around, but at the same time i would not be knocking on anyones door looking for work to begin with because you only come off as a unprofessional hack with nothing better to do.
i would however advertise the hell out of my business in any way shape or form possible and if someone called me up for a price on their own free will, i could care less who was serviceing the property.
thats life and all of your customers came from somewhere, you did not invent them and if they did not cut their lawn before you they don't intend on cutting it themselves after you.
if someone comes along and offers a better job at a better price and they believe them and they come through on their promise you will be thrown out to pasture quicker then the jews left christ 99 out of 100 times.
if they called or asked about a price or problem that would be a clear indicator that they are not 100% happy with who they have regardless if it were your mom.
there are unwritten rules and ethics we follow as competitors and for the most part all is fair in love and war but two things you don't do is knock on other contractors customers doors and low ball them on purpose to steal the job.
i would not want to be on the recieving end of that bad mojo especially when we are in a business in which our successes are determined by a whole lot of hard work and a whole lot of luck.
Sad stuff. Good thing we are all separated from each other.
i find that funny, sad and true.
thats the difference between us common everyman types in comparison to say doctors.
my wife is in the medical field and when they have confrences with all the vendors of the medical supply companies like we have in trade shows most of the conversations in the educational portions of the shows are about the doctors working in harmony with each other keeping prices and costs within a certain percentage of each other, so in order to not create too much parody in their prices to force patients to shop around.
sure they go over new products and go into how they can cut costs and be more efficient but as a industry they work together.
our trade shows mostly pertain to if you buy this new 10,000 peice of equipment it will pay for itself in two years and all it is is product pushing.
most of the seminars are for CEU's on certain licenses but they usually revolve around a particular product and if you started selling it today you could make more money.
they never go into ethics and working together mantras because there is nothing for them to sell and make off of you and they want you to believe it's that new lawn mower you really need to turn a profit
we could make more money and benifit far more from each other then we can taking each others lunches.
we have a little cooperative with myself and 20 other local landscapers, we formed a group and we pay dues and have meetings and have guys come in to give lectures for pesticide credits and we hooked up with vendors and we buy our equipment from the same people so we get a group discount and we all charge within a specific price range.
we don't have a set singular price, it is more of a high and low.
for example, hourly labor rate low would be say 55.00 per hour and high would be 65.00 per hour which is fair because we are all legit but at the same time our businesses vary in size.
from there the big difference is how many hours you or the others would charge and we let that determine who's price is better.
it might take one guy 10 hours and the other might take 6 hours.
we got wet backs that are as bogus as you could be lowballing at like 25.00 per hour but the people in our area is conditioned to know the price ranges of all the guys that are fully insured so when pepe lopez comes along with a price of half of what the next lowest guy is the red flag goes up, pepe gets shot down and he can go try that crap in another town because it aint happening here.
Doctors do that because nearly all of their invoices go to insurance companies or welfare.
no that is not true, if you don't have insurance and if you don't qualify you get stuck with it as well as doctors get paid a set rate for each procedure from insurance co's.
but needless to say i really dont want to get into a debate about the american healthcare system and my reference to the medical profession was one example of many professions that practice solidarity. lawyers, accountants, electricians, plumbers and the list goes on.
they all have a standard price range they work in and it has nothing to do with what profession makes more.
it varies from region to region in what the rate actually is due to differences in cost of living.
when it comes to landscapers and tree guys, they can tell you all they want about what they want to make per hour but when a customer calls up 5 different companies they get 5 totally different prices, it leads them to believe we just pull the numbers out of our azzes and start to think we are all crooks.
this will be my 23rd year in business and my 28th doing it and i can say that between what i have witnessed first hand and heard from customers over the years about the other guys out there i really start to wonder if we are our worst enemy.
You can go door to door, or post a sign on a bulletin board, either way if you get the attention of someone that already uses another company, then your advertising to the competitions customers.
I send postcards to all of the higher value neighborhoods numerous times a year, knowing that my competition does work in that neighborhood. Why?
Because you want to market to the people that need and use your services.
You will always be advertising to your competitions customers, no matter how you do it. Its part of the business.