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Lawn Care Marketing & Post your marketing material for review!

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  #1  
Old 09-14-2007, 05:14 PM
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Hi Chestin:

In a previous thread, you spoke a bit about lists.

I am genuinely interested in this subject. Properly marketing a list is an art, I know.

I want to tap your knowledge on a few areas. When you're thinking about these questions, look at them from two points of view. The first being that of the local lawn care guy who's just trying to get 40 or 50 local customers. Then, think about them from the vantage point of someone like Tiger Time lawn care who might be trying to reach 10's of thousands of people in the hopes of attracting a few hundred franchisees.

1) Acquiring a list. Lawn Care companies are geocentric in their areas of coverage. So, it's pretty easy to find a list of numbers for a limited area of coverage. You can acquire a list of all the phone numbers for a given zip code or even a single road in your neighborhood. Do you have any favorite places on where to acquire these lists? Phone Book, Reverse Directory, Property Tax office, etc. are good examples of free lists. Do you have any other favorites?

2) How about selected lists? There's a proper term for this but I just can't remember it right now. These are lists that have been prescreened and show a tendency toward being receptive to telephone / direct mail marketing. Is the premium charged for these lists worthwhile? For example, would it be worth 50 cents per name to know that you are reaching motivated buyers?

3) Sample size: What would you consider an adequate sample size to get a viable response? If you call / mail 100 people and you get 3 customers, do you think that ratio will translate to larger sample groups. That is, would you get 30 from 1000? Is 100 enough to get a general feel for your expected response rate or do you need to start with a larger number?

4) Refining your pitch: You can make minor modifications to your pitch easily if you are voice cold calling. However, if you are direct mailing or using a demon dialer, how often should you refine your pitch?

5) Repeat contacts to declines: Should you call people back who have given negative responses? How long should you wait between contacts?

6) Repeat contacts to current acceptors: Should you make additional contact with people who have already accepted previous offers. Offering them more offers. I have a monthly calling strategy in mind for instance on the first of every month, you call current customer with this month's offer.
For example: ring ring "It's September, do you know leaves can clog gutters and lead to decay of roof decking around your gutters? This month we are offering 10% off gutter cleaning to all current clients of 'Keith's Lawn Care.'"

I have moderate experience using direct contact marketing and I want to refine my strategies.

Thx for your expertise. I think this could be a really interesting thread.

Keith
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Old 09-15-2007, 07:20 PM
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Lawn care business tipsLawn Care Business Book
I send a message to Chestin in hopes he is able to respond to this great post.
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Old 09-17-2007, 06:32 AM
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Keith,

I'd be happy to add my 2 cents to your questions.

Because my responses were a bit lengthy and I know there are some that may not be interested in this topic, I decided to post the answers to my blog so I could elaborate and not worry about taking up too much space here.

I answered each question in a separate blog post and you can get the first one here:

Direct Mail Lists for Lawn Care Business

I pounded out the responses pretty quick, so there may be some typos and I'm certain I left some stuff out, but that just leaves the door open for follow-up questions.
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Old 09-17-2007, 06:39 AM
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Thank you Chestin! I look forwards to reading your blog now.

Also, please don't feel people aren't interested in your posts. There are plenty of readers on this forum that love to read
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Old 09-17-2007, 06:47 AM
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Steve,

I definitely didn't mean to imply people aren't interested. I just know that the attention span online is pretty short so I didn't want to clog up the great resource you've got here.

I look forward to your comments!
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Old 09-17-2007, 08:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]LCO: Getting your hands on a good list really comes down to how much you can invest in terms of time or money. There are plenty of good free sources, as you already mentioned, but they require sweaty equity to get them. And, in most cases youíre not able to qualify these free sources like you could if you purchased a list. For example, pulling a list of home owners from the county tax office wonít tell you the income level, number of kids, or interests of the home owners.

With a purchased list, you can specify the EXACT criteria you want. So that being said, I always recommend purchasing a list IF your budget allows for it. Some good sources Iíve used previously include InfoUSA.com or Edith Roman.com.

As for free lists, you already mentioned some of the most popular, but the public library typically has resources available as well as your local government offices.

Franchisor: This oneís a little tougher to get a list for simply because itís difficult to pinpoint who your market is. Iím not very familiar with who Tiger Time is trying to target so I really canít speak to many specifics, but if I were him and I were trying to find small LCOís looking to join a franchise, Iíd compile a list of LCOís that fit the criteria heís targeting. In this case, youíd have to purchase a list from a broker to get the criteria youíre after. Again, EdithRoman.com is a good, easy to use source of this type of list. Another good source would be one of the industry magazines. This would be a little more expensive, but it would definitely be worth the added expense.
I didn't even think of trying to purchase a list from a lawn care magazine. I am guessing one could just contact their sales department to do this?

Another question I had is this. I know many newer lawn care business owners are sitting here reading this and saying to themselves, ok I can buy a list but how many should I try and contact? Through your marketing experience, could you give a mailing list count range that a newer lawn care business should consider purchasing when they send out mailers, postcards or whatever they might? Should they shoot for 500? 1000? 2000?
What's your suggestion?

Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]There are basically 2 types of lists, a compiled list and a managed list.

A compiled list is made up of names that have been compiled from directories or other sources such as government tax offices, surveys, etc. They typically have quite a bit of information about each name and can be very good sources, but keep in mind, theyíre just names that have been compiled from a source so many cases thereís nothing to indicate how good a prospect they would be.

A managed list is made up of names of people that have bought something, are members of something, or at the very least have requested information about something. Examples of managed lists include subscribers to a magazine, association members, catalog shoppers, etc. These types of lists offer the highest quality prospects because theyíve taken some type of action thatís landed them on the list. This type of list is certainly more costly (which will depend on the individual list), but in many cases the added cost could be worth it.

When trying to decide between what type of list to get, itís really going to depend on who youíre targeting. Also, many lists have minimum requirements for the number of names you have to buy (5K or so), especially managed lists, so that may preclude some lists as well.
For a newer start up lawn care business that has been in business for a couple of years, do you think 5000 mailings would be too much for them to handle or afford? Or is this something they should strive to shoot for?

Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]LCO: For a small business looking to add new customers within a specific geographic area, youíre going to have a difficult time finding enough prospects from a managed list that meet your geographic requirements. Unless you live in a dense urban area, the chances of finding enough prospects from a managed list to create a list are pretty slim, although thatís not to say it canít be done. Youíre much more likely to find enough prospects from a compiled list and in most cases you should have enough selects available to allow you to create a very good list.
I think this is something very important for lawn care business owners to understand when looking at purchasing lists.

Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]Franchisor: In this case, youíre definitely better off trying to build a list of prospects from a managed list, simply because you know these people are predisposed to something (buy, are interested, etc.). The whole key with this though is to be sure youíre getting the proper list. Again, who are you targeting? Is it people interested in starting a franchise or is it people already in business looking to align with a well-known company? Not knowing enough about Tiger Timeís objectives I canít really speak to many specifics.
What I was thinking is it would be very difficult to find a list of people whom are considering but have yet to start their own lawn care business. I could be wrong though. The next best shot I would think would be to contact new and existing lawn care businesses that were interested in finding a better way to profit in the same industry.

Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]When it comes to selecting a sample size, you can get a pretty good indication as to the responsiveness of your list IF youíre working with a good list. This point really canít be stressed enough, you definitely want to invest some time and/or money in getting your hands on a good list and the more tightly you can define your prospects, the more success youíll have with your list.

So, assuming youíve invested the necessary effort into getting a good list, a good sample size would be anywhere from 100-250 names. Anytime I do direct mail I typically donít mail out less than 250 pieces, but if youíre on a limited budget you could start with 100. I wouldnít go any less than 100 though.

And with this one, the same holds true for both the LCO and a franchisor looking to find franchisees.
This is great because it speaks of the target number a newer business should shoot for. Now what I am sure others are thinking about asking is, what kind of response should they be looking for with such a list? Would they be lucky to see a 1 to 2 % response to their mailings?

Ultimately is there anyway with your experience to calculate on average how many of those response will result in a sale? A sale of one time service or annual lawn care service?

Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]This one applies to both LCO and franchisor.

This principle should ALWAYS come into play with any type of marketing you do and that is TEST, TEST, TEST. It doesnít matter if youíre dialing for dollars, doing direct mail, knocking on doors, running ads in the newspaper or phone directories, or any other type of marketing, you should ALWAYS be testing and tweaking.

The only difference between the various methods of marketing is the delay in the feedback loop. For example, when youíre dialing for dollars youíll very quickly know whether or not your script is working. With something like direct mail however, it takes longer to know how well somethingís working simply because it takes longer to get a response back. However, that doesnít mean you shouldnít track your responses and makes changes accordingly.

How often should you Ďtweakí things? Every time you mail, call, knock, or what ever else you might do to engage a prospect. So the first time you mail a postcard, track its response. Then the next time you send one, make one change and one change only, mail it again, and again, track the response. Same thing the next time. And the next time. And the next time.

So, this then begs the question, what should I test? The easy answer is everything, but unfortunately I donít think that would help anyone. Basically, just as there are 7 elements to any good sales message (call, letter, door knock, etc.), there are 7 things you should test. They are:

1. Headline - the opening line, should seize the prospectís attention
2. Body - tell them a story and hold their attention
3. Offer - present them with something to buy or try
4. Risk reversal - a guarantee, testimonials, pictures, etc.
5. Urgency - a deadline, limited # available, etc.
6. Call to action - tell them EXACTLY how to respond
7. P.S. - the 2nd most read part of any sales letter (after the headline), reiterate the offer

Each one of these elements should be tested, tracked, and tweaked as necessary until you finally hit upon a winning formula, which as Iím sure you can expect isnít going to happen overnight. It will take some time and discipline to make it happen, but having a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal really is worth its weight in gold.
Ok now the thing I am wondering is this. Say the business owner buys a mailing list of 1,000 addresses. Should they test 500 with one headline and test 500 with another

or

Should they send out 1000 postcards, and then a few weeks later send out another 1000 with a different headline and compare the results?

Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]This one applies to both LCO and franchisor.

This one is one of the most overlooked keys to marketing success by most businesses. And not just the small ones either. As most people have probably heard, for the average consumer it takes 5-7 contacts from a business/product/service before they actually buy.

So if thatís true, why do people send out one measly postcard/letter/flyer and then get disappointed when they donít see results. Sure, itís a reasonable expectation to get some response the first time, but youíre selling yourself incredibly short if you stop there.

I recommend to every client I work with that they contact their list NO LESS than 3 times. Thatís the minimum. And even beyond that, I strongly suggest they continue contacting them and present them with offers another 10-12 times over the next year. That way, you develop some name recognition with these prospects and they come to know you as the one to call if theyíre every in need or your service.

Another reason to contact them multiple times is the simple fact that they may not have been in a position of need/want for your service at the time they contacted you. Peopleís lives go through cycles and itís a bit silly to expect everyoneís needs/wants to line up with your service at the very moment you decide to do your marketing. So by hitting them multiple times you increase your chances of connecting with them at a time theyíre ready to purchase your service.
5 to 7 contacts? Does this include articles about you in newspapers or hearing word of mouth of your business from others? Or does this only pertain to mailings?

What is the best way to reach out to potential lawn care clients over a years time? Should you send out the same card each month or should you do something different each time like possible a newsletter?

When purchasing a mailing list, do you pay per mailing or for a specific time frame?

Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]This is applies more to the LCO, but could apply to a franchisor if they have back-end products or services they can sell the franchisees.

This is another overlooked principle that can do AMAZING things for any business, especially the small ones. You should constantly be contacting your existing customers with for new products, services, or a combination of both.

If we think about it for a moment, the largest expense of any business is trying to get new customers. Itís such a burden because you have to 1. find qualified, interested prospects, then 2. convince them you have the answer to their problem/need/want, and 3. gain enough trust with them that theyíre willing to part with their hard earned money to give you a shot.

So, if this is such a challenge, wouldnít it make sense to do everything possible to hold onto that relationship for dear life once theyíve made the leap of faith and become your customer?

Plus, once you have them as a customer, your goal should be to sell them as many additional services as possible as often as possible. That way, your business grows with a fraction of the marketing it would require if you tried to sell the same amount of services to new customers.

Your suggestion of a monthly call is an EXCELLENT idea. Another variation of this is a service I provide, which is a monthly printed newsletter sent to existing customers. Itís not the typical high gloss, filled with boring stuff newsletter, but a black and white, hard copy newsletter filled with interesting and engaging copy. It also includes a monthly special, which you suggested, to present your customers with another opportunity to purchase your services.

Now, one final thing to keep in mind is that you donít want to completely inundate your customers with offers. You want to create a healthy mix of relationship building (which EVERY business should do) and selling. If youíre doing enough relationship building, the selling part will come easy.

One last word. I hope Iíve managed to answer Keithís questions, at least a little. Iím certain this whole series has spawned another set of questions, which is great. Please feel free to ask!

Of course, if anything hasnít been explained clear enough, please feel free to post follow-up questions for those as well.
The newsletter you are speaking of, is that you to your customers or is that a service you offer your customers to send to their customers?

Chestin you are the man. There is no doubt we should be promoting you and trying to get a handful of lcos to have you work with them. I would love to see you work your magic on them and have them just get huge because of your help. That would be amazing publicity!
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Old 09-17-2007, 08:06 AM
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What we really should consider doing is creating the Lawn Care Marketing Magic challenge.

I know this is something that you were talking about last year and I had tried something similar in the past, but as we have grown, I think this could be pulled off.

We could get like 5 or so lawn care business owners and then have you work with them and their marketing over the year. Then without saying who they are, we could show their previous year's income versus the new years income thanks to your help. It could be charted and graphed and oh BOY would this make lawn care business owners want to contact you.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind you could do wonders for them. I think most businesses just don't market because they have no time.

What's your view on something like this?
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Old 09-17-2007, 02:09 PM
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Okay, I'll do my best to keep all the questions straight and answer them as best I can. I just hope my ADD doesn't get in the way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]I didn't even think of trying to purchase a list from a lawn care magazine. I am guessing one could just contact their sales department to do this?
Almost every subscription based magazine in publication has a list for rent. To find the contact information one usually just needs to check the first few pages and you'll see all the contacts listed. If not, they usually ALWAYS list at least one contact phone number so you could simply call that number and ask for the manager over list rentals.

Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]I know many newer lawn care business owners are sitting here reading this and saying to themselves, ok I can buy a list but how many should I try and contact? Through your marketing experience, could you give a mailing list count range that a newer lawn care business should consider purchasing when they send out mailers, postcards or whatever they might? Should they shoot for 500? 1000? 2000?
The size of your list really depends on your budget. If you're a little guy just starting out, I'd recommend at least 1,000-1,500 names. That way you can concentrate your efforts and dollars on a smaller, but highly targeted population.

If you've been in business for a number of years, I still wouldn't recommend a list any larger than 2,500, at least initially.

It makes a whole lot more sense to concentrate your efforts on a small population instead of a broad audience simply because your marketing dollars go much further. With a large group such as 5K+, you water down your ability to develop name recognition and send multiple marketing pieces to. So, by cutting your list down to a manageable size you give yourself much more opportunity and flexibility when it comes to establishing a relationship.

Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]For a newer start up lawn care business that has been in business for a couple of years, do you think 5000 mailings would be too much for them to handle or afford? Or is this something they should strive to shoot for?
Again, for a guy just starting out 5K is WAYYYY too big. I'd liken it to trying to empty the ocean with an ice cream bucket. Good luck.

You'd be better of getting a list of 1K names that's highly targeted, both geographically and demographically, and then sending that list 5 different marketing pieces spread over a period of a few months. You end up spending the same amount ,but you've contacted your targeted prospects multiple times, with multiple offers, giving them multiple opportunities to respond.

I GUARANTEE your results will be 10 fold what they'd be if you start off with a list of 5K.

Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]What I was thinking is it would be very difficult to find a list of people whom are considering but have yet to start their own lawn care business. I could be wrong though. The next best shot I would think would be to contact new and existing lawn care businesses that were interested in finding a better way to profit in the same industry.
I agree. It would be a difficult challenge, trying to find people not yet in business but considering it. Of course, there are multiple 'opportunity seeker' type magazines you MIGHT be able to get a list from, but you'd want to make sure they had numerous selects available to ensure you're getting people interested in a lawn care business.

You're definitely better of targeting new or existing lawn care businesses looking to align with a known name. And, the first place I'd suggest for getting a list would be any of the industry magazines. You know the prospects are already in business, and you would simply want to select a list of businesses that hadn't been in business long or weren't very big. You should definitely be able to add this select to your selection process.

Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]Now what I am sure others are thinking about asking is, what kind of response should they be looking for with such a list? Would they be lucky to see a 1 to 2 % response to their mailings?

Ultimately is there anyway with your experience to calculate on average how many of those response will result in a sale? A sale of one time service or annual lawn care service?
I usually take a very conservative approach and anticipate at 1-2% response. If you base any financial projections on anything higher, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. At the same time, it's not uncommon to see response rates of 3-5% and even more IF you have a carefully crafted marketing piece.

As far as how many responses will result in sale, it ultimately depends on what you're offering and how good your follow-up processes are. If your initial offer is simply a free estimate (or 21 point lawn analysis as I've suggested), whether or not it converts to a sale comes down to how well you are at closing the deal. If your initial offer is a particular service, then every response should be a sale.

There are a number of ways to structure your sales process, but I like to offer an initial free, or low-cost trial that allows the prospect to try you out without committing to too much. Of course, as you're there providing the initial estimate or fulfilling the offer, you should have an upsell script to try to get them to commit to additional, more expensive services. I could go on and on about this one, but I'll save it for an additional post.

Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]Say the business owner buys a mailing list of 1,000 addresses. Should they test 500 with one headline and test 500 with another

or

Should they send out 1000 postcards, and then a few weeks later send out another 1000 with a different headline and compare the results?
Here's how I'd handle this one. If I had a list of 1K names, I'd create 4 groups of 250 and use each one as a test group. I'd put 2 initial mailings, same everything except for the headline, and mail it out at the same time.

Which ever group produces the best result, take that mailing and send it to group #3. With group #4, I'd create a very similar mailing, except this time I'd change something else, like the offer. Then when you get the responses from these mailings start the process over.


As you get through the testing cycle, you should end up with the one piece that pulls the best. This piece will then become your control. Every time you mail something out, you'll use the control piece as the benchmark and gage everything else to it. If something beats the control, that piece then becomes your control.

This is a bit of an abbreviated testing cycle simply because ideally you'd want to test several variations of each element, but with a limited budget you can't really afford to go through too many iterations.

Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]5 to 7 contacts? Does this include articles about you in newspapers or hearing word of mouth of your business from others? Or does this only pertain to mailings?

What is the best way to reach out to potential lawn care clients over a years time? Should you send out the same card each month or should you do something different each time like possible a newsletter?
The 5-7 contacts does include any 'touch' such as a newspaper ad, word of mouth, etc. But remember, in most cases those 5-7 touches aren't going to happen unless you're proactive at reaching back out to your prospects. That's why I recommend sending multiple pieces.

The method I typically recommend is to send a 3 letter series spaced 10-14 days apart, depending on the deadline or offer. Then, if they don't respond to any of those, send them a follow-up offer at least once a month for the next year. Each month the offer should be something different or at the very least it should be a different message so the prospect stays interested.

As far as the medium for delivering this offer, after the initial 3 letter sequence, a postcard would be just fine. After the initial letters they'll know who you are and if you've kept your previous communications interesting enough (i.e., NOT the boring image type advertising more businesses send), they'll know who you are and actually look forward to your communication.

Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]When purchasing a mailing list, do you pay per mailing or for a specific time frame?
This one depends on where you get the list from. If you purchase the list from a list broker or from a managed list (magazines, etc.), you typically rent the list for one use. If you purchase a list from a compiled source (EdithRoman.com, InfoUSA.com) then you own the list and can mail to it as often as you like.

And if you're thinking about getting your list from a managed list source and then mailing multiple times, don't. The list managers usually seed the list with dummy addresses that allow them to make sure you're not using it multiple times.

Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]The newsletter you are speaking of, is that you to your customers or is that a service you offer your customers to send to their customers?
The newsletter I was referring to is for LCO's to send to their customers. It's a 4 page, hard copy newsletter that requires a small bit of editing to make it a completely 'customized' newsletter for any LCO.

I've been testing it out with several companies, and if anyone's interested in getting in on the test just let me know. Very soon I'll be offering it as a service for sale, so let me know if you'd like more information about it. In the meantime, if you'd like to see a previous version, just let me know.

Pheeewww......okay, enough rambling for now. I hope this helps!
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Old 09-17-2007, 11:32 PM
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Thank you for all that great information! That was very educational!

Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]The newsletter I was referring to is for LCO's to send to their customers. It's a 4 page, hard copy newsletter that requires a small bit of editing to make it a completely 'customized' newsletter for any LCO.

I've been testing it out with several companies, and if anyone's interested in getting in on the test just let me know. Very soon I'll be offering it as a service for sale, so let me know if you'd like more information about it. In the meantime, if you'd like to see a previous version, just let me know.
I would and I am sure others would love to see your previous newsletter! Please post it.

What can we do to help you promote your testing? How many lcos do you want and what should we promote to get them to contact you? What type of fees would be involved and I will get the word out. How often would the newsletter(s) be sent? Give me the low-down.
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Old 07-12-2008, 11:56 AM
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I wanted to bring this post back to everyone's attention. This is gold when you are thinking about doing some direct marketing.
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Hello!
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