In this article we will discuss advertising methods most commonly used in commercial lawn care businesses. Though this is just a partial list as the possibilities are almost limitless, we will try to touch on the most common methods of advertising used by new lawn care business start-ups.
YELLOW PAGES | PHONE BOOK ADVERTISING:
We will discuss advertising in the yellow pages first, as I consider this to be the biggest return on investment when it comes to advertising, as well as the most costly. Even with the internet age, the phone book is still the place were the majority of individuals turn to first when looking for a local business. Having your company listed in the phone books yellow pages is by far the best return on initial investment in my opinion. With the cost of advertising in the yellow pages increasing each year, most phone book publishers have begun offering monthly payments as a means of paying for your company’s ad. With prices ranging from a couple of hundred dollars annually to several thousand dollars depending on the size and location of your ad.
When we first started out, we basically had a small display ad (the smallest they offered), instead of running just a text listing. Display ads capture a potential customer’s attention easier and it offers a quick way of letting your potential customer know of the services that you offer. Though you can create your own yellow page ad yourself if you are adept with software such as Adobe Photo Shop. Most phone book publishers have graphic artist on staff that can create your ad based on your company’s criteria.
Text ads, though cheaper to purchase, may not be the most cost effective if your rate of return off the ad doesn’t justify the initial publication cost. Try to remember the last time you looked up a company in the yellow pages. If you knew the business name that you were searching for, you probably quickly scanned down the text listings till you found the one that you were hunting for. More than likely though, if you did not know the name of an individual business, and were just looking for say a plumbing business, the display ads probably caught your eye first. Text ads do serve a purpose though, and will help an individual find your business phone number when looking for your name, as well as those individuals who are looking for just a random lawn care company.
Considerably cheaper to purchase, having your company listed only by a text ad is definitely better than not have your company listed at all. I would recommend though that if your finances will only allow you to invest in a text ad that you try to at least spend the money and have the listing in bold. This will help in making your text ad stand out from the others somewhat. Most larger cities now days have more than one phone book available. Check with each one regarding pricing and distribution to determine which book will offer you the biggest bang for your buck.
As we have discussed above what I consider to be the biggest return on your advertising investment, flyers would fall into my least return on initial investment and effort scale.
Though you may read on the many different forums on the internet regarding the use of flyers as a means of advertising, the rate of return is generally less than 2%. That means for every 1,000 flyers that you stuff under someone’s windshield wiper blade, or hand out as they are coming out of a grocery store, you will get roughly 20 phone calls requesting quotes. This may seem like a good deal of business on the surface, but let’s put a few numbers to it.
First off most copy businesses charge generally a minimum of $.05 per sheet for copy service. At a 1,000 copies, you’ve already spent $50.00. Then you must calculate in at least a day to walk around and pass out the flyers. I remember when I first started out I put a dollar value on my time of $35.00 per hour. Not knowing any better, I estimated this is what it would take to pay myself a decent salary as well as pay for my equipment. This figure was low, but we will discuss that in another section. But just to have something to work with, we will use the $35.00 per hour fee that I estimated my time to be valued at.
Well if you consider it will take a good portion of a day to pass out a 1,000 flyers to individuals, at $35.00 per hour that comes to $280.00 for an 8 hour day. Combine that with the $50.00 you spent at the copy center, and your now into your CHEAP method of advertising to the tune of $330.00. That is close to what you would have spent for a text ad in the local telephone book yellow pages.
Yes, as we have discussed, you stand the potential of getting 20 new customers so let’s put some numbers to it. When first starting out, and unless the properties are extremely small, you will probably average somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 cuttings a day for residential. Less than that if they are larger properties, or less than that if you short cut and do sub standard work. At 6 yards a day, it will take you roughly 3.3 days to finish mowing your 20 new customers. But to keep the math simple, let’s just assume that you can complete mowing the 20 properties in an even 3 days working 8 hour days. At your $35.00 an hour rate in an 8 hour day, minus the cost of printing and handing out the flyers, you’ve made $370.00.
Now if you divide the $370.00 into 3 eight hour days, you’ve actually earned only $15.41 per hour. I can tell you from experience that isn’t enough to pay for your equipment, much less your salary. Now I am not totally against the use of flyers as a means of advertising, as I feel they do serve a purpose and can be a quick way to pick up some new clients. I would not advise stepping off into the green industry business with the idea that all you have to do is go pass out some flyers in order to strike it rich. Also please note, just as a reminder, placing flyers inside a homeowner’s mail box is illegal. Federal Law prohibits an individual from tampering with the mail,and although your only placing a flyer inside a mail box it is still considered a felony.
FREE CLASSIFIEDS | PENNY RECORDS
Just about any time you enter a convenience store, you’re bound to see a rack with free local classified ads. Though generally nothing fancy, as they are usually in a news paper style format, they do offer a way to promote your business for a reasonable amount. For generally $30 – $40 you can have your business ad run for several days or weeks. These free classifieds newspapers reach a very large audience, and though probably not the first place someone would look to in searching for a lawn care company, you can pick up the occasional individual who might not have been actually looking for a lawn maintenance company but after seeing your ad remembered that their own yard needed to be mowed.
LOCAL INTERNET CLASSIFIEDS
If you happen to live in an area that is lucky enough to have a local online classifieds website, this can be used as another source of affordable advertising. Having done both print and internet advertising, you seem to pick up a different class of customer through internet advertising than you do print advertising. Not to try and stereotype anyone, in my experience the customers we have picked up from internet advertising tend to be a little better off financially, a little more up to date on landscaping trends, but generally will not be as tolerant of sub standard work.
I really like door hangers, although I have not personally gone door to door hanging them on homeowner’s door knobs. Our technique was that we had door hangers printed up which stated that we were in their neighborhood servicing their neighbors yard and would like to extend our services to their home as well. Our flyers also stated that we had briefly looked at their yard and could offer our services for $xx.xx dollars per cut. The bottom of the door hanger was a detachable business card that they could remove and keep with them. We had our door hangers custom printed by online printing company for around $80.00.
MAGNETIC SIGNS | YARD SIGNS
I really like this particular lawn care advertising method personally. Having good magnetic signs on the sides of your truck is an invaluable method of free advertising. Not only are you advertising your company as you drive around town from job to job, but it also makes it easy for individuals to see who it is servicing their neighbors lawn. A good set of magnetic door signs will run you around $100.00 for a set, but it ranks second on my list of must dos. Yard signs are also excellent when it comes to prime advertising. Though you will spend probably $150.00 on a set of signs, these can be placed in customer’s yards (with their prior approval), making it again easy for neighbors to see who it is servicing the lawn.
Regardless of the landscape advertising method you choose to promote your company, a good marketing scheme is critical as word of mouth advertising will only reach so many individuals.
I understand that at first your advertising budget will be extremely limited, which is why I have attempted to list several of the most common forms of advertising methods above. To try and sum up the above though, in my personal opinion, I believe the two most valuable forms of advertising a new start up lawn maintenance company can do is:
Yellow Page Advertising (display ad)
Magnetic Truck Signs – Yard Signs
I recommend budgeting the most you can afford towards good quality advertising, perform quality work, and watch your business grow!
Evergreen Lawns is a free information website offering tips and suggestions to both homeowners interested in Do-It-Yourself projects, as well as information for those individuals interested in starting their own commercial lawn maintenance business.