If you are on a tight budget, I believe mailbox flyers or door hangers are the best idea. They are inexpensive and extremely effective.
A photocopy only costs about $.08 and you can fit 3 to a page. If you do the math, if you are getting 1 customer for every 100 you put out (1% return rate), it will cost you $2.66 for that customer effective. My success rate has been in the range of 1-5%. However, this is good considering such a low cost, and many of these customers I have maintained for years.
It is actually illegal to stick flyers in mailboxes (even if its just touching the flag or the post). So I wouldn’t do this. But if you were to do this, it would probably be much faster putting them out, and you would only get caught maybe one out of 5 times. And you should try to time it so that you put them out just after the mail comes otherwise the mailman might take them out of the box and call you and tell you not to do it anymore. And maybe use a florescent color paper, so it stands out from the rest of the mail. Ehem. But I am just guessing these things would theoretically be effective..
Anyway, a better idea might be door hangers. Although they are slower to put out, it does give you the opportunity to start conversation with the homeowner, if so desirable. If you actually talk to the people, they are more likely to respond than just to a flyer in their mailbox.
We have been really pushing these door hangers in the last couple of years simply because in this business, you make money on density. It takes two seconds to throw one on the door across the street and the more accounts you get in one area the better off you are going to be.
Keep in mind that although many of the leads will come in the day or two following the placement of the flyers, leads trickle in throughout the season as people tend to hold onto these flyers and call later in the season for whatever reason.
Direct Mail Marketing
With the painting business direct mail is our primary method of advertising and gives us good results, about 1% return. This is however on much larger projects so a 1% return amounts to a much higher dollar value. So I thought I would try this method for my lawn care business.
Attempting to expand in 2008, it was my first year attempting to use a direct mail campaign for my lawn care business. In 2008 I sent out 2500 parcels (at approximately $.60 per parcel) and only got 1 customer through this. It is a very good, full service, high paying customer. But a high price to pay at $1500.00. This is the 4×6 postcard I sent out in 2008:
These are the controllable factors with direct mail. However, some factors such as the weather when the mail hits as well as the exact properties that receive the mail cannot be controlled. This is why I have chosen mostly to hand deliver the parcels with mailbox flyers (besides the obvious difference in cost.) With the mailbox flyers you know exactly who you are delivering to and when they will get it. Direct mail is a complicated marketing campaign since there are many options to choose from. Besides the obvious factors of design and type, the demographics must also be chosen.
In terms of demographics, there are many choices such as the geography, dwelling type owner/renter, and household income. There are the demographics that were relevant to my campaign.
I knew the zip codes I wanted to market in. This was easy; the area where I normally do service. I knew I wanted a single household dwelling and not sending to rental houses. However, choosing the homeowner income was a more difficult choice; I chose homeowners with a combined income of $75,000 to $125,000.
My logic in this was that I didn’t want people that couldn’t afford the luxury of having their lawn mowed, and didn’t want people with so much money their expectations were too high.
I opted to send the mail in 3 different mailings, 1000 on April 3, 1000 on April 10, and another 1000 on May 5 (note there is an additional $50 charge for breaking up the mailing.)
What I have learned is that direct mail is complicated and multiple mailings need to be sent out before any usable data is acquired. Since I only tried it once, I don’t have too much to go by at this point.
UPDATE: 2014 Direct Mail Results
Since updating this website on direct mail 6 years ago, an incredible amount of things have changed in the company. One major thing has been our marketing budget- We have a $25,000 marketing budget this year.
I had learned a ton from attending the GIE-expo in Kentucky as well as various SBA meetings. I wanted to give direct mail another try.
So in 2014, I decided to try the USPS’s EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail).
With EDDM, you no longer have to pick demographics. The idea is, the postage is cheap since they just put one in every mailbox based on the route codes you give them through their system. It is a flat rate for any size parcel fitting their criteria, so I opted for the largest, 6×11. My 2014 direct mail examples are below:
This time around, we sent them to the same addresses 3 times throughout the spring. What I like about the EDDM is you drop them off exactly when you are ready and you know the weather, etc.
We recorded a total of 32 total leads from our direct mail in 2014. 18 of these 32 leads leads were converted to clients. So that is a 56% win rate on these estimates from direct mail, or a .02% response rate (32 leads out of 15,000 sent). $5000 was spent on mail, which means we paid $156 per lead and $278 per client.
Expensive, for sure, but once we exhausted all cheaper marketing channels this still got us additional work we wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Additionally worth noting, that many customers that said they “saw our truck” also saw our direct mail just didn’t mention it as to where they heard of us. So there are many not immediately seen benefits from sending out 20,000 pieces marketing with your logo on it.
This year we are putting a stronger offer on our pieces in hopes for a better response rate.
Marketing with Flyers and Business Cards
Another method I have tried is posting advertising flyers and business cards in locations such as grocery stores, local gyms, home improvement stores, and coffee shops.
This is another very cheap and passive way of gaining new lawn care customers.
One of my highest paying and loyal customers I got using this method. Simply putting up a flyer with a description of what you offer and little rip off tabs is effective. Many times they get taken down, but you can print and put up several flyers around town in a few hours time. I would recommend doing this in combination with other methods to get your name out there.
In addition to deliberate advertising rounds to local bulletin boards, I always keep business cards in my wallet. That way, whenever I see a bulletin board where people put their business cards I can tack one up there amongst them. Also, if a see a business where people put their cards on the counter, I will ask if I can leave mine up there too.
When I have the budget to hire a full time marketing person, you can bet that this tactic will be on my list of job responsibilities. I would have them regularly make rounds to put up business cards and flyers all over our work areas.
I have used this tactic since I first started and to this day, it still proves to be a very worthwhile marketing tactic.
Job Site Marketing
By on site advertising, I mean having your employees wear company t shirts and having your company name and phone number on your trailer and/or truck. Our trailers are all enclosed with our logo and phone number right on them which I know for a fact gets us a ton of visibility, let alone keeping our equipment dry and safe.
Neighbors will see these and recognize your small business. Just last year (2014), I started really pushing the yard signs. In the past, I had always put about 15 or 20 of the sign below, only at our client’s houses. We always get heavy duty (not the normal flimsy) sign stands, otherwise they just blow over in the wind.
I noticed a local tree company trying to establish themselves had a lot of signs up, all over the place. Not just on customer’s properties but public, high visibility locations. If I was noticing them everywhere, then surely others were too.
I purchased 25 signs and plastered them all around town for fall cleanups. We were getting a ton of calls! Especially in combination with our direct mail hitting the areas at the same time. They were so successful, I purchased 25 more. Our signs were simplified, and straight to the point, easy to read, very effective.
Given how successful this campaign was, I decided to do it again this spring, except I started out with 50 signs which I have yet to put up. It will go out with our EDDM direct mail and I will update this page with its results.
Newspapers and directories
Advertising in Local Newspapers:
In the past, I have advertised in a local paper. The ads ran about $200 for a couple weeks. It was a business card sized ad in the local classifieds section. We didn’t have much luck with it and we were having a much higher success rate with our money put into online marketing, so we pulled the plug for about 5 years.
Times have changed, and digital marketing seems to be a much more cost effective method of advertising. Having maximized our online presence, I am experimenting and once again trying newspaper marketing.
The reason I decided to try it is during our conference in Kentucky, a speaker suggested using circulars in the local newspaper. I extrapolated on this idea, and wanted to try the stickers that go on the front of the newspapers. These stickers go right over the front page of the cover story, so EVERY person that gets the paper actually has to read it.
When you advertise in the classifieds section, you have to figure that although the newspaper advertises that their newspaper is distributed to say, 10,000 readers, how many of those 10,000 even glance at the classifieds section? 10%? So now you are down to 1000 readers. Out of those, how many see your ad. 25%? Now you are down to 250 readers. Out of those 250 readers, how many happen to be looking for landscaping services? Lets say 5%. So maybe 10 calls if you’re lucky. So you see what I am saying.
However, I am excited about this new marketing approach, as I think there is very good visibility using this method. Out of the 10,000 readers in the example above, 100% of them will see the ad. I will update this page once I have the results.
Cost: $70 per thousand with a 10,000 minimum purchase. I opted to run in 6 prints, for a total of 21,440 for about $,1470.
Another method I have used in the past is the Yellow Book (Hibu).
Similar to the newspaper, I feel that this type of advertising is phasing out. The Yellow Book and other similar advertisers have started joining the digital movement with yellowbook.com and related websites. They now have online directories that they can put your ad in in addition to the print phone books, which I assume they are printing less and less of.
Regardless, I have continued to keep the least expensive ad in the yellow book just for a presence. I thought about pulling the plug on this last year, but upon analyzing my website traffic, I noticed we did get a handful of visits through the yellow book site. With the cost I was paying if one converted to a client it was still worth the advertising to keep it up.
The last (and most important) reason I decided to keep it up was for the SEO advantages. This is another credible site pointing towards our site and helping to boost our search engine presence.