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5 Critical Steps to Kick Off Your Rural Lawn Care and Landscaping Business

Sponsored by Echo

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Use these 5 steps to start your own lawn and landscaping business or apply them to another business that you’re building from the ground up! 

If you want to start a business out in the country, it’s going to take more than hard work. In addition to all the effort you can muster, your startup is going to take well thought out processes that set you up for success. Property management services, such as lawn and landscaping service, are well worth all the effort, but before you start you need a plan of action. Based on my experience in the lawn care and landscaping industry, there are five critical steps for your business to be successful.

Step 1: Test, Target, and Evaluate Your Market

If you’re thinking of running a lawn care business, you know all about the hard work that goes into delivering on mowing, weeding, edging, and other landscaping contracts. What you might not realize is that identifying, connecting with, and effectively communicating with new clients is just as critical to your long term success. While it is sure to be frustrating, confusing, and intimidating at times, take a deep breath, and buy a couple comprehensive marketing books for small business owners and get to work!

Before you go out and buy a mower, the first thing you need to do is research your target market. How do you do that?

Identify your ideal client.

If you want to mow meadows, maintain fence lines and drainage ditches, identify the smallest acreage that’d be worth your drive and the largest acreage that your business can handle during the first year. Based on that number, and your driving radius, identify the size of the large-scale rural landscaping market that’s available.

If you’re trying to specialize in small acreage “maintenance” lawn care, you’ll need to identify the number of small towns and unincorporated communities in your driving radius that you could service. Like your average acreage, identify the average worth of property that you’re hoping to reach. Also identify the lowest property value that could afford your services.

Based on these acreage and property value ranges, get on the internet and search the number of homes in your radius that fit those criteria. If you can’t find that information in census data, you can go to brokers or marketing firms that want to sell you lists or do direct mail for you. (Warning: you might have to spend a little bit of money to buy these lists.)

Now you have a real picture of how many homes are in your market. Let’s say your target market has 1,000 homes that can afford $120 worth of service per month. Next, research current suppliers of rural lawn care and landscaping services to find out the going rate for services in your target region, and your potential competition’s reputation. This will give you an idea of the amount of demand for your services. Based on that information, make an honest estimate of how much of the market you will be able to sell your services to — let’s say 3%, which means that 30 initial clients will bring in $3,600 per month or $43,200 in revenue a year.

That doesn’t sound like nearly enough revenue to support the costs associated with a rural lawn service and landscaping business, so there are three things to do. First, plan to expand your market as you grow. For instance, you might want to focus on owning the market in two small towns. Once you’ve saturated that market, expand to another small town or unincorporated community. If expanding markets doesn’t give you a large enough market — a common issue in rural areas — focus on maximizing profit per client by upselling more services. How do you achieve that? In the past, if you only offered mowing, fertilization, and weed control services, move into pest control, tree cutting, garden tilling, and other services which are in high demand in your target region. If you can’t expand your market or the revenue per client, you need to choose a new market. That’s not the answer anybody wants to hear, but that is the reality in certain markets.

Once you’ve researched your target market and your marketing goals, you have two choices. One: if you have money to spend, and you want to go “all in” on your business, get some door hangers or flyers with a nice “Trial Rate Offer” to quickly find clients. Two: if you lack funds, or you want to start “safe,” go out and sell your services in person. Gather up a few regular clients, and figure out the basic processes of your business — before you spend any money on marketing.

Finally, be prepared for this trial period to be successful! You will want to launch your business website, social media presence, and geo-targeted pay-per-click advertising, such as Google Ad Words campaigns, but you can worry about all of that after you get started!

Step Two: Build a Business Plan for Sales and Marketing

I want you to be able to spend more time with your family and go on the trips you always dreamed of taking. I want you to get that car you always wanted. And if you always dreamed of being the boss of your own company, I want to see that happen. I honestly want to see you become your own version of “successful.”

You can do that with a lawn care or landscaping business. However, you will NOT accomplish all your dreams if your business stays small forever. That means you’re going to have to pound the pavement, do the work, and sell your services. Luckily, with the right marketing and sales efforts in place, this becomes a simple matter of numbers.

The startup question that I get all the time is how to raise money. I feel like most people who ask me that question — and this is a broad generalization — sit on the sidelines waiting for the money to show up when they should be taking some form of action. The reality about raising money to start a lawn care business or an irrigation business or a tree business is that it’s going to be really difficult to get that money. Unless you have equity in your home and you can refinance it or you have some other assets such as a paid-off car that you can finance and get cash or you have a good line of credit, you’re really left with asking a relative or a friend or a family member for money, or maybe there’s somebody you know that will invest in your business sort of as an “angel investor.”

Outside of that, you’re generally not going to get a bank loan, on something as high risk as a new business. Because these operations are lower-barrier-of-entry businesses, a lot of people get into these businesses and a lot fail. You’ll stand a much better chance of being successful if you learn from others’ mistakes and if you’re willing to offer services that others aren’t.

 

 

Published on May 17, 2017

Grit Magazine

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