Mistakes To Avoid: Advice on Buying Equipment & Lawn Care Marketing

02:14 – Lawn Care Equipment Advice
03:05 – Remember: You are In the Business of Selling Time
04:20 – Marketing Campaign / Direct Mail Advice – Tips to consider
08:50 – How To Know when you absolutely should not buy a new piece of lawn care equipment
13:32 – Snow Plowing Business Advice (should I be in the snow business?)

Video Transcript

This question is from Matt.  It’s a long question.  I’m going to read it, it’s about five questions in one and then I’m going to break it down.  The gist of it is, he’s new in business, he’s about to do his very first marketing campaign, marketing mailer, he has small mowers but he’s thinking about buying some bigger equipment so that he can mow some bigger properties and he’s also asking about snow plowing.

Let me read the question and then I’m going to break it down.  I started a lawn care business in July of 2013, by the way, I’m recording this in January of ’14, I have 22 inch Toro self propelled and love it.  I took your advice, I have five or so properties, not very big.  A fellow landscaper friend has a 31 inch mower for $300, he’s going to sell it to me.

However, I got Dan Kennedy’s magnetic marketing and from that I have got a first of three letters written and I have contacted a mailing list agent and they are charging $150 for 3,000 names.  I’m going to mail 100, maybe 200 out on February 12th.

My friend who owns a two acre lot said he would like it if I took care of him. I can’t take care of him with the mowers I have, the guy who has the 31 inch mower said I should stay away from small lawns now.  Excuse me, stay with small lawns now.

If I got a bunch of great properties that would be financially to get the bigger mower, the 48 inch mower, but really not until then.  I have someone that would help me financially, however 7,000 or more for a new mower seems steep.

Jonathon, I’m really excited about the upcoming season, I want to take advantage of the beginning of the season rush, do you know anything about snow plowing with you living in Texas, I would think not.  It’s snowing like crazy here and I wish I had a four wheel drive with a plow, maybe next year.

I would appreciate any information you can send my way.  Matt.

2:00:00  –  All right, so I wanted to read the question so you got gist, this video is going to be just a bit longer but I want to break this down into pieces, moving from the top to the bottom.  Matt says he’s got five properties, he’s using small equipment and he’s got a friend that will sell him a 31 inch mower for $300.  I can’t really comment on that, $300 is not much money so assuming that that piece of equipment isn’t going to constantly breakdown on you then go with it.

I’ll say this to you that with our small equipment, this is something we’ve done as we’ve become a bigger company.  With our small equipment, we sell it off every single year and just buy brand new equipment because the real cost is in the breakdowns and the loss of productivity.

Your biggest expense in your business because keep in mind you’re selling time, is your labor, the people you’re paying or if it’s you by yourself, it’s your time.  You’ve got to value your time, it’s worth a lot.  Because with your time, you’re going to build your business.  If you eat up all your time doing dumb, small little things, you aren’t going to grow your business because you’re not going to have any time.

Think about production, you’re selling time.  Every dollar, every minute, every hour you lose.  Let me say that again, every minute or every hour you lose is money you’re losing.  You can buy a $300 mower, that’s cheap today.

Tomorrow, next week when it breaks down, you’ve got the repair bills, you’ve got the parts.  You’ve got the time that was lost, you have the client that you made unhappy that now might not recommend you to someone else.  There’s all kinds of invisible little things that happen downstream.

The game is we’re selling time.  You want to maximize the amount of time you can sell, so you have minimize downtime.  I’m not saying that a $300 mower for 31 inches is short sighted, I have absolutely no idea.  I’m just saying make sure it’s one that will hold up, it will last.  Otherwise, you’re better saving your money and buying something better or buy it, use it just as long as need while you’re building money.  Sell it and then buy a better piece of equipment.

There’s several strategies here, but just remember the business you’re in.  You’re selling time, production is everything and downtime is a killer.  That’s called unbillable or unproductive time, it will ruin a business, sucks all the profits out of the business.

You bought Dan Kennedy’s magnetic marketing system, that’s great.  That was something that Dan built back years and years ago and it’s all still applicable.  A great little lesson there.  Some of the stuff that’s 20 years old, I’ve gone back and read marketing books from the early 1900’s and I’m amazed that they read very similar to the marketing books that I’ve read that were written two years ago.

Guys are regurgitating information.  People are still people.  All the same selling techniques to some degree work, it’s all still based on psychology so on and so forth.  Don’t ever discount the fact that something’s older, such as Dan Kennedy’s  magnetic marketing, I don’t know how old it is, maybe 20 years but great system.

Also recommend you buy all of his books on Amazon, especially all the ones that say “The Ultimate something” or “No BS”.  When you look on Amazon, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

You’ve built your first three letter campaign, you’ve never done this before so you’re probably not going to do a very good job at it.  No shot against you, you went through Dan’s stuff, you’re writing your first series of letters.  They may or may not work.

A couple of points here on this one.  You’re going to mail 100 to 200 of these on February 12th.  First thing I think of, February 12th so what does your letters say.  All right, so does your letters say, “I’d like to mow your lawn.”  Let’s just assume it does.

On February 12th, is the grass growing?  Are there any weeds popping up?  Is anybody sitting inside their home watching the Super Bowl thinking, “Man, I need to get out there and mow my grass” because if they’re not, don’t send those letters yet.  They will work best when your prospective client has pain.

When he gets up in the morning, goes out, gets in his car, pulls out of the driveway and looks at his yard and says, “I’ve got to do something about this today or my wife’s going to be all over me” or whatever the case might be.  He’s got pain, that’s when you want  your letter or your door hanger or your whatever to show up in his mailbox, on his front door, whatever.

Make sure for maximum results that you get this piece to him when he has pain.  No sooner, no later.  Timing is a challenge in direct mail but that’s the key.

You’re also starting out, doing your very first campaign.  If you mail too early, mail too late, mail to the wrong people, it doesn’t work, you might think, “You know what, this marketing thing doesn’t really work for me.  Jonathon, his company, they’re just getting lucky over there.  They’re Texas market, that’s different.  Not as much competition, plenty of employees”, who knows what you might imagine.  You’ll be wrong.

Everybody makes this mistake or most people do.  They think that because it doesn’t work for them, somebody else is lucky.  It works and I’m not saying that you’re thinking this way at all.  I just want to give you a little encouragement here, especially starting out.  Right now, it is critical, critical that you get some wins and you get some success that will build your confidence and you’ll keep plowing money into it and you’ll keep going.

I want you to be super successful with this.  Mail it when they have pain.  If that means you can’t time these at first then walk to 200 doors and put them on the door.  Get them out at the right time.  Two hundred is a very small number.  Two hundred could potentially yield you zero results.  I know that’s not exciting to hear but when you’re mailing, there’s so many factors in play.

Are the people that you’re sending these to really buyers?  Are you sure that these are people that buy lawn care service?  Of the 200, you’re mailing might 150 not really even be buyers, only 50 really hire out your service.  That’s critical because if you mail 200 and only 50 are really buyers then you only have an opportunity to sell at best case, 50 of these people and of those 50, only so many even need you right now or are even thinking about it or are even unhappy with their current company.

You’ve got to be really careful in this area.  Make sure the timing is right, make sure it’s going to the right people that are potential buyers and make sure that you’re saying the right thing.  You don’t know if you’re saying the right thing and you won’t know that until you try a few things.  I like that you’re doing a small amount, a couple of hundred but then you want to tweak it maybe a bit and do a couple hundred more.

Focus first on your headline, but you’ve learned a lot of that from Dan Kennedy, I’m sure.  Keep that education going, buy the rest of his books.

Then you go on to say that I have a friend who owns a two acre lot, he said that he could take care of me or I could take care of his property.  The problem is you need a 48 inch mower, I know very little about the situation here but my first thought is do not do that.  Bad idea.

Your advice that you got from another landscaper that says focus on the small properties.  I don’t know your market, I think he’s right.  It is by far the best, best, best, best scenario is to focus.  I’ve been incredibly guilty of not focusing in the past and what I’ve learned in every business system, the more you are focused, the more money you make.

The less focused you are, the less money you make.  Happens 100% of the time.  I believe it without question.  I’ve gone down the wrong road to know so focus is everything.  In my market, I’m 5,000 clients and my market, I have everything.  I have acre properties, two acres properties, huge commercial, small commercial, big residential, small residential, you name it, we’ve got it.  We’ve got a lot of it.

We’ve got a million competitors but we have decided to focus on very specific residential properties under a certain size and ignore everybody else and I am a bigger company.  Focus is still absolutely critical to my business.  Imagine how critical it is to your business, you have five clients.  You’re just getting started.

When you have 100 or 200 then think about maybe going to a different market.  I call a different market, bigger properties, different type of clientèle.  It’s not a totally a different business but it’s quite different.

Here’s the dilemma.  You’re going to go out and drop thousands of dollars on a piece of equipment to mow one lawn.  Let’s say that one lawn pays you $150 a week and that’s probably being generous.  How long is it going to take you mowing that one lawn to get back your 7,000.  Hypothetically, 7,000 because you mentioned that in the message.

Now that 7,000 could have been put to all kinds of other use.  It could have bought you a couple more small mowers, it could have when your truck breaks down get you out of a bind so you can keep the truck, the company running.  It could have done a bunch of marketing.

Let’s just focus on marketing.  What if your 200 mailers you sent out work but you went and bought a 48 inch mower to mow the one property you’ve got and now you have no money to send out 200 more mailers.  Now that’s a bad plan.  You just screwed up your whole season.  You really want to focus on optimal use of your money, which is how you’re thinking about this and the recommendation you’ve got from your friend was dead on.

Focus on the small stuff that way you can keep your equipment small, you can keep your costs down.  You can really learn how to do those properties just right.  You can learn how to exactly bid them, you learn all the new onsets, you know what those kind of clients care about, what they worry about, what they want and you can talk their language and you can get in and get out fast on those jobs because you know them.  Instead of being all over the board.

Get a bunch of those and then one day you say, “You know what, I’m so confident in my marketing and I’ve got a base of money that’s coming in that’s financing my business.  Now I’m going to get into the bigger stuff and I’m so confident in my marketing and my ability that I know that I can go get a bunch of big stuff to keep this $7,000 piece of equipment I bought running all the time”.

There’s nothing worse than buying a $7,000 piece of equipment to run it for two hours a week.  That is a horrible use of money.  You want that piece of equipment running eight hours a day, 10 hours a day, every day of the week.  At least five days of the week.  That way you’re totally utilizing your asset, your piece of equipment.

If you’re not utilizing it, you’re burning money, you’ve wasted money.  You might as well go rent that thing once a week somewhere and mow that property and then turn it back in because that would be a better use of $7,000.  Think about it that way.  I’m saying don’t do it, focus on the little stuff, go crazy with that.  Market to those clients, blow that business up then think about diversifying.

Moving on.  I’m looking at your notes here.

I made the point use your money to grow.  I think that’s a big, big point.  Anytime you can avoid spending the money, delaying the spend on the money, putting it off into the future that gives you flexibility, that gives you freedom and that’s what you’re trying to buy because you’ve limited capital.  Keep your money free because you never know what opportunity might show up.

If you put that money into a $7,000 piece of equipment unnecessarily, tomorrow a big opportunity shows up maybe a guy wants out of the business and he’ll sell his accounts for $30 an account, you can’t buy them, you have no money.  You want to always be liquid enough with your money that you can take action on opportunity and so delay expenditures to the last minute.

It’s easy to run down the street and buy a piece of equipment.  You can buy it in an hour so hold that money to the last minute.  That gives you the most opportunity.

Your last question, snow plowing.  You’re totally right.  I know virtually nothing about snow plowing.  However because of service autopilot, we have a lot of clients that plow snow.  I’ve spent a lot of time talking to them, even have been to Chicago and flew … Or brought a bunch of companies in, flew in some clients, put them up in hotels, spent a weekend with them and learned about the snow business so that we can build snow portion of our software.

I’ve learned about snow but I’m in no way a snow expert.  What I’ve learned, it’s a hard business.  Most everybody I talked to hates the business but it makes them money.  Almost everybody I’ve talked to would love to not be in the business but it provides consistency throughout the year.

You have your mowing season then you have your dip, snow provides consistency.  Huge value but a hard business.  I would say to this one, it’s the same answer to everything I said before, focus as long as you can.  When you start building employees, you’re going to have to find something to keep them busy so you can retain them.  Snow might be that thing.

If you’re going to have to go out and buy a bunch of equipment, four wheel drive truck, a plow.  How many accounts can you realistically sell?  If you can’t sell a bunch then don’t do it.  Here’s what else could happen to you.  You could go out and spend all this money on this truck and this equipment, you can only sell a few of your own accounts so then you subcontract to somebody else to keep yourself busy and then you start living on that income that you’re getting as a contractor.

You start depending on it and then the next thing you know, you are practically an employee because they keep you so busy, you don’t have time to build your own business that’s a trap.  Be careful on that one but you should probably put off the snow for a bit, a period of time.  Focus on the lawn side and then diversify into snow when you’ve got some capital and you’re ready.

Hope that helps you out and I will also send you my ebook on how to start a business, a lawn care company.  I think that will give you some more clues here on what you might want to do.

Thanks Matt, good luck.

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