“I’m new to the industry. How do I learn to price lawn mowing jobs so that I can win bids and be profitable?”
Pricing is really difficult. When I got started in the business I didn’t have the faintest idea how to price commercial or residential. I was clueless. I remember the challenge and the difficulty. I remember struggling to figure it out.
Jonathan gives his top three ways to raise lawn care prices easily.
I recorded a video some time ago about raising prices. In that video, I talked about how numbers prove that for most companies, depending on your net profit margin, you could raise prices by 10% across all of your clients, lose 25% percent of all your business, and still make the same amount of money. The idea of losing 25% of your revenue because you raised prices 10% is laughable. The odds of that happening are pretty slim, unless your business is just terrible at quality and customer service. The reality of it is that you might lose some number of clients or some amount of revenue, but by raising prices 10%, you’ll make so much more money. I want to cover just a couple quick ways that you could go about raising prices.
One: Rather than raising prices at contract renewal, which is when everybody else is doing it, and all of your competitors are marketing to all your clients trying to steal them away from you, what about raising your prices mid-season? This is one of my arguments against contracts, because contracts are the logical time to raise prices. So, if you don’t have your clients under a contract, it’s so much easier to wait until late summer and do a price increase at that time. What this does is, you don’t have your competitors marketing to your clients anymore. So your client, yes, they could go to Google and do a search and find a new company, but it’s just not as easy and convenient as it is in springtime, or at contract renewal time, when everybody’s pursuing them and trying to get their business.
Two: Raise your prices first on just your under-performers. If you use a system like Service Autopilot, or another system that can do job costing, go through your job-costing report and find your under-performing clients, based on how much money you’re making on that client to service their property, and raise those prices. Oftentimes in business, a lot of what we don’t do, that we never get done, that we never implement, it’s because we don’t know how to do it or we don’t have the confidence to do it. And raising prices is generally a confidence issue. Most of us are scared to raise prices. We’re afraid it’s going to cost us a lot of clients and everybody’s going to get mad and leave. In reality, that’s generally not the case. So, to build that confidence, you could first raise your prices on just your under-performers that you identify using some of your different costing reports in whatever software system you’re using.
Three: Simply raise prices on new clients. You’re unsure about raising prices on past clients, but you’ve at least identified where you’re doing unprofitable work, or where you’ve been under-pricing in the past, and you can adjust your prices that you use to sell to new clients. Then you could raise those prices by 10%.
So you haven’t had the same effect on your business because you haven’t taken a 10% price increase across the board. But, in my example here, taking for example the last two points, one, you’ve gone through and you’ve raised your under-performing clients to make them profitable. Some of them might fall out, but if you lose those, those are the ones that really aren’t so bad to lose, because they might have been costing you money or returning very little profit to your business. Then, the second option that I just mentioned was that you’re now raising prices on new clients, so all work that you sell moving forward is priced correctly at this new 10% price increase.
So, if you don’t have the confidence to raise prices across the board, at least consider those two ideas: under-performing clients and new clients. It’ll make all the difference in your business.
Learn why your lawn service prices should fall in the top 20% of your market.
I get the question all the time: How much money should I be charging for my services? How should I price my services? I’m not going to directly answer that in this video but I do want to talk about a concept that I think is really important.
I have been studying marketing since around the end of 2005. When you start studying marketing, you get introduced to a lot of really interesting people and they obviously teach on subjects other than marketing.
I noticed that what a lot of the gurus in the marketing industry tend to teach is that you should price your services at the very very top of the market. You should be the highest priced provider in the market for whatever it is that you want to sell.
I don’t really agree with that for the service industry and for my service business. That’s the point I want to address. As you’re learning how to price your services and you are working your strategic plan to get to the price point that you want to be in the market and be able to sell a lot of work at that price point so that you can make a good amount of profit, what I believe you want to try to accomplish is you want to be in the top 20%.
If you were to look at the pricing in your marketplace, whatever the service is that you’re selling, look at 50 competitors and write down the cheapest price somebody in your market charges to provide that service, and then write down the highest price that someone in that market would charge to provide that service.
Let’s just use fertilization and weed control. If someone for a 5,000 square foot property would charge $25 to do fertilization and weed control at that property, and at top end of that market somebody would charge $75 to do that service. If you picture that on a whiteboard or on a chart, you want to be pricing in the top 20% of the market. If you were to plot all the lawn service prices for everybody in the market and you were to divide that into 20% chunks, you want to see what the pricing is at the top of that 20% chunk.
I don’t know what that would be in your market, but you want to slowly figure that out over time. You’re not going to figure it out when you first get in business. You’re not going to figure it out on day one. You figure it out over time and as you figure it out, you start to price at that price point.
Now obviously, your service quality, the quality of your people, your customer service, everything has to improve and grow and get better so that you can get those prices. But, I believe that the sweet spot is in that top 20%. Why is that? Because if you’re the highest priced provider in your business, you can’t really build a big business.
If you know me, then you know that my whole concept is to build a business big enough to have somebody that runs it for you. Then, you also have to have a couple of layers so that even if that main person leaves, it wouldn’t all end and you’d have to be the guy running it again.
You want to build a business big enough that you can afford to have people to run the company for you, and that takes a while to get to that point. To get there, if you are the highest priced provider in the market, it’s hard to get enough business, enough volume of business, to build a business big enough to do that.
If you’re too cheap in terms of pricing, you can never hire the right people, the best people. You always have equipment problems and truck problems and employee problems, and you can’t afford to market. You can’t afford to do anything, so then again, you can’t build that business.
That top 20% sweet spot to me is the point that gives you enough money to grow a great company that can run itself and that will allow you to take a lot of money out of the business, and it will allow you to build, again, a big enough business to accomplish everything that I just said.
Watch Jonathan’s video to learn why you should raise lawn care prices 10% and how to get your clients to agree to pay it.
If I’ve been guilty of anything in business, it’s been under-pricing, not asking for enough money, and questioning the prices that I’m asking for even after I think through how much I need to charge.
I’d recommend that you take a look at, or do a few Google searches, around the topics of if you can raise prices by X and lose X number of customers. For example, you might Google something like, raise prices 10% and lose customers. Just look around and do some reading.
Several years ago, I read some books on pricing and so I raised prices in my business. I had done some price increases before but generally I had been scared to do that. I’ll tell you right now, I’m still under-priced in everything we do.
A lot of times the reason we’re under-priced is because we don’t have the confidence to raise prices. Or, we are not communicating correctly to explain to our client exactly why the price that we’re charging is the price that we should be charging and why it delivers to them tremendous value. I think most of us make that mistake so you might check yourself and see if you have that same mindset as well.
Here’s the concept, and this number that I’m about to state will change so your profit margin will affect what I’m about to say.
If you raise lawn care prices 10%, you could theoretically lose 25% of all your customers and make the same amount of money at the end of the year in terms of take-home profits. Remember, take-home profits is all that matters. There’s been some studies in the service industry that say if you raise prices 10%, you can lose up to about 37% of your customers. That’s huge.
I am positive that if I raise my prices 10%, I would not lose 25% of my clients. If I lost 5%, think about how much additional profit that would make me in my business and think about how it would affect your business. If you could raise prices 10%, only lose 5% of your clients, how much more money would you make?
The point here isn’t to give you the exact answer. It’s to give you a concept that proves to be true every single time you dig into it. Do some Google searches to research this and it will give you additional confidence to price your services correctly.
Charging Higher Prices Benefits Your Clients… The Video Above Explains Why.
The question is, “How much do I charge a lawn care client? I don’t want to overcharge or undercharge for landscape services.”
The main point I want to make about this topic is that you absolutely don’t want to be the low-priced company.
When you are the low-price solution provider, you can’t hire the best employees, have the best trucks and equipment, or spend the most money on marketing to out-market everybody else. You can’t afford to do all those things that ultimately make you a much better company at customer service. If you can’t afford the best employees because you don’t charge enough, then you don’t really have a good business. Great employees make your life easy.
Your strategy should be to be one of the higher-priced providers in your market. Not because you’re gouging your clients, but so that you can deliver incredible service to your clients. Most clients expect very little out of a lawn care business. If you can deliver anything better than the norm, you have the chance to wow them. You have the chance to get a lot of referrals and really grow your business.
Strategically, go in with the goal to be an average- to high-priced service provider. Start out average to learn the business. Get in the marketplace and study your competition. Use your competition as your guideline for quoting and for pricing. Use those same prices with your clients. Then study your own business. Learn your own business so you know how to price effectively.
If you have no knowledge whatsoever about pricing, there’s really no magic formula that says charge $55 per man-hour and this is what you do to figure out exactly how many hours there are going to be on the job. It’s all a learning experience. It’s about getting burned a couple of times and then never making those mistakes again. It’s about asking clients what they paid previously. It’s about price shopping your competition. It’s about having your friends ask the competition to come out and do an estimate at their home so that you can learn what they would charge. It’s about doing whatever you’ve got to do to figure out how to price.
Again, no magic solution, you just have to get out there and see what others are charging. Go on their websites and look around. You’ll start to build a feel. If you’re starting out first in residential, it’s really easy to figure out pricing.
Commercial, that’s a whole different deal and is a lot more difficult. That’s why I generally don’t recommend somebody that is just starting out in the lawn care industry to begin on the commercial side until you’ve got your feet wet. You have to understand the relationship of time to square footage, time to man production, time to equipment size, and then task the right equipment and the right size to the right property and the right area on the property. You also have to make sure you have the right guys working on the right task at each property. It’s a whole different game.
I recommend starting out in residential where it’s easy to figure out what your competition’s charging. Then go into the market and charge the average to get your feet wet. Learn the business for yourself. Then before you know it your pricing questions all go away.
If that doesn’t help, please ask another question and I’ll be happy to clarify again.
Watch this video to learn how to set lawn care pricing to earn the most profit for your business.
If you’re watching this video, I’d highly encourage you to watch video number one and video number two if you have not already, because this video is based on the last two videos. And in it, I’m talking about how to figure out lawn care pricing for yourself as your business evolves.
In the last video, what we did was figure out the time for eleven properties within the seven thousand and seven thousand nine hundred and ninety nine square feet range. Remember, we’re using mowing as an example and we determined that our price based on hitting our target of forty dollars per man hour, the price needs to be twenty nine dollars and seventeen cents to mow properties within this range.
So basically what we’ve done, is we went through our business and we just simply tracked our time and measured our properties and we figured out, for all the different square footage ranges, what we need to be charging to hit our goals and we could do this for every service…fertilization, weed control, lawn mowing, aeration and all the different service types. Then, what we do is we basically build out our lawn care pricing. We call it a price matrix in Service Autopilot. It could be just a layout like this for you inside a spreadsheet. We figured out in our business, hypothetically I’m saying your business, that for five thousand to six thousand square feet, you might need to charge twenty eight. And for six to seven thousand, you might need to charge twenty eight dollars. Again, keep in mind, we’re using fictitious numbers to lay out a simple example.
So, just simply lay out something like this for the different services at different square footage ranges. Then, when you go out, you measure the property with a measuring wheel or you go online and you measure it with satellite imagery or pictorial imagery. You can literally look at the square footage, look at your spreadsheet, or if you use Service Autopilot, it will figure out for you based on the price matrix and it will give you a price. Service Autopilot really simplifies pricing and it also helps ensure that you’re always pricing your properties to achieve your target man hour rate.
So, that’s the basic premise of figuring out your lawn care pricing from the beginning so that you can set it and then price off of it from that point forward.
Now, something you might find as your business evolves, you might have originally set prices like this, at twenty eight dollars and twenty eight for this square footage. But, then what happens as it evolves and as your property makes changes and maybe as a little bit of the market you serve changes or the demographic you serve changes, you’re going to notice that maybe you’re starting to achieve a little bit different man hour rates. So, maybe your goal is to achieve a man hour rate clocked around forty eight dollars. So, let’s just go with that.
If you’re trying to achieve forty eight dollars per man hour when you’re mowing, and you’re nailing that on this property right here, five thousand to six thousand square feet. But, now on six thousand to seven thousand square feet, you’re not. You’re more on this forty six dollar per man hour range. So then, you’d probably need to raise that price to about twenty nine dollars to continue to achieve a forty eight dollar per man hour range.
In video number two, we went through and we tracked all of our time and that helped us figure out how much we’re making per man hour. Then, once we figure out how much we’re making per man hour, and we figure out averages across the square footage ranges, we can then really analyze our business and we can really adjust the business. Something we found years ago at our business is, we were really doing okay in this five thousand to ten thousand square foot range. But, as soon as we got into the bigger stuff, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen thousand square feet for residential, we weren’t making money, or, we were not making good money. It wasn’t holding up.
In my example right here, notice what happens, we’re pricing six thousand to seven thousand square feet at twenty eight dollars. Remember that these are made up numbers, these are not my exact pricing and it would be totally different for you and your market. But in my example, notice that, six thousand to seven thousand square feet is priced at twenty eight dollars. We’re pricing fifteen to sixteen thousand square feet at thirty two dollars. But what’s happening on those properties based on how long they’re taking us, we’re only making thirty seven dollars per man hour. Our target in my example, was forty eight, so notice how far we’re under performing.
So what that would tell me as the owner of the business is that, we either need to stop doing properties like these or we need to figure out how to be more efficient. Maybe we need to construct a route that has bigger equipment on it, so that we can go through this type of property faster and we basically group all of those properties into one crew and get through them faster. You’ve got to watch out on the back side though. You could drive up your non-billable time. You might get your per man hour time, you might optimize it and make the per man hour time you want, but then your non-billable goes way up. You may end up with tons of drive time and so you still don’t end up profitable for the day.
There are lots of considerations here and those are things to think about. And, I know that I’m not going to win as much business, but at least when I do win the business, we’re making money and that’s the goal.
And so, the point of this screen here is to show you two things. Once you figure out your average pricing by square footage, you then take that and you set that for each of the square footage ranges. Then over time, you re-analyze your business and you figure out by square footage range, what man hour rate you are earning right now, on average. If it’s too low, you back into it. If you want to go up to earning forty five here, if you want it to go up to forty eight, how much do you need to raise this twenty eight dollar price? And if you watch my video number one, or excuse me number two, and you paused the video on some of my formulas, then you can kind of figure out how, this one here is about raising the price. So you can look at my formulas and figure out how to do this for yourself.
I hope that makes sense. If you have questions about this, post them in the comment section and I will, based on the comments, potentially record additional videos on this topic.