By Jennifer Lemcke
Like any lawn care professional, you understand that the benefits of a healthy lawn are copious. Unfortunately though, many homeowners are not aware of the various services their lawn requires in order to remain beneficially green and plush. For example, properly maintained lawns can help residents stay cool during the summer months. It is estimated that eight healthy front lawns have the cooling effect of 70 tons of air conditioning, which is enough for 16 average homes. Additionally, a healthy lawn improves the environment as it produces enough oxygen for a family of four.
Services such as fertilization, weed control, aeration, grub treatments, overseeding and top dressing each play an intricate role in maintaining a healthy lawn. As a lawn care professional, it is crucial that you not only educate your customers on why these various services will benefit their lawn, but also ensure that you properly market your services. The following are some of the benefits of each professional service mentioned above, as well as ways to market these services.
Fertilization and Weed Control
In order to maintain growth, it is necessary for soils to contain various amounts of nutrients. Just as we may require vitamins to replace nutrients our body may be missing, lawns that are missing nutrients require fertilizers. Fertilizer assists in promoting a healthy lawn by relieving the stress of aging, neutralizing any damage done by lawn disease or pests, eliminating the competition for nutrients with weeds, and replacing nutrients lost by the removal of grass clippings.
In addition to stressing the importance of fertilization and weed control, you want to ensure that your customer programs include four to five fertilizations per year. The appropriate number of times per year though will obviously depend on the climate of your region, the type of fertilizer being used, and the type of grass.
The benefits of aeration are two-fold. The process of removing small cores of soil and thatch from the lawn will open up air pockets, allowing fertilizers, water and other sources of plant nutrition to sneak down to the roots of turf plants. In addition, aeration can overcome a compacted soil and enhance the development of a deep root system, which, as a result, will reduce watering requirements for the homeowner.
The condition of the lawn will help you determine how often aeration should be done. The best time to do it though is in spring and fall when the soil is moist.
Grubs are one of the most destructive pest problems during the summer, and can cause lawns to be vulnerable to additional damage from animals such as skunks and raccoons. Being proactive by implementing treatment during the late spring and early summer months will diminish the chance for damaged grass roots.
It is important that a grub problem is properly identified, as there is a common misconception among lawn owners that a grub problem is actually just dryness and that water will restore the lawn. Once the problem is properly identified, understanding the source of the problem as well as the cycle is equally as important. As a lawn care expert, you can help your clients properly identify and treat a grub problem.
Overseeding is one of the most important lawn care services as lawns begin to age and plants slow down their reproduction rate. Overseeding will help a lawn remain healthy by making sure that the grass is looking and feeling younger. It will provide a thick lawn that will assist in eliminating weeds and defending against various lawn diseases.
Overseeding lawns in the fall will reduce competition from summer grasses and will give the grass a leg up for the spring season as the roots will grow before the winter season.
Spreading topsoil across the turf will help upsurge the quality of the overall soil, allowing it to become more resistant to drought by retaining better moisture. Some of the additional benefits of topdressing include reduced soil compaction, diminished thatch, developed durability of turf rooting, flattened bumps from an uneven lawn.
Topdressing also combats weed infestation by producing new shoots for denser grass cover. The soil should be applied during the spring or fall (with spring being the most preferential time as it will expose the weed seeds to minimum growth).
While your customers must understand the role that each of your core services play toward achieving a healthy lawn, as the professional, you must spend time developing a solid marketing plan in order to achieve maximum customer leads.
Properly marketing your services to customers is critical in ensuring that they understand what they are purchasing and why these services are needed for their lawns. But there is no one particular way to develop a marketing plan. Developing and implementing a plan is dependent on the region of the country from you are operating, because the agronomics of each region vary.
On a general level, it is a good idea to market your services approximately six to eight weeks before the service is needed. Doing so will allow you to generate considerable customer leads. For example, since many of the services should be applied during the spring season, you can begin marketing between February and April.
Some of the marketing initiatives with which Weed Man franchisees have had success include door knocking, e-mail marketing, direct mailing, and direct communication over the telephone. If you are a franchise concept and have the ability to host conventions or webinars where your franchisees can come together to share ideas, it could be beneficial to host a marketing workshop. It will allow your franchise owners to share their marketing dos and don’ts so that each owner can develop a solid marketing plan that works for their particular territory.
In an economy in which people have become frugal with their spending, customer incentives can go a long way. Incentives that have proven to be successful include pre-paid incentives –such as offering a discount if customers agree to pay for the entire upcoming season — or discounts for existing customers who refer new customers. You can even offer special promotions for customers who pay for certain services that you would like to aggressively market.
While educating your customers and ensuring you have a concrete marketing plan may seem like a strenuous process, being prepared can take you a long way.
Jennifer Lemcke is the chief operating officer of Turf Holdings Inc/Weed Man USA, Canada’s number 1 lawn care provider and a growing network of locally owned and operated lawn care professionals in the United States providing environmentally responsible fertilization, weed control and integrated pest management services. Lemcke helped launch Weed Man in the U.S. and is responsible for training and supporting all Weed Man sub-franchisors and franchises. Lemcke has served on the board of directors of PLANET and recently served as chair of its governance committee. She can be reached at 905-579-4000, ext. 115 or firstname.lastname@example.org