How to Get Commercial Lawn Maintenance Accounts
How to Get Commercial Lawn Maintenance Accounts
Having a good mix of property types is the key to building a profitable and enduring lawn and landscape company. Most new lawn and landscape business owners are focused mainly on acquiring commercial accounts. While these accounts can pay large checks each month, there are certain tips you need to learn before committing to only commercial accounts.
Not only will you have to purchase larger mowers and trucks, but you will have to train your crews differently to handle commercials accounts. And, you will have to manage your business differently to be very successful.
To understand the pro's and con's, and the direction you need to take to land commercial lawn accounts, read below.
Commercial Lawn Maintenance vs. Residential Lawn Maintenance
Like anything else in life, before you dive head-first into marketing to, and acquiring commercial lawn maintenance contracts, you need to research and understand the "ins and outs" and best practices for commercial work.
The first main difference is your personal relationships with owners.
With commercial work, you will rarely see and interact with the owner of the property. As opposed to residential work, where you might see and talk with the owner on every visit.
Because of this, you'll need to treat your commercial contacts differently than residential. Of course, you'll want to be friendly, courteous and professional... you'll just have to find different ways to interact with commercial owners. (More on that later).
The benefit with commercial accounts is the size of the check each month. But, don't let the check size fool you. What really matters is how much money you are putting in your bank account.
Commercial accounts have historically produced less margins than residential accounts.
Yes, commercial accounts have the same job tasks as as residential accounts: You cut the grass, trim, edge, prune and plant. But, commercial accounts require a different approach to the work.
Commercial lawn accounts typically require different equipment: bigger mowers and trucks.
A common mistake owners make, is having the same crews that perform residential work, perform the commercial work.
I'm not saying this won't work... but, it is much harder. That's because commercial work requires a different mindset to be successful.
But, having commercial accounts become a profitable part of your lawn and landscaping company is doable. You'll just need the right mindset, business tools and the diligent preparation needed to see it through.
Tips for Finding Commercial Lawn and Landscape Accounts
First things first... if you're new to the lawn maintenance business, it will take you more time to get your first few commercial accounts. (But hey, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it right!?)
The most important channel for finding commercial accounts is to leverage your current residential customers, period. Do a great job for residential accounts and you'll get more business—both residential work and commercial work.
Two things need to be in place before you pursue commercial accounts (or more business in general):
- Make sure your crews do the work to the highest standard possible.
- Communicate early and often with all of your customers.
If you are not doing either of the 2 listed above. Stop reading now. Go and correct those mistakes.
If you have mastered the 2 tips above, read on.
Demand High Standards
Servicing your residential accounts to the highest standard possible is a no-brainer. You should be doing the best possible work you can. It's not hard to achieve a high-quality standard for your lawn business.
Take pride in your work. Work hard. And, do the right thing.
You—or someone in your business—should be talking with customers all the time.
Talking on the phone, or in-person conversations are fabulous! However, sending an email, or letter, or note is an easy method to communicate with your customers. Put a process in place and follow the process.
The importance of this constant contact with your residential customers is the most important business indicator of maintaining a lasting, profitable lawn and landscape business.
And, it's the easiest thing in the world to do!
Where to Find Commercial Accounts
Let's first answer the questions above:
- Are you providing the best possible service to your residential customers?
- Are you communicating regularly with your residential customers?
If you can answer yes to both these questions, keep reading.
The best and most profitable place to find commercial clients is by asking your current residential customers. Ask your current residential customers for referrals. Specifically commercial referrals.
These current customers are your network—leverage it!
Remember the old adage: It's not what you know, but WHO you know.
This is 100% true. Your current residential customers will absolutely be your best introduction to the people you need to talk with to acquire commercial customers. Do it.
Bidding On Commercial Lawn Accounts and Landscaping Contracts
Bidding on commercial accounts is very different than bidding on residential accounts. That's because you rarely work with the owner of the property in commercial work. (Residential, you almost always deal with the owner).
Your main contact at a commercial property could leave—or get fired—at any time. And typically, this person is not the final decision maker to approve your bid.
So, this fact makes it very difficult to create long lasting relationships with commercial property contacts.
In addition, the higher check amount associated with commercial accounts is often offset by lower profit margins. This is a fact that you'll need to take into account.
We have several Sagenine users who only focus on residential accounts, because of the low profit margins associated with commercial. You'll need to make this decision based on your business goals and needs.
Additional Tips for Getting Commercial Lawn Maintenance Accounts
If you are having trouble acquiring commercial accounts, here are some additional tips.
Stay Away from National Commercial Property Owners
Big, nationwide commercial owners are very difficult to reach. They typically have their own "favorite" lawn company, and don't care about finding a new one.
This is fine. Once you understand this reality, move on. There's plenty of commercial properties to service.
Look for Locally Owned Commercial Properties
Locally owned commercial properties are great because, most often you have a chance to deal directly with the owner.
Locally owned properties also have the best opportunities to up-sell for additional revenue.
Drive around your market area and look for properties that might be locally owned.
Things to look for include:
- Lawn needing repair
- Overgrown shrubs and plants
- Numerous weeds
- Trash around the property
- Signs that need replacing
- Windows that might need cleaning
After you have found the properties you want to target, find a way to contact the owner.
This could include mailing a letter or postcard, phone call, or simply stopping by.
Bring Something When You Visit
If you are going to "stop by", you should call first and offer to bring lunch, coffee, cookies or something else. This helps you get your "Foot in the door" and gives you the opportunity to talk directly to the decision maker.
Offering to bring in lunch for the office staff will almost always work!
Getting the Contract
It may be tempting at first to bid commercial accounts lower than you normally would—allowing you to get your foot in the door.
Resist this temptation!
It will not work out well in the future. What you need to do is stick to your set profit margins.
When determining how much profit margin to add to your bid, consider the following questions:
- Are there any competitors submitting bids?
- If yes, who are they? And, how much do they usually price jobs?
- As a company, do you have cash in the bank?
- Are you making money every week?
- Will landing this account lead to additional work?
- Is there any up-sell opportunities with this account?
You can make commercial lawn accounts a profitable part of your business, but only with the right business tools and strategy.
The big checks associated with commercial lawn accounts and landscaping contracts are great, but make sure your business is ready to deliver an outstanding service. And, make sure your business is not too dependent on any single commercial account.
At the end of the day, your lawn and landscape business must have a good mix of residential and commercial lawn accounts to be super successful.