10 reasons why you should participate in EOPs

(Graphic: LM Staff)
(Graphic: LM Staff)

Imagine it’s March and the winter weather has finally broken for much of the country. Your clients are champing at the bit for you to get out and start treating lawns, but instead of having inputs ready to go, you and your team are spending time securing the products you need for the season.

This, experts say, is precisely why lawn care operators (LCOs) should consider participating in an early order program, or EOP.

“This program can help them by making sure they’re efficient and well planned during that busy spring 12-week time frame and not chasing something down,” says Brett Rieck, Eastern regional sales manager with PBI-Gordon. “So, when the weather breaks, you go as hard and as fast as you can to get that first round of applications completed.”

Here to detail 10 benefits of early order programs are Rieck; Stephanie Schwenke, turf market manager with Syngenta; Chris Moyer, Corteva Agriscience turf and ornamental category lead; and John Smith, vice president of commercial operations for Amguard Environmental Technologies.

10. Your business has grown.

Demand for green industry services shows no sign of slowing down, and this scenario has likely boosted your business. A great reason to participate in EOPs, manufacturers say, is if your business has experienced year-over-year growth. Rieck says EOPs help contractors plan for that growth and understand exactly how many inputs to buy next season, especially for those companies that have doubled or tripled clients.

“It makes them think through and go, ‘how many acres am I really treating now? I don’t have 2,000 customers; now, I have 2,500. I don’t have 500 customers now; I have 1,000,’” he says. “Some just don’t know they are covering that many new acres.”

9. You want to add a service.

As you start to look to next year, EOP season is a good time to think about adding a service such as pest control, Smith says.

“Take advantage of EOPs by taking the opportunity to add a new service or an offering to your customers,” he says. “Because you’re doing it at a much more affordable price.”

Smith says adding a service using products purchased with EOP pricing allows you to charge a premium for that new offering and drive a good profit margin.

8. You want to try a new product.

As with adding a new service, experts say EOPs are a great time to try a new product. Contractors will get the bonus savings during EOPs and have the ability to try something new. Rieck says if a contractor has contemplated changing up a product mix, there’s no better time than EOP season.

“I suggest that everyone try the next new thing, whenever they want,” he says. “If you’re going to do it, you should know exactly what you’re doing and plan ahead. When you know within reason what you have to treat, make your best choice and pull the trigger.”

7. There are tools to help you understand the savings.

Suppliers offer many tools to help you calculate your savings throughout the early order program period. Tools such as Syngenta’s GT365 online calculator populate the savings realized as lawn care operators begin filling out a sample order form online.

“It very clearly shows LCOs what they can save if they buy in October and November versus waiting until February,” Schwenke says. “Savings will be automatically calculated for them to place an order, print, share and save through the online calculator, making it easy to plan each year.”

6. Your distributor may help with space.

Some lawn care professionals may avoid EOPs because of space issues at their operation. Manufacturers say they can still take advantage of EOP pricing without adding storage capabilities. Many distributors will work with companies to store products until needed or find ways to help an LCO who has minimal storage.

“There are storage capabilities at distributors,” Smith says. “If asked, a distributor may store product for them until they need it in the spring.”

5. You don’t have to buy for your entire program.

Experts say a good idea for contractors getting started with EOPs is to take a small amount of the business and purchase products through EOPs for that segment, even if that’s just the first and second round of applications. Many LCOs offer a prepay system or early signups. This gives you an estimate of inputs needed next year.

“(Ask) ‘What percentage of my business do I know I’ve got locked in?’ and take advantage of EOPs,” Smith says.

4. You’re going to need it.

Rieck says many lawn care pros believe they could get stuck with excess product if purchased through EOPs. He says that’s why it’s a good idea for them to start with a small percentage of the business to purchase inputs for.

“No one usually has any left,” he says. “They always think they’re going to, but they always have so many upsells and so many other things. It’s always gone. They’re always having to buy more in every round.”

3. Plan now, save the scramble.

Instead of trying to find products at the same time as the calls, emails and inquiries start in the spring, with an early order program, lawn care firms have a good chunk of their applications budgeted and planned for.

“Planning ahead and purchasing early allows lawn care operators to secure the products they rely on before the rush of the season,” Moyer says. “Ordering early not only secures the quantity but also the preferred package sizes.”

Rieck says now is a good time to imagine that first warm day of spring, above 70 degrees when LCOs are anxious to get the first applications down.

“When the weather breaks and it’s 70 degrees, those days are huge if you’ve got an inventory. You can bust out there and get round one done,” he says.

2. The best prices you’ll see.

LCOs may think it’s better to ride out the market and see if a fluctuation in prices ends up saving them in the long run, but experts say it’s unlikely prices will go down for chemical inputs.

“In the last two years, you are not seeing a whole lot of price fluctuations where you see significant price decreases,” Smith says. “In 2022, you’re not going to see that, where prices drop significantly.”

Locking in EOP pricing even for a small amount of the business can free up some funds for use elsewhere, such as marketing, customer acquisition or hiring.

“Early order programs are designed to create business opportunities for companies that have tight cash flow before and during the season,” Moyer says.

1. Avoid supply chain issues.

As LCOs have noticed, 2021 has been a year of supply chain disruption. EOPs are a way to ensure you have the products you need when you need them.

“If LCOs were ever doubting the reason to participate in an EOP, I would highly encourage them to consider this to be the year they engage, plan and participate,” she says. “There’s a shortage of employees. Turnaround times to get product and deliveries can be anywhere from two weeks to a month delay due to shortages of truck drivers, much less packaging.”

In short, EOPs help lawn care companies prepare for the next season. “With EOPs, LCOs have the confidence that they’re going to get what they need when they need it,” Schwenke says.

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