How I developed a marketing plan and strategy for my lawn care business

April 10, 2023 -  By
Mike Sisti

Mike Sisti

One of the most common questions lawn care operators ask me is, “What marketing should I do to grow my business?” I tell them it’s important to understand what marketing really means and know the difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan. A marketing strategy is the why, and the plan is the how.

My very first job in lawn care was in 1991. Imagine no cell phones, no internet and no social media. How in the world can you expect to build a business? 

It started with a marketing strategy of defining the vision, developing a unique selling proposition, understanding the competition and identifying the ideal customer. Let’s turn back the clock and look at how we developed a strategy for an aspiring lawn care company in New Jersey in 1991.

Starting with two trucks

At the time, we were picking up the pieces of a poorly run two-truck operation. The trucks didn’t even look the same. One was a small red Isuzu pickup; the other we called “Big Blue” — it looked more like a cement mixer than a lawn care spray truck.

Developing the vision meant understanding the aspirations of the business owner. How did he define success? What will this business look like in one year, three years or 10 years? 

For that first lawn care company, our vision was to build a consistent brand, maintain healthy lawns, create a strong relationship with our customers and provide a great place to work. A consistent brand meant developing a logo and tagline that reflected the company. 

Building a business

In the first year, we redesigned the company and the brand internally and externally. The company planned to deliver one structured agronomic program rather than many inefficient, a-la-carte services that did not provide any long-term value to the customer. Building in sound agronomic practices, like soil testing and core aeration, and providing training tools for our staff helped solidify ourselves as the lawn care experts of the area.  

Next, we defined our unique selling proposition (USP). What was unique about us? What’s the one thing we did better than anyone else? Building upon a sound agronomic plan, the company developed an owner/operator feel from the first truck to its sixth. 

It’s one of the reasons why I am still in this industry today — it’s all about the people. While we were small, it was easy to create an owner/operator feel because that’s exactly who did the work. As we grew, that feeling became our culture. It was part of the training for technicians, the sales team and the administrative people who answered the phone. We quickly replaced those who did not adopt the culture.

Lastly, we researched our competition. We focused on our top three competitors and looked at their messaging and how they delivered lawn care to their clients. We understood how their programs worked, how they billed their services, how they sold their programs and how they performed in the field. 

For research, we’d have our competitors out to our homes for a quote to hear their sales pitch (remember, no internet). Once we understood their pitches, we’d place all three side by side, determine their pros and cons and ensure we differentiated our marketing material. We’d never bad mouth a competitor; rather, we’d focus on the one thing we did better than anyone else.

As you create your marketing plan, understand it is a living document. It is your GPS that tells you where you want your business to go. If you make a wrong turn or the unexpected happens, adjust your plan. Finally, be sure to identify why you do something, before identifying how you get it done. 

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