Add-on Biz: Mailbox installations

September 4, 2014 -  By

Mailbox installations deliver a nice profit for a New Jersey landscape and fencing firm.

High-end vinyl posts are one type of mailbox offering. Photo: Mayne.

High-end vinyl posts are one type of mailbox offering. Photo: Mayne.

A spectacle of damaged mailboxes after a heavy snowfall got Chris Demato’s wheels turning toward a way to help the homeowners and his business. The owner of Rock Bottom Landscaping & Fencing had the vision of adding residential mailboxes and posts to his service offerings. A decade later, it’s become a small but mainstay service for his Somerset County, N.J.-based company.

“What’s nice about the service is once customers invest in having a really nice mailbox, it’s not uncommon for them to go a step further and enhance the front of their home with some additional plantings or maybe a landscaped area around the mailbox,” says Demato, whose firm is 70 percent design/build and 30 percent maintenances, serving residential and commercial clients. “It’s an add-on that’s led to more work. Plus, it helps us be that one-stop-shop we want our customers to see us as.”

Because the company already installed fences, Demato says getting into mailboxes and mailbox posts was a “natural transition.” The installation process is essentially the same as installing a fence post. Therefore, the company already had the know-how and required equipment: a post-hole digger, a level and a wheelbarrow.

“Installing a mailbox post requires digging a hole and installing concrete footing, much like you’d do with a fence,” Demato says. “As far as new services go, it’s always nice when you already have the knowledge and the equipment because there’s no investment.”

Demato offers high-quality, decorative mail posts from an outdoor furnishing supplier. They’re an upgrade from the standard posts customers could buy at a home improvement store. He orders products directly from the manufacturer and says the nicer quality differentiates what he does as a professional service versus something homeowners could do themselves.

“There’s more craftsmanship involved in the posts we offer, and it has more of an impact on curb appeal,” Demato says. “In addition to the vinyl posts we also offer veneer stone mailboxes. If we’re on a job installing a brick patio or a block wall we can use that same material to make a nice, decorative mailbox.”

In fact, about 30 percent of the mailbox jobs come about this way. The remainder come from direct marketing. If Demato notices a mailbox is out of shape while he’s on a job site, he encourages the upsell. Sometimes it’s just a small revenue boost to the original job, but the profit margin for mailboxes generally is around 50 percent.

In terms of pricing, Demato says the flat rate he charges can vary widely, based primarily on installation time. A basic wood or vinyl post is a simple job and starts at around $400. But putting together a brick or stone mailbox is a more detailed endeavor and can cost up to $2,000. Mailbox installations typically require a two-man crew. The most critical element, making sure the post is level, requires two sets of hands.

To market the service, Demato uses his website and direct mail campaigns targeting higher-end residential neighborhoods. He markets the service in mailers each spring and has found that effort to be most successful after a bad winter.

“After a bad winter it’s not uncommon mailboxes need to replaced because of getting banged up by the snow plow or because of dealing with the pressure of high-piled snow,” Demato says. “The spring is the best time to target this kind of work.”

 

Service snapshot:

Company: Rock Bottom Landscaping & Fencing

Location: Somerset County, N.J.

Service: Mailboxes and mailbox posts installations

Why: To fill a need while becoming more of a one-stop-shop

Biggest Challenge: “Understanding the differing codes for different townships in regard to mailbox height and how far it has to be from the street was our biggest challenge,” Owner Chis Demato says. “These are just things you come to remember in time.”

Best Tip: “The faster you can learn a new service, the better,” Demato says. “It makes sense to look for things that are natural transitions. For us, mailboxes were a natural transition from fencing installation.”

About the Author:

Payton is a freelance writer with eight years of experience writing about the landscape industry.

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