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Converting customers to organics

Industry News, Bionutrition Today sponsored by Lebanon

Talking points for convincing existing lawn care clients to upgrade to biofertility programs.

Heather Taylor | August 8, 2011

In the world of ever increasing environmental consciousness, organic lawn care services are becoming an easier sell.

“You get some people that know (about organic products). If you want the honest truth, most customers just have to hear ‘organic’ and that’s as far as it goes. It’s not hard to get people on board,” says Ryan Wilmott, owner of R-Green Organic Turf Fertilization Systems in Northampton, Pa.

But many home or business owners are still unsure of organics’ effectiveness and reluctant to take the plunge, especially when the service is priced higher than a traditional synthetic fertilizer program. Not that there aren’t lawn care operators who have been skeptical. But many have been coming around to bionutrition, which is the practice of applying living microorganisms into lawns to improve the soil structure, leading to healthier turf.

Pointing out how bionutrition is different from people’s perception of organics can be essential, especially when competing with another organic company, Wilmott says.

“For most organic companies using an organic-based fertilizer, it’s a whole different thing and not even comparable,” he says.

Wilmott has talking points he shares with clients to share the long-term advantages of his organic program. “I basically tell them we feed the soil, and the soil feeds the lawn,” he explains.

Eric Greenwood, owner of Heritage Lawn Care in Ann Arbor, Mich., says he charges more for the biofertility program, but it’s a considerable value to clients. The programs help cultivate a healthier lawn and reduce the amount of pesticide needed, creating a savings for clients. Lawn care operators also apply less nitrates or eliminate them all together, so property owners save on that as well, Greenwood says.

“I tell clients they’re getting natural insect and disease suppression, a pH adjuster and fertilizer with weed control, at no extra charge,” he says.

The bionutrition program doesn’t require as many applications as synthetic fertilizer, so the client pays for fewer trips as well, Greenwood adds.

Greenwood continues to offer a traditional synthetic program for the “select few that don’t want anything to do with” the organic program.

Other lawn care operators are switching their fertilizer program solely to biofertility. To retain the skeptical clients, they’re boning up on selling points to convince the sticklers that they won’t miss synthetic products.

“Synthetic fertilizer is actually not good for the lawn system from the soil and root standpoint,” notes Wilmott, adding that biofertility, on the other hand, nourishes the soil. “That’s one of the big changes I focus on when I talk to people.”

Chris Koelling tells clients that lawns actually deteriorate over a 10-year period when they’re treated with synthetic fertilizer.

“Anybody in the lawn care industry that has done fertilizer applications knows you can take a lawn with nothing done to it and make it look fabulous the first year with traditional fertilizer,” says the owner of Lawn Perfection in Mt. Vernon, Ill., adding that over time the fertilizer “destroys” the soil.

Koelling still offers some synthetic fertilizer in some of his programs, but he tries to incorporate bionutrition in all of them, gradually adding more.

“As a turf guy, I’m trying to wean the company that way anyway,” he says. “I see the future going that way; I think there will be more of a demand for it. I think the company that doesn’t embrace it will pay for it in a loss of sales.”

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