You already have an established list of customers, and you can use those contacts to your benefit.
You’ve grown your landscape or lawn care business successfully and now have a long client list that rivals Santa Claus’. But how can you use that list to start a successful holiday lighting business?
Mike Streb, director of sales for Christmas Lights, Etc., says a survey of customers is in order first before anything else. And that can actually serve as a way to promote the business, too.
“Survey people who might be interested in it,” Streb says. “Once you find out that enough people are interested in it, then put a business plan together – here is the marketing side, purchasing, personnel, etc. Then it’s time to inexpensively market through postcards and fliers, or make the decision to pitch the service via a PowerPoint presentation to a decision maker.”
Without a survey, it’s simply up to the lead salesperson to figure out how to capture the business, Streb says. “I have this client list of 500 accounts, half of which are commercial and the other half is high-end residential. And gosh, this guy, Joe Homeowner, also does Christmas over the top, so what do I need to do to sell him on this? Why have I given up this business in the past when I already had an ‘in’ by doing other work for this client?”
Scott Heese, president and owner of Holidynamics, recommends sending current customers a personal letter, then a “statement stuffer” followed up with a scripted phone call. To generate new business on top of that, he recommends participating in a direct mail campaign.
“Once you get on board with us as an affiliate, those are all the benefits you receive on the back end, including a discounted direct mail program,” Heese says. Timing is critical, too, since holiday lighting tends to be a seasonal business.
“A lot of decisions with budgets for holidays are made before summer,” Streb says.
Paul Sessel, president of Creative Displays, says, “The earlier you plant the seed and the more often, the more realistic chance you have of getting the deal.” Tony Snider, owner of Holiday Lights Decorating in Phoenix, has been doing holiday lighting for 18 years, so he has a rock-solid client list to work from. He puts out an e-mail blast to all of them four times a year to promote his services.
As far as finding new clients, word-of-mouth works best. When people call to inquire about his services, he directs them to his website. In his first year doing holiday lighting, Chris Beneduce, owner of Impressions Holiday Lighting and Décor of Warwick in Rhode Island, opted to send fliers to only a select group of customers in certain geographic areas.
“I wanted to make sure I could handle that volume of potential business because I didn’t want to become a victim of my own success,” he says. “So we took it on gradually and grew the business from there to see exactly what I needed to handle that side of the business.”
Sessel also recommends a simple and cheap approach before mailing every client on the list. “(Crews) should mention that they do holiday lighting while they’re out doing whatever service they’re already doing,” he says.
For a business primer on how to succeed in holiday lighting, read L&L’s 2012 whitepaper series at www.lawnandlandscape.com/whitepapers.