Friday, November 28, 2014

Home Magazine Lawn care in focus

Lawn care in focus

Features - Grow the Market

Exclusive L&L research sheds light on what homeowners think about LCOs.

Chuck Bowen | November 23, 2013

Late last year, we conducted the first major post-recession survey of homeowners’ perceptions of the landscape industry. We asked more than 675 homeowners across the country why they buy landscape and lawn care services, what they think of contractors, and how they decide what to spend on improving their green spaces.

This month, we’re focusing on the lawn care market. Some of our key findings conclude that almost three-quarters of American homeowners do some form of lawn, tree or shrub care, and many believe LCOs are the best source for products and effective treatments. Read on to learn more about what your customers are thinking, and what they want from your company in the next year.


Market scope
There’s clearly a lot of market opportunity here for LCOs. Two-thirds of homeowners already support the idea of lawn and tree care, but have just chosen to do it themselves. These numbers follow what we’ve already learned about homeowners’ approach toward yard maintenance (76 percent do it themselves; 12 percent hire a contractor). This means a majority of them understand the benefits – or at least appreciate the results – your programs can offer.

These numbers indicate that, for people who hire professionals, LCOs are viewed as a resource for superior technical information. Three-quarters of homeowners see contractors as having better understanding of the products used to maintain healthy trees and turf. And, a majority think LCOs have access to better products and can get better results. About half of homeowners have an aversion to the products used, and slightly more respond to the idea that they have better things to do than lawn care. Just a third of homeowners said they have health issues that prevent them from doing their own lawn care, but this number should continue to increase as homeowners ontinue to age.

Far and away, frustration with the quality of the work performed was the top reason homeowners fired contractors. This could mean a lot of lawn care operators are doing shoddy work, or it could mean homeowners have too-high expectations. I don’t think it’s either of those. I think it’s a third reason: A lack of good communication between the homeowner, the salesperson and the technician doing the work. More than any other segment, LCOs are at the mercy of the weather, and the promise of a PGA Tour-worthy front yard is easy to mess up on a good day. Contractors need to manage their customers’ expectations better at all levels to ensure satisfaction with the work performed.

 

Upselling Opportunities
Upsells don’t have a lot of traction with the average homeowner – just 40 percent are in the top category of very likely to purchase additional services. For customers who already contract some or all of their landscape services, though, that number jumps to 52 percent. That hesitancy for new services makes sense when you consider 57 percent of homeowners don’t trust what contractors tell them.

But when we asked those homeowners who resist upsells why they’re not very likely to buy, there wasn’t a clear winner. Less than half agreed with the statement that their yard looks good enough as is, and just 41 percent said the services didn’t fit into their budgets. Less than a quarter said they didn’t believe they really needed the service. These numbers may point to a lack of understanding what services like aerating, dethatching and grub control actually do for a lawn.

We did ask about one upsell specifically related to lawn renovation: aeration. The majority of homeowners don’t aerate their lawns, and of those that do, just 13 percent hire a contractor. For homeowners who already employ an LCO, a whopping 81 percent buy the additional service.

 

DIY Details
Price is a motivator when homeowners consider starting lawn care services. The vast majority of consumers who say they do their own lawn care say LCOs are too expensive. Two-thirds take pride in doing their own yard work, and a similar number say they just plain like working in the yard. About a third say they can do a better job than professionals.

 

In Case You Missed It
We launched Grow the Market in our February issue, which has loads more data on how homeowners think about landscapers and landscape services generally. That report also includes some great features that walk you through not just what people think, but how to use this information to improve your day-to-day business operations.

We covered things like how to coach your customers past the price question, how to weed out unprofitable clients and how to improve communication with your customers.

We’ve also been breaking down the survey by service segment and other key demographics this year. You can find all our published reports at http://bit.ly/llgrowmarket.

And you can get up-to-the-minute updates on more of our data, as well as information on how you can improve your own sales and marketing, on Twitter by following @growthemarket.

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