Brand new market, same great approach

Features - Cover Story: Grow the Market

February 10, 2014

When we launched Grow the Market last February, we sought to conduct the first major post-recession study of homeowners’ attitudes about their landscaping and lawn care. We wanted to find out why Mr. and Mrs. Jones hired you, and why they fired you. How much do they spend on your services, and what they were planning to spend in the next few years?

It was a great report, and we ran a year’s worth of stories based on the data. I was excited to share it with every reader I talked to. But I was in Atlanta last winter, doing just that – sharing my excitement and geeking out about this data – and the contractor I was talking to looked at the notes, then at me and said, without missing a beat: “This is good. But what about property managers? I don’t do residential service.”

How we did it

In mid-January, the editorial team at Lawn & Landscape teamed up with the fine folks at BOMA International – the nation’s leading property manager association – to distribute a web-based survey to their members. We also asked some key commercial landscape contractors to pass along the same link to their customers. Ultimately, we received 248 responses from property managers, building owners and facilities managers in 43 states across the country. The data in our report this month come from these people – all of whom, regardless of their specific title, are responsible for the hiring and firing of the landscapers at their properties.

I left a bit deflated, but with a plan to replicate the same ideas in a different market. And so Grow the Market II was born, in which we sought to answer the same questions about commercial property managers. Here are some of the key points we learned:

  • Far and away, having good communication and high levels of good customer service ranked far ahead of pricing or services performed. Those are much more difficult to do, sure, but not impossible.
  • Most of our survey respondents – 60 percent – spend more than $20,000 a year on their entire landscape, and almost half of them say that budget has increased since 2011.
  • Just 11 percent of respondents say their budgets have decreased in the last three years, and most of them say that drop has been less than 10 percent. About a third of them say they’ve slimmed their landscape budget by between 10 and 19 percent.
  • Seventy-eight percent of respondents to our survey say that a well-maintained landscape at their building helps increase occupancy rates.
  • Three-quarters of property managers agree that a well-maintained landscape is good for the environment.
  • Two-thirds of survey respondents say that a well-maintained landscape helps save water.
  • And, in a nod to how contractors stack up to other professions, only 7 percent of respondents say that they spend more time working through problems with their landscaper than with other service contractors.

Now, residential service still is the bread and butter of the average landscaper, producing two-thirds of sales, according to our 2013 State of the Industry Report. Commercial work makes up just 22 percent of the average top line. For smaller companies, those numbers are thrown into higher relief: Companies earning less than $200,000 a year earn, on average, 17 percent of their revenue from commercial accounts. For companies earning more than $200,000 a year, commercial business only accounts for 28 percent of their top line.

To me, that shows commercial landscaping as an untapped market for most of you reading this column right now. The following pages contain a treasure trove of data and analysis that will help you either enter the world of commercial landscaping, or intelligently expand your current commercial division. Our report does exactly what it says on the tin: It helps you grow your market. So read on and take notes. It’s time to move on up.


To read our 2013 Residential report go to