Property by the numbers

Features - Cover Story: Grow the Market

Our exclusive research will help you better understand and sell to commercial property managers.

February 6, 2014

In our latest Grow the Market research project, we asked property managers across the country what they thought of landscapers, why they hire you and why they fire you. Turns out communication, quality work and reliable account managers are some of the best defenses against low bids and shorter contracts. Use these data to help you better understand your customers and prepare for the coming season. – Chuck Bowen

Who we talked to

We surveyed 248 commercial property managers, building owners and other folks to see what they think of landscapers. Everyone who answered our questions is in charge of hiring the landscaper at their buildings. All told, we received responses from 43 states.


Why they hire you

Far and away, quality of work and staying on budget are the most important things to the average property manager when it comes to hiring a landscaper. For as much talk as we hear about low bids and the cutthroat nature of the commercial world, price comes in tied for fifth on the list of top reasons. This jives with what we’ve been hearing in the last few years – that many contracts went to low-bid companies during the recession, but property managers got what they paid for when it came to quality of work. After a year or two of shoddy craftsmanship, property managers came back to the more expensive – but more reliable – contractors.

Coming in a distant second, with 19 percent, is a high level of customer service. This suggests that even if you can’t come in at or under budget, or the quality of work isn’t up to snuff, you can still win the business if you’re up front and communicate well about the status of your jobs. Green services and certifications come in dead last, with just 2 percent of property managers choosing those as the top reasons to hire a company.


Again, we see that almost two-thirds of property managers say the most important thing about their landscaping is how it looks. Keeping the landscape a low-cost item on the budget is a distant third place, with just 9 percent of respondents choosing price. About one in five say the most important factor is simply not having to worry about it.


Why they fire you

Almost three-quarters of respondents cited problems with services or improperly completed jobs as the most common reason they fired a landscape contractor. In second place was poor customer service or bad treatment by an account manager, which highlights the importance not just of quality work, but of putting the right person in charge of handling each customer. High prices came in near the bottom of the list, with just 4 percent of property managers saying it was why they often changed landscapers.


When asked what a landscaper could do to instil confidence in their company, more than half of respondents said excellent communication. Everything else – multiple service offerings, being local, a long tenure in the market – pales in comparison, with those responses just barely breaking into double-digits.


Let’s talk about money

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. Of those property managers who have increased their landscaping budgets, about half say they’ve bumped up less than 10 percent. About four in ten say they’ve increased spending by 10-19 percent.

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.


When we asked about the next two years, half of the respondents said they plan on increasing their landscape budgets. Another 45 percent said they would keep their spending about the same. Just 7 percent said they would be spending less by 2016.


A sharper sales pitch

We asked our respondents to tell us how much they agreed with the following statements as a way to judge what was truly important to them when it comes to their decision of hiring landscapers. These numbers indicate the percentage of property managers who said they agreed or strongly agreed with each statement. Use these as a way to hone your sales messages.