Branded by a smile

Branded by a smile

How Your Green Team grew 200 percent by winning over your neighbors.

February 17, 2014

Some lawn care companies spend a lot of time conducting thorough evaluations that result in detailed estimates for new customers. The potential customer is left overwhelmed with information, yet can’t even recall the name of the company.

Then, someone from Your Green Team comes to the door. He doesn’t look like a salesman; dressed casually in “halfway-decent khaki shorts,” sneakers, maybe a ball cap, and a company shirt emblazoned with a smiley face. But that smiley face triggers something. Prospective customers have seen it before, even if they’ve never heard of the company.

“Our sales guys will say, ‘You’ve seen our signs in the neighbor’s lawn,’” says Shane Karlson, who owns Your Green Team with Kevin Igoe. “‘You know how that lawn looks. If you want your lawn to look like that, we’ll do it.’ They give them a business card with the price per application on the back, sell it in five minutes, and they’re onto the next one.”

Make it look good.

Since founding the company in Plant City, Fla., near Tampa, in 2008, Karlson and Igoe have realized that customers don’t care how many details or promises contractors deliver upfront; they just want their yards to look better.

Of course, Your Green Team makes a huge effort to communicate with customers, and the owners even follow up directly to assure it. But since the company figured out how to let the results speak for themselves, the monthly completed service volume has rocketed 200 percent in two years, from just more than $50,000 to nearly $150,000 per month.

“We sell off of what we’ve done, not what we’ll do,” Karlson says. “(Fertilization) is not something where people can immediately see the results, so you’ve got to get people to buy in by seeing the results with their neighbors.”

Back into maintenance

Five years after selling their last lawn maintenance company, Shane Karlson and Kevin Igoe re-entered the maintenance business in November, making Your Green Team a one-stop shop offering mowing, irrigation and design/build sevices in addition to fertilization and pest control. Using the same neighbor-concentrated plan of attack that grew the company, they expect a similar growth spurt in the new business by depending on neighbor referrals with the promise of a discount for mowing both properties.

“If you sign up for our lawn maintenance program, we’re going to mow your lawn weekly in the summer and come out every other week in the wintertime,” Karlson says.

The company may offer to maintain the lawn for $120 a month. If that’s not a good enough deal, the company will ask the customer if any neighbors need maintenance services. If so, the price can be discounted to $95.

Of course, the full-service aspect of lawn care is appealing to customers who struggle to keep the names of their service providers straight. The convenience of paying once online to cover all lawn maintenance is a selling point.

The neighbors’ discount, paired with Your Green Team’s relentless branding, launched the service with a bang. Less than two weeks into the new business, without really pushing the maintenance service, the company already sold about 30 accounts that way.

Basically, as the promotional material puts it, they’re paying customers to let them keep their truck parked, and service three yards in a row instead of just one.

“Now, when we get a sale, we’re not just signing up one customer,” Igoe says. “We’re signing up two or three.”

The growth plan was, quite literally, to sell around – and across and next door to – existing customers. Instead of leaving a yard sign in serviced lawns, Your Green Team leaves two: one on each property line. But you wouldn’t know the signs came from a lawn care company called Your Green Team.

“People don’t remember names in this industry; they don’t even know who they have for a service provider,” Karlson says. “We took a totally different approach when we branded a symbol and, with that symbol, created an emotion. When you see this sign with a crazy-looking smiley guy, you can’t help but think, ‘Well, that’s just goofy.’ People remember emotion.”

Location, location, location.

Your Green Team’s signs, fliers, shirts and trucks all bear this icon – a toothy-grinned smiley face sporting shades. By repeating the image on recurring touch-points in concentrated neighborhoods, the company branded the silly smiley into familiarity.

“Our sales team is pushed into compacted neighborhoods where the yards are so small you can almost touch your neighbor’s house,” Igoe says.

“And, every three months, they hit the same houses. We put thousands and thousands of fliers out and kept doing it again, and then people started remembering the fliers when we knocked on the door. The second their lawn company messed up, they thought of that smiley because it had been branded with repetition.”

So, while some companies chase growth by seeking large, luxurious lawns while ignoring small, compact ones, Your Green Team grew by focusing on small jobs in close proximity and high volume. The crews service about 35 lawns a day because they’re practically next door to one another.

The concentrated growth makes the company more efficient – not just in marketing, but in service. With triple the volume, the co-owners say it’s actually easier to service more customers more promptly now.

“I would attribute a lot of our growth to the technology aspect of it, and allowing the technology – built correctly – to do the work for us,” Karlson says. “All of our sales people have tablets. All of our trucks have truck-mounted computers, and we’re signed into our desktops all the time. Whenever a call comes into the office, we route it to a call log portal, which comes in as a sales lead that you can map.”

With Your Green Team’s customer base concentrated in certain neighborhoods, each truck covers a small area. So if a crew needs to squeeze in an estimate or another service issue, they’ll be there soon.

“Because we attacked growth with complete route density, as we get bigger, it’s getting easier to respond to customers promptly because we have trucks constantly in the neighborhood,” Igoe says.

Size matters.

The idea is that neighbors see trucks constantly in the neighborhood, along with signs and fliers – all bearing the bright yellow smiley. But to specifically drive in customer referrals, the company created a much larger sign that only graces one lawn, per neighborhood, per month: “The Lawn of the Month.”

“Customers really feel good when we pick our nicest looking yard in each neighborhood,” Igoe says. “We call them and say, ‘We’ve elected you out of all our customers in the neighborhood,’ and people take pride in it.”

Proudly, customers display the “Lawn of the Month” sign in their yard, which encourages neighbors to take a pamphlet for a free application. To claim it, neighbors simply go online and enter a code that identifies the “Lawn of the Month” customer – who receives $40 for the new sign-up.

The program, executed through Real Green Service Assistant, costs Your Green Team $60-80 per referral – but it pays off in neighborly word-of-mouth, as several hundred customers have signed up this way.

Still, the bulk of Your Green Team’s growth – from 1,000 to 3,000 customers in two years – comes through door-to-door sales. Often, that’s just the final touch-point after continuous smiley-faced branding that showcases green lawns throughout the neighborhood.

“Our sales team isn’t just a guy knocking on a door,” Karlson says. “These guys have a lot of resources behind them.

“There’s a lot of preloading because of the energy that our branding has created in these neighborhoods.”


The author is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.