A question we get asked a lot is how U.S. Lawns differentiates itself from its competitors in attracting customers and employees. With decades of experience, the power of a national network and national branding, we pride ourselves on the many competitive advantages that set our brand apart from other landscaping service providers. We discussed this topic with U.S. Lawns president, Ken Hutchison. His take is very well summarized in our brand mantra “close to the customer and close to the employee.” This dual focus creates a symbiotic relationship that creates opportunity for all involved.
Close to the customer
Through building relationship through solid and reliable crews and local owners invested in their communities, the foundation for staying close to the customer is laid. According to Hutchison, “U.S. Lawns crews work to master the language of the business and learn priorities, creating a custom service package like none other. We keep their timeline in mind. If they have a board of directors meeting once a week, we’ll make sure they have the reports they need to make them look good.”
Hutchison adds, “We want to get behind the eyes of the customer and think like their customer thinks. If I’m talking to a hotelier, I want to speak the language of a hotelier, not the language of a landscaper.”
Building a strong partnership with our customers and understanding their service needs and goals is a top priority for U.S. Lawns. We strive for 100% customer retention, and we know this cannot be done with out one of our greatest assets, our crews. There is a symbiotic relationship between a crew that feels valued and a customer that feels valued. This is woven into our brand DNA in addition to our mantra, and it sets us apart from our competitors.
Close to the employee
We believe the best way to develop long lasting relationships with customers begins with valuing and developing our employees, positioning them to provide the excellent customer service of which U.S. Lawns is known. Because of this, U.S. Lawns is dedicated to being an employer of choice in the communities we service.
As a national brand, U.S. Lawns can provide programs and perks that small business can’t. Hutchison says, “We can provide uniforms, safety programs, education and advancement opportunities so they can look forward to growing professionally- that’s not typical of local landscaping companies.”
Hutchison goes on to say, “Employees and their families are interconnected with the team; they are valued. They are treated with respect. By improving their lives, that then improves the community. They can make a good living with fair pay and fair benefits – usually above the industry standard. We respect each individual that’s working for us.”
Employees who feel valued and given opportunities for development perform better and are less likely to leave. Less turnover means you have employees who know your customers and are better able to partner with them to meet their service needs and goals. Empowered crews mean better results for your customers.
U.S. Lawns has been helping franchisees build sustainable and profitable businesses for over 30 years. With a brand vision of 100% customer retention and a focus on positive experiences and overall satisfaction, customers come back again and again.
To better accomplish this vision, we rely on our brand’s mantra of “close to the customer and close to the employee”. Experience tells us the best way to develop long lasting relationships with customers is twofold: by staying close to the customer through excellent customer service and by staying close to the employee through development and by being an employer of choice.
Through relationship building and a service mentality the franchise owner works to create positive customer experiences by focusing on service quality and value. Proactive and regular communication helps the business to consistently exceed customer expectations and build long-standing trust. By looking at the property through the customer’s eyes and understanding their needs and long-term goals the franchise owner is also well positioned to identify enhancement opportunities that help the customer reach those goals and provides additional revenue opportunities for the business.
It should go without saying that keeping crew members happy, safe and productive is critical to the success of your business. This is not only clear in your bottom-line, it’s clear in your organizational health. When you take care of your employees, they in turn take care of your clients. When you take care of your clients, they renew their contracts, offer enhancement opportunities and even refer you to new business. This all starts with hiring the right employees, training them properly to be consistent and efficient, and by creating opportunities for growth. Ensuring safety, seeing that equipment is well maintained, and creating a positive and growth-oriented work culture all contribute to being an employer of choice.
Franchise owners who follow these principals closely and are successful in building strong, lasting relationships with their customers and staff. Then, as their businesses grow, they begin to find it difficult to juggle the number of relationships that grow along with it. While this is undoubtedly a good problem to have, it can also strain the business and prevent the franchisee from taking the next step toward sustainability. For that reason U.S. Lawns has put together all of the tools necessary to fill a key role in your business: the account manager. With time, the account manager will become an extension of you, the owner. They will take on many of those key relationship oriented responsibilities and allow you to take a step up to focus on other, big picture relationships and tasks.
From job description templates to attract quality candidates, to onboarding tools to integrate them into your team and get them started off on the right foot, U.S. Lawns has created comprehensive resources and training programs to help you find, train and grow the right person for the role and responsibilities of the account manager.
Through our proprietary 12-week development plan account managers will learn how to effectively manage customer and employee relationships. They will learn things like proper job sequencing techniques, how to efficiently manage a labor budget and how to onboard and train new members for their crews. They will learn how to price and sell enhancement work and, in turn, create high margin revenue opportunities for your business. They will learn to become key members of your team as you grow toward a level sustainability that removes you from the responsibilities of your day to day operation and create the lifestyle flexibility that comes with being your own boss.
This is how U.S. Lawns makes a commitment to 100% franchisee satisfaction. This is also how you can build a business that makes a commitment to 100% customer retention. By leveraging simple systems of standardized procedures that yield consistency of product and efficiency of process. By leveraging training programs, processes and resources that allow you to replicate your results through successful team building. By building trust and loyalty by simply doing what you say you will do when you say you will do it.
If all of this resonates with you, you might have a cultural backbone that will fit well within our organization. Click here to start a conversation today.
To create a sustainable business, you can’t only focus on sales and marketing and expect things to work out well. Now that you’ve got a strong sales and marketing program in place, you need to figure out how to keep those clients around long-term. No matter how much business you bring in front door if you are letting an equal amount of business slip out the back door you will be treading water, not growing. Our brand vision is 100% client retention and to achieve this vision we have developed systems and tools to help franchisees deliver on our brand promise: “To be there, be responsive, be excellent and be a friend.”
U.S. Lawns became the largest commercial landscaping franchise in the U.S. by exceeding customer expectations for over 30 years. Getting to know the customer on a personal level and providing an excellent level of service means the customer never has to question their decision to work with U.S. Lawns. Our mantra of stay close to the customer and close to the employee helps our franchisees achieve this and create positive experiences that build loyalty.
As you grow your own U.S. Lawns business, initially you will hold your employee and customer relationships closely. As your business grows, you’ll necessarily need to hand some of these responsibilities and relationships off so that you can focus on other areas of the business. That isn’t to say that you stop focusing on your employees or lose touch with your key customers. To build long term, sustainable success, you must find new ways to extend your reach and dedication to service by hiring capable account managers that will help you keep your finger on the pulse of your business.
At U.S. Lawns, the primary role of an account manager is employee development and customer service. Our account manager training program provides these key team members the tools they need to develop long lasting relationships with customers and employees.
The program helps train your employees so they can create positive customer experiences by focusing on service quality and value. Proactive and regular communication is essential in building trust with a customer so you can consistently exceeding customer expectations. This comes down to doing what you say you will do, when you say you will do it. That simple idea goes a long way in building customer trust and loyalty.
We recently had the opportunity to speak directly with a couple of customers of Owen Smith, U.S. Lawns franchisee in Sacramento, California. Here is what they had to say about working with U.S. Lawns:
Lyn, the volunteer coordinator at the McKinley Rose Garden, is a loyal customer. When asked about her business’ relationship with Owen and U.S. Lawns, Lyn says, “They do quality work, but beyond that are friendly and so easy to work with, which is important to me. I am able to communicate our wants and needs with them and they do extra things for us that no one else would do. Working with U.S. Lawns is a pleasure and we plan on sticking with them for the long term.”
Ray Garcia, manager of the Tuscaro Apartments, has had a similar positive experience with the brand. “What makes U.S. Lawns stand apart is their constant communication. They are always available to me, be it on the phone, email or face to face. There is consistency in the quality and they are constantly exceeding my expectations,” says Garcia.
We understand that you work hard to secure customers and when someone is just starting out in business, exceeding expectations can be difficult due to inexperience. To help bridge that gap, U.S. Lawns has developed systems and processes to help you to build trust and lasting connections which will result in long-term loyalty from your clients and employees. In the end, loyal and happy customers have no reason to look elsewhere for their service needs. Strong customer retention, combined with a strong sales and marketing strategy, means you will be set up for long term, sustainable growth and your business will thrive as a result.
At this point you’ve already completed a lot of the leg work in developing your sales and marketing process:
Now you enter the decision stage of your prospective buyer’s journey, and as a U.S. Lawns owner, you are well positioned as U.S. Lawns’ consultative and relationship driven sales approach, will not only help you close deals, but also set you up for a lasting customer relationship.
We understand that not everyone is comfortable with selling. For that reason, U.S. Lawns has developed the Business Developer program to help you, or a designated member of your team, build the skillset to become the sales engine of your business. Once you’ve secured and started servicing your first group of customers, having someone who is 100 percent dedicated to driving sales is an essential part of reaching the next level in your business.
With radically personalized, hands on sales support, we work together to build a multi-truck operation as quickly as possible. With someone focused on selling on a full-time basis, U.S. Lawns franchisees surpass the ceiling independent operators often hit when they go it alone. By leveraging the collective power of the network, the program cultivates your business developer to be more productive, allowing them to learn from our professional sales coaches and from their peers: business developers who operate in U.S. Lawns territories across the nation. The U.S. Lawns culture of competitive camaraderie motivates them to drive for, and achieve, more.
When you make the decision to hire a Business Developer we will give you the tools to attract and identify quality candidates for the position with detailed job descriptions and digital job postings you can place. For those looking to take a more aggressive approach, we can refer you to a national staffing agency that has shown success in helping many of our franchisees fill key roles in their businesses.
We will provide orientation schedules and an onboarding and training plan that you can execute to help them get up to speed quickly and start selling bringing in business. A shared Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system will allow your business developer to work closely with our sales coaches and call center team to share information and close leads effectively. E-learning modules, weekly sales coaching, huddle calls and boot camps will keep your business developer growing their skill set and monthly networkwide competitions push them to the next level. This all results in more revenue for your business, while at the same time freeing you up as the business owner to manage the business at a higher level.
U.S. Lawns’ processes and systems are comprehensive and designed to help you as your business grows. As you close more deals you will need to also focus on retaining your key customer relationships over the life of your business. In final article in this series, we will discuss our commitment to 100% customer retention and how programs like the U.S. Lawns Account Manager training program will help you develop long lasting relationships with your customers, creating a sustainable business that helps you reach your goals.
With your marketing plan building awareness amongst your prospective customers, some will begin to advance into the consideration stage of their buyer’s journey. Just as in the awareness stage, U.S. Lawns has designed programs to help you convert those leads into appointments, the next step in securing commercial clients.
U.S. Lawns understands that many business owners, especially those in the start up phase, don’t have the resources to assign a dedicated person to prospecting activities. As such, the Direct Sales Dial-Up (DSDU) team was created to increase the efficiency of your business development efforts by acting as an extension of your operation. The DSDU team makes calls to your prospective customers on your behalf, identifying the decision makers and setting appointments so that you can begin your efforts with a warm lead that is ready to consider your service offering.
Understanding the importance of building a sales focused culture from the start, we are happy to offer our Accelerated Territory Management (ATM) program to new franchisees who join the U.S. Lawns network. The ATM program is an enhanced service offering by the DSDU team under which a dedicated agent will make hundreds of monthly calls on your behalf, setting as many appointments as possible to create a surge of sales activity in a short period of time. Daily reporting and a shared CRM platform will offer valuable reconnaissance on opportunities to help you effectively penetrate your market. This frees you up to focus on building relationships and helping clients with their individual needs.
Three months of the ATM program is covered as part of the initial prospecting fee that is included in your startup expenses. At the end of the three month period, you can invest in more time with the ATM program, transition into a lead nurturing program, or scale down to the standard DSDU service offering.
The lead nurturing program is designed to be a “set it and forget it” lead nurturing campaign to continue to develop the opportunities identified in the ATM program. The team will continue to set appointments on your behalf, as they develop the opportunities identified in your market through follow-up calls and email marketing campaigns that allow you to stay in front or your prospective clients.
Under the standard DSDU service offering, which is currently provided to franchisees as part of their monthly marketing fund contribution, a DSDU agent makes calls to the top 75 targeted customers in each territory on a monthly basis.
The various DSDU service levels are part of U.S. Lawns’ personalized and comprehensive approach to support that is designed to help you reach your goals at every stage of your development at a pace that is right for you. This means you can invest in more time with the ATM program at any time should you feel it necessary. This option is ideal for any business owner who would like to pursue a focused growth phase and is available as a supplemental program to all of our franchisees at any time.
Where many independent landscape business owners struggle to grow past a certain level, U.S. Lawns has developed the programs, systems and processes to help its franchisees grow a large, sustainable commercial landscaping business. The DSDU team, along with the ATM and lead nurturing programs, are examples of the tools we offer that allow our franchisees to leverage our national resources and support to help them grow their business and build their client list at a faster pace.
Up next in the blog series, we’ll take a look at the U.S. Lawns’ Business Developer program and how a relationship driven sale can not only help you win in the decision stage, but also set you up for a lasting customer relationship.
Now that we have identified commercial customer opportunities in your market, the U.S. Lawns team will help you formulate a customized action plan to reach those prospective customers. By developing materials, strategies and campaigns targeted toward building brand awareness amongst your market’s gatekeepers and decision makers, you will be better positioned to secure more accounts.
As a recap, in the awareness stage potential customers are already aware of their need for service and you are working to make them aware that U.S. Lawns can fill that need. More than anything else, when selecting a service provider for landscape maintenance services, commercial property decision makers need confidence that the provider is capable of completing the required service while making them look good in the process. Confidence is established through a professional image that includes:
While the market reputation and resources are conveyed through the U.S. Lawns brand name, U.S. Lawns also helps its franchisees establish a professional image through a suite of physical and digital branding elements that are covered by your monthly marketing fund contribution. These elements include:
By leveraging the U.S. Lawns brand and the marketing materials outlined above, our franchisees are able to quickly establish the confidence and credibility their customers require with a level of professionalism that is often lacking in the industry.
In the next article in this series, we will discuss how U.S. Lawns gives our franchisees an edge in the consideration stage with programs like the Direct Sales Dial-Up and Accelerated Territory Management.
As mentioned in the introduction to this series, before you can begin to market to your target customers, you must have a clear vision of who your target customers are. One of the reasons that U.S. Lawns has been a leader in its industry for more than three decades is that we have clearly defined our niche. By focusing exclusively on the commercial side of the larger landscaping industry, we are able to effectively target commercial property owners and professional property managers in our messaging.
Why do we focus on commercial properties?
By focusing on commercial properties, U.S. Lawns offers a business model that gives franchisees a roadmap to maximize their revenue potential and create their own sustainable and recession resistant businesses. Here are a few of the things that differentiate the commercial sector and make it the ideal niche of the discerning business owner:
How do we target the right customers?
U.S. Lawns’ sales and marketing support helps you develop a clear understanding of who your target customers are. We have developed detailed customer personas that help you understand and solve the problems faced by key decision makers in multiple market verticals when it comes to their landscape maintenance needs.
Using state-of-the-art commercial real estate and business performance data and analytics platforms, our team generates a detailed customer list and market vertical analysis. These lists are inclusive of the number and size of properties in key commercial market verticals such as multi-family housing, retail, office, healthcare, hospitality, and industrial.
Resources such as these tend to cost prohibitive for the typical small landscape business owner, but with the power of the U.S. Lawns network, we are able to leverage platforms such as these for the benefit of our franchisees.
Once the market vertical analysis has been completed our team will work with you to build a plan of attack, focused on developing route density and a well-diversified customer portfolio that will help you avoid becoming overly dependent on any single market vertical. This plan will be monitored and developed over time as it may make sense to adjust focus at different times in your business development.
Because U.S. Lawns is committed to your success, we have a dedicated and experienced team that will leverage the resources that come with our national brand to help you build a sustainable business. This starts with clearly defining your target customers to make your marketing efforts more efficient.
In Part III we will discuss how the U.S. Lawns team helps you develop a multi-channel marketing plan to reach your prospective customers in the awareness stage of their buyer’s journey.
U.S. Lawns understands its franchisees typically didn’t get into the landscaping business to become salespeople, but rather to build a sustainable business. But the truth is, to build this sustainable business, you first have to know how to market it. For this reason, we work hard to make marketing your services as simple as possible
The U.S. Lawns franchise support team is a group of sales, marketing and operational professionals who intimately understand the landscaping industry and function as an extension of your business. This built in sales support is dedicated to helping you find and secure commercial landscaping accounts with a strategic and highly personalized, expert approach.
With U.S. Lawns by your side, you don’t need to have any marketing experience.
“I don’t even know what an effective marketing campaign looks like.”
An effective marketing campaign engages the prospective buyer at three primary stages in their journey: awareness, consideration, decision.
Leveraging the knowledge and expertise of U.S. Lawns’ franchise support team, you will be able to efficiently reach your prospective buyers at each stage of the buyer’s journey.
“But wait, before I launch a marketing campaign, I need to know who I should market to.”
U.S. Lawns has put together comprehensive sales support programs that first help you identify the potential customers in your designated territory and then addresses the customer’s needs in each of these primary stages and helps to develop loyal, life-long customer relationships.
“How does U.S. Lawns help me find and secure commercial customers?”
This is one of the most important questions we receive from discerning candidates yourself. Because it is such an important question, and because U.S. Lawns support programs are so multi-faceted and comprehensive, we can’t possibly address it adequately in a single blog post. As such, this will be part I of a six-part blog series that will answer the question in detail over the coming weeks. Specifically, here is what you can expect:
Our hope is that after we explore this topic, you will have a better understanding of the U.S. Lawns sales and marketing support structure and the advantage it will give you as you leverage it to build a sustainable landscaping business.
The green industry is enormous, generating over $99 billion in annual revenue and comprised of many different segments. Each summer, national trade publication Landscape Management releases its list of the top 150 green industry companies ranked by annual revenue. This prestigious list represents the best of the best in the highly fragmented green industry.
With the recent release of the 2020 rankings we thought it would be a good time to put our performance in perspective to help you understand where U.S. Lawns falls in the larger green industry as a whole.
This rankings begin with a broad ranking of the entire industry. This includes a wide array of service offerings like landscape construction, hardscape installation, chemical application, and maintenance services (among others) in both commercial and residential settings. In this ranking U.S. Lawns claimed the number 12 spot with $178,520,000 in annual revenue.
When the rankings are narrowed to focus on the $70 billion commercial segment that we operate in, U.S. Lawns comes in at number eight. When the rankings are further narrowed to focus on our core service offering of commercial landscape maintenance services, U.S. Lawns jumps all the way up to number three! This clearly shows that we understand our niche in the industry and that we perform very well inside of it.
Still, it is important to note that the top 150 companies combined account for only slightly more than 12% of overall green industry revenues. Why is that important? Because it means that there is more than enough room for small business operators to grab a piece of the market and find success in the industry. And while the U.S. Lawns brand as a whole is represented very well on this list, each of our 250 franchised branches are owned by individual small business operators who have been able to carve out their own piece of the market by leveraging the support, systems and tools that come along with being a part of the U.S. Lawns network.
This is truly what we mean when we talk about national strength and local commitment: a strong, nationally recognized brand combined with a small business mindset that can provide an individualized focus on the needs of each commercial customer.
If you’re ready to explore the possibility of joining the top ranked franchise in the commercial landscape services industry and grab your piece of the burgeoning market, click here.
Early on, Mike Fitzpatrick found a deep sense of satisfaction in landscaping. “I like being outside, but also I like being able to look back see what I have accomplished. Landscaping improves your community in ways you can see.” What started as a love for the outdoors and summer jobs mowing lawns, turned into a career in the green industry which has spanned 40 years.
Today, Fitzpatrick helps others improve their own communities in his role of vice president with U.S. Lawns. Here he brings his vast experience and extensive knowledge to his leadership of U.S. Lawns’ Franchise Advisors team, which offers support to the brand’s network of franchisees, as well as the Development Team, which specialized in helping new franchisees get off to a good start.
Starting in the green industry in the 1980, Fitzpatrick spent a decade learning the industry well before becoming one of the first members to join the U.S. Lawns team in 1990. From that time he was an integral part of the growth plan.
Fitzpatrick says, “I was excited to work directly with franchisees and have a hand in their support, rather than just the sales aspect. To help an individual build a sustainable business and create the lifestyle they want is very fulfilling.”
He continues, “To grow past one or two trucks takes training and methodology. When you are trying to figure this out on your own, you will make mistakes and there will be a lot of trial and error, but with the U.S. Lawns business model, the learning curve is shortened. We provide the infrastructure and a road map to help you grow your business quickly and sustainably.”
Over his 30 years with U.S. Lawns, Fitzpatrick has seen a lot of changes. “U.S. Lawns has done an incredible job of evolving. While much of our ground level core support has stayed the same, the advent of different technologies has made our support efforts even more efficient and successful,” he says.
From day one, U.S. Lawns offers new franchisees with out of the box solutions that cover all aspects of the business. Fitzpatrick says, “Support starts on day one. We want new franchisees to hit the ground running immediately after franchise training and get up to two trucks quickly. It doesn’t stop there though; we provide support for every phase of a franchisee’s business development.”
One example of how U.S. Lawns provides out of the box solutions is with its supplier programs. “Anything a franchisee would need or use, we have a relationship with a partner to supply it at a substantial discount. We get hundreds of calls a year from companies looking to partner with us, vetting them thoroughly and only choosing the best. They truly understand our model and the needs of our franchisees,” says Fitzpatrick.
From their supplier program to support programs, over their 30 years, U.S. Lawns has fine-tuned their offering. The brand offers their franchisees world class experts, such as Fitzpatrick, who know the industry and how to help franchisees build the business and lifestyle they want.
Fitzpatrick’s team provides support that is responsive and comprehensive. “We provide support that is multilevel and multitouch. It both accessible to all and scalable to where you are in your development,” Fitzpatrick continues, “Perhaps the best tool in our toolbox is the network of other U.S. Lawns franchisees. They have been through the same struggles and offer the best source of support. We facilitate lots of conversation between our franchisees through regular conference calls and meetings. The power of the network is invaluable.”
“U.S. Lawns’ culture of competitive comradery helps them push each other to achieve their next goal and continue to grow. Having protected territories means that franchisees are not in direct competition with each other. They want each other to succeed because it keeps the brand strong which benefits everyone.”
Named in the top 10 of brands in the industry, U.S. Lawns’ brand strength has stood the test of time. “We provide franchisees with a business model that has proven to be sustainable, generating reliable income year-round. Having weathered multiple recessions, the business model has proven to be recession resistant. For example, the economic slump of 2008 showed us that even in tough times, business need to protect their property investments,” Fitzpatrick says, “The condition of their property is part of their brand, so they need to continue base maintenance. Dealing only with commercial clients means that we are dealing with a fixed budget rather than one that as is discretionary as with residential clients.”
Most recently the global pandemic and subsequent economic shutdown has shown the strength of the brand once again. “We have evolved our support even more to adjust with the times. We want help reduce any type of hardships they may be experiencing so that can in turn do that for their clients and their community. We have been coaching owners to talk to the commercial clients and seeing what their needs are. Maybe they need to help their clients look at the levels of service and help them adjust accordingly,” says Fitzpatrick.
Even just a phone call makes all the difference says Fitzpatrick, “A lot of times we hear that our franchisees are the only ones that have reached out to their clients and considered their needs. The stories we have been hearing about how our franchisees are improving their communities is incredible, from gift baskets to nursing homes, to helping struggling businesses protect their property investments. Some have even taken on new clients because their previous service provider could no longer meet their needs. At the end of the day we are a service business, and supporting our franchisees so they can best serve their clients is our number one goal. That has never been more important than it is now.”
“U.S. Lawns is a good service business with a solid business model, Fitzpatrick concludes, “We can teach the landscaping part of the business. It is about building a business, one that is sustainable and improves your life and your community. If you are a business minded individual with a growth mindset, you will do well in this business. Getting outside is just an added benefit.”
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