Thursday

Charm Your Way To More Lawn Care Business Profits

"Charm is the quality inothers that makes us more satisfied with ourselves." - Henri Frederic Amiel



Everybody and their dog can think of someone they know that is charming. This is the kind of person who always seems to be on the up and up. They are happy and have a skip in their step. They're someone we like to run into. We look forward to seeing them.

Not only is a person who is charming interesting, they also seem to be successful in their lawn care landscaping business.

Being around someone who is charming makes other people feel better. 

But the question that seems to arise in our minds is aren't these "charming" people being fake? Or even better, what the "heck" does this really have to do with a lawn care or landscaping business??

The truth is most charming business owners are genuinely authentic and are in fact very powerful lawn mowing business owners.

So the question is, just how charming are you?

A lot of people land in around 4-6 out of 10. Don't despair, you can raise your level on the scale of charm in a number of ways.

Smile. Give out compliments and be friendlier on the job site. Give your employees or customers sincere compliments. 

Charm just plain makes people feel better about themselves. So make it your mission to brighten the atmosphere of your company, your office. This will pay rich dividends in the long run.


Successful Lawn Business Strategies


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Wednesday

Lawn Care Business Tip: You Hold The Key To Your Future

You are the key to your future. What I mean is, your personal growth determines most of it. We can talk about more customers, lots of sales, more equipment and employees, but all of this probably will not happen without you personally growing. It’s really the stepping stone to a profitable future. In fact I’d like to have you memorize a most important phrase. Here it is, “For things to change, you must change.”

Let me repeat that. “For things to change, you must change.” I recommend you place this somewhere that you will see it daily. Anywhere where you can see it every day. You hold the key to a better future. Try to remember that every day you live and think about it. Its all up to you.

There are several things that will help you carve out a better future. If you own or are employed at a strong, dynamic, progressive lawn care business, that would definitely help. If the company has great service or great products, that you are proud of, that would certainly help as well. You get the point.

All of these things will help, and of course, if it doesn’t go horribly bad for you and your life, that will help. If your business keeps going strong, that will help. If the your spouse doesn't get sick, that will help. If your neighbors stay "sane", that will help. If it doesn't get too cold or doesn't get too hot, all those things will help your better future. And if the economy gets and stays on track, that will help.

I could go on and on with a very big list but as you already guessed, all the reasons in the world added together play a small role in your profitable future.

The biggest factor to your profitable future is you. Grab ahold of that. This is a major point to remember.

You are the major key.

Don't be or act like the 90+% who aren't going anywhere. Develop the habit of doing more than you're paid for. Do and be above average.

Develop above average enthusiasm. Develop an above average smile. Develop an above average interest into your customers, friends, and family. Work harder on you than you do on anything else.

Think about this.

Two different people with the same type of business earn different amounts each month.

One earns $1000 and the other $10,000.

If the services were the same, if the training was the same, if they both had the same tools. If they both had the same trainer, the same pricing, if they both attended the same business meetings, how could one person earn the $1000 per month and the other person earn the $10000?

The key is whats going on in the inside. The key is you.

Decide today to start working on you. There is power in making this kind of decision. There is power in daring to dream. There is power in above average service. There is power in compassion and caring and sharing. There is unusual power in strong feeling and you see, all that comes from inside you, not outside. So, you hold the key to your future. The real difference is you. You are the major key to your better, more profitable future.

Until next time!


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Lawn Business Advertising Secrets

Hi Everyone,

We received an email this week about a new lawn business startup and an inquiry to what advertising will work the best for them.

Here's our answer:

Advertising your lawn business comes downs to tracking. 2 companies in the same county could have completely opposite results using the same method of advertising.

So there is no secret pill that will automatically make your lawn business marketing efforts explode. Not without tracking your results anyway.

You need to test different forms of advertising and measure your results. Find out what method of advertising gets the results you want and run with it.

For example, if you spend $300 on a classified ad and get 10 customers, each customer cost you $30 ($300 divided by 10 customers).

But if you create a flyer and get it handed out for you and it costs you $500 but you get 20 customers, each customer cost you $25.

Which of the 2 advertising methods is better? They're both good but one generates customers at a cheaper price.

There is no one source for marketing (advertising is part of the marketing process) tips and tricks. You should be getting your hands on books, audio, video and anything else you can. Never stop learning.

And once you get an idea of how to write the advertising copy, another key is consistency. If you only plan to hand out flyers one time, forget about it. Your advertising will fail or not do nearly as good then if you hand out flyers several weekends in a row.

Most customers need to see your ad about 20+ times before they realize they may or do need your lawn care service. That means you better plan on handing out your flyers for several weeks in a row.

Hope this points you in the right direction. Check out other articles within our blog for even more marketing advice.



Sincerely,

James R.

Successful Lawn Business Strategies
www.howtostartyourlawncarebusiness.com

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Sunday

Starting a Grass Cutting Business(Or Growing One): How To Get Word Of Mouth Advertising Working For You

Word of mouth is definitely one of the top marketing strategies of all. Finding ways to stimulate word of mouth advertising when starting a grass cutting business or growing the one you own is even more fun.

Why?

Because word of mouth advertising is the most powerful, effective type of advertising there is. The catch is that it's the only kind you can't just buy. You have to first create it, stimulate it, and nurture it with effective and creative strategies.

The good news is that most of your lawn care business competition just takes whatever word of mouth advertising they get, but not you.

The truth is that you can exert a considerable degree of control over this type of advertising and marketing for your lawn business. Really.

How many things have you bought or places have you gone to because someone said their experience was sensational? You ever gone out for dinner to a restaurant because a friend said the burgers were "to die for"? The reason that word of mouth advertising is so valuable is just that -- someone else is doing the advertising and you genuinely trust their opinion.

Nobody wants to hear what you have to say for too long. Nothing you could ever say about you and your lawn maintenance business, no matter how well you say it, can have as much impact and credibility as something another person says about you.

Think about this. The commercials you see nowadays that either are or "look like" they are a testimonial of a real person talking about their experience with a product or service are quite convincing and are by far the most effective.

Do you want to know a strategy that stimulates your customers to talk about your lawn business?

Find or develop creative ways to do what you do so well and so uniquely that your customers cannot resist telling lots of other people about you and your business.

For example, most lawn care trucks and trailers are messy but you keep yours squeaky clean. Most lawn business owners don't care when their customer's birthdays are but you do by sending each customer a personalized card.

How does this correlate to real life?

Customer "A" phones up their friends shortly after receiving a birthday card from you and tells them they can't believe you're one of the few who rememebered. Then two of those people call to have you come and give them an estimate. All from just one simple card.

Every lawn service business owner can come up with ways to stand out from the crowd and stimulate word of mouth advertising.

I know of a lawn care business owner, for example, who quadrupled his customer roster in just 31 months without increasing his marketing budget. All he did was come up with numerous ways to improve his service and those changes were responsible for a boat load of word of mouth advertising.

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Saturday

How To Get New Lawn Care Business Customers From Scratch

We received the following lawn care business question this week and it's one we've been getting a lot of lately so we want to post our thoughts and share them with others.

1. Would you share with me a few of the most effective ways to get some lawn care customers and contracts? I'm just starting out, got my truck and equipment ready to work, just picked up my business license last week and it seems like getting that first customer is the hardest thing to do. I made some flyers and distributed it out at some public places, school teachers lounge, employee lounge and a few other places. No bites and I'm going on two weeks. Is this normal? What's the average wait time before a lawn business lands its first customer? I'm trying different marketing approaches one at a time, and allowing time in between each one to measure and see which ones actually work. So far nothing is working.

ANSWER:

First of all congratulations on taking the step towards starting and running a lawn care business. Believe it or not, most people won't even take this first step because they are too afraid.

Right off the bat make a quality decision that you are going to do this no matter what. The reason is because starting out and getting momentum in your business can be challenging and you need to have persistence. The main reason is because you have to get those first few customers and you don't have any experience under your belt in doing that so unless you make a quality decision, it's too easy to get discouraged. Sometimes customers can come quick, sometimes it can take some time but only the persistent lawn care business owner wins.

Put the law of averages to work for you. This means that it could take 1 out of 100 or 1 out of 250 flyers or more before you get a quote. Just keep taking action. Just keep handing out your flyers and any other advertisements you have on a consistent basis. Doing it once or twice won't cut it.

You see imagine a pizza coupon. Most people get them once a week and how many times do you throw them out or just skim over them? But when they come on a regular basis, week after week, eventually there does come a day when the flyer comes and you want pizza so you call.

Your customers are the same way. It may take several exposures to your ad before they realize they need to call you . That's what a lot of lawn care business owners don't know. Your advertising needs to be consistently going out.

The 3 areas important for your marketing are: MESSAGE, MARKET, MEDIA. This means your ad has to be arranged and setup properly. You have to be advertising to the right market. And the last one means you have to be using the right form of media.

The good news is that it sounds like you have several marketing weapons working. What you need to do is have them all working at once. That is where you want to be. You want to be taking action on several fronts at the same time because sooner or later (as long as your ads are compelling, you shooting at the right market and using the right media to market), you will get phone calls.

We constantly recommend that you educate yourself about marketing. It doesn't mean you have to spend money. You can pick these books up from your local library for free, but just start to read about how marketing works. It's quite fascinating and in this game, the more you know, the better you become at making winning ads and beating your competitors.

We haven't seen your flyers or other advertisements but it's important that your ads have the following arrangement (our book recommendations at the end of this post will give you similar advice).

  • ATTENTION ---> HEADLINE
  • INTEREST
  • DESIRE
  • ACTION

There are a few schools of thought on this but the above layout in the ad is important. So a quick example of this would be...

--------------------------------
Do You Want The Best
Lawn On The Block?
Finally, come home to a fresh,
green lawn, cut and trimmed for you
ALL SUMMER LONG!
__________________________
$20 LAWN BUCKS
Valid on your next order over $100.
__________________________
Call or email us today for a
FREE ESTIMATE
555-1234
NoNameMowing.com
Hurry Offer Ends March 20xx!
--------------------------------


Your ads need to give people a reason for calling. They have to persuade and stir a reader to take action. Always have a great offer with a deadline and impel them to contact you. Yes, keep track of your responses. Ask people who called, why they called. Even ask those who didn't call why they ignored the call to action. Get your trusted family and friends to look over your ads and see if they find them compelling.


2. What are your thoughts on buying an existing lawn care business? My problem with this is not having the upfront cash to purchase the business. Is this an idea worth looking at?

Buying a lawn care business is another way to get customers. Most businesses don't sell so anyone selling a lawn care business may be persuaded to be flexible.

This means that what we have seen is that a seller may be willing to allow you the purchaser to make monthly payments over a period of time for the business. Not having to have the cash upfront may be the winning ticket. They might also be willing to help you with the transistion of ownership, working alongside you for a period of time.

The HUGE red flag with buying a lawn care business is that you need to be very cautious. Why are they selling? Are the customers on contract? Does the sale include equipment? What shape is the equipment in?

Doing your due diligence is VITAL. It's an absolute. Visit NOLO.com for information on buying a business.


MARKETING BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS:

9 Lies That Are Holding Your Business Back

How To Make Your Advertising Make Money

Advertising Secrets Of The Written Word

No BS Sales Success



Well we hope this helps!

The Staff
www.howtostartyourlawncarebusiness.com

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Wednesday

Lawn Mowing Business Tip: S Corp, C Corp or LLC? Which Structure Is Right For You?

S Corp, C Corp, LLC : WHICH STRUCTURE IS RIGHT FOR YOUR BUSINESS?


When a person considers starting a lawn business, or when existing lawn business owners consider changing their business structure, one of the most common options they evaluate is the corporation.

There are several different types of corporations, the C corporation, the S corporation, and LLC. Which one is best often depends on the goals you have for your lawn business.

Corporations and limited liability companies ("LLC s") are preferred lawn business structures because, unlike sole proprietorships and partnerships, both offer liability protection. This means that the owner of a lawn maintenance company cannot be held personally responsible for the company’s debts. The personal assets of an owner are shielded from company liabilities.

In researching the various business structures, one inevitably comes across the S corporation. S corps and LLC's are similar in that they are both "pass-through" entities for tax purposes. The income of these type of lawn businesses are passed through to their owners and reported on the owners’ personal income tax returns, thereby eliminating the double taxation incurred by owners of a standard lawn care corporation, or C corporation. (With a C corporation, the net business income is subject to corporate income tax, and the monies remaining after the corporate income tax are taxed a second time when they are distributed as dividends to its owners who must then pay personal income tax.)

Let's start with explaining the difference between an S Corp and an LLC? And discuss which structure is right for your lawn care business?

The answer depends on your own unique situation. There really is no other way to say it. If operational ease and flexibility are important to you, an LLC is a good choice.

If you are looking to save on employment tax and your situation warrants it, an S Corp could work for you as the lawn business structure of choice.


Lawn Business Ownership & Operation

There are restrictions on who can be owners (also known as "shareholders") of an S corporation. An S Corp can have no more than 75 shareholders. None of the shareholders can be nonresident aliens. And shareholders cannot be other corporations or LLC s. This is important.

An S Corp is operated in the same way as a traditional C corp. This lawn business structure must follow the same formalities and record keeping procedures. The directors or officers of an S Corp manage the lawn business and an S Corp has no flexibility in how profits are split up amongst its owners.

Let us explain.

The profits must be distributed according to the ratio of stock ownership, even if the owners may otherwise feel it is more equitable to distribute the profits differently.

LLC s offer greater flexibility in ownership and ease of operation. There are no restrictions on the ownership of an LLC . An LLC is simpler to operate because it is not subject to the formalities by which S corps must abide. An LLC can be member-managed, meaning that the owners run the lawn care business. Or it can be manager-managed, with responsibility delegated to managers who may or may not be owners in the LLC . This may be more attractive to your situation. The lawn business owners of an LLC structure can distribute profits in the manner they see fit.

This may be a lot to take so we'll paint you a picture.

Let’s say, for example, you and a partner own an LLC called ANYBODY MOWING LLC. Your partner contributed $50,000 for capital. You only contributed $5,000 but you perform 95% of the work.

The two of you decide that, in the interest of fairness, you will each share the profits 50/50. As an LLC you could do that. If you had your lawn business set up as a S Corp you could only take 10% of the profits while your partner would take the other 90%.

Get it? Let's keep going.


Employment Tax: Savings vs. Paperwork

A major factor that differentiates a lawn business structured as an S Corp from an LLC is the employment tax that is paid on earnings. The owner of an LLC is considered to be self-employed and, as such, must pay a "self-employment tax" which goes toward Social Security and Medicare. The entire net income of the lawn business is subject to this tax at a rate of 15.3% (rate as of this writing).

In an S Corp, only the salary paid to the employee-owner is subject to employment tax. The remaining income that is paid as a distribution is not subject to employment tax under IRS rules.

What does this mean? There is the potential to realize substantial employment tax savings.

Let's say Billy owns a lawn service business. In keeping with the industry standard, Billy decides that a reasonable salary for a lawn business manager is $35,000 and pays himself accordingly. Billy's total earnings for the year are $60,000: $35,000 paid in salary and the remaining $25,000 paid as a distribution from the S Corp . Billy's total employment tax is $5,355 (15.3% of $35,000).

If Billy were the owner of an LLC , he would have to pay employment tax on the entire $60,000, equaling $9,180. But as an S Corp, he realizes savings of $3,825 in employment tax.

Not bad. But, listen up.

One might assume that these savings could be further manipulated by reducing the salary to an extremely low amount and attributing the rest of one’s earnings to distributions, but this would be a very big mistake. In practice, the IRS is careful to notice whether a salary is reasonable by industry standards. If it determines a salary to be unreasonable, the IRS will not hesitate to reclassify distributions as salary. Don't mess with the IRS. It's never worth it.

Still, while the potential employment tax savings may make the S Corp an attractive structure for your lawn care business, bear in mind that you would then have to deal with all the paperwork associated with payroll tax.

The payroll tax is a pay-as-you-go tax that must be paid to the IRS regularly throughout the year. This means on time or you will incur interest and penalties. The paperwork alone can be an overwhelming task for someone who is not familiar with it. If you expect to incur losses or otherwise experience a cash flow crunch during the year that would hinder you from paying the payroll tax when due, this could present a problem.

Owners of LLC's pay their self-employment tax once a year on April 15 when income taxes are normally due (or make quarterly estimated tax payments, if they expect to owe total taxes of $1,000 or more). Income tax filings are also relatively easy for the lawn business owners of an LLC. A single-member LLC files the same 1040 tax return and Schedule C as a sole proprietor. Partners in an LLC file the same 1065 and Schedule C as do owners of traditional partnerships.


Employment Tax

Employment/payroll tax on salary; no employment tax on dividends paid to shareholders.
Self-employment tax on total net income.



The C Corporation Vs. S Corp

The C corporation is the standard corporation. The S corporation is a standard corporation that has elected a special tax status with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It gets its name because it is defined in Subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Code. In order to elect S corporation status, Form 2553 must be filed with the IRS and all S corporation guidelines met.
While the C corporation and S corporation have many similarities, they also have distinct differences.


Similarities

Both offer the same limited liability protection for shareholders (owners), meaning that the shareholders are typically not personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the lawn care business. Both are separate legal entities created by a state filing.

The formation documents that are filed with the state, which are typically called the articles of incorporation or certificate of incorporation, are the same whether the lawn service business will be a C or an S corporation.

To recap a bit, corporations have shareholders, directors and officers. Shareholders are the owners of the company and elect the board of directors. The board of directors oversees and directs the affairs of the corporation and has responsibility for major decisions, but is not responsible for the day-to-day operations of the corporation. The directors elect officers to manage the daily affairs of the business. Most states allow one person to be a shareholder, director and officer of a corporation.

Both are required to follow the same internal and external corporate formalities. Examples of internal formalities include adopting bylaws, issuing stock, holding initial and then annual meetings of shareholders and directors, and keeping the minutes from these meetings with the corporate records. Examples of external requirements include filing annual reports, which are required by the state, and paying the necessary annual fees.



Differences

1. Taxation

C corporations are separately taxable entities. C corporations file a corporate tax return reporting profits or losses, and any profits are taxed at the corporate level. C corporations face the possibility of double taxation when profits are distributed to shareholders in the form of dividends, as the shareholders must report dividends as personal income and pay tax on them at the individual level.

S corporations are pass-through tax entities. Pass-through taxation is discussed more below.

2. Corporate ownership

C corporations can have an unlimited number of shareholders, while S corporations are restricted to no more than 75 shareholders (some say 100, check with your local CPA or attorney).

C corporations can have non-US residents as shareholders, but S corporations cannot.
S corporations cannot be owned by C corporations, other S corporations, LLCs, partnerships, or many trusts. C corporations are not subject to these same restrictions.

S corporations can have only one class of stock (disregarding voting rights). C corporations can have multiple classes of stock.

3. S corporation Election

S corporations must make a timely filing of Form 2553 with the IRS. The IRS instructions indicate this form must be completed and filed:

At any time before the 16th day of the 3rd month of the tax year the election is to take effect, or;
At any time during the tax year preceding the tax year it is to take effect. An election made no later than 2 months and 15 days after the beginning of a tax year that is less than 2½ months long is treated as timely for that year.


An election made after the 15th day of the 3rd month but before the end of the tax year generally is effective for the next tax year. However, an election made after the 15th day of the 3rd month will be accepted as timely filed if the corporation can show that failure to file on time was due to reasonable cause.


Pass-through Taxation

As mentioned above, electing S corporation status with the IRS allows for pass-through taxation of the corporation’s profits. S corporations must still file corporate tax returns, but they do not pay taxes at the corporate level. The corporation’s profits are passed-through to the individual tax returns of the shareholders, and taxes are paid on those profits at the individual tax rate. If the corporation is reporting a loss, the loss is passed-through to the shareholders as well. Because S corporations do not pay taxes at the corporate level, this eliminates the potential double tax C corporations face when profits are issued as dividends to shareholders.

How's that for an explanation? ;-)

There is no one, magical entity that works for everyone. A CPA or a specialized tax attorney can assist you in choosing the right structure for your lawn business. The important thing is to consider the operational, legal and tax aspects of each structure as they apply to your unique situation.

Nevertheless, as you determine which business structure is the best for your business, there are both online and professional resources to assist you. For advice on which structure to choose, you should contact an attorney or accountant. For additional information visit NOLO.com.

Cheers!

The Staff
http://www.howtostartyourlawncarebusiness.com

Copyright SLC

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Thursday

Lawn Business Marketing Example

Hi Everyone,

Lets look at and analyze a lawn business ad and see how we can improve it.

The following is a sample ad we received recently. The sender asked for some advice so we're going to give some.



_____________________________________________________
COMPANY NAME
Professional, Affordable
Early Bird Special
Spring is around the corner.
We will:
Mow
Trim
-------
-------
Other services available such as:
--------
--------
Sign up before April 1 and save
$5.00 per visit
-Free Estimates-
Call Today!
555-5555
Satisfaction Guaranteed
_____________________________________________________
First off, this ad has many elements a successful ad needs. What we would suggest (in the end you make the call) is a little rearranging and adding a little more here and there.
First off, our advice has been termed outrageous. That's okay because the results have also been known to be outrageous. I don't know about you, but we believe it's all about results. It's all about persuasion. Getting a prospective customer's attention and moving them to call you.
Right? Whats the point of having an ad that doesn't make your phone ring?
So what we need is a killer headline. The truth is we like this company name. It just needs to be located in a different spot.
We like the promotion because everyone wants to know what the "special" is all about. What "deal" or "bargain" will an interested party get?
After we ran the ad past a few of us in the office this is how we would rearrange it for possibly better results. We say 'possibly' because you'll never know unless you try it and TEST it. That means you have to keep track of your results. Always, always, always ask people where they heard about you when they contact you. This way you'll know what marketing is working and what marketing is not.
You with us? Okay let's keep going.
This is the new version of the ad. You'll notice in this new example we have followed the age-old formula of ATTENTION - INTEREST - DESIRE - ACTION.
We catch people's attention with the headline. On average there are atleast 1500-3000 marketing messages being shot at your prospective customers every single day. You have to stand out of the crowd.
Once we get them to pay attention we have to stir up some interest. We then create a desire and end the ad with a call to action - pick up the phone now and call us.
_____________________________________________________
FINALLY!
A Way To Have The Best Lawn & Garden On Your Block...
GUARANTEED!
Are you looking for mowing, trimming,
shrub maintenance and other services?
Then look no further.
-----------------------------------------------
"My lawn has never looked better.
I am so happy with these guys and
my neighbors are impressed too."
- Mr. X, Somewhere County
----------------------------------------------
EARLY BIRD SPECIAL!!!
If you book your service before April 1st
you'll receive 5% OFF all season long!
HURRY! Offer Ends April 1st, 2008 12pm sharp!
Call Today For Your FREE Estimate
555-5555
[COMPANY NAME]
*Only 37 New Customer Spots Available
_____________________________________________________
There you have it. This is a very basic overhaul of a lawn business ad but it's enough to get your creative going. There's a ton of variations you could use in this ad but you get the point.
Advertising is salesmanship in print. This ad has the job of convincing someone to call you. And in the end, the number of people who call as a result of this ad is the clear reflection of how good or bad it is.
We hope this helps!
The Staff

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Monday

Lawn Business Tip: Raising Money

I received an email asking about how to raise money for a lawn business.

Although I do go into greater detail about this in my lawn business course, here is a very basic list of ways to finance your business venture.

  • Tap into your savings
  • Ask for money from friends and family
  • Wisely use a credit card (do your due diligence)
  • Sell something
  • Apply for a loan at your local bank
  • Visit the small business administration
  • Have your customers pre-pay you

Speaking to the business owner who emailed me, you mentioned you already had the jobs but needed some advice about the money. Since you have the jobs, option 5, having your customers pre-pay you, looks like it may be one of the better choices for you to look into.

By asking for prepayment, you could smartly cover your costs as you grow your business. You might decide to ask for full or partial payment depending upon what you dare to do. That way you are jump starting your cash flow which sounds like it might just be the ticket you're looking for.

Of course, stopping into the SBA is also a very good idea.

Hope this helps.

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Friday

Lawn Care Business: DiCaprio Sues Landscapers

DiCaprio Sues Contractors Over Yard Work
Feb. 8, 2008, 12:14 AM EST
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- It's hardly a titanic struggle, but a dispute between Leonardo DiCaprio and his neighbors isn't departing anytime soon.

DiCaprio and the cousin from whom he rents a house are suing dozens of building contractors in an ongoing legal fight over a basketball court that neighbors claim destabilized their Hollywood Hills property.

The cross-complaint filed Jan. 30 lists contractors hired by the neighbors and by DiCaprio and cousin Robert Hrtica themselves.

Neighbors Joan and Robert Linclau sued DiCaprio and Hrtica in May for at least $250,000 in damages. They claimed their property was illegally excavated and some plants removed in 2004. They also said the work undermined a slope behind their home and left their deck and pool in danger of collapse.

The latest complaint from DiCaprio says the Linclaus' lawsuit has no merit, but if damages are found then the contractors are to blame.

Phone messages left after business hours to attorneys for the two sides and to the central contractor named in the suit were not immediately returned.

Previous court papers filed by DiCaprio contend the Linclaus may have caused the problems by installing an "illegal railroad tie retaining wall."

DiCaprio, 33, was a best-actor Oscar nominee last year for "Blood Diamond." His films also include "The Departed" and the megablockbuster "Titanic."

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Monday

Lawn Care Business Marketing Tip: How To Generate Business During a Slow Time Of Season

A question was recently posed to our group, "How do I generate business during a slower time of year?".

Here are our marketing thoughts in response specifically to John's question but anyone reading should be able to take something away from this.

As you know, anyone reading this, has to do your own due diligence when it comes to how you market and what your marketing budget is etc. You can take our ideas into consideration but in the end, you make the final call.

First of all, lets talk about the ad you sent in.

We really liked the fact it was in full color. It was clean and looked well presented. As you mentioned, it is coming out in a local book where you're the only lawn care business. That could be a big advantage.

No matter what, you'll have to keep track of it's results as we discuss below and always look at every marketing piece you have right now keeping in mind how you could improve it.

Let us give you some advice on how you can increase your marketing results.

There are volumes we could write about how to increase your business through effective marketing. Really.

It's a subject not easily explained within one post.

However, we will give you several tips that you can put to use right now.

The first is, what are the response percentages you have been getting from all your marketing?

This is a question most lawn care businesses can't answer. The bottomline is that the biggest step to better marketing for you is to test everything you do.

Test.Test.Test.

You must be able to know how each of your marketing weapons is doing. How many people called you from your flyer? Yellow Pages? Online?

How much business came from each? If you know these answers you will be able to tell where to put your marketing money and where to avoid putting it.

Keep track.

If you don't like certain response rates you're getting from a piece of marketing, change ONE thing in your ad and see how the results change.

The reason you only test ONE thing at a time in your marketing is so that you know what worked and what didn't. If you change more than one you won't know what it was that made the ad worse or better.

Secondly, its also very challenging(not impossible) to see your lawn care business as a customer does because you own it. You have to get into the minds of your lawn care customers and find out why they CHOSE your business over another. Find out what they like about your business and what they don't like. Then do everything in your power to become an even BETTER choice for them.

The reason surveying your customers is vital is it reveals information about your lawn care business so that you can work it into your marketing.

Think this is a dumb idea? One of the most successful marketers ever says he tries to find out 66 things about each customer. 66! Income, favorite food, hobby etc.

Now you may not have to go overboard like that but the point is the more you know, the more accurate your marketing. The more accurate, the more effective. The more effective, the more profitable.

Think about this as a consumer and not a business owner for a second.

Lets say you're looking for white shoes with velcro.

What ad below will move you to contact a shoe company.


AD#1

ANONYMOUS SHOE COMPANY LTD
Best Shoes In The County
Shoes, Boots, Gloves, Hats
Big Selection!
555-XXXX


AD#2
NEED WHITE SHOES?
We can help.Choose from
a wide selection of velcro
models. Come in and grab
your pair before they go.
LIMITED SUPPLY
ANONYMOUS SHOE COMPANY LTD
555-xxxx


This is a ridiculously blatant and a bit of a choppy example but it delivers the point. The more accurate the more attention you will give the ad. If you were looking for white shoes you may call both companies but you'll START with calling the second company first.

Everyone knows that most marketing gurus learn from other marketing gurus. Essentially, the marketing magic you need to know to sky-rocket your customer list is already sitting out there and you just need to find it. You just need to discover what will trigger people to call you even in a downtime. You need to understand what makes your customers tick and then deliver exactly what they want.

We learned from experience and from others. That's why we offer advice but we also aren't so arrogant as to not suggest other marketing sources.

3 we would recommend you look at now are - Motivational Marketing and anything from Ted Nicholas or Joe Sugarman (there are more but start with these).

Don't shun learning. You may be able to check these books out for free at your local library or may find it better to own them. Either way they may contain the extra explanation you need to boost your profits through killer marketing.

This may be a bit of a pain to most reading. Maybe you don't want the hassle of buying another book or visiting the library to pick one up.

Well, which pain would you rather have? The pain of "too little" business or the pain of picking up a marketing resource that could actually help grow your profits.

The final tip for you are 3 words -MARKET, MESSAGE, and MEDIA.

Effective marketing will come down to these 3 areas. If anyone of these is off, your results will not be AS GOOD as they can be.

MARKET - You want to make sure you're marketing to people who want or need your lawn care service.

MESSAGE - You want to make sure you're selling "white shoes" to people who want "white shoes" and not "blue shoes" or few to none will call you.

MEDIA - You want to make sure you're using the right form of marketing media to contact your customer. Classified ads may be the ticket. Or maybe door knob ads or both. You have to test and keep track of your results.

Since it's slow right now John where you live, chances are most of your competition is sitting back on their laurels waiting for things to pick up. This may be a great time to charge forward and pick up market share with very aggressive marketing.

Here's to your lawn service business success!

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