Landscape business owner plants a bush in the landscaping bed of his customer.

To build your landscaping business, you need to rake in referrals. To rake in referrals, you need to leave homeowners happy – really happy. In fact, your customers need to be so happy with your company and the work you did that they will tell others or hire you for more projects.

Here are six tips from successful landscaping business owners around the U.S. and Canada on how to make a name for yourself and build your business through customer referrals.

1. Diversify

Clients are just as busy as contractors. So, make it easy for them to place one phone call – to you – that checks five or six things off their list. If you can save clients from looking for, calling and dealing with multiple subcontractors, you will win over a number of new clients and keep them happy. Perhaps, in addition to services like mowing and vegetation management, you can also offer residential irrigation, hardscaping or snow removal services.

“By being diversified, we make clients’ lives a lot easier,” says Mike Lalonde, president of Blue Pine Enterprises, Ltd. “I hate using that term ‘one-stop shop,’ because it just sounds corny, but that’s essentially what we’ve created, and it’s helped us get a lot of clients.”

2. Take Every Job at First, Then Focus on Great Clients

When you first start a business, take every job you can. Once you’re more established, cultivate relationships with great customers and have fewer of them.

“You get to the first $1 million or $2 million in business by saying ‘yes’ to everything, and you continue to grow your business and get to the next level by saying ‘no,’” says Todd Pugh, owner of Enviroscapes. “Now we try to have fewer customers – and more properties with the same customer – so we can create more intimate customer relationships.”

3. Look Professional

How you and your equipment look when you show up to the jobsite matters – a lot. Word-of-mouth advertising is largely about presentation. This includes branding your equipment, making sure trucks and equipment are squeaky clean when they arrive, and occasionally making an appearance on the jobsite if you generally spend most of your time in the office – especially if it’s your name on the side of the truck.

Kyle Brown loads his clean E32 Bobcat excavator onto a trailer.“My trucks are wrapped. My equipment is decaled. I’m a big believer in having nice equipment and nice trucks, because they get you the high-end work,” says Kyle Brown, owner of Brown Landscape. “High-end residential clients don’t want a 25-year-old machine and a 10-year-old truck that’s leaking oil all over the place in their driveway. We roll up in brand-new trucks with brand-new equipment, and we get noticed. It attracts the right clientele and also gets us a lot of referrals.”

Bob Urban, owner of Lawn and Order Landscaping and Excavating, says in addition to making sure his equipment and trucks are always waxed and spotless, he also makes a point of personally showing up on the jobsite.

“We had a contractor do work at our house a few years ago, and I feel like he was never there. That was a big pet peeve of mine,” he says. “You’d never get to see the guy whose name is on the side of the truck.”

4. Pay Attention to Detail

The referral – and your reputation – is in the details. Small things can have a big impact on whether clients leave with a bad taste in their mouth or happy enough to tell others about you.

“Sometimes it’s best to just bite your tongue when a client asks you to change one little thing or do something you wouldn’t normally do,” Brown says. “Doing what they want, regardless of how silly it may seem, usually turns into bigger and better things.”

Urban says customers also notice the details you think they won’t – and it’s ultimately your reputation at stake.

“They notice if you’re never on the job or if you showed up to inspect the work and then took a few minutes to redo something that needed a little fixing,” he says. “Some people say, ‘Oh, that’s good enough. They’ll never notice. Let it go.’ But I would never do that. It drives me nuts if I put my heart and soul into something and it doesn’t come out the way that I think it should. I’ve even stopped and watered people’s lawns for them. That’s my name on that lawn. I know how much pride and work I put into that job, so I’ll water it because I want it to look nice.”

5. Treat Customers like Friends, Not Numbers

Being honest and transparent with customers is invaluable when it comes to generating referrals.

“It’s not just a client — it’s more than that. It’s a friendship. It’s a relationship,” says John Knight, Owner of Knights Landscaping & Services, LLC. “Being able to create a rapport with each and every client has opened up numerous opportunities for me to get new clients and meet other vendors who are friendly competitors, so I get exposed to different types of work within the landscaping industry.”

Gary Thorpe, owner of Horizon Landscape Services, says customers also watch to see how you treat them after the sale.

“They want to see if you will treat them right or just say, ‘Well, I already made that sale. I don’t need you anymore,’” he says. “If you treat them fairly afterwards, they will continue doing business with you. If not, they might turn around and never come back.”

6. Take On a Job You Haven’t Done Before

Never be afraid to take on a new project or challenge. Taking risks teaches you how to do new things, which ultimately gets you more work.

“Nothing’s rocket science,” Urban says. “Other people have done it before, so why can’t you?”

Bo Luna of Luna’s Lawn Care agrees: “I made tons of mistakes in the beginning, trying to figure out how to do things. But I figured out what I did wrong and corrected it, and that’s how I learned how to do irrigation.”

Knight is another firm believer that all success is built on failure. “The only way we can actually fail is if we quit trying to complete a job or task,” he says. “All of my success has come from learning from my mistakes.”

 

Want more tips? Check out this successful business owner’s 5 Golden Rules to Grow Your Own Company From the Ground Up.

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