Leveraging your customer base by adding new brands and services
By John Ferracuti, That Franchise Group
Thirty years ago, when Ted Dinsmore ventured into the world of small
business ownership, it was all he could do to picture himself as “the
boss,” let alone the owner of multiple small businesses! Yet that is
exactly where Ted finds himself in 2010.
A Weed Man Lawn Care franchise operator who celebrated his 25th anniversary as a Weed Man this past year, he has recently augmented his lawn care business by adding recognizable brands and services to his core business. He now owns and operates Weed Man Lawn Care, Merrickville Storage Centre and Truly Nolen Pest Control—all from the same office location in Smiths Falls, Ont.
Ted is one of the many small business owners in Canada who have realized that adding solid, recognizable businesses to their existing service offerings is an ideal way to leverage the power of their customer base and goodwill that they have spent years building in their area.
There is nothing more powerful or important for a small business than goodwill. This is the most valuable item owned by your business, yet until you decide to sell that business, there are few ways to leverage this powerful asset. If you are a successful owner/operator, you have built a solid base of customers who trust you as the best service provider in your field. Your customers do business with you because they know you and they expect a superior level of service from you and your employees. So, why not grow your business by offering those existing loyal customers an opportunity to do more business with you through new related services provided by a recognizable brand? You have done the hard work required to create the customers. Now leverage that customer base and create more revenue!
The marketing of multiple brands will be most successful if the different brands appeal to similar customer needs that complement each other. If you are a tree service company, for example, then your customer expects that you are going to offer tree services. If you simply add lawn maintenance to your existing list of services, you may just confuse the customer. That is why the most successful method of adding services is to use a recognizable brand to offer those services.
Adding a national franchise business is often the most effective method of adding services. Your customers will quickly understand that there is a level of expertise in that industry that they associate with the franchise brand they already know and trust. Ted points out that “the brands should be linked in a way that allows the customer to see the connection and value to have a one-stop shopping experience. I don’t think that Weed Man Lawn Care offering pest control services would have the same synergy as Weed Man Lawn Care offering Truly Nolen Pest Control services.”
Truly Nolen Pest Control has been a leader in the structural pest control industry in North America for more than 60 years. There is a great deal of trust and value built up in that brand and, when combined with the Weed Man services and Ted Dinsmore’s attention to detail and track record with his customers, this becomes a potent combination.
Ted also sees the value in sharing his assets between brands.
“Multiple brands present the opportunity to increase your sales while using your existing capital assets such as land and buildings, as well as a good portion of the operating expenses,” he said.
You already have an office and staff and perhaps some other equipment that can service more than one brand. Just think of the advantage of utilizing what you already have to operate more than one business. By utilizing your existing assets you can significantly save on your operating expenses for the new, as well as the existing businesses.
In this day and age, it is also essential to diversify your business to ensure that you stay ahead of trends and minimize the potential for suffering from the inevitable downturns every industry goes through.
“It is best to diversify your brands with a product that appeals to a totally different, yet related, need or segment,” Ted said. “If there is a downturn in one market, then hopefully the other will continue to grow and succeed.”
Right now, the lawn care industry is going through a difficult stage due to the recent provincial legislation surrounding chemical pesticides. Although the Weed Man brand continues to be solid, growth in this industry has slowed, and Ted was looking for a way to use his existing customer base to grow his business.
“We are very enthusiastic with the complementary line of services that Truly Nolen Pest Control can offer our existing customers. We believe that the need is there and that they will want to receive these services from a company they trust and feel comfortable with. Truly Nolen Pest Control and Weed Man Lawn Care have a good fit with our ability to deliver services efficiently. We are confident our customers will take advantage of the convenience and potential savings that we will be able to offer them.”
Another way to approach this is to add brands and services to keep your staff and equipment busy during seasonal lapses in your industry. Most landscape-related businesses face the challenge of keeping busy during the winter time. Do you close down entirely and face losing your good employees to other employers, or maybe even to your competitors? Adding winter-related services using a trusted national brand can keep your employees and equipment working all year long, and sales can ramp up quickly when you use a recognized brand to introduce those services.
Paul Gaspar is a lawn care provider in Toronto who added Christmas Décor Holiday Decorating services to his business a number of years ago and watched his gross sales skyrocket.
“Christmas Decor has increased profits in our core business by offsetting fixed costs during what has traditionally been a slow time of the year,” he said. “It has also kept our staff productive year-round, as well as providing our customers with another valued service.”
So, how many related brands can you efficiently and effectively offer? The answer is unique to every small business, but there is no doubt that adding additional brands and services is a great way to increase your sales and satisfy your customers. You have worked long and hard to create that base of loyal customers. Now utilize that customer list and increase your sales by offering new, recognizable services!
John Ferracuti is business development manager for That Franchise Group, specializing in home service franchise brands in Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 866-615-4147.