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Determining your market and finding customers

starting a gardening businessHow are you plans to start a gardening and landscaping business coming on?

So far we've tried to determine if landscape or garden business is right for you by asking some tough questions. We've also looked at how to plan your business plan to give you a little help in adapting your mental approach.

Today's stage is crucial: I know you are going to say that all of the process is of equal importance but believe me, out of all your planning, finding where you sit on the service provider ladder and what type of client you need, is right at the top of the list.

What is a gardener? - note: I've used the term 'gardener' throughout but the advice about finding your place in the market still applies to landscaping.

It's really easy to define isn't it?...isn't a gardener just someone who pulls out weeds and cuts grass.

I wish (and so do so many others) it was this simple. A gardener can be a mixture of so many things - from providing the most basic of services to a highly skilled specialist services - it would be impossible to define them all on this page.

Not only that, accurately defining a client (a process I feel very few people do) is an awfully tricky thing too . But if you are going to make your new business a success - or make an existing one better - you need to match your skills to the requirements of your potential client.

Be brutally honest with yourself and make a list of all of the personal qualities you posses and what you feel are your best assets when selling your services.

Examples are: Honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty, punctuality hard working - all of these are next to priceless when starting a business. Don't lie to yourself, if you are not good at keeping appointments then accept it and look to improve on it.

Now list what professional qualities you have and again, be honest with yourself.

Plant identification, pruning knowledge, understanding soil, compost, plant root needs and plant behaviour, grass knowledge (there are so many more you can add but I hope you get my gist?).

Your next task is to build a profile of what kind of client might have a need for your skill-set and experience.

It should be obvious that you cannot sell your services and call yourself a specialist if you clearly haven't got the experience or knowledge and if you try to do so, you'll quickly get a bad name for yourself.

If you are at the really earl stages of a gardening career and you have no formal knowledge or experience then you must pitch yourself at the market honestly. There will be clients in need of your services but lacking a diverse range of skills will mean that you probably have a narrow channel of possibilities.

It might be that your service is one of a garden cleaner rather than gardener, so advertise this fact; you can always upgrade yourself as your experience and knowledge grows. If you've previous experience then you can lever that to your advantage too.

Once you've determined where you site in the market and identified the demography of your client then you are in a position to research the charge-out rates for this market segment.

I cannot give specifics on the actual rates you should be charging (and we will go into how to determine charge out rates in more detail) as there are so many regional and demographic variations but clearly, if you are providing a small-scale tidy-up service and you are looking to charge £20.00 per hour, for example, you will discover that you'll quickly price yourself out of the market and find it hard to sell your services.

Equally, if you are an experienced gardener with a proven track record and specific skill-set and you are trying to sell your services to a client who just requires a basic service and who may not have a need for these attributes, will prove equally as fruitless.

Find your honest place in the market and your product will fly.

Always keep in the back of your mind that when your knowledge and experience reaches a level where you're confident about your abilities, you WILL need to start upgrading your client base to ones who are looking for a higher level of gardening skills and experience.

When this stage comes, you might find there is some kind of emotional tie to your existing clients but always remember that misplaced loyalty doesn't pay the bills. Your client might well be getting a great service at a price that is now below the market price for your skill and knowledge range. You will either have to replace your client or invite them to take their garden up to the next level with you and pay the going rate.

This thread has the potential to run and run so if you are looking for specific advice then please do not hesitate to leave a question below and I will do my best to answer.

Topics covered so far:

Business idea and evaluation - asking yourself some tough questions
Business plan - how to plan a business plan
Determining your market and finding customers - finding your rightful place on the ladder
Advertising your garden business
Registering a garden business

Email me when people comment –
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Phil

Comments

  • Usual sound advice! Thankyou. The other option for correcting shortfalls in expertise is - straightforwardly enough - to employ people who plug the gaps.
  • I certainly understand your comments on emotional ties and misplaced loyalty, I have some jobs from my early years, and they are under priced but I feel like theyre my friends, its hard to let go of them.
    I started 20 years ago working for my self, after working for another maintenance guy for only one year, and just went for it, and it payed off in the long run, although I'm sure there are some members on here who went to college etc, I never had that luxury and had to blag my way through the early years whilst I gained my knowledge and experience mostly it worked, but on occasions it didnt work out quite like i wanted.
  • Thanks for doing this little course thing. The info is really useful. I set up on my own in September last year. I've found the winter really hard, but slowly I'm starting to get new customers. :) I suppose it's the worst time I could have started really..... end of a summer in a reccession. Ah well, I'm just gonna keep going, and make it work.

     

    Thanks again :)

     

    Nathan

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