Mulch – An Ongrowing ServiceTomChilders
It is no secret that mulching as a gardening practice is more popular than ever. Cars with trunks open and full of bags, bulk piles in the driveway, wheelbarrows, pitchforks, and people laboring in the yard. All followed by the neighborhood spring get together with people griping about aching backs and spreading mulch all weekend. Of course, not all mulch is DIY but the DIY crowd moans the loudest. There are some of your customers, commercial and DIFM (do it for me), that just write you a check…not all but some.
So if they gripe so much, why do they do it? Why do the DIFM’s write the check? Because it is worth it! Not only is it beautiful but it has many benefits and the mulch industry has done a good job promoting these benefits as well. Here is one list of benefits from eXtension (eXtension is an interactive learning environment delivering research-based information emerging from America’s land-grant university system.).
- Maintains a more even soil temperature
- Erosion control
- Retains moisture in the soil
- Organic mulches improve the soil structure
- Decaying mulch adds nutrients to the soil
- Improves absorption and movement of water into the soil by preventing soil crusting
- Protects trunks of trees and shrubs from damage from lawn equipment
- Helps prevent soil compaction
- Adds to the aesthetic beauty by adding color and texture to the soil surface
- Shallow rooted plants are less stressed
- Mulch can create a weed and grass free zone around plants
- Protects ripening vegetables from coming in contact with the soil surface
- Improve aesthetics of planting beds
This is a convincing list full of benefits that help solve some of today’s biggest challenges and hottest topics. For instance, more efficient and effective water use, reduced pesticide and fertilizer need, and the list continues.
Are you or have you thought about aggressively promoting and offering mulching as a service? This is not only a great way to grow with existing customers but it can be a great way to acquire a new customer. The first step to landing a new customer is through an initial engagement and transaction. Why not start with one they already spend money and time on? Also, promote and appeal to the stewardship and benefits of saving water, pesticides, fertilizers, and/or time if it fits with the customer. Promote your professionalism and knowledge on proper application techniques and timing, which can help with cost and rationalization process in their mind.
While the opportunity is real and large, you will have to be able to fit this in your business model efficiently to make it profitable. Historically, this has been one of the challenges for the typical contractor. The materials involved are large and bulky and require large amounts of direct labor to spread. While there are mechanized ways to handle the job, the price tags are not small and should be evaluated thoroughly (here is an article from Soil and mulch Producer News on the topic.). Scheduling and storage of these large and bulky materials are not easy. Good vendors and customer relationships are key. The labor needed in the absence of a mulch blower is by and large unskilled. A batch approach that would enable you to tackle the job with seasonal, flex labor is one option. This would work best if you could pre-book and schedule accordingly. If you are not at 100% capacity with current labor, it’s a little easier but then you need to see at what point you need to flex up.
If this sounds challenging, it is! At the same time, the opportunity could be big. Masterminding an efficient and profitable approach that will work is obstacle one. If you clear it, test it with some strong promotional offers and see how it goes. By all means, share your results with us; or, if someone out there already has and is willing to share some feedback, we’d love to hear it!