When The Low-Hanging Fruit Turns Out To Be Rotten


The easiest customers to get aren’t necessarily the customers you want.

I learned that lesson the hard way …

When I was a teenager in in Southaven, Miss., I had a residential lawn care business. I’d mow and edge my neighbors’ grass during the spring, summer and fall months. Most folks in that suburban area—at least in those days—really cared about their lawns looking great. So I had to do a good job and make sure I remembered the quirks and preferences of each homeowner.

Pushing a gas mower back and forth on 100-degree July afternoons, with the humidity hanging on me like a wet, woolen blanket, wasn’t always a good time. So even then, my favorite part of the job was marketing. There wasn’t much strategy to it back then. I’d create a flyer advertising my services on my Smith Corona word processor, take it to Kinko’s, and walk out with a stack of them. Armed with a fat roll of duct tape, I’d proceed to adorn every door knob in my neighborhood.

Before long, I realized I was getting the best response rate when I put those flyers on the doors of customers whose yards looked like crap (or at least they looked like crap by the standards of the neighborhood).

I was killing it with my marketing, right? Well … not really, because …

The Easiest Customers To Get Aren’t Necessarily The Customers You Want

It didn’t take many weeks of mowing in the brutal Mississippi heat and humidity before I started to notice something.

Those houses with the knee-high grass? They didn’t want me to come every couple of weeks, like the customers whose yards looked great.

They wanted me to come once five, six or seven weeks. Or more.

I charged for each visit, you see—not a flat monthly fee for my service.

Maybe that was my first mistake.

I wasn’t charging more for overgrown lawns.

As a result, the people who didn’t really care what that their yards looked were the ones most likely to hire me if they had my flyer. But they also wouldn’t call me until their yard was literally home to vermin, snakes, mosquitos, chiggers (not to mention hidden obstacles guaranteed to destroy my equipment or cut up my legs).

The easiest prospects to convert weren’t necessarily the ones I wanted to have an ongoing relationship with. Sometimes the low-hanging fruit turns out to be rotten.

What Would I Do Differently?

I could have done some testing. Maybe change up my flyer messaging to see if I could get a better response rate from the homes with “nice” yards.

Maybe I could have tried a different tactic altogether—like actually knocking on the doors of the fancy yards and having a good old fashioned face-to-face.

By mid-August each summer, school started and I went back to whatever part-time job I had at the time (usually a pizza place or grocery store). I wasn’t thinking much about optimizing my lawn care business’ sales funnel for my ideal customer persona.

But maybe if I had, those long days of mowing (once the next summer came back around) would have been more enjoyable—and profitable.

As always, hit me up if you have any ideas for future topics.