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The Lawn Care of Custom Installation

As I pulled out of my driveway this morning, I noticed that the grass was starting to get a tad unruly. And that made me think, “Ahhh… Mr. Russell will be coming in a couple of days to mow it. Then it will look nice.” Sure, I could cut my own grass. There’s nothing overly difficult about it. And, damn, I even have a r

As I pulled out of my driveway this morning, I noticed that the grass was starting to get a tad unruly. And that made me think, “Ahhh… Mr. Russell will be coming in a couple of days to mow it. Then it will look nice.” Sure, I could cut my own grass. There’s nothing overly difficult about it. And, damn, I even have a riding lawn mower! But when you factor in the filling of the gas tank, the maintenance on the mower, the mowing time, the bagging time, the edging time, the blowing time, the post-mow shower clean up time, mowing my lawn ends up taking me about four hours. Mr. Russell charges me $30 to do it all. It took me a while to realize, but my time is totally worth more to me than $7.50 an hour.

And this got me to thinking that lawn care, or to be more specific the customers that use lawn care, are a lot like audio-video installation customers.

The “Look! I’m not the expert here” Guy
This is the guy who doesn’t like to get his hands dirty, doesn’t care to understand the difference between herbicide and fungicide or is just too damn busy to be bothered with it. He understands his time is valuable and doesn’t want to be wasting it doing anything that doesn’t involve him on his boat, him on his Harley, or him sitting in front of his entertainment system with a fat Cuban and a glass of single malt. This guy is the custom installer’s dream. This guy can’t be bothered to touch his own stuff and will call on you to do everything no matter how seemingly simple. He almost never questions the price and often uses phrases like, “Hey! If this were [insert terms like “a hostile takeover,” “commodity trading,” or “vascular surgery”] then I’d tell you what to do, but you’re the expert here; you just tell me what I should get!” This guy’s only real drawback is that he can be demanding. He is willing to pay, but he expects to be serviced and he does not like it when things don’t work. No sir, does not like it one little bit.

The “I NEVER pay for that” Guy
This is the exact opposite of the “never touch that” guy. This guy thinks he can do it all himself regardless of how much time, sweat, and effort it takes. He is almost a martyr in his willingness to spend days working on things. Laying his own sod, figuring out and then trenching and running his own irrigation system, toiling away digging up and repairing broken pipes, etc. This is a tricky customer to deal with because he can often be the kind of time-killer that wants to come in and suckle at your knowledge teat until it is dry, cracked, and bleeding, and then when he has extracted every ounce of your knowledge on a subject, will go home and implement the suggestions…paying you diddily-squat. This guy thinks nothing of seeking your advice and then purchasing the item from the lowest possible Amazon reseller he can find on Google. He’ll often throw out jack-ass comments like, “You know; I’d buy this from you if you could match this price…” However, this guy does have passion for the end-result, and if you can forge some kind of respectful relationship with him, this is the kind of guy that can actually refer others to you. He understands the work that you do and isn’t willing to do it himself for others, so when they see his system, he will be apt to send them your way. Maybe.

The “I just LOVE this stuff” Guy
This guy secretly wants to be a gardener. He loves gardening. The smell of the cut grass and moist earth, the feel of the dirt between his fingers, the satisfaction of eating something grown from his garden. He loves everything about it. This is another great client type. This is the guy that envies you for your career in the custom installation industry and who reads all the industry publications and keeps up with technology nearly as much as you. When you tell him you’re going to CEDIA or CES, he is privately crushed that you’re not inviting him. This guy will do minor things on his own system – and even help out friends – for the sheer joy of it, but he still likes to hire you for really techie things like TV calibrations, setting up a new AV receiver, or even a yearly system check because he wants to make sure it’s done right and his system is performing to maximum. Expect him to watch your every move because this is like tech-porn to him. He’s also very loyal and addicted to the latest-and-greatest and if you treat him right, he’ll keep coming back again and again. This is the guy that you PRAY wins the lottery, because he’s already planned out every penny of the winnings, and it involves things like Theo Kalomirakis-designed media rooms.

The “I used to do that” Guy
This guy was a landscaper at one time. He still has a good, overall understanding of the industry, but hasn’t really kept up with all the new tools and machines or is just getting too old to do it himself. In our world this is the dreaded EE or electrician, or similar. This guy thrives on specifications and schematics and minutiae. He might ask for a detailed wire diagram and for a copy of your programming software so he can make his own tweaks. He’ll check your wire routes and cable management and describe how, “You know, back when I was doing it…” He can be difficult to win over and can smell you out if you are BS-ing him about something. He will ultimately give his business to the company that he has the most confidence and trust in.

The “I’ll do it myself if I can” Guy
This guy handles simple chores like lawn mowing, light weeding, and maybe even something slightly trickier like replacing a broken sprinkler head. But beyond that, when it comes to something complicated or technical, he calls in a pro. This guy handles simple stuff like programming a Harmony or installing a new Blu-ray, but doesn’t want to mess with retrofitting wiring in a wall or wall-mounting a flat panel or cutting in some speakers. He’s not a high-ender and can often be a one-off job or someone that will call every couple of years to have something changed or updated. This guy is pretty handy for trying to troubleshoot things over the phone, and will appreciate you A) Helping him to fix the problem and B) Not having to pay for the truck roll. This is also a guy that would be likely to use you more if your price is – what he considers – fair and reasonable. For instance, take me and my lawn mowing. I’ll have Mr. Russell do it for $30, but probably not for $50. If you quote a price that’s too high, this guy is likely to bail, call someone else, and never call you again.

The “I guess it’s dead” Guy
This is the guy that doesn’t really care about his lawn; it’s just something there to keep the dirt company. The grass grows tall, turns brown and then dies. Weeds come in and then one day he decides he wants to enjoy his lawn again but he has no idea what to do. So, he turns to his old gardener for help. This person holds on to his gear forever. The terms “obsolete,” “greatly improved” or “HDMI” mean nothing to him; if it still powers up, then it is still perfect. He only reaches out in times of crisis, and then hopes that you can either A) Perform some miracle cure to bring his component back from the dead or B) Have some incredibly inexpensive replacement that will get him back up-and-running.

The “I want my lawn to look better than his lawn!” Guy
This is a two-edged sword of a client. He doesn’t really care that much about having an amazing lawn at all, he just wants to have the best lawn in the neighborhood solely for the sake of making sure that everyone knows it. On the plus side, this guy will usually drop a lot of duckets. From his car, to his clothes, to his watch, he understands that having the best is expensive and he is willing – and able – to pay for it. On the downside, there is often little post-install satisfaction. He doesn’t really care how amazing it is as long as it is MORE amazing than anything his friends own. This guy is often a celebrity, most typically an athlete. Back on the plus side, he often has a lot of wealthy friends, and one of them is likely gonna want something even better.

The “I just want the basics” Guy
This guy wants a lawn. That’s it. No sprinkler system, no fancy landscaping, no paver stones. Just a lawn. This is the customer that wants a simple system and any discussions of upgrading to a smart remote or adding lighting control, or higher-end speakers just makes them nervous and uncomfortable. Primarily they are interested in the lowest price possible and will often be secretly – or overtly – comparing all of your pricing to Best Buy and the Internet. This customer type is definitely a one-off job that will often follow-up any future calls with, “And how much will that cost me?”

As Bud, my first boss in the golf business, used to say, “People…they’re everywhere!” And the key to being successful in these tough times is in understanding the different client types and making sure that you tailor your selling strategies to fit their needs and wants. Through superior knowledge, enthusiasm, and terrific demonstrations, hopefully you can transform more of your clients into long-term, “I LOVE this stuff!” guys!