Free Mulch

So this over 50 foot long,  Y-shaped branch falls on our house and blows a hole through the roof (click pictures to enlarge).

Bottom of branch

For those of you not familiar with summer in Florida, this is a bigger deal than you might think.  First off, it rains hard almost every day.  A hole in your roof is a serious problem in terms of the potential for a lot of interior water damage.

Middle of branch 

The second issue is that hurricane season has started.  You absolutely, positively do not want to go into hurricane season with a hole in your roof.  You’re just asking for the whole roof to blow off. 

Bottom of branch 

After the initial WTF, I call my tree guy, Duane, who I originally found on Angie’s List.  After the assessment, we get to talking and I ask him about the “FREE MULCH” signs he has plastered all over his trucks along with his cell phone number. 

From other conversations with him, I already knew he has created a unique business model, with a Marketing Strategy similar to the one Duncan Roofs uses – he overwhelms the job with power and encourages non-job audiences to interact.

Instead of having 2 guys show up for tree trimming jobs with chain saws, ropes, and a small truck, he shows up  with 6 guys, 2 full size bucket trucks with mulch bins, a bucket loader, and an enormous chipper.  He can literally do a job that would take the other guys a full day or more in about 3 hours or less.

The chipper, it turns out, is really a secret weapon.  Really poweful chippers are expensive, but here’s the thing: so is taking branches to the landfill.  With this chipper, two things happen:

1.  The job goes much faster because he just stuffs the branches into the chipper with the bucket loader.  Safer for the crew too.

2.  The mulch goes to the landfill maybe every 2 -3 jobs, as opposed to running the truck over there 3 or 4 times per job, like the “2 men and a chain saw” type company would have to do.

That is, if he has any mulch left. 

What happens quite a bit is neighbors call the “Free Mulch” number on the trucks, and of course, while Duane is interacting with them, he looks at their trees.  “Geesh, I’m right here with my trucks, I could trim those up for only $XXX, it would take me just a couple of hours…”

Brilliant, really. 

He’s so fast that he can actually deliver on that promise, I mean, the bucket trucks are sitting right there, with full crews.  And the neighbor knows he does a fast and clean job – they just witnessed same.  The “2 men and a chain saw” type of company – even if they hassled the neighbors looking for work – couldn’t capture the impulse on the spot.  In addition, they’d have to come back, and that costs money.

When Marketing is truly integrated with Operations, it’s just a beautiful thing.  Like the Duncan Roofs geo-demo model, if one house in a neighborhood needs trees trimmed (or a new roof), it’s likely others do too.  Plus, he gets calls “out of neighborhood” from people who see the trucks driving around and just want the free mulch.  And they get the same, “Geesh, I’m right here…” kind of pitch.

The problem with a lot of “Free” offers designed to acquire customers is they are either too expensive to execute, too difficult for the customer to act on relative to offer value, operationally inefficient, or just plain out of context.  Free offers tend to generate low quality and / or expensive to maintain customers.

Unless you sit down and really think the Strategy through, taking into account all the potential  impacts on the business.  Like Duane did.

Shuffleboard, anyone?


2 thoughts on “Free Mulch

  1. Well, Jim, if I had a tree smashing in a whole in my roof, I’d be running around the house, screaming my head off, panicking. If I would ever get the time to blog about it, it would be all whining, and complaining.

    You? In the middle of disaster, you can’t help yourself but noticing how cleverly your tree guy sells and executes his services.

    You really are a true marketer…

    Good luck with your roof, by the way.

  2. Well, there was a delay of almost a week between the smashing and the posting, so it’s not like I didn’t have time to panic. And since it happened on a Friday afternoon, I had the whole weekend to go out there every hour and say, “Sheeeet!”

    That’s just about all one can say…but thanks for the kind words!

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