As the owner of snow plowing company in upstate New York, I thought I knew all about snow. That is until a Canadian blew my mind by using tractor mounted snow blowers to disrupt and dominate his market.
You heard me right. In 2016, Dillan Ruthenberg dramatically revolutionized his already successful snow removal business by switching from plows and loaders to snow blowers mounted on tractors. Ruthenberg kindly broke down the details of making the move into tractor mounted snow blowing for residential plowing operations to help others learn from the hundreds of hours he spent on research and implementation of this model.
According to Ruthenberg, this dramatic shift required three key factors: educating his potential customers on the benefits of tractor snow removal; creating a new pricing structure to disrupt the existing market; and using an automated sales system to dominate the snow removal market.
Educating About Advantages
It’s important to educate your clients on the benefits of any change in your company’s approach to your market. While there are pros and cons to both methods of snow removal, here are some key benefits to using tractors:
- Greater Displacement - Displaces the snow further into the client’s yards to minimize snow banks and turf damage due to “stacking” the snow
- Less Property Damage - By replacing the steel cutting edges on traditional plows, inverted snowblowers utilize hardened plastic edges that are equipped with Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMV) ensuring that damage to the plowed surface is practically eliminated
- Increased Productivity - Ruthenberg’s team can service as many as two hundred driveways with a tractor vs. fifty to eighty with a plow truck
- Better Safety - Tractor-mounted snow removal operations have no blind spots from snow piles and are safer for both vehicles and pedestrians
A combination of updates to his website and videos in his estimates allowed Ruthenberg to make his case at every step of the sales process. As mentioned above, Ruthenberg ’s blower tractors make use of UHMV blades instead of steel. While these hardened plastic edges leave a very minimal amount of snow behind, through upfront education of this trait, the benefits are easy to convey to clients.
Disrupting the Market
Just like getting rid of snow mountains, you have to disrupt your market before you can get traction. Ruthenberg accomplished this task by renovating his approach to estimates. The speed by which Ruthenberg was able to get estimates out to leads and the supporting images to help underscore the value his company brought to snow removal were both vital elements of his new estimating process. Website improvement played a key role in getting getting customers the estimates they were looking for.
- Videos - providing videos of a tractor plowing a driveway upfront; a sign up form online
- Graphics - educational graphics highlighted the benefits of tractor snow blowing
- Pricing Tables - pricing tables based on driveway size (1-6 cars, 7-10 cars, 10-15 cars, or 15+)
- Add-On Services - pricing for shoveling sidewalks and applying ice melt
- Customer Reviews - by having customer reviews available and prominently displayed, leads were able to feel confident in their decision
Unlike his local competition -- who inspected driveways in person and took three to four days to get the lead an estimate -- Ruthenberg’s new approach had pricing tables that allowed people to see their price immediately and select how they wanted to pay and to sign up online. Once a potential client submitted this online request, his office verified the service area via satellite and called the lead to finalize the sale. If they could not reach the new potential client, they would send an email with an online estimate that could be signed electronically and submitted in minutes. Separating himself from the pack with this streamlined estimate process meant Dillan could disrupt and dominate the market, even though he was charging more than the other companies in the area.
Automate Lead Follow-up
After creating the front-end lead funnel that captured the lead’s contact information, address, and the size of the service area, Ruthenberg decided not to leave the follow up and the closing of sales to chance. Investing in an automated sales system was the final step in executing market dominance for his tractor driven snow removal. Here are some of the advantages that Ruthenberg gained through automation:
- Consistent Process. The automated process created tasks for the sales team to follow up with leads and included call scripts and deadlines for accountability, as well as automated emails and text messages that looked personalized
- Increased Efficiency. Ruthenberg was able to minimize the number of man-hours his staff had to invest in the follow-up which allowed his staff to focus more on creating detailed estimates
- Up Selling Early. Ruthenberg and his team utilized their database of over 5,000 leads and clients to start upselling this new snow service as early as August, with early sign up discounts to incentivize people to act in advance of the fall/winter selling season
- Establish Urgency. Finally, if the returning clients or new prospects did not act on the early sign up savings, the automated system followed up right when his consumers started to think about snow began worrying about getting a service in place
By automating his follow-up process, Ruthenberg was able to streamline his processes, close more leads, and grow his services in a highly competitive market. By carefully laying the groundwork for this transition, he was able to mitigate the risk in making this monumental change in his snow business model.
If you are considering making the leap into tractor snow blowing and want to be an early adopter like Ruthenberg, consider these three steps to tractor snow blowing success and market domination. Teach your prospective clients the benefits of tractor snow removal, adopt an estimate process to disrupt the market, and automate your sales system for predictability. Following these steps will be your road map to differentiation of service offerings and the ability to scale your operations before the first flakes of winter fall.
Contributing editor Mike Callahan is a 20-year industry veteran and owner of Simple Growth Systems.