Lawn care franchise Lawn Doctor has been in business more than 50 years, boasts over 500 units across the United States and has been recognized as one of the premier franchises in the home services space, ranking on Entrepreneur Magazine’s 500 List every single year since the list’s inception 40 years ago. So what gives the leading lawn care franchise its incredible staying power?
“We prioritize franchisee support in everything we do,” said Eric Martin, Lawn Doctor’s Vice President of Franchise Development. “That’s the reason behind everything, from our innovative technology that increases treatment efficiency to our on-call agronomist. Our entire system is about empowering and supporting our franchisees.”
One of the ways Lawn Doctor achieves its unparalleled level of support is by offering a soft rollout strategy to those franchisees who sign outside of their territory’s peak season. This means that franchisees complete training and receive marketing and launch support from a corporate RAMP team.
“The soft rollout allows franchisees to get their sea legs,” said Jay Markowitz, Lawn Doctor’s National Marketing Manager. “It’s a great opportunity to get comfortable with the product and the customer-facing elements of the business during a slower time. ‘Slower’ being a relative term, because there are still summer and fall services, but not as active as in the spring,” Markowitz explained, referring to franchisees in four-season climates. “This means those franchisees can leverage marketing to gain traction and acquire new customers while maintaining a robust balance and gaining momentum for the spring season.”
Markowitz explained that, for those off-peak franchisees living in four-season climates, their timeline might progress as follows:
“A franchisee might come through Discovery Day in April or May, we would set them up for a training class in June, and then shortly after, in July or early August, our RAMP team would go out for a two-day visit to get them started just as they would if the franchisee were starting earlier in the year. In this way, our owners are ready to hit the ground running in the spring.”
Markowitz went on to explain that Lawn Doctor’s RAMP team works closely with franchisees for their first year in business, offering both startup and follow-up support. As part of the brand’s RAMPing strategy, new Lawn Doctor franchisees engage in multiple local community events while the RAMP team and corporate leadership drive national media.
“Each franchisee is assigned a marketing coordinator who is also a member of the RAMP team and who owns a handful of tactics,” Markowitz said. “So a new franchisee owns their local community events, joins organizations and looks for local marketing opportunities while we drive national buzz and provide guidance.”
In addition to a commitment to ongoing support from corporate, Lawn Doctor franchisees employing a mid-season soft launch stand to benefit in other ways.
“Doing a soft launch mid-season allows a franchisee to secure the territory they prefer, instead of having to wait until later in the year, or even the following year, and risk losing that territory to another candidate entering the Lawn Doctor system,” Markowitz said. “So doing a soft launch is a great way to lock that preferred territory in.”
Markotwitz also shared that this approach lets the corporate RAMP team get a headstart on marketing efforts for the hard launch in the spring.
“We can activate the location’s websites, build SEO strength and build brand awareness in the franchisee’s community by networking with potential customers, local businesses and community leaders,” said Markowitz.
“For the RAMP team, our number one priority is to get a franchisee to become profitable as quickly as we can,” Markowitz emphasized. “Yes, opening mid-season may mean that process is a little longer, but we partner with our franchisees to set realistic expectations when it comes to volume and we offer financing options to maximize their momentum.”
The approach certainly works well; franchisees who take advantage of the soft roll-out approach to their businesses are some of the most confident, according to Markowitz.
“Those mid-season franchisees often demonstrate greater comfort and familiarity with the equipment and an excellent understanding of agronomy,” said Markowitz. “The first time you or your technician is on a customer’s lawn, you have some natural jitters. Getting that familiarizing out of the way when your business isn’t quite as busy means the jitters are all gone when the busy season rolls around.”
Martin echoed this point.
“Starting anything new is stressful, but that is magnified when preparing to launch this business prior to the hectic spring season,” Martin said. “I liken our soft roll-out program to an off-season workout regimen for an athlete. You are training, learning, making gains and putting yourself in the position to have a great year. It’s hard for anyone to walk into class and turn around immediately and step onto the playing field. It helps to have a little more lead time to prepare before the lights come on and it’s game time.”
Regular season or off-season, Lawn Doctor franchisees can expect a cleared runway ramp that positions them to launch, and on the other side, the grass looks pretty green.