How To Have Your Most Profitable Year Ever As A Garden Designer

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My jaw dropped.

My mouth was wide open.  A fly could have zoomed in and I wouldn’t have noticed.

What my friend said shocked me.  

I was gobsmacked.  

Mind blown.

garden design business marketing

Let me explain.

The year was 2001.  I was sitting in a basement in a suburban home near Cleveland.  A dozen men sat in big puffy chairs around a hardwood board room table, conspicuously out of place on the carpeted rec room floor.   One of the men was standing in front of his chair, while the rest of us stared at him, taking notes, nodding and pretending to be fully engaged.

It was a high level business mastermind.  I had paid $10,000 to be there.  Taking inflation into account in today’s money it’s closer to $20,000.  So yes, be darn sure I was paying attention.

The speaking gentleman was in the rapid lube oil change business.  I was not.  But he was exposing the inner workings of his operation.  Perhaps something of his would translate into what I was doing.  Then he dropped a bombshell.

He disclosed that nearly 20% of his total after tax profits came from a “slack adjuster”.

A what?  

I leaned forward, hanging on his every word.

He explained that a lot of his customers were small jobs that covered the daily grind like payroll, taxes, leases and overhead.  About 80% of his profits came from 20% of his customers, and the largest chunk of that profit came from a special kind of big job that he referred to as his “slack adjuster”.

He had begun asking the customer a couple of extra questions when they brought their vehicle in for service.  He easily trained the front line staff to ask the 3 magic questions.  The vast majority of customers said NO to all 3 questions.  But a few said yes….and his profits went up, up, up.

Of course you know what the first thought was into my head when I heard that…..What were the 3 magic questions that skyrocketed his profits?

He never told us.

I was crestfallen.  



I felt like farting.

But…he shared something more important.  He explained HOW he created the 3 magic questions that created the massive surge in profits.

Imagine you walk into a fast food restaurant.  The chances are high that a teenager making minimum wage is going to greet you.    After you place your order they are trained to ask you at least one magic question, aren’t they?

Would you like fries with that?  

Would you like to super size that?  

Would you like an apple pie with that?

The secret to the slack adjuster lies in the question.  Imagine instead of them asking you about fries they asked you if you’d like an ice cream sundae made with real vanilla beans grown on the tallest mountain in Africa, drizzled with Grand Marnier, chocolate truffle shavings and real gold leaf flake for $290?

Most would say no…but….a few would say YES!

As I glanced around the basement filled with entrepreneurs, several of them began to nod to the idea of the slack adjuster.  Some of them chimed in and said they had their own version called “the mother of all offers”  and “everything including the kitchen sink”.  

One guy had a mail order catalogue selling $40 VCR tapes that he had licensed from overseas.  At the very bottom of his order form was a check box with his slack adjuster.  It was a 60 pound box of every single VCR tape they sold for $1500.  While most of his order were for just 1 or 2 tapes, every so often an enthusiastic customer would order the slack adjuster dramatically increasing his profits.

So as a garden designer, how can you have a huge surge in profits with your own slack adjuster?   And how can you do it without working even harder than you’re doing now?

The fastest way is to test a “Gold Version” of your most popular service that you offer.  Think American Express.  They have had the green credit card for ages.  Then they added the gold one with more prestige…and higher fees.  Then the platinum one.  And now the mythical black one.  

Do you have the inner confidence to offer a deluxe version of your offer and ask your client for more money when quoting your next job?  If you do, then you’re ready for the upsell.  If not, I strongly suggest reading THIS BOOK.

An even easier way to create the opportunity for a big time profit surge is to create a small handful of 3-5 magic questions that get asked to the client every single time you quote a job.  

Here’s a couple to get you started:

  • are you thinking of adding a pool in the next year?
  • when was the last time you had your roof checked?
  • are you thinking of upgrading your driveway in the next year?
  • how happy are you with your lawn maintenance?
  • how happy are you with your snow removal service?

When a client responds in the affirmative, you simply ask, “would you like me to introduce you to my guy to see if they can get you a discount?”.

I know a guy

Imagine the RELIEF in the client.  Chances are they are busy, maybe even time-starved.  You’re offering to solve a problem for them, to open your rolodex of trusted vendors, make the personal introduction and maybe even get them a discount?  Wow, thank you very much!

Let’s say I own a pool installation company in your city.  How grateful would I be if you brought me a couple of $30,000 jobs next year?  Think I might compensate you for the client referral?

The secret is TRUST.  The client must TRUST you.  I must TRUST you.  You must trust that I will solve the client’s PROBLEM.  That’s what business is, isn’t it?  The exchange of a storage vehicle called money in exchange for the solving of a problem.

What’s one of the best ways to build trust long term with a client?  

One of my favorites is a monthly email newsletter.  Just a few lines of personal communication as a friendly reminder.  As your email newsletter list grows over time, it becomes a virtual ATM that can give you money consistently as you become the trusted problem solver.  Even the most tech-adverse garden designer can set up an email client newsletter in 20 minutes nowadays.

Want to see how easy it is?  Look at the yellow box below:

It’s simple to add to your site.  I added it to this page in 4 seconds using cut and paste.  The service that sends you the email is my trusted provider.  I’ve used them since 1998 and I refer all my clients to them.  You can try them for less than the price of a small french fry.  You have 100% control over spam, joining, leaving and all the bells and whistles.

Click the yellow button, and see how easy it is.  Get started on the path to your best year ever.

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