By Jeremy Wishart
Contractors are always looking for an edge over the competition. Especially in larger markets where lawn maintenance companies are everywhere, it can sometimes seem as though the only way to get ahead is by reducing the price of services. Fortunately, there is another way to stand out from the competition.
Leveraging the use of propane commercial mowers and marketing the company as a “green” operation can improve business in several ways.
Tell customers about your “green” operation
Before making the switch to propane for its environmentally friendly attributes, it’s important to understand what those traits actually are. When it comes to reducing emissions, there’s no comparison between propane mowers and gasoline mowers. Companies using propane mowers reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent, nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions by 19 percent, and sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions by 16 percent — major contributors to ground-level ozone that can cause breathing difficulties, eye irritation, and worsen pre-existing conditions such as asthma or chronic respiratory infections.
Propane mowers also meet and exceed emissions standards in communities with “ozone action days,” so contractors can mow with propane equipment without interruption. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes propane as a non-contaminant of the air, water and soil. Propane’s clean advantages allow contractors to position their companies as the “green” alternative to surrounding competition.
There are many ways that contractors can use marketing tools to share this green message. Colorful truck wraps or vehicle decals, photos of propane equipment posted on social media, door-hang informational brochures, even contacting local news organizations about ways homeowners can reduce their own carbon footprint on the property (Hint: They should hire a “green” landscaper).
These messages can resonate not only with green-minded customers who care about the environment in a general sense, but also with the everyday homeowner who wants to keep their children and pets as healthy as possible can connect. Commercial clients are also increasingly seeking environmentally friendly methods to support their own corporate sustainability efforts.
Go after bids requiring sustainability practices
It’s becoming more common for public agencies, through the project bidding process, to require some form of sustainable practice to qualify for the job. Propane mowers allow contractors to go after these bids, which can include large, multi-year contracts for services to school districts, cities, public universities, government facilities, rights-of-way, and parks.
Propane mower use can make a contractor eligible for these types of public projects, and the lower fuel costs associated with propane can also help them submit the lowest bid. The cost per gallon of propane is typically less than gasoline or diesel with some contractors reporting as much as 30 to 40 percent savings after switching to propane.
For example, Davis Mowing Service’s use of propane mowers drastically lowered the company’s operation costs. They save approximately $2.50 per hour mowing with propane compared with gasoline — allowing them to pass those savings on to customers and outbid the competition, which won the small Wisconsin company a contract with a local school district.
“Green” crews are happier and more productive
Crews operating commercial propane mower fleets report being happy with the change, too. Propane mowers operate just like their gasoline counterparts, so the learning curve is minimal.
But, as an added benefit, propane doesn’t produce the same smelly fumes as gasoline that most mower operators dislike. And because propane operates on a secure, closed-loop fuel system, propane is virtually impossible to spill onto shoes and clothing while refueling. These are things contractors will certainly want to point out to prospective employees. We all know that happy crewmembers, whether full-time or seasonal, will be more likely to stay with the company longer and be more productive.
Speaking of more productivity, propane mowers help crews stay onsite earning money for the business because the fuel virtually eliminates the need for downtime at gasoline refueling stations. Contractors can set up a cylinder exchange program with their local propane supplier in which the supplier trades empty fuel cylinders for full cylinders to be kept at the contractor’s place of business. That way, crews leave each morning for their jobsites with full tanks and don’t need to stop at a gas station along the way.
Avoiding this gas station downtime can be an immense financial benefit. For example, if a contractor has four crews refueling every morning for only 15 minutes each day, which adds up to a full hour of lost productivity that can now be spent on customers. It’s also easy for operators to swap propane cylinders in the field so the refueling process takes a few seconds without an unplanned trip to the gas station.
Adding propane mowers to a landscaping business makes sense every way you look at it. The alternative fuel can provide new messaging to reach more customers, more opportunities to compete for bids in a crowded market, a better employee experience that can lead to higher retention, and ways to create healthier finances without raising prices.
Jeremy Wishart is the director of off-road business development for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Take a look at how existing businesses are seeing success with propane by visiting http://propane.com/commercial-landscape/testimonials.