The ongoing pandemic in the United States isn’t just an obstacle to restaurants and local retail businesses. Stay-at-home mandates, sick employees, and the steady ripple effect caused by the pandemic have caused businesses of all kinds to question their ability to last the year.
Snow removal is no different. However, it is possible to weather the storm in more than one way. After all, your business relies on an equally fickle thing to sustain itself; snow accumulation. With that in mind, try to remind yourself that you own a business meant to fall on hard times once in a while. Let’s discuss what you can do to minimize the damage and emerge from the pandemic with a healthy snow removal business ready to take on the winter of ’21.
How COVID is Impacting Snow Removal
At a certain point, as a snow removal business, you have no choice but to move your client list away from residential driveways and pivot to more lucrative commercial contracts. That means that many of your clients are retail.
As retail suffers and shutters, so too does your business. There’s no need for a clear parking lot if the owner of that parking lot isn’t running their business. Fortune is reporting that nearly 100,000 businesses have shut down, some permanently, due to the virus. Those closures will surely trickle down to you, so brace yourself.
Keeping the Snow Removal Clients You Have
A large part of keeping your business viable through the pandemic is keeping your clients at all costs. After all, once things improve you can know that they will be calling you as soon as the first thoughts of winter weather enter their mind. We suggest that, in the interim, you try a few things to keep them as clients until things get better.
Adjusting Payment Terms to Keep Clients
No one should expect you to lower your prices. After all, what you charge clients isn’t just about net profits; it’s a statement about the professionalism and quality you deliver. Instead, consider offering a longer payment term schedule so they have a longer time to pay your invoice.
It’s common to offer something called “NET15” to a client. That means that, once they receive your invoice, they have 15 business days to pay it. Rather than stick with that expectation, you could send a friendly notice that you are adjusting their terms to something more accommodating like NET30 or NET60. A little bit of goodwill can go a long way.
Creating Promotions to Entice Clients
While lowering your prices can be tricky, you can do it in a fun and tactful manner (and limit its duration) by wrapping a price adjustment into a promotion. Maybe mail your clients punch cards—for every 12 visits they get a 13th for free.
You could also throw in something like free shoveling when you plow a parking lot or a free bag of rock salt for their entrance. When you run a promotion you’re not just giving away something for free. You’re engaging with your clients and keeping the value of your service at the forefront.
Finding Snow Removal Business During COVID
Lean times are not an excuse to stop looking for new clients. You should always be looking ahead even if you’re overloaded. You never know what could happen. The more you have when times get tough, the more you can stand to lose.
Rethink & Reinvigorate Your Marketing
Marketing your business should be a continuous effort. However, during the pandemic you’re better off building your marketing on a digital platform than going door-to-door like how many of us are used to. It might even be time for you to bite the bullet and dive into digital marketing; you’d be surprised by how effective it is versus plain old word-of-mouth.
Try Google Ads, LinkedIn (send messages to potential clients, post thought-leader articles about your industry, etc.), and research direct mail campaigns to get the word out. Just as many retailers are doing needed renovations during this slower period, you can make similar efforts to better your business now that you finally have the time.
Promote Multi-Year Contracts with Discounts
There is nothing more enticing than a discounted bulk rate. We buy into it all the time as consumers when we purchase a 12-month subscription to something because we get a slight discount over the month-to-month option.
Bringing this model to your snow removal services can have that same pull. Tell prospective clients that a 3-year contract will net them a 20% discount than if they signed on for just 1 or 2 years. While you stand to make less money upfront, you earn peace-of-mind with a longer contract, one which could very well overlap with a hard season like in 2020. Plus, clients are creatures of habit. They are much more likely to stick with something they’ve been doing for 3 years than to shake it up with someone new.
Look for Financial Support
During these hard times, there are many avenues available for receiving financial support, whether it’s federal, state, or privately-offered. Contact someone at the Small Business Administration and see what’s out there. You might be surprised to find that you can drum up enough temporary support to make ends meet until your clients are requesting your services again.
Keep Your Clients & Employees Safe to Preserve Workflow
Winter is a challenging time for everyone’s health even without a pandemic to worry about. It’s the time for an increase in colds and cases of flu, which make it hard to keep your employees working. With COVID surging, it’s more important than ever to ensure your employees and clients are safe, healthy, and ready to support your business.
Regularly Sanitize Equipment
We’ve suddenly found ourselves living in an age where the amount of hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray our business boasts, the more credibility we receive. That’s not an accident; businesses that can prove that they regularly sanitize their equipment build trust. Plus, all that cleaning actually works toward keeping your people from calling in a sick day.
Create Mask & Distancing Mandates
As a business owner, you must outfit your workforce with masks when they are interfacing with the public. Depending on where you live, it might be the law. Either way, it shows you care about your employees’ and your clients’ wellbeing. However, don’t just pass some masks on to your workforce. Instead, write up a simple mandate that explains mask-wearing expectations as well as distancing expectations. You’d be surprised by how many clients will want to see it this season.
The less contact you have with other people, the better. That might fly in the face of what we’ve learned about how to run a successful small business. However, times are changing, even if it’s temporary. Today, you should be thinking about going digital when possible.
We suggest you send over contracts digitally. Adobe Acrobat can do this easily. It’s also surprisingly easy to set up digital payments, whether that’s through a physical device like Square, or something purely digital like Zelle, Paypal, or Venmo. Who knows, you might find that these innovations streamline your business and are worth keeping around.
COVID is Temporary, So Make Sure Its Effect on Your Snow Removal Business Is, Too
It stinks when something outside of your control affects your business. However, rarely does a business fail wholly due to the incompetence of a business owner. What we’re trying to say is, the real world can and will throw you a curveball once in a while.
It’s important to remember that all of this is temporary. Hopefully, by next winter we’ll see new businesses replace the ones that shuttered and find clients calling us up about the next great blizzard that is rearing its ugly head. For now, do what you can to keep these temporary problems temporary.