Mitchell Shelton, owner of Shelton Construction
Company, along with sales manager Scott Morgan and landscape
supply manager Greg Vincent, has provided the Chattanooga
area of Tennessee with quality excavating grading and landscape
services for over 20 years.
While searching for new products and services
to help boost sales, Morgan found “synthetic turf putting
greens”. The sample and marketing support from All Pro
Putting Greens was the best quality he had seen. Vincent’s
first reaction was that All Pro’s turf was not a Home
Depot outdoor grass carpet. Plus the fact that it’s
truly an “installation” product made it that much
This product, with its 60% to 70% profit
potential, just might be the niche item they were looking
for. There would be no inventory to house since they could
buy manufacturer-direct and they did not have to buy any new
installation equipment. Shelton agreed to the addition of
this revenue source.
Vincent hit the ground running with marketing ideas. The first,
and most important of which, was to participate in Chattanooga’s
annual Home Builders Association of Southern Tennessee (HBAST)
trade show. “Instead of building a display full of flowers,
grass, and rock, just as every other landscaper will do, we
want to blow the doors off with a putting green!” he
said. The problem was that a 10’ X 10’ space wasn’t
big enough to make the impact that they wanted to achieve
from this exhibit. Vincent called the show’s management
team to talk about other possible options that exhibitors
have while working on shoestring budgets. No one could have
foreseen what developed next.
Vincent presented the putting green he planned to display,
a member of HBAST
management said he wanted to hold a “putting contest”
as a fundraiser for the HBAST and its charity — St.
Jude’s Childrens Hospital. But he didn’t know
how to get a green into the show besides laying down some
cheap outdoor carpet. The Shelton putting green was the right
answer at the right time. Each side got what it hoped for
— HBAST got its green for the contest and Shelton got
more booth space.
Shelton got three extra booths FREE because
they’d have to share the green with fundraiser
contestants as well as their own visitors. But this would
certainly be no inconvenience for Shelton, because hosting
the fundraiser would force EVERY homebuilder in attendance
to visit Shelton’s booth as well as create “buzz”
throughout the show. Furthermore, the HBAST, with Vincent’s
encouraging, formed a relationship with a manager from the
84 Lumber Company.® This deal resulted in the manager
donating several golf putters and a $500.00 grand prize to
the association for use in the contest and as prize give-a-ways.
The HBAST team, in return, moved Shelton’s booth space
to the highest visible aisle that it could, given such short
The fundraiser putting contest rules were
rather simple. For $5, the participant got 3 putts. A hole
in one earned the contestant a free putter and qualified him
or her for the $500 grand prize. Morgan said the entire event
and exhibit was very well received, “we had a guy enter
the contest 4 times so he could win a putter. He spent 20
bucks to win a $15 putter — the fundraising committee
loved participants like him!”
Although the putting green would be full
of contest traffic, Shelton’s strategy was vested in
the 3 holes that were constructed into the green. Visitors
who could putt a golf ball into the hardest hole would win
25%-off landscape materials including putting greens. The
second hardest hole was worth 15% off, and so on. “You
need to give visitors a reason to see you, give them a reason
to stop and consult with you, and give them a reason to come
back and buy from you,” said Vincent.
Generating publicity was another aspect that Shelton addressed.
“The Association had its own publications that we advertised
in, but All Pro’s PR services enhanced our visibility
by making sure the media knew we were there and why,”
The Shelton crew built an attractive green
on a sub-base surrounded by hard and softscapes, all of which
were donated. A retaining wall full of flowers, shrubs, mulch,
topiaries, and even a live fishpond with a fountain, surrounded
the green. If a customer bought this exhibit, he or she would
have paid about $10,000. However, because of Vincent’s
ingenuity, most of the exhibit consisted of donated materials,
totaling about $7,000. Vincent’s part of the deal consisted
of referring sales inquiries to the suppliers who donated
Shelton sold 2 large greens worth about
$5,000 each and booked 10 estimates averaging about
$4,000 each while on site. With enthusiastic collaborating,
Vincent and Morgan have proven
the sky’s the limit for marketing, relationship-building,
and sales opportunities.
Why was Vincent so ready and willing to
accommodate the HBAST’s fundraiser for St. Jude’s
Children Hospital? Vincent’s family experienced St.
Jude’s special care of his daughter in 1995. Her loving
spirit remains active although her body has passed on.
Any builder, landscape contractor, and/or
lawn maintenance dealer can take advantage of this information.
By implementing strategies such as those outlined above, the
advantages for you and your company are unlimited. Partnering
and negotiating with the decision-makers for similar events
in your area is just as easy.
Recap Your Opportunities:
- Research all the shows in your town such as Home Builder
Associations, Home & Garden, Outdoor or Spring Expos,
Golf Associations; any show in which a putting green could
fit. Your Chamber of Commerce should be able to provide
- Assess your budget and determine which show(s) you can
participate in. Start negotiating with the organization’s
management months in advance if possible. Some contractors
have had great luck getting discounts by waiting until the
last minute. We don’t recommend this unless you know
you can pull it off.
- Establish excellent relationships with the management
of the show you are exhibiting in.
- Offer your green as an exhibit that they can use to raise
money for their show, their charity, and/or their cause.
- Negotiate reduced or free exhibit space in return for
providing them a “fundraising” opportunity.
- Establish great relationships with your vendors so that
they may “donate” exhibit materials for your
- Let Our PR Director know about your show as soon as possible.
She can help create “buzz” among your media
about your unique exhibit and/or fundraising cause.
- Establish a discount program or a raffle for which customers
must fill out contact information. It increases traffic
to your booth and provides excellent leads for you to follow
up with later. Customers remember you better, too!
- Follow Up Always follow up . . . Always.
Words of Advice
of Portland, Oregon, exhibited his mobile
display green, worth about $3,000, at the
Portland Golf & Boat Show in mid-March.
Booth space cost him $1,600 ($800 per booth
X 2) and his putting green display was only
1 of 3 competing in the show, which attracted
about 30,000 attendees. Besides handing
out informational materials, he had a stack
of sheets on which serious customers could
fill out their information so Bill could
schedule an estimate appointment. He received
17 solid leads, most of which worth about
$4,200 a piece. The one he really hopes
to land is a 37’ X 76’ re-install
for a retirement home worth $33,000.
two competitors at the show were selling
nylon products. I had an easy time selling
them out simply by explaining to the potential
customer that nylon is a microscopically
porous material that will absorb water.
Once fungus grows in the pores, you cannot
stop it. I tried helping a customer fix
his nylon green by spraying it with a chlorine
bleach & water mixture. It killed the
very surface mold and looked good for a
few days, but it could not kill the deep
down rot from the pores of the material.
I replaced it with the All Pro product.
Polypropylene is non-biodegradable and so
is the coal slag that you fill it with —
they will last forever. The only substance
that can hurt poly materials is the sun,
and these greens are UV-treated, so even
the sun isn’t a problem!
Words of Advice
| Paul Gualtieri, owner
of Landscapes East, Inc., exhibited his display
green, worth about $12,000 at the Flower &
Garden Show in Syracuse, New York early in
March. Although he did not book an actual
sale, he has 3 solid leads and he won the
show’s ribbon for “Best Color”
exhibit. How could he get such beautiful plants
into a New York show in March? He paid a premium
to have them shipped in from an Ohio company
that specializes in forced-growth flower and
plants specifically for shows.
| Since we have
such a short season, we wait until June or
July to heavily market the greens so that
we can book jobs in the Fall when business
tends to slow down.
Jeff's Words of Advice
| Jeff Dungan, Landscape
Operations Manager at All State Landscaping
in Salt Lake City, Utah, built a putting green
worth about $95,000 (because of the expansive
water fall and retaining wall) in the South
Town Home & Garden Show. He had some current
customers who were interested in putting greens
but had not pursued the idea. Unbeknownst
to Jeff, those same customers came to the
home show and putted on the green. 3 of the
customers bought greens on the spot, one of
which bought his display green! Jeff has received
about 4 more estimates from those 3 customers,
so he figures on installing about 12 more
greens real soon. When we talked to Jeff,
he had just ordered his 3rd putting green
in a 4 week period. He also received about
24 solid leads! His only putting green competition
at the show was a contractor selling rather
inexpensive nylon products. When show attendees
saw Jeff’s product, he easily won their
interest even though he has higher prices!
Jeff’s current customers are upscale
homeowners that book $30,000 to $50,000 landscaping
jobs. Jeff adds the putting greens on as extra
luxury items. His typical landscaping jobs
yield him about 20% in profits, but the putting
greens earn him from 60% to 70% profit!
| You must have
a show green for customers to see, touch,
and putt on. The customers at the home show
did not realize how true and realistic the
turf was. There were immediately sold on the
putting only because we had a demonstration
Skip's Words of Advice
| Skip Hammond, owner
of Evergreen Garden Company in Antioch, California,
exhibited his 10’ x 15’ display
green at the Contra Costa County Home &
Garden Show last summer. His green and landscaping
worth about $7,000 was on display for about
20,000 attendees. Skip entered the show late
so he got quite a deal on booth space and
had no other putting green competition. His
display was very well received landing Skip
about 30 solid leads for sales!
| I had tremendous
reception from the men for the putting greens.
The wives on the other hand, weren’t
too excited — almost like they wanted
their husbands to go to the course to practice!
So my approach was to keep them informed of
all the beautiful landscaping they could do
around the green if they let their husbands