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 better.

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.

When 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 notice.

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,” said Vincent.

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 the materials.

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 this info.
  • 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 booth.
  • 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.

Bill's Words of Advice

Bill Epperson 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.

The other 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!

Paul's 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 green.
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 have one!