December 01, 2016
Case Study

Customer-First Marketing: How a lawn care service startup increased overall growth 10% by bringing customers into the development process


After launching a new service as a result of customer feedback, the “Uber for lawn care”-type service GreenPal needed to work on the new feature and market it. By bringing customers into the development process, they were able to quickly promote a finished service.

See how the team used email, SEO and social media marketing to grow the business 10% overall.

by Courtney Eckerle, Senior Managing Editor, MarketingSherpa


“GreenPal to a homeowner is the easiest way to find, schedule and pay your lawn guy. As far as the vendor side, our goal for GreenPal is to be the [operating system] for all landscaping professionals, where they can run their business seamlessly at the touch of a button,” said Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal.

GreenPal is a service that provides qualified, local lawn care professionals that are easy to schedule and pay. Gone are the days of leaving voicemails and checks under the welcome mat — GreenPal allows customers to post a picture of their lawn, receive quotes, and then schedule and pay online or via smartphone.

Lawn care search

Looking at the daily customer routes of vendors, Caballero says there is only one real commonality between customers, and that’s simply having a lawn that needs mowed.

“[The route] was literally from a $100,000 house to a $2 million house and everything in between,” he said. “It's just basically anybody that doesn't want to mow their lawn and wants recurring service, wants good vendors and wants quality work done.”

This can be anyone from a private home owner, to a real estate agent or property manager who manages multiple properties.


The challenge that launched this campaign was discovered by simply listening to customers, who were interested in being able to have an account with multiple lawns.

Previously, if someone wanted to have work done on additional lawns, they would have to create multiple accounts through different email addresses.

“We knew that if we were to knock this out of the park and allow one email address to be able to manage multiple properties, we'd be able to market this and fill that void these people are looking for,” Caballero said. “The people just told us what they wanted, and we built it.”


Caballero and his team launched the multiple properties featured at the beginning of the summer. They needed to target the different segments of customers who would be interested in this aspect through email marketing, alongside regular brand SEO practices and social media.

“Instead of just spraying and praying as far as just emailing a bunch of homeowners, we knew the best way to do it was to define a certain segment, tell them what we did for them, how we can help them, how we can save them time,” he said.

Step #1. Ask for feedback from customers before full launch

After working on the development for about six months, “we knew we had to get people in it to use it, test it, make sure there are no bugs,” Caballero said.

The team took current customers that needed this service, gave them access, and “allowed them to play with it, basically, and tell us what they liked, what they didn't like,” he said.

These customers, he added, were some of the ones who asked for this functionality, and “when you ask for help, a lot of people are willing to do it. So … they told us what they liked to see, and that’s how we iterated on what we had and made it into a pretty damn good product.”

The team did usability tests that track feedback and user flow and sent out questionnaires to these customers, some of whom were local to the Nashville area, where GreenPal is based. They even met with customers in person to go through the new feature with them personally. 

After fixing any issues customers found and confirming the feature was working properly, GreenPal launched and started the email marketing campaign.

In the campaign they were “trying to get more people jammed into the system to try to use it,” Caballero said, so that they could not only grow the audience, but test it further.

Step #2. Use email interaction to set customer expectations

Caballero launched a two-email campaign targeted to customers who had multiple properties with the service. The first of which focused on the novelty of the feature, while encouraging customers to check it out. The second email reiterated that message time of delivery,

“We’re in 15 markets and in 6 states,” he said. “So there are always new markets that we go after, new targets that we're looking for.”  

Within those markets, there are plenty of people who would utilize this service, Caballero said. However, once the email to notify them of the service was sent, he said, the team avoided over-sending. The idea is, after all, for the service to be an easier, hassle-free lawn care option.

“We only email [customers] once a lawn has been completed. So if they're already in the system, we don't send them anymore emails other than a confirmation/completion email,” he said.

If they don’t want to be notified via email, he said, customers can also choose to be notified via the app or text.

Customer first email

If customers are not in the system already, they receive a welcome email thanking them and explaining the next steps in detail. For instance, the email informs them that they will be receiving three to five quotes within a few hours to choose from by looking over reviews and pricing within GreenPal’s website.

Step #3. Use content to build SEO

For outreach in this campaign, as well as general brand awareness, GreenPal uses a few outlets such as Facebook advertising and Google AdWords.

“Our local SEO is pretty good, so that's probably our biggest channel as far as gross,” Caballero said.

To keep that SEO up, he and his team update the blog once a week with topical articles or ones that answer common customer questions like, “Can you have a perfect lawn and a dog at the same time?”


That content is then shared across branded social media on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, where people can read, comment and share it.

Social media efforts also include other miscellaneous lawn care tips, and the Instagram account features pristine lawn pictures that have been sent in by GreenPal lawn vendors.


Something that has significantly helped SEO in efforts like backlinks, but holds higher meaning for all four co-founders, is the Scholarship for Tomorrow’s Entrepreneur.

search results

“[The co-founders] were all fortunate enough to get scholarships to the university, so we figured it would be a great way to kind of give back,” Caballero said.

Once a year, GreenPal’s scholarship awards $2,000 paid equally over four semesters to a high school senior or a college freshman who has started, or is in the process of starting, his or her own business.

The business does not, of course, have to be lawn care related, and the scholarship is open to young people across America. For instance, the 2016 winner Destiny Graham started her own cake company out of Virginia.

Voting happens via social media, and the scholarship is awarded based partially on an essay each candidate writes — which GreenPal eventually features on the blogs.

Step #4. Set up a system that encourages sharing

GreenPal has gained traction and built up a customer base most successfully through the grassroots efforts of their vendors.

Vendors are given a page that acts as their own website, which they can send to current customers or prospective customers. The vendors can also share it on social media, as can customers as a way to recommend to friends and family.

On each vendor’s page, customers can peruse the vendor’s work history, personal picture, bio, ratings and reviews from other GreenPal homeowners.

“A lot of these small lawn care professionals, they don't have an online presence, just word of mouth ... with that GreenPal bio page, they're able to send [the page] and gain new customers and bring in more business … That is one of the fastest ways that we've learned to grow organically,” he said.


“I think it is just doing the work. None of us are rocket scientists. We're four guys that came from sales and entrepreneurship,” Caballero said.

When the company started four years ago, he and his team wanted to outsource, and they ended up outsourcing everything.

“We outsourced our first website that was shop built. We outsourced our PR and … we came to realize that these are the things that we need to do,” he said.

One of the co-founders went to software school to learn how to do backend web coding, another co-founder spent two months learning how to front end code and Caballero took Adobe classes to focus on design and user experience.

“At the beginning we thought it was plug and play. We're going to get somebody to build this awesome, kickass website, and all we're going to be able to do is bring in new customers. We realized real quick that that was not the best way to go,” he said.  

Since the launch of this campaign, the team has seen a 30% uptick in the multiple property feature and a 10% increase on overall growth.  

Since every co-founder has taken on their own individual role within the company and learned how to do everything in-house; GreenPal no longer outsources anything. Whenever a new challenge comes up, like launching this new feature, “[they] just get in there and do the hard work and listen to [their] customers and grow slow, fail fast and keep the ball rolling.”

Creative Samples

  1. Lawn care search
  2. Welcome email
  3. GreenPal blog
  4. Instagram
  5. Google search



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