Adjusting sprinkler heads is part of the annual service contract.

A good businessman is always looking for ways to make his business even better. Sometimes, this can mean expensive or risky investments, acquiring new skills, or offering new products and services. What a brilliant businessman knows is that he can expand his business and increase his profits with the skills and products he already has. Take irrigation, for example. You might not realize it, but there are several water-oriented opportunities available to boost your bottom line, aside from simply breaking your back digging trenches (hopefully, you're using a trenching machine). Many irrigation contractors dig up the property, install the irrigation system, program the controller, and leave, off to find their next job so they can do it all over again. But you don't have to simply load your truck and move on. Why not try to keep the customers you already have?

Keeping customers is easy if you offer them a service contract. You can create an entirely new revenue stream with minimal effort by forming a service division within your company. When a customer signs a service contract,he pays a flat, annual fee (or a monthly fee) for you to come out a certain number of times a year to service and maintain his irrigation system.

Contractors in certain parts of the country may already provide a version of this service. In freeze zones, it's common to offer to 'winterize' your customers' irrigation systems. This usually entails blowing water out of the system at the beginning of the winter season to prevent it from freezing and cracking pipes, and blowing out the system again at the onset of spring.

You may already be making two service calls a year; why not add two or three more? It?s an easy sell to customers if you show them the benefits: just like they change the oil in their car a few times a year to keep it running smoothly, a little preventative maintenance can also go a long way in keeping an irrigation system functioning.

This can be as simple as doing a walk-through on a property and adjusting the sprinkler heads to make sure, for example, that the hardscapes aren't getting sprayed. Homeowners will be shocked to realize how much water these small adjustments can save and even more shocked to realize how much water they may have been wasting.

    Checking light connections could be an added service.

Many homeowners have been told to irrigate at night so the sun doesn't evaporate the water before the soil has a chance to soak it up?the downside of that is the fact they may never actually see their irrigation system in operation. They have no idea whether or not their driveway is getting more water than their turf, or if their roses are getting any water at all.

If the homeowner is on a service contract with you, your periodic visits will catch these kinds of problems. No one wants to waste water, and keeping systems functioning properly can save homeowners a few bucks on their water bills. Imagine getting a call from a customer thanking you for their water savings, instead of an angry one screaming that their flowers have died.

You might also re-program the customer's controller so that it waters in a more seasonally-appropriate manner. Grass hardly needs the amount of water in November that it required in August, this too can positively impact customer's water bills, and, therefore, pocketbooks.

Keep in mind that none of this means that you're giving the customer 'freebies.' The service contract they paid for is only to get you out there; it doesn't include the materials and products you'll need if something has to be replaced. If you run the system and notice that a sprinkler head has to be replaced, you can still charge the customer for the new head. The benefit to the customer is that the problem head has now been replaced, whereas if they didn't have the service contract, the head might have continued to water improperly for months, wasting water and stressing plants.

Fertigation helps profits bloom
If you have irrigation service contracts with your customers, and will be servicing their landscapes five or six times a year, you might also consider selling them a fertigation system. 'Fertigation' is a combination of the words 'fertilize' and 'irrigation,' and in fact, that's exactly what it does -- combine the process of fertilization with the process of irrigation. Instead of you having to spread a granular fertilizer product over a customer's turf, a fertigation unit delivers liquid fertilizer automatically through the irrigation system.

A fertigation unit can attach easily to any in-ground sprinkler system, providing a precise amount of fertilizer over a period of time. Since it's all done automatically, you never have to wonder again if you're over-feeding or under-feeding a lawn, and the customer can enjoy a landscape that always looks its best.

Replacing bulbs for landscape lighting can be done on a regular basis as part of the service contract.

The thing is, the bottle of fertilizer the unit is using will have to be replaced every four to six weeks with a fresh bottle. If you're already visiting a customer's property every month or two anyway, what a perfect opportunity! It makes things easier for you by removing the guesswork out of fertilizing. Selling the system, as well as periodically replacing the fertilizer, gives you another source of revenue.

Fertigation is also better for plants. Usually with fertilizer, it's either feast or famine, the plants have an abundance of nitrogen right after it is applied, and then must survive for weeks or months without any. Fertigation gives plants an opportunity to thrive, because they have a constant supply of the nutrients they need to look their best.

Additionally, you'll never have to manually spread a granular product on that lawn again, all the time and manpower that would normally be spent fertilizing can now be spent performing other tasks. This means that fertigation can make you more productive. Why pledge your workers' energy and time to a job that can be done more efficiently by an automatic device?

Lighting the way
The benefits of a service contract don't end at fertigation. If the client has landscape lighting, you can service that system as well.

Lights face a lot of hazards in a landscape, they can get hit by mowers, knocked around by kids, and even kicked by pets. Any one of these impacts is capable of knocking a light out of position, misdirecting the beam. Suddenly, a palm tree that might have once been centered in a ring of light now appears to be off to the far left. It looks awkward and imbalanced. But if you're regularly servicing the system, it won't have to look that way for long.

Another reason for the need for this service is that bulbs burn out. Servicing the system means you're checking for and replacing burnt-out bulbs on a regular basis, to keep the landscape looking as great at night as it does during the day.

Other maintenance a landscape lighting system requires can include cleaning the lenses. A clean lens helps the lamp operate more efficiently, extending lamp life. In-ground fixtures and fixtures in low-lying areas may require particular attention as far as cleaning. Another service idea: you can spray sockets with silicone to help prevent corrosive oxidation between the lamp and its socket, giving them a better connection.

By scheduling a visit at a customer's home on a regular basis, a service contract also gives you the particular opportunity to make additional sales when your client requests it. If you're properly servicing the customer, when he/she wants to add to the landscape, you?re Johnny-on-the-spot. Chances are, you'll get the job.

Irrigation service contracts are part of the future. Enhance that with landscape lighting services and fertigation services, and you've got a winning combination for success.