This blog post is a continuation of our earlier blog, Growing Your Christmas Light Installation Business to 7 Figures: Part I. We recommend reading that blog post before this one!
6. Book Installations as Early as Possible
Offer incentives for clients to have their lights installed early, thus making room for more clients later in the season. This will directly affect your revenue because you will have zero problems filling the schedule in late November. In fact, you can often charge more during this peak time. Strategically schedule clients whose displays aren’t too “Christmassy” early (ie - September) and ones that are more “Christmassy” with garland and wreaths for example immediately after Halloween. Once they are locked in, ask if you can schedule them on those dates every year, then hit the repeat button in your calendar.
Try to avoid scheduling repeat customers after the first or second week of November. Installs after this date should be reserved for new customers. When all your competitors' schedules are full due to poor planning, you’ll be able to sweep in promising favorable install dates, charge higher prices, and have a much higher close rate.
Scheduling customers annually well in advance will make planning easier in terms of staff hiring and schedule optimization. Your customers will also appreciate not having to go through the process of scheduling each year. Hiring your company to install lights will become a tradition for them that will dramatically increase repeatability in your business. Furthermore, repeatability directly affects your company's scalability.
7. Store Your Customers’ Lights for Them
Looking for opportunities to make your customer’s busy holiday lives easier will increase the perceived value of your service and you’ll win more bids. Their response to knowing they can get a beautiful display every year without ever lifting a finger or placing a phone call or email will be overwhelmingly positive.
Storing the decor is another opportunity to solve one of their problems. It also makes scheduling easier because customers won’t need to be home to hand over the decor or have to remember to put them out on installation day. Instead, you’ll simply pull the decor from your well-organized shelves, turn up to the property, and start installing without any delays.
Having the customer’s decor on hand before the install will also provide you the chance to inspect them and ensure you can bring matching spares to the property in case they are required.
Make the storage service complimentary. The benefits of storing many bins of lights far exceeds the costs. Display it as a free line item on your quotes so customers notice it.
8. Take Payments Up Front
Cash flow in a seasonal business is always going to be tricky. Add inventory to the equation, which often represents about half the revenue from a new customer, and you can quickly get yourself into trouble if you aren’t taking payments up front. This is tricky to do with larger commercial jobs who operate on purchase orders and are accustomed to paying about a month after the work is completed. Sometimes it can be closer to two months if timing isn’t favorable with their monthly invoice processing.
However, there is no reason to forgo taking payment from residential clients before scheduling an installation. This is normal in the home services industry and there are CRM’s that include credit card processing features that can facilitate deposits. The Christmas light season is relatively short and waiting for payments up to a month can mean going unpaid for half your install season when you are just starting out. Therefore, it’s important to collect at least 50% up front and the remainder after install – not removal. Of course always make sure customers are fully paid up prior to scheduling the removal in the New Year.
Sometimes you’ll meet a customer that makes you feel nervous about getting timely payments. Trust your instincts. The longer you work in the business, the easier it will be to spot potential trouble. Don’t hesitate to require a 100% payment upfront from these customers. If they decline, it’s most likely that your senses were correct. There is no shortage of work during the peak season, therefore, don’t needlessly take these financial risks.
9. Learn to Say “No”
Christmas lights have a large creative element to them. It’s often tempting to say “yes” to large elaborate displays that include blow-up characters, incandescent bulbs, lights that sync to music, or decor that wasn’t purchased from you. Agreeing to install these will backfire the majority of the time for a myriad of reasons from electrical issues to the client simply not being happy with how the decor looks. Even if a customer-supplied product malfunctions and it’s clearly not your fault, there is still an atmosphere of frustration to work through and this can potentially distract you from normal business operations. It’s important to only work with decor you intimately know and trust, especially if you plan on scaling.
10. Keep Your Product Offering Simple and Buy Early
The Christmas light business can become extremely complicated due to the combination of creative elements and seasonally high demand. While offering your customers lots of product choice might seem fun, it's simply not scalable. Offering a wide range of products means you’ll need to carry more replacements in your vehicles in case of issues and inventory management requirements can swell. For example, offering one additional bulb size will mean carrying over 10 products, each a different color. Therefore, limit your offering to no more than three bulbs sizes. Two is even better. These can include:
- An E17 retrofit bulb size for rooflines and large trees. These can be either C9 or G30 bulbs
- 5mm mini lights for trees and shrubs
You can also dabble in garland, wreaths, and lighted ornaments. Flood lights are worth considering too. More than this, however, will make your business unnecessarily complicated and more difficult to scale.
Consider keeping a healthy stock of these few items on hand for quick turnarounds. Selling Christmas lights in the peak season is immensely easier when you can confidently say to your customers that you can install within a day or two. While it’s helpful to have a small amount of solid color lights, the majority of your sales will come from warm-white, pure-white, and multi-colour, in that respective order. If you close a sale that requires a large amount of unique colors like fuchsia lights for example, then you can just order those as required.
In another blog post, Products You'll Need to Start Your Christmas Light Season we’ve suggested a list of products to start with per $100,000 in forecasted sales in your first year of installing Christmas lights. Each two-person crew should be capable of generating $200,000 per year, so you’ll quickly be able to calculate a base-line of product to begin your season with and top it up as required.
Many suppliers offer pre-season sales programs that dramatically increase your margins. This is a profitable investment that pays dividends within a relatively short period of time. The risk is low because Christmas lights don’t go obsolete or expire, so if you happen to get stuck with some product on the shelf at the end of the season, you can just order less for the next year.
The Christmas light installation business is very unique and a lot of preparation is required to make sure the peak season runs smoothly. Knowing what lies ahead will allow you to plan accordingly and begin your season with a certain level of comfort. I encourage you to ask lots of questions, look up additional information from experienced installers, read blogs, and view how-to-videos from your supplier. Don’t get too caught up in the high demand of the season. Pace yourself. Have fun with it and treat the season like a sport knowing there’s some amazing downtime and flush pockets awaiting you at the end of the season.
The barrier to entry is low so if you’re still nervous about starting, just try a few homes to begin with. It’s very easy to dip your toes into the business without committing much at all financially or in terms of time. If you like it, inform the neighbors. Without much effort, you’ll receive inquiries for your service and field them like a seasoned pro with the above in mind.
Are you just getting started out as a Christmas Light Installer, and want to chat with someone in the industry who can help you get started? We offer FREE online training meetings where you have the opportunity to learn about how to use professional-grade products. You'll also receive guidance on what to order to get started, and how to price your work and provide estimates for clients.