Lawn Care: Selling The Value of Aeration Services - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Lawn Care: Selling The Value of Aeration Services

Photo: Kingstowne Lawn & Landscape

When you’re trying to provide your customers with a lush lawn for their property, one tool that can aid in this effort is aeration. The challenge is selling the service to customers who may not understand the purpose or benefits of aeration.

Aeration helps reduce soil compaction. It also allows water, oxygen, and fertilizer to penetrate deeper into the soil.

“Ultimately that’s how you get a healthy, thick lawn that you need,” says Ken Hutchenson, president of U.S. Lawns, based in Orlando, Florida.

Grant Osvalds, lawn care manager for Kingstowne Lawn & Landscape, based in Alexandria, Virginia, says that aeration and overseeding is the cornerstone of their lawn care program.

“We believe that for optimal lawn results, it is necessary to aerate and overseed yearly,” Osvalds says. “Normally, it is the clients that have chosen to skip last year’s aeration service that we deal with in late spring/early summer who have concerns about thin and patchy lawns.”    


Typically, your market’s turfgrass type will dictate the best time to conduct aeration, with warm-season grasses benefiting from spring aeration while cool-season grasses perform better with fall aeration.

Spring aeration can be helpful in cases where the soil is so compacted that turf refuses to grow. It is important to make clients aware that spring aeration can also promote weed growth as they too love loose, oxygenated soil.

“By aerating the soil in spring, not only are soil cores being brought up to the surface, but also dormant broadleaf and crabgrass seeds that now have easier access to light and water,” Osvalds says. “Spring aeration also disrupts pre-emergent timing and effectiveness since seed germination. Weed growth and pre-emergent applications all happen in a pretty small timeframe. Spring aeration may be effective for sports turf or golf courses since there is more control on the property, but since we are almost exclusively treating residential properties and are not on site daily, we try and mitigate potential weed issues whenever possible.”

Photo: Kingstowne Lawn & Landscape

Because of this, fall tends to be the most popular time for aeration. In the autumn, turfgrass isn’t stressed by sweltering temperatures and can focus on root growth.

Aeration can also packaged with overseeding services, which impacts the timing as overseeding is best saved for the fall. Terry Nicholson, president of Clintar Commercial Outdoor Services, based in Ontario, Canada, says because they have so much work to do in the spring, typically they only offer aeration services in the fall in conjunction with overseeding.

“Aeration and overseeding helps reestablish lawns through the seeding process as well,” Osvalds says. “Fall is the best time of year to repair bare patches caused by clearing out weeds or dog damage, repairing compacted soils, helping aid erosion, or fixing mechanical damage caused by construction or high traffic.”    

Osvalds adds that because aeration and seeding equipment and products are expensive and time-consuming, they can spend their time wiser and utilize costs and labor better by targeting treatments that promote growth and mitigate weeds during the spring rather than seeding, which will normally not last through the heat of the summer.   

Selling Points

Nicholson notes that one of the challenges of selling aeration is most of the services they offer provide an immediate impact such as seasonal color changes or fresh mulch.

“With aeration, it’s like taking a multivitamin that your doctor recommends,” Nicholson says. “It’s slowly improving things; you may not feel it right away. That’s one of the challenges is that it’s an additional spend in most cases for customers, and they stand back and they say, ‘I spent X on flowers and I see what happened, I spent X on aeration and I gotta believe it’s gonna happen.’ There’s a little bit of a leap of faith there.”

Hutchenson says it’s a service where the client gets the bill before they see the results, which is why education is so crucial. He says many of their commercial customers understand aeration is important but not the underlying reason why it’s valuable.

Photo: U.S. Lawns

“We still will go in and start talking about what the value is, what the benefits are, and then what the negatives will be if they don’t do aeration and overseeding,” Hutchenson says. “The negative being in the springtime their property may not look as good as the property next door. That’s really what they care about. They want to be sure their property looks a little better than the shopping center next door.”

Nicholson agrees that if you can’t explain to your customers the benefits then you’re going to have a very hard time selling it.

“People won’t spend money on something they don’t value,” Nicholson says.

Osvalds says primarily first-time clients are hesitant about the service, so they educate them on the process and what to expect. He says it is important to give clients a realistic timeline regarding optimal results.

“It takes time to get rid of weeds, condition the soil and to establish a healthy lawn,” Osvalds says. “We tell our clients that our program is designed to produce optimal results in 12-18 months. This needs to be explained to newer customers who think that after 2 herbicide applications and an aeration service that they will have a Wrigley Field in their backyard. It’s a process and a partnership with the customer that takes time but yields great results.”    

Osvalds says that seeing is believing as high-quality seed and products will yield excellent results as long as the client is a partner in watering.

“Almost 90% of our clients are signed up for recurring fall aeration and overseeding services,” Osvalds says. “Obviously, a few clients may feel like they don’t need the service one year or they are trying to cut back on spending. However, it is a very small number of clients.”   

Nicholson says they like to sell to everyone but recognize certain customer types are going to buy differently. For instance, an industrial property isn’t going to be as demanding as a homeowner association. He says they try to focus their efforts on where they’re going to have success.

“We know our customers,” Nicholson says. “We meet them on a regular basis to review their properties or needs. There’s a better opportunity to sell the services when you’re face-to-face with those customers.”

For clients who do not have Kingstowne’s lawn program but have services such as mowing, mulching, pruning, or other landscape work, Osvalds says they send out information prior to aeration season and offer to price out a service plan.  

They also create blog posts regularly covering their lawn care services that account managers and their client care team can direct potential or current customers to if they want additional information.

“We do see a bump in leads after new content is posted as well as when we inform current clients of upcoming additional services,” Osvalds says.

Package Versus Add-On

One sales element you have to decide is if you want to sell aeration as an add-on service or include it in a maintenance package. Nicholson prefers to sell aeration as an add-on service.

“As a standalone service, you have a better opportunity to sell the value,” Nicholson says. “When it’s when it’s tucked into part of an overall maintenance contract it can kind of get lost in there a little bit and that devalues it.”

Hutchenson says depending on the region, some customers, like those in the Mid-Atlantic states, expect aeration as part of their service packages.

Osvalds says they allow but discourage having their lawn care program without aeration.

“We do not allow clients to only aerate and overseed without our lawn care program,” Osvalds says. “We provide information about the process and highlight its importance for the best results possible.”

He encourages requiring aeration to be part of a larger fertilization plan.

“Prior to aeration services you need to condition the soil with fertilizers and free the lawn of weeds with herbicides to open up the lawn for optimal soil contact with the seed,” Osvalds says. “After the service the soil needs nutrients and weeds need to be kept to a minimum. Not having follow up services allows for the possibility that clients will call back in spring with concerns about a seeding job 5 or 6 months later. Selling one service to earn quick revenue might end up costing you more time and money if you are not controlling fertilization.”

Kingstowne offers aeration pricing as soon as someone is interested in their lawn care services.

“We do have a few options for additional services during aeration and overseeding, which include top-dressing, power-seeding and double aeration,” Osvalds says. “We do not think of this service as an upsell, but rather a vital tool in establishing a healthy lawn.”

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.