Marketing for Independent Haulers
How independent haulers can gain market share and beat the Nationals without a billion-dollar budget.
A case study of Garbageman, A Green Company by Former President Andrew Sorensen
When we sold our 9-year-old company in 2017, Garbageman was the first google search result in the regions we serviced. Meaning we had the number one SEO (search engine optimization) despite not having been around for 50 years or having the large footprint and spending capacities of the National Haulers.
We averaged 800-1000 sign ups a month of, what I call, free business. These are the customers that found us and signed up on their own without the typical cost of acquiring a customer; flyers/marketing, door to door sales, and big discounts.
In this article, I am going to tell you how we did this and how you can create the same success in your business.
Boots on the Ground
When entering a new area or one that you just have a few customers in you need to make some noise. The standard way in the Waste Industry was to buy the truck and carts and then go get the customers. The problem with this model is you are paying upfront without the business to support the costs. At Garbageman we developed the model and cost for expansion and figured out how many customers we would need to cash flow the expansion immediately. If we determined there were enough customers to be gained to satisfy the cost of expansion, we would proceed. Our sales team would begin selling service to start 60-90 days out. This worked well as most people are billed on a quarterly or bi-monthly cycle. The result is that when the first bills for carts and trucks were due, we already had a route running at 80-90% capacity.
This method of growth is efficient and creates a buzz about the company in the new City. The downside is the expense of door to door marketing and the logistics of adding so many customers quickly. In 2011, we added 30,000 customers in the span of three months of selling and six months of onboarding the sales.
Having worked with and consulted with dozens of haulers while at Garbageman, the number one weakness I found was the lack of focused marketing. Most haulers got into the business because they were familiar with the operations side of the business, not marketing professionals. It helps to understand that there is a very narrow window in which you have a chance at a new customer.
You need to enter the field of vision of your potential customer in one or more of the following ways.
- Your name is already known by the customer through prior marketing efforts, neighbors using your service, etc.
- You must be one of the first 3 companies offered in customers’ online search results.
- The customer must be able to easily sign up at the moment they are most willing. For example; having to leave a message drops the sales probability in half.
- Your company must be the first to discover the objection to the sale and offer a solution. Buying garbage service isn’t a life-changing event. Most customers objections can easily be solved with a little time and flexibility. For example, our call center was instructed to offer a new customer a free month at the END of the call if they were still undecided. This increased our closing of the still undecided customer by over 50%.
Focused marketing doesn’t need to cost thousands of dollars or take up a bunch of time. It is simply set marketing strategies that repeatedly sprinkle your areas and increases your brand recognition making you the customer’s first choice when they are ready to buy.
Online Sign Up or Buy Now
Internet/website/social media/buy now capabilities:
This is by far the fastest-growing field in which customers are choosing waste services on multiple platforms. At Garbageman we made a strategic choice to severely reduce our old marketing efforts and use the time and money to capture more internet sales. The resulting technology and internet marketing savvy we acquired became the basis of our new company, SalesStryke. SalesStryke makes it easy for haulers to add “buy now” functionality to their websites using TrashBolt.
Internet Sales Categories
Search results: The basic theories have not changed since the old yellow pages days. You need to be in the top three results either organically or by paid ads to get you there. This is a many-faceted and confusing topic but at the end of this article, we will walk thru an integrated plan that should help clear things up. For now, the advice is the same as regular marketing. It doesn’t need to cost thousands, but it must be a consistent sprinkling of your message in the search results arena each month.
Social media: Here are the top ten social media sites for business; Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Youtube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tik-Tok, Yelp. Additionally, there are sites like, Next door, that I believe will surpass most of these other platforms in the next few years.
If you’re like me, you just scratch your head at this kind of stuff. ‘Why do I need to post pictures on Instagram to get garbage customers!’ The fact is you don’t need pictures on Instagram to sell your service. But you can get customers out of these platforms and, more importantly, it all goes into that magic elixir to create S.E.O. (search engine optimization.)
Social media platforms are great for creating a buzz and promoting your service through a good cause or action. Ask yourself if one of the following example promotions would drive business to your site.
Next Door: Hi Neighbors, I volunteered to organize our neighborhood trash service to get the best rates and reduce trucks down our street. Bill’s sanitation said they will offer our neighborhood $15.00 a month trash service. Here’s the link to sign up!
Facebook: Hi all, the school choir is fundraising for their trip to Nationals and Brothers Sanitation is donating $25 dollars for every person that signs up. Great rates too!
Social media is cheap and doesn’t take that much time. Tap into the young people at your business or hire it out as part of a packaged internet presence service like SalesStryke offers.
Website: There are two parts to any website, just like a car. The exterior, does it look good, load fast, and easy to find the information. Under the hood; does it have the horsepower, keywords for google, and check the box for all the things search engines are looking for on a website. Search engines are looking for sites that will provide the information their customer is looking for and their primary tools to measure this is how much time did the person spend on the site and did they go back. For example, you could use social media to post a video of some viral garbage event ie. Mad Driver Destroys Can” and add 30 seconds to the user’s onsite time which is a lot of time in the S.E.O. world.
Online Sign Up is a Must Have
Ease of purchase capabilities: A “buy now” button on your site is no longer optional it is a must-have. 80% of people under 30 make most of their purchases online using their cell phone. We came out with our buy now capabilities at the same time the Nationals rolled out their own, “buy now”, ability. (Don’t have online sign-up? Learn how you can add it to your website using the services of TrashBolt)
Acquisition Costs of Customers by National Haulers:
Let’s look at the cost of acquiring new customers by the Nationals to get a clear view of the value of the buy now button.
- Standard marketing; flyers, promotions, etc. This method costs approximately $30-$40 dollars per customer when all costs are factored in. I.E. it’s not the cost of one flyer mailing but the cost of the prior two mailings it took to get the customer’s attention. Then there is the cost of discounting the service to entice someone to switch. We have all seen the 6 months free, 9 dollars a month, crazy cheap discounts haulers have used to get customers.
- Door to Door sales. Typically run $55-$75 per sale and include steep discounts.
- Acquisitions: On average residential customers sell for around $400 dollars per customer.
Online Buyer Costs
Now compare these costs to the online buyer of which the Nationals are capturing nearly 100%. There are no advertising costs or admin costs to onboard the customer. They no longer have to pay a salesperson $75 for every sale and it is one less customer they must pay $400 dollars for via acquisition. They sign up customers at their rack rates which normally is much higher than any of the independent haulers in the area would charge. And their cost for all this? Maintaining the buy now button and website. Even better, each year more and more customers adopt the same buying habits increasing their “free” sales.
A New Breed of Buyer
Meet Jack, the new breed of buyer: Jack is a very busy guy. Phone calls make him uneasy because calling Corporations is like getting your teeth pulled and Jack’s not that verbal since most of his conversations take place via text and social media pictures. Jack’s not nearly as connected to his neighbors and local businesses as his father was. Most of the products and services he uses come prepackaged with set rates and no variations. Jack doesn’t know how to barter or clip coupons. When Jack buys a house and needs to order garbage service he goes online. He finds that a National company provides the means to buy anonymously, he accepts the rack rate with little thought, and does all the work a call center person would do to sign himself up and even pay to get the carts delivered. Jack hits, “autofill” on his phone and all his information and credit card immediately populate the sign-up form and Jack is done. Jack leaves the purchase feeling good, he won. He found a service, signed up and is free to move on to the next thing. Meanwhile, your company is doing a better service at a better rate and contributing to the community you service but you never had a shot at getting Jack’s business.
One of the main things I heard from haulers is; “what we do works and no need to change.” It’s hard to understand that all this marketing is only partially about today but mostly about tomorrow.
Case Study Example
Jane’s disposal is a small company with plenty of opportunity for growth in the surrounding communities. Jane uses a long term, focused, multi-pronged marketing campaign. She uses flyer campaigns in the areas she is most dense to keep adding to the density. She uses door-to-door sales in new areas where her service is not as well known. Both actions cause people that buy and don’t buy to look up Janes’s disposal on the internet which the search engines view as high value. (Customers organically searching her business.) This increases her SEO. Jane uses multiple social media platforms to promote Neighborhood clean up day and sign up new customers. This gets people talking on multiple platforms and searching Jane’s disposal which raises her S.E.O. Jane pays a little each month for paid ads to get her to the top of search engine results, gaining more sales and a higher SEO ranking. Lastly, Jane installs a buy now button capturing an additional 25% of the market with little competition. The self-sign up option results in people staying on the site longer. The result is improved SEO.
Three years later, the multi-pronged approach to marketing puts Jane’s Disposal enters the customer’s field of vision first. Here is what the consumer saw leading up to their decision to sign up:
- flyers (print material)
- the social media posts about helping charities
- number one spot on online search
When the customer decides to purchase all barriers are removed. They can sign up online or call Jane’s Disposal.
Increase Route Density with Marketing
The waste industry is all about density. Dense routes are the most profitable and sell for the most amount of money. The first key density marker is 25% of the customer base. This is the hardest to attain but once there you start getting more chances at free customers. The ultimate density number to achieve is 50% or higher. Once you reach this density you get the default business. That’s when the new neighbor looks out and sees half of the trash cans are yours and just signs up. Achieving 50% density and above is achievable; all it takes is a dedicated multifaceted approach to achieving sales today and planting the seeds for sales tomorrow.
By Andy Sorensen – Former President of Garbageman, A Green Company
Andrew is a successful entrepreneur and has started several multi-million dollar companies. His business ventures have included a moving, freight brokerage, and most recently, a trash company – GarbageMan, A Green Company. GarbageMan grew rapidly making the Inc. 500’s list of fastest-growing companies 3 times. His unique ability to manage logistics and incorporate innovative sales techniques made GarbageMan a success and competitive with national haulers. His efforts, along with his team, led to a successful sale of GarbageMan to national hauler Waste Management. Following the sale, Andrew applied his knowledge of the trash industry to the development of two spin-off companies: Waste Container Systems; a lightweight, modular commercial dumpster and Sales Stryke; a technology-based, ‘buy now’ feature for waste haulers and service companies to capture online sales. These two companies are poised to revolutionize the waste and service industries.