15 May What you should know when comparing quotes for custom landscape lighting design/build systems
By Mike Gambino
Imagine your sticker shock when our company’s price is 50% higher than other firms for what you may perceive as essentially the same layout and product quality. Let’s say the project is for a new backyard landscape lighting system; the proposals from each firm look pretty much the same to you as ours. So how could there possibly be a 50% spread in price?
Our company has successfully completed dozens of similar projects to what you are looking to do. Our reputation for good design, quality work and business integrity is excellent. Our price is $24,980 for supply of all products needed, cable placed inside of conduit and buried underground, installation, and tax…total client satisfaction guaranteed.
Operating out of there home, with a pickup truck , Competitor A has not been in business as long and does all aspects of landscaping work including lighting. Her price for the “same” project is $14,000…complete satisfaction guaranteed. And you have received other bids in that same neighborhood.
Multiple Risks Involved
While the lower price may look very appealing, the discerning consumer knows there’s a bigger dilemma: namely, which price is the right price?
Actually, each party has considerable risks at stake:
• Our firm may have priced the job too high and risk losing it. Worse, being tagged with a high-price reputation will not only discourage referrals but limit growth potential.
• Our competitors may have priced the job too low and risk losing money on it. Once that’s realized, they risk losing credibility by asking for more money after the project is underway. Or, they risk losing interest in the job because they can make more money by selling the next one. The apathy and lack of follow-through will certainly limit referrals and future business, too.
• The buyer shoulders the greatest risk of all: If Competitor A is chosen, they risk paying too little and getting a shoddy job that must be lived with for many years. In the worst case scenario, they could even lose their deposit money if Competitor A’s weak business management practices, a recessionary economy or a combination of both force this company to shut down. Then it would cost you even more money and aggravation to find someone else to complete the project. On the other hand, if our firm is chosen, they risk paying too much and feeling foolish.
In such situations, you can probably see your predicament.
The Intangibility of Custom Landscape Lighting
You need to understand that Custom Built Landscape Lighting systems are intangible products. They become tangible only through a comprehensive process of interviewing, consulting, designing, estimating, ordering, scheduling, coordinating and installing an incredible number of products, fixtures, surface materials and minute details. Only then, after experiencing the end product, will you know how well the tangible product which is the custom landscape lighting system will actually perform.
To accomplish all of this requires people with extraordinary and diverse skills, product knowledge and professionalism. So it’s these intangibles – the process and the people – that can make or break a landscape lighting system’s success.
If a landscape lighting system doesn’t perform as designed or specified, or if it doesn’t function properly for your individual needs, the results can be terrible.
The Price of Performance
Being highly people-intensive, landscape lighting system builders are subject to enormous quality control problems. There are hundreds of possible error sources in producing a custom landscape lighting system…mis-calculating electrical load and system engineering, overlooking the lighting of some key elements, miscalculating the fixture type and quantity needed, incorrect fixture placement and lamp specifications, etc.
As a result, the professional firm will organize itself with a division of labor, a series of systems and the best quality people available, which will substantially reduce the risk of error. Indeed, some of the larger and more progressive firms have recently been introducing management information software into their operations to help control the voluminous detail in their projects.
It’s been proven that the extra costs of these services at the contract stage save up to 20 times the money wasted in correcting mistakes and oversights, either during the job or at a later date.
When it comes to custom landscape lighting projects, as with most things, people usually get what they pay for. The professional firm has both a vested interest, and an obligation, to have prospects know what to look for when evaluating two competing proposals with pricing that may be 50% apart – or more.
After all, the professional firm knows how complicated (and costly) a custom landscape lighting system can be to design and build…how difficult it is to make it “fit like a glove” with a minimum degree of disruption to the existing landscaping. The professional firm knows that it’s accepted industry practice to use customer deposits for working capital purposes. And the professional firm knows that it’s possible to remain in business for years in this industry by ensuring total client satisfaction.
An unusually low price isn’t a conclusive indicator that a competitor is going out of business. It’s more likely that this competitor has a lower regard for the costs, effort and services required to produce a landscape lighting system with acceptable functional design, aesthetics, scheduling, coordination, workmanship, on-site care and cleanup, and overall performance.
Identifying Price Differences
There’s an awful lot more to buying a custom landscape lighting system than just picking out a pretty set of fixtures from the internet or product catalogs. And unique to intangible products, such as a newly built custom landscape lighting systems, is the fact that the client is seldom aware of being served well. With intangibles, clients usually don’t know what they are getting …until they don’t get it.
It’s only when their friends wonder out loud why the lighting don’t look effective that the clients become aware of what they bargained for – faulty installation – as one of a host of possible undesirable conditions.
Professional firms must identify those areas of difference engineered into the project to enhance its quality, appearance, performance and satisfaction. By placing fair values on these differences, you are then in an informed position to assess the risk of taking the lower price proposal versus paying for the worth of the enhancements in the higher price proposal.
This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 20 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to www.Gambinolighting.com . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .
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