It is important to advertise your business effectively, to let potential customers know who you are, where you are and what you can do for them.
An entry in the Yellow Pages and other similar directories can be an effective way of advertising your business. However, many of your competitors will have done the same. Some firms spend a lot of money on large, eye-catching display advertisements. Others use names like ‘…000123 Tree Services’ to try and ensure that their display advertisement appears first in the classification (although this is a far from fool-proof strategy).
You will have to decide whether to compete head on with these firms, or to look for a different way of attracting customers. You could, for example, focus on your own unique selling point (USP) in your advertising material. This might be ’30 years experience’ or ‘family run firm’.
Promoting your business online
Many people search for things like tree services and consultancy online, so a good business website is probably essential. The web is fast replacing printed directories, so if you don’t want to miss out on this source of publicity for your business then you’ll need a good online presence. Consider using online social media, business directories, blogs and forums (where permitted) to market and promote your business too. You could pitch for work on websites like Rated People and Mybuilder.com – both of these include tree surgeons among the types of trades-people they list. And of course you can pay to advertise online too, although this can be an expensive option for a small service-based business.
Other ways of advertising and marketing
Think about other ways of promoting your business. For example, you could distribute a brochure, paper flyer, plastic card or sticker with your business name and telephone number on it as part of a mail-shot or leaflet drop that you do. You might also consider:
- advertising in the local newspaper
- advertising in trade magazines aimed at businesses like farmers
- joining a reputable trade association. The Arboricultural Association, for example, promotes its members and has an online database of approved member contractors and consultants
- placing advertisements or flyers in local garden centres and nurseries
- networking with local landowners, landscape gardeners and horticulturalists. Some of these might use your services on a regular basis. Others might be prepared to pass on the name of your business to potential clients
- contacting the people responsible for estate management in organisations like the local authority, the National Trust and so on with the aim of getting onto their ‘approved supplier’ list
Try to tell people as many of the good things about your business as possible in your advertisements, particularly things that distinguish your business from its competitors. Include details of professional qualifications and trade association membership.
Remember that your vehicle can be a very effective means of advertising if you have it sign-written and keep it clean and presentable. You might consider having a sign made that you can display outside places where you are working – but make sure that your customer has no objections before putting it up. If you hire out equipment like wood chippers and mini-excavators you could include your business name and contact details on them.
You may find that, when you are working on a domestic job, other householders will often approach you and ask you to quote for work. Always be polite and helpful and be sure to give them your contact details – perhaps a business card. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted from the job in hand, but arrange to visit them and survey the job once you’ve finished at your current site.
Word of mouth
Word of mouth recommendations are very valuable to your business. Everyone has heard horror stories about ‘cowboy’ tradesmen who bodge jobs and swindle their customers – and they want to be sure that you’re not going to do the same to them. You will have to earn your reputation through good, reliable workmanship – but even small things like politeness and considerateness can pay big dividends. Make sure that any staff you employ are good ambassadors for your business too.
Some things to avoid doing
There are certain methods of advertising and marketing that you should consider avoiding. Unfortunately, the tree services business has its fair share of unskilled cowboys who give the industry a bad name.
These people often visit a neighbourhood and go door to door making claims such as “that tree is dying and needs cutting down now”. Others will descend on an area after a storm and tout for business clearing up tree debris and felling trees that have become unsafe. These are widely regarded as sharp practices by conscientious tree surgeons, many of whom have plenty of work without resorting to door to door sales tactics.