Written by John Hackwood on November 25th 2019
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Some proper tree service marketing this winter can help to reduce the annual drop in business at this time of year. Get it right and you can buck the national trend of lower seasonal business and also set yourself up for a great 2020.

What's happening this time of year?

Customer phone calls are slowing down now for tree service companies in most US states. The interactive graph above shows why. Searches on Google for ‘tree service, ‘tree removal’ and ‘tree trimming’ have been tracked over the last three years and the national results revealed above. Our Google Trends graph reveals a distinct and repeated annual pattern for searches by customers wanting help with their trees.
Tree service business slows down sharply in the winter months except for our southernmost States. Customer demand for tree removal and tree trimming work in December drops to less than half its peak summer levels. Searches are also slow to pick up in January and February.
Don’t be fooled by the upward blip in the graph early January. This is linked to Christmas tree removal/disposal rather than everyone dropping large oaks in the New Year.

You want to rest, this winter? Or are you still hungry for business?

Some of you may be grateful for the respite in work. Others will be hungry for business to keep up payments on machinery and keeping your best team fully employed.
The success of your business is in your hands and there’s many options to pursue. To save wasting your time, we have rated each idea in terms of time involved and financial cost. Don’t just do one idea – combine several you feel are best for your business in your stage of development and in your geographical location.

Our 22 tree service marketing ideas this winter

Winter Marketing Idea

Time Cost

$ Investment

Suggestions

1. Hustle door-to-door
High
Low
Make sure you have cards/low cost fridge magnets to leave behind
2. Send out postcards
Medium
Medium
Multi-purpose use explored in detail in point five of this separate post. DMA confirm response rates 9 times that of email and paid search. 
3. Call previous customers
Medium
Low
They know your work and are warm to you. Offer seasonal tree care advice e.g. pruning/tree pests. Ask if they need anything done with their trees.
4. Call new customers - local prospecting
Medium
Low
Call builders, construction companies, golf-courses, realtors, apartment landlords, property maintenance companies, property flippers
5. When prospecting, offer a value-add e.g. inspection
Medium
Low
A value-added offer will make your local prospecting more effective. 
6. Check your local listings
Low
Low
Update local online directory listings. Explore online bid listings inc for State Dept of Transport (DOT) & your local city municipalities. Get found!
7. Move to Southern states/ coastal areas in winter
Medium
High
Stuff still grows in winter. Caution - competition heavy there too. Care - high promotional costs
8. Hang out with your truck at a busy gas station.
Medium
Low
Combine with 3. & 4. prospecting. Ambush passing builders/ construction companies. Works best if you have reflective or illuminated vehicle signage.
9. Refresh/ Illuminate all your vehicle signage
Low
Medium
Regard your trucks as large mobile billboards. Pick out your brand & telephone number in reflective vinyl or ElectroLuminescent (EL) materials
10. Business Referrals  
Low-medium
Low-medium
Focus on Construction & Builders in winter. Then Lawncare and Landscapers in Spring. See para below for reason behind timing.
11. Hibernate/ Go hunting/ Travel
Medium
High
Good time to reflect and relax. Beware - high opportunity costs as your competitors steal a march on you by the time you return
12. Go Niche - offer fruit tree pruning, oak/elm pruning, tree pest control.. 

Medium
Medium
Combine with 3. & 4. Ideally, start marketing in Fall for a full winter appointment book. Add service pages to website, adjust citations/listings
13. Offer 24/7 Emergency Storm Damage

Medium
Low-medium
Minimum - Add service page to website, citations in directory sites e.g. Yelp, Manta, Angies List
14. Offer Firewood for sale
Medium
Medium
Need dry cords of wood, storage and marketing e.g. service page, citations, listings. Care - low margins. 
15. Offer Line Clearance
Medium
Medium
Call power companies. Check online bid listings. Care - even more dangerous work. Need Line Clearance certification.
16. Offer Snow Removal
Low-High
Medium-High
Requires additional heavy equipment, service page, local listings, municipality/DOT listings etc. 
17. Hire Marketing Manager
Low
High
Bold and expensive step for a new business. Check local marketing experience, successes, training and qualifications very carefully before hiring 
18. Hire a Lead Generator 
Low
Low-Medium
Paying just for phone calls on a pay-as-you-go basis works well for many tree service businesses
19. Hire Advertising Agency
Medium
High
Uber-expensive in most cases. Agency will recommend an array of offline/online media, creative & digital solutions to ensure success. Not all channels will work.
20. Become a Marketing Expert
High
Medium
Learn the ropes of local marketing yourself. Takes time and you need calls now. Not all solutions will work.
21. Obtain and Display Trade Certifications
Low
Low-Medium
ISA and TCIA most well known and respected. ISA needs study & exams, TCIA doesn't. Display widely on all materials and signage for credibility benefits
22. Yard Signs

Low
Low
Install and leave your sign on site for 1 or 2 months after work completed. Most customers won't mind but some will need a small incentive

Referrals from local builders and construction companies in Jan & Feb

The timing in Idea 10. Business Referrals deserves a brief explanation. Notice from the Google Trends graph below that online searches for builders show a much faster bounce back in early January than do searches for tree service. It’s the same for construction.
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Regardless of whether the building work happens on green field, brown field sites or as renovation or as property extensions, the site will still need clearing beforehand. Position yourself for this work correctly i.e. ‘Lot Clearance’ and you could see yourself busier than most of your competition earlier in the year.
By position yourself, I mean adding a relevant page to your website for Lot Clearance, adjusting your listings and seeking referrals from local builders and construction outfits.

Referrals from landscapers and lawncare firms from March onwards

We suggest that March and April, you switch your attention to getting referrals from landscapers and lawncare firms. Their business is even more acutely seasonal than tree service but customer searches and demand accelerate more sharply for them in April and May. Check out Google Trends for yourself to see other waves you can ride. 

Most landscapers and all lawn-care outfits won’t have the right experience or kit for heavy tree work beyond light trimming of small trees. So they will rely on a tree service company to help them out. Of all the 60 or so competitors in your county, let that tree service company be your own!

There’s no single magic bullet

By all means adopt one of 22 the winter marketing ideas listed above. And do it well. But bear in mind that it won’t work well just on its own. Customers can find you in many different ways. They respond differently depending on the approach, media or message used. Some will rate online reviews higher over a personal message on their doorstep and vice versa. Also some new prospects will need to hear from you between 7 and 20 times before they call you. So its best to make an intelligent combination of several ideas working harder together.

Combine 3 or 4 different ideas to start – an example

A multi-idea approach will work best. For example, the following selection could work well together:

1. Hustle door-to-door
3. Call previous customers
4. Call new prospects (local prospecting)
10. Business referrals

1., 3., & 4. will have an immediate impact to increase your sales. Idea #10 is a slower burn but ideal if you want sales to pick up faster in January and February. However, note that some local builders and construction companies may be looking for something in exchange if they are to give you referrals in the New Year. After all, what’s in it for them? 

It’s unlikely that you can reciprocate with a bunch of building leads. So how about offering to take their business card with you when going door-to-door (1.)? This shows that you’re serious. It also builds a lot of goodwill with your construction referrer.

Also, when phoning new customers in your service area (4.), offer to come round and look at their trees to see if any of them need attention.

Review the 22 marketing tactics and decide which combination would work best for you in your city.

What we didn't include and why

There are several routes to market we haven’t included. The main one is building a website. Yes, a website is an important ‘must have’ for serious tree service firms with employees and heavy equipment. In time, a good website will position you in the top third of all the 60 or so tree firms in your county. Because at least two thirds of all tree firms don’t have one! And a website lies at the heart of the ideal tree service marketing model shared here.

BUT your new website’s content will take time to be visible in the search engines, even for local search results. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a much longer process nowadays. You want sales now, hence the focus on more immediate sales and marketing ideas.

If you’re still struggling to find business

And if you’re not in the mood for all the hustle, let us make the phone ring for you. 

We generate and sell phone calls from local prospects specifically interested in your tree services and in your service area. Yes, there are fewer at this time of year but we can put your business much closer to the front of the queue for the 40-50% fewer inquiries that remain.

John Hackwood

John Hackwood helps tree service owners get 20-50 NEW customers per month. He is an expert at helping them get clients using proprietary methods and making things super simple to understand. He has been a marketing professional since 1988 and is using this considerable experience to help small businesses in the US tree care sector.
If you're interested in learning how John can help you grow your tree service business then click on blue button below.
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