5 NON Digital Marketing tactics for your Tree Service business
Written by John Hackwood on June 8th 2019
Marketing is fundamental to your tree service company

Marketing is particularly important in the tree service industry. The reasons for our conviction are founded in our own *SWOT analysis for the US tree services industry here 

SWOT findings

To summarize from my previous blog post on our unique *SWOT analysis, the US tree services sector is a healthy $21bn market. It is also flourishing at a healthy growth rate of 6.7% every year over the last 5 years. Yet the main challenge is the sheer number of small tree service operators. In fact, there are more than 60 on average in each of the 3007 counties in the United States. Most tree firms employ no more than two full time employees so scaling such a business is a systemic issue.

*SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Business fundamentals – Operations, Finance & Marketing

Safe, operational excellence is essential for long term growth. Unsafe, untrained and non-qualified operators will soon remove themselves from the competitive landscape and sometimes from the gene pool too, unfortunately. The industry requires only ‘low to moderate’ financing. The third business essential, marketing, can make all the difference to the success or otherwise of your tree business. Master this or master the means to secure a steady stream of leads and you will have the foundation for a thriving and growing business.

So marketing in the tree service sector is vital for three reasons:

i). Sales leads cannot be taken for granted. Inquiries from prospective customers have to be actively driven and maintained at a strong level.

ii). The highly competitive local market in tree services demands a sound marketing approach to help your firm stand head and shoulders above the others.

iii). Those companies who excel at marketing will have a successful business. This is because the other two fundamentals in tree services of operations and finance are an essential prerequisite and reasonably straightforward, respectively.

Choosing your preferred customer type

Before we merrily start listing marketing ideas for you to mull over, a word about your target customers.

One of the most important elements of your business strategy is marketing segmentation. Segmentation and targeting tests even the brightest marketing minds because markets are far from homogeneous. It is also one of those difficult marketing things to do properly. So marketers can be tempted to gloss over its importance and jump to conclusions about the ideal target market based on their own flawed self-reference criterion.

Focusing on one customer type, at least initially, is important. This is because your reputation can build quickly if you channel your business energies into one service for one type of customer. How often have you heard: “Stick to the Knitting.” Lots of times, I hope and for good reason. Spreading yourself thinly over several customer segments is a recipe for business failure.

Most tree service start-ups begin with tree trimming and removal for residential customers. In time, they graduate to municipal and commercial customers. This happens after they acquire the equipment and staff to reliably deliver an agreed set of services to contract.

In the case of commercial tree work, additional skills are needed when offering services on credit. Poor debtor management can easily kill a business.

Different markets demand different marketing approaches

For Residential Customers B2C (Business to Consumer) marketing:
      - large audience
      - local marketing
      - cost effectiveness is key from lower transaction values

For Commercial & Municipal Customers B2B (Business to Business) marketing: 
      - smaller audience
      - relationship approach
      - personalized
      - networking

In this article, we choose to focus upon marketing tactics that are most relevant for a residential target market.

Ever notice that a lot of top five or top ten lists of tree marketing techniques are all about digital media? If so, did you also notice how the authors are writing for digital marketing agencies? Go figure. We take a contrarian view because these digital agency authors often overlook highly relevant and effective non-digital channels.

Get noticed in the real world first with 5 non-digital marketing tactics

We say why not get noticed in the real world as well as online. With this in mind, we will now detail 5 NON-digital marketing tactics that all tree service companies should consider implementing. 

These have been prioritized from a much larger list. Our selection uses the strategic insight from our SWOT study as a filter. In my next blog post, I’ll share my top digital marketing techniques for those with tree care companies. In the next post, we shall also share how to knit together both offline and online marketing techniques as a cohesive whole to win in your local market.
It can take up to 18-20 touch-points to reach a customer for the first time (Source: Compumail). So we recommend that you at least trial 4 or more of these 5 ideas at the same time:

1. Tree Service Trucks as Mobile Billboards

Those big, beautiful chipper bodied trucks of yours can help your tree firm stand out from a crowded jumble of competitors. Remember our SWOT tells us that you’re fighting for business from 60 plus competitors in your county alone. Your large and tangible street presence can easily be augmented with bright, bold messaging of your: 
• Logo and/or Company Name
• Phone Number
• Web address
• Industry accreditation roundels
• If room, add your key service areas e.g. tree trimming, tree removal, tree care.
• Graphics which complement your firm’s brand identity
Of all these elements, ensure that your company name and phone number are most visible. Ideally, they should be readable from a distance of 60 feet when your truck is moving at 40 mph.
Your truck signage should be created professionally and vinyl wrapped by experts. Nowadays, the vinyl used resists degradation by ultraviolet (UV) light and will last up to 10 years. This means they are a very cost-efficient way of advertising your business for one up-front fee.

Reflective Vinyl Vehicle Signage option

If you're going to the expense of getting your truck vinyl wrapped, ask for a quote on a Reflective Vinyl option. Such specially engineered films have been originally designed for use in high performance reflective road signs and are mostly suited to flat surfaces. But that could suit your large chip truck with flat, straight metal sides quite well. 
Examples of high-performance reflective films include 3M’s Diamond Grade product that captures scattered, ambient light and reflects it back towards the viewer. I first used this particular 3M film to successfully capture attention in a new design of roadside teller machines that I worked on in the early noughties. Sections of reflective film can be easily incorporated into your vinyl wrap. These high-impact inserts will pick out your logo and also your website or company name and phone number on the side of your trucks. Not many tree service firms go the extra mile in this way, so this will help raise your profile in your service area.
The benefits are:
        - greater notice-ability especially in low light conditions
        - low maintenance
        - novelty to help you stand out from an ocean of tree service competitors

Electroluminescent (EL) Vehicle Signage option

Going a step further still and your signage could be lit with the most energy-efficient light source on the planet …and beyond. It’s the very same technology used by NASA in the International Space Station due to the very light weight and ultra efficient energy consumption of electroluminescent (EL) panels.

Imagine being the first and only tree service truck in your service area to be illuminated at dusk and when it’s dark. EL panels work very well in low/no light conditions. They are flexible too and 3 times thinner than a credit card which means they can be wrapped around complex surfaces.

EL signage emits negligible heat and consumes tiny amounts of 12 volt electricity. They can even be left switched on all night long, quietly but brilliantly advertising your business. The panels can flash on and off too, optionally. We recommend that you first check your local driving regulations as the flashing option could be a little too noticeable to other road users.
They are a little more expensive than both regular vehicle signage and reflective films due to the wiring and protection necessary. Nevertheless, the main benefits of EL panels for your tree firm are:
i). Competitive edge - help you stand head and shoulders above your local competition on the street.
ii). PR Value - become the talk of the town with your trick illuminated truck signage.
ii). Visibility - advertising that gets seen works the hardest, especially on a medium that you own.
The EL images and video are reproduced here with the kind permission of Mr. David Lennon, the proprietor of LumaMedia International, a quality purveyor of such panels that is located in Oregon, USA. Hit him up for a very reasonably cost quote for your tree services truck:
LumaMedia International, Inc.
Office: 702-202-2170
www.lumamediaintl.com 
Here's a brief video outlining EL signage for a realty vehicle 


2. Display your Certifications

Being a member of a recognized industry body can help to give your tree firm instant credibility. Trust levels among customers and prospects are likely to increase if they see the symbols of accreditation next to your company name.
For example, membership of the Tree Care Industry Association TCIA is at a very reasonable cost and has a host of benefits and training for members. In order to gain entry to this recognized trade association, all you need is to prove you have a tree care business and proof of adequate insurance.
The best part is that there are only 2300 tree firms as TCIA members worldwide. From our SWOT analysis (above), we know that there are 185,000 tree firms in US alone. This means that if you are a paid-up TCIA member, less than one in 50 will be able to display this accreditation in your crowded service area. Heck, you could be the only tree firm in your county to be a TCIA member!
Similarly, if you are an ISA-certified arborist, reflect your membership of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) with justifiable pride on your truck. Include and even on other materials such as uniforms and business stationery.

3. Business Referrals

Reach out to local landscapers and lawn contractors operating in your vicinity with a view to exchanging leads for business. Many will be glad that you did because the need for new business is widespread among business owners. There is overlap between tree service and landscaping business services but often landscapers won’t have access to the specialist knowledge, skills and equipment that you have and vice versa. You can also speak to local lawn experts and ask them to look for specific tree problems on their customers’ properties which your firm could solve. 
For the arrangement to work well over time, there will need to be a healthy exchange of leads between parties on a semi-frequent basis. If this doesn’t work well for your referrer, you could always offer a cash incentive instead.
Ibisworld in their latest look at the tree trimming industry suggest that much of the growth in the sector over the last 5 years has been due to property development and construction. So it will pay to also make yourself known to local builders and developers in your county as well.
There are local business organizations that can help encourage such referrals. Business Network International (BNI) is an example. The annual fees can cause a sharp intake of breath. However, the fees are tax deductible and if your local BNI chapter has at least one builder or landscaper in its midst, membership could pay dividends. The meetings usually take place once a week and start early in the morning. I used to find it enjoyable to swap stories (and leads) over a hearty breakfast when I was a member.
Here’s a useful secret – many BNI chapters will allow you to try a few meetings before making you pay the annual fee. And there could be several chapters in your service area! 

4. Yard Signs

Say that you are performing tree services in a neighborhood where you would really like to work again. So why not leave your calling card before you pack up from the job? Or in your case, leave a ‘calling poster’. For this you’ll need to get some low-cost yard signs printed and mounted, say 30 inches wide by 20 inches tall.
Yard Sign illustration
Don’t crowd your lawn poster with too much detail. ‘Less is more’ when a message is being read from even a short distance away. Include your company name, your phone number and, if space, a simple message. These simple but powerful signs can be inserted into your customer’s front lawn when you're doing work. They often stay in place for weeks and will be visible to passers-by on foot or even when driving slowly down a suburban street.
The yard signs will amplify local name recognition of your tree service brand. Getting your company’s name out there is essential to rise above the highly competitive landscape in your service area. And spending a dollar or two on these signs, less if ordered in bulk, will be well worthwhile for a few one thousand dollar jobs later in the season.
Always seek prior permission from the property-owner, of-course; the vast majority of your customers won't mind a jot. 

5. Postcards

Some so-called marketing experts denounce postcards as a viable medium for lead generation. I know for a fact that they have wrongly dismissed one of the most effective direct mail channels for B2C (Business to Consumer) marketing.

For example, there is recent video proof of a landscaper in Texas achieve a Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) of more than 3,200% using postcards alone. The ANA | DMA Response Rate Report 2018 has further proof of postcards’ potency as a direct mail marketing tool. The report claims that recipient response rates of direct mail are nine (9) times that of email and paid search.

This is why we advocate postcards. And if you follow some simple rules, then creative, printing and postage is least expensive for postcards compared to any other form of direct mail.

There are other reasons why we can recommend postcards with confidence. USPS says that the volume of physical mail deliveries has fallen by 29.8% between 2006 and 2017 (Source: Statista). So a colorful, personalized postcard is going to receive more attention than it might have done so in the past.
Also a simple postcard message absolutely suits the average human attention span of 8 seconds, doesn’t it?
Convinced? OK, how should you use postcards. Postcards can be used by a tree service business for customer acquisition, customer retention and repeat business too.

Postcards for customer acquisition 

Postcard theme idea #1: ‘Before and After’

On a sunny day, take some good photographs of recent tree work of which you are particularly proud. On the postcard, share the visual results of your beautiful tree trimming job both before you start and after you have finished and tidied up. Use the same approach to your tree removal or stump grinding work. Mention your company name, website and phone number along with your industry credentials, of-course.
If you’re just starting out in business, perhaps include an introductory offer of a time-limited discount as well. Then send your postcards to a carefully selected group of prospective customers with property (and trees) in your service area.

Postcards for repeat business

Postcards can also help to encourage repeat business from your customers. A 5% increase in customer retention yields profit increases of between 25% and 96% (Source: Small Business Trends). So work at reminding your existing tree service customers that you can help them in their yard, all year round. As tangible items with interesting photos and graphics, your postcards have a good chance of being kept by the addressee for later reference.

Here are some suggested themes for cards that can be sent out every month or every quarter to your existing clients:

Postcard theme idea #2: Common physical tree problems

The front of your card would show printed images of the tree problems you can help solve e.g. hollow trees, common tree pests, leaning, misshapen or badly trimmed trees. The text on the reverse would simply say that you can help solve the problem graphically shown on the front along with your company brand, contact and accreditation details.

Postcard theme #3: Common but solvable tree diseases

For the arborists among you, the front of the card could share pictures of tree species with their diseased leaves with the headline “Have a tree that looks like this?” The reverse could show details of your qualified solutions and an offer for a free or discounted inspection of trees in your yard.

Postcard theme #4: Beautiful local trees
 
Front of card to share pictures of beautiful, well maintained examples of local tree species and a headline which asks “Want your live oak to look like this”? Text on the reverse could hammer home the financial advantage of well-kept trees and an outline of your long term and repeat tree care solutions.

Postcard theme #5: Less well known tree services

The pictorial side of the postcard would show services you could provide that your customer may not know about e.g. tree pest control, deep root irrigation, tree mulching, tree transplanting, stump grinding etc.
Hey, how about you test all 5 ideas in a small area and see which ones attract the most calls over two or three month period.

Integrated marketing

The best marketing communication models tap into the power of integrating messages across relevant media to optimize the desired number of touch points for a given audience. This involves creating a coordinated series of complementary messages in a few carefully selected media to ensure your audience sees your offer not just once but on several occasions; reinforcing the message in prospect’s minds on each occasion.
So our next blog post will address the top 5 DIGITAL marketing techniques/channels best suited for tree service outfits and their residential target market. It will build upon this NON-digital list. And we’ll explain how you could combine your direct mail messaging, email marketing and your website to build upon each other to increase the benefits of synergy and message integration.

But if it all sounds a little too much in terms of time and budget, try our pay-as-you-go service instead. It will feed a steady and reliable stream of customer inquiries to your tree business every week. Click on the link below to find out more and to arrange a conversation. 
I look forward to working with you.  

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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