Written by John Hackwood on June 7th 2019
As discussed in our first blog post, tree service business owners face a stiff headwind when drumming up business locally. We’re familiar with the 6 main reasons why a proprietor in our industry faces difficulties in attracting a steady, reliable stream of customers.
But I don’t want to dwell on these 6 problems. Instead, I would like to propose a comprehensive solution. Let’s say that our simple, pay-as-you-go lead generation service did not appeal to you. We’ve taken a long, hard look at what would work instead for a busy tree service business owner like you.

An effective marketing model for tree service companies

In order to overcome the seemingly intractable problem of securing more customers for your tree business, we propose a bold, new digital marketing model specifically for this industry. It is summarized in the above graphic at the head of this article. 

This tree service marketing model is unique and you won’t it anywhere else. At best, you might come across a random list of digital channels to think about. Ours is different; it is an integrated, workable approach which means that the individual elements support, reinforce and multiply the effect of each other.

Our model is based on our experience, latest analysis of the tree service industry sector and right up-to-date digital marketing techniques. We have purposely omitted some digital sources of traffic to your website and business phone because they take time to bear fruit and you can lose your shirt in marketing costs if inexperienced. For example, Search Engine Optimization is very much a long term game nowadays and paid search (Search Engine Marketing) can be an alarming money pit in untrained hands.

Good marketing is key to your success

Let’s look at business viability through the lens of a banker for a moment, as I used to do in fact. The three essential pillars keeping a successful business afloat are good finance, solid operations and sound marketing. I have shown before that finance requirements are at ‘low to moderate’ levels compared to other sectors. And operational proficiency is an absolute must for safety reasons. This leaves marketing. There’s every reason to believe that the marketing ‘pillar’ is the one that can make or break a tree firm. Marketing excellence will make a tremendous difference to the success of your firm. It has the power to elevate you above the *3,700 tree trimmers and tree movers clamoring for attention and business in your state. (*Source: Ibisworld).

For those tree service firms determined to grow a dependable source of sales leads, this stack of digital media channels should be considered and deployed in line with the above model. It represents the means to secure exponential growth in your tree service business. We detail each element of the model below.

We are impartial advocates of this model

Let me be clear, at the moment we do not offer any of the digital services mentioned in the model. So I have no axe to grind here. I simply wanted to offer a viable marketing alternative to my pay-as-you-go lead generation service. Then you can make up your mind armed with the best possible information with greater confidence.

I will explain each aspect of the model briefly and summarize its potential impact and an outline of costs at the end of this article.

1. Your Company Website

A website is an essential element to your digital marketing endeavors. It’s the main conduit between our suggested sources of visitor traffic and the phone ringing in your office with interested residential consumers. There are at least seven solid (7) reasons why we recommend having a website as part of our tree services marketing model:

i). Prospects are looking for it!

ii). Harnesses and augments consumer interest towards a phone call to your business

iii). Captures exposure gained from your NON-digital marketing efforts to generate even more calls
 
iii). Reputation Management

iv). Share credentials and accreditation

v). Multiplier effect from careful integration with other digital elements

vi). Performance measurement

vii). Holy Grail of free visitor traffic?

I may explore each of these 7 reasons in a separate blog post in more detail if time allows. Suffice to say, there are clear business benefits from having a strong and responsive website for your tree firm.

Point vii) is worth a brief mention, however.

Free Traffic to your website?

It’s getting harder and harder to magic up free traffic from the search engines. Nowadays, Search Engine Optimization is a long term game with your service pages taking months, even years before one or two appear at the top of the search engine results. And heck, even when you get to the ‘holy grail’ of page one on Google, it’s a very crowded place. For example, Google has created a multitude of its own ‘properties’ on the first page of their search results, all of which rank above your local tree service content.

Check out this short video of a typical local ‘tree removal’ Google search on a smart-phone in Florida and you’ll see what I mean:

Therefore, we recommend that you DO NOT rely upon your web page content floating to the top of the search results at some indeterminate point in the future. You need income now and you need a reliable source of leads in the form of phone calls from potential customers interested in your services. You have truck payments to cover, finance charges on tree cutting machinery, a loan for that new chipper and the expensive charges for Workers Compensation Insurance and other coverage to pay. You need leads now. You need business now.
SEO is not a reliable source of visitor traffic to your website. You need alternative and dependable sources of visitor traffic whereby a predictable proportion of those visitors choose to call your tree service business.
We do recommend that you take advantage of some of Google’s ‘properties’. Read on and we’ll share one in particular which we advocate. After which, we’ll explain how we have an even more cost-effective sales lead engine for you to consider.

2. Local Target Audience Files

This and the next three sections will help you create a traffic feed for your website and calls to your business phone. These sections aim to provide you with a reliable and scalable volume of prospective customers interested in finding our more about the tree services that your business offers.

First you need to carefully define your ideal local market. For which type of customer in which geographical area do you wish to perform your services? For a residential target audience these are likely to be property owners in established, upscale suburbs where trees are appreciated and valued.

Whichever audience you define, you need to be able to contact them. Two recommended sources of traffic i.e. direct mail and email mentioned below require that you obtain names, addresses and email addresses of your audience so that you can contact them with your service offer, ideally in parallel.

You need to find good quality local audience files from trusted list providers.

3a. Direct Mail

Direct mail in the form of postcards can be a powerful source of leads for your local tree service business as we explain in our separate post here. [insert link to FIRST Blog post]. Direct mail has an average response rate of 5.1% when sent to households. This compares to 0.6% for paid search and 0.4% for social media according to the Data & Marketing Association (DMA).

Postcards can generate customer inquiries in two ways:
 
i). as a source of phone calls direct to your business; and

ii). as web traffic that is converted to phone call leads by your website. This is because up to 44% of those receiving a piece of direct mail will then go to your website to check your brand before calling (Source: Alphagraphics). 

Would you rather pay $80,000 or $3,500 for the same number of visitors to your website?

And here’s why direct mail can give you a much lower cost than paid search traffic (Pay Per Click ads). Based on Alphagraphic’s statistic, about 40% of recipients will check your website after receiving a printed postcard from your tree business. A mailing of 10,000 cards would create approximately 4,000 visitors to your website. 

Assume a charge of about $3,500 for creating, printing and posting your mailer. This then equates to a cost of 88 cents per visitor to your website. AND you still have those recipients who didn’t bother visiting your website and phoned straight through to you.

Compare this to the cost of getting the same website visitor numbers using paid search. The average cost of a pay-per-click ad on Google for a tree service related keyword is $15 to $20 depending on the city you’re searching from. Sourcing 4,000 visitors to your website this way would cost you between $60,000 and $80,000.

What would you rather pay for 4,000 interested visitors? A reasonable $3,500 or a ruinous $80,000?
Direct mail, ideally in the form of postcards, is definitely worth a trial in your business.

3b. Other non-digital sources of business

Our separate blog post here is devoted to sharing and detailing no less than 5 powerful non-digital sources of phone calls engineered specifically for tree service businesses like yours.

4. Email marketing

Where email is less effective in terms of absolute response rate, it has one of the best returns on spend at 124%, the DMA assures us. Furthermore, marketing campaigns that use direct mail with just one other digital media channel have an uplift in performance by 118% compared to direct mail use alone. These are the two reasons we have included email as source of traffic to your website and phone calls to your business.

The multiplier effect is boosted by other non-digital promotional channels as we detail in our previous blog post, referenced in 3b. above. This is because it can take multiple touch points of contact with your target audience before triggering action by your prospects.

5. Retargeting

Of-course only a fraction of the traffic you generate for your website will result in a subsequent calls to your business. What if there was a way to talk again to your site’s visitors, all of which have shown interest in your tree services and yet couldn’t quite manage to call your firm. Thankfully, there is a way to get a second bite at the cherry through retargeting.

Retargeting is an effective and highly targeted online advertising tool. 26% of customers will return to a website through retargeting say OMNI DM. And once there, visitors to your website who have been retargeted with display ads are 70% more likely to take action (by calling or buying).

So definitely include retargeting as an integrated part of your communications stack.

6. Telephone

The sum total of all of your marketing efforts and expense are directed at raising calls to your business telephone. Yet, you’d be surprised at how many tree service companies do not answer the phones at all well. We’re in the business of delivering phone call leads so we know what can happen.

The phone in your office is a vital part of your business. You have to capture all the interest generated from your marketing campaign if there is to be any return on your considerable marketing investment.
Even if you’re halfway up a tree leading your removal crew, you have to make sure those calls are answered. With today’s technology, virtual offices and call forwarding there is no excuse. If you can’t handle the calls yourself, employ a company or a properly briefed virtual assistant who can.

And you need someone competent enough to answer basic questions about your service. You’ll want more than just a message-taking answering service. Business works well at speed and your prospects want a quality solution fast or they’ll call your competitor. So whoever answers your phones must also be trained to convert those calls to firm appointments either for work or for appraisals if the work is complex/ large.

7. Reputation Management

Create a clear process for capturing good customer reviews and channeling them to where they can do the most good for your business. Master this quickly in order to:

i). Build trust in the quality of your work among future prospective customers; and

ii). Use the positive reviews to help generate more business for your company.

It is also natural for customers’ to feel frustrated when things go wrong with the job as they sometimes do. Rather than let these feelings cause damage to your reputation, help your customers give vent to them in a controlled way as follows.

Leverage Positive Reviews

To manage both types of customer review, we recommend that you proactively invite customer feedback after you finish the work for them. Having a website helps. Create a ‘Leave a Review” page on your website. On this page, give your customers a binary choice along the lines of:

a). “Are you happy with our work? If so please leave a review here”
 
The link forwards your happy customer to a page of instructions whereby he or she leaves a review using their Google account sign-in a positive review gets ‘attached’ to your Google My Business (GMB) listing (see next section). This boosts your online presence in at least three ways; firstly by lifting your GMB presence to the top of the listing in the Google’s 1st page properties section; secondly by raising the organic search presence of your website’s content. This is because positive reviews are a ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm. A third benefit is that you can copy these positive reviews verbatim to populate your customer testimonials page in your website and increase your credibility and consumer trust in your offer still further.

Capture Negative Reviews

b). “Could our work have been better? If so, please leave a review here”

Instead of sending the unhappy customer to your Google review page, send them instead to a customer feedback form. Set it up so any negative reviews get sent to you automatically by email. In this way, negative experiences do not dilute your positive and public review ratings. Instead, valuable but potentially damaging views are captured for use by you. Then you can choose to improve those aspects of your tree service that cause concern, at your discretion.

Send your customers a text message after each job. 

People will generally follow the path of least resistance. So at the end of each job, send your customer a simple text inviting their views “Please tell us how we performed today” plus a short code link to the “Leave a Review” page on your website.

8. Google My Business

initially, you won’t have much of a chance of appearing in the top search engine results page which is page 1. You can accelerate your presence with a local listing at the top of Google’s search results locally with a Google My Business listing. It stands alone as a source of traffic, can also improve your own website’s online profile and can also help make your customer reviews visible to other prospective customers. For a small, ambitious company with limited resources, a Google My Business listing is an essential adjunct to having a website for two reasons:

i). Helps your online presence by helping your firm to appear in the local listings section of the first page of Google; and

ii). Harnesses your customers’ positive tree work reviews (see section 7. above) that you can also highlight on your website in your testimonials section.

Here is a link which provides the latest, impartial advice on how to set up your Google My Business listing for free:

Outline costs of the digital marketing model

There's no doubt that you would do well to explore the above model for your tree firm and I commend it to you. It is based on my experience from running a small business, my experience in running marketing strategy and operations for several international banks, marketing best practice and proven marketing techniques. I have backed up everything with performance statistics so you can have a good idea of the likely results.

Nevertheless, it will cost you time and around $20,000 to implement in full unless you do large chunks of it yourself. And even supposing you found a good local agency to implement the model, they would seek to engage with you at every step in the process. They would also expect you to write all the content or at the very least give them a clear creative direction for each of the channels mentioned in the model. This would lead to a massive drain on your time and this becomes a major issue when you are trying to grow a small business.

We could make a very good living implementing this model to the 185,000 US tree service businesses. But we chose not to. We found an even more efficient method to create leads for you. This cost-efficient and time-efficient method will work harder for you than the customized digital marketing model that we have shared with you in this article.


Yes, we have something that will work even better

You can safely set aside our model and the time and cost of implementing it. 

This is because MarketingDirector.com can provide your tree service business with a steady, predictable stream of local, potential customer calls to your business on a low cost pay-as-you-go basis. There are no upfront costs and no contracts and no massive time sink in making the above model work.

Interested in a simple, reliable delivery of phone calls to your business without the hassle? Click on the blue button below to discover much more and fix a time for a chat.

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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