Written by John Hackwood on May 14th 2019
Tree Service Marketing - back to basics

Before deciding what type of tree service marketing we wanted to provide tree service businesses in USA, we went back to basics and took a cold, hard at the industry.
 
It crossed our mind that perhaps tree contractors could survive perfectly well with little external marketing support. For example, maybe they could get by with ‘word-of-mouth’ advertising and the occasional referral.

But when we started talking to tree company proprietors, several shared how difficult it was to get started and gain enough work to keep their young business afloat. Others said that it remains a struggle to generate new leads and calls from prospective customers.

We found that there are just too many tree service business owners having a hard time. So we dug a little deeper to discover why. A summary of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis in the tree service sector is shown in the above graphic. We have based our own service solution on this analysis.

How MarketingDirector.com used this analysis

Based on this analysis, we decided to offer a no-nonsense pay-as-you-go type marketing service. In this way, start up green industry businesses can rely on an exclusive, cost-effective and accountable lead generation solution to build customers quickly. 

How you as a tree service company owner can use these unique insights 

Tree service owners can use the information here is to create their own marketing strategies, tailored to their special circumstances. Our next blog posts outline some non-digital tree service marketing strategies and a highly-effective, integrated digital marketing model for the tree service industry, respectively.  


The 3-legged stool

I used to be a banker in the City of London, England. When assessing the viability of a business (and their chances of repaying their loans), we knew the enterprise needed 3 strong legs of a stool to survive and flourish:

1. Excellent Operations i.e. quality, effectiveness and efficiency of operations

2. Strong Finance and Financials i.e. equipment financing, good debtor management, positive cash flow and retention of earnings for future growth

3. Effective Marketing i.e. sound service/product mix, rising sales, strong customer attraction and retention strategies

Problems in any one of the three ‘legs’ was usually a good predictor of problems with the business later on. Let’s apply this same breakdown to a tree service business. It will help us understand why effective marketing needs to be a core skill to survive in a very competitive green market.

Tree Service Operations have to be good

See the last listed Threat in our above SWOT graphic. In such a dangerous industry, any active tree service contractor will require a good level of operational competence. We do not under-estimate the complexity of operations, training staff, insurance, licensing and mastery of technical skills in operating dangerous equipment at height. It’s just that inept operators would soon eliminate themselves due to injury or legal action. It’s not an option to have anything less than good operational proficiency in a tree service business.
 
Finance is manageable

As we can see from last listed Strength in our SWOT analysis, financing a tree service business is more straightforward than in other industries. This is because it exhibits 'low to moderate capital intensity' with only around $0.10 being spent on capital equipment for every dollar earned. It means that access to finance need not be a limiting factor in the success of a tree firm. We do recognize, though, that the tree trimming business must generate sufficient cash flow to make the repayments on any finance. This is where problems do arise unless a steady stream of customers can be acquired and services performed.

That leaves marketing...

With the first two legs of the stool either a given or manageable, the reliance on marketing logically increases. Greater weight must therefore be placed on the 3rd leg of the stool, marketing, to enable a tree service business to survive and thrive. But there’s more.

From US Small Business Trends and CB Insights data, more than half of the top 10 causes of all small business failure are related to marketing:

• No market need: 42 percent;
• Ran out of cash: 29 percent;
• Not the right team: 23 percent;
• Got out-competed: 19 percent;
• Pricing / Cost issues: 18 percent; (Pricing is part of the marketing mix)
• User un-friendly product: 17 percent;
• Product without a business model: 17 percent;
• Poor marketing: 14 percent;
• Ignore customers: 14 percent; and
• Product mistimed: 13 percent.

This general data strongly indicates that green service businesses face a stiff headwind in terms of securing enough customers. Strong sales turnover is vital to keep any business operation viable.

Massive Tree Service competition

Ibisworld tells us that in 2018 there are around 184,739 tree trimming and removal businesses in USA. That’s an average of 3,700 in every US state. This equates to more than 60 tree service companies and contractors in every one of USA’s 3007 counties. Naturally, more populous US counties will attract a higher-than-average number of tree businesses.

So your main marketing challenges are:

a. How do you stand out from the 60+ competitors based in your county

b. How do you get more than your fair share of tree service customers through effective promotion

The answer involves you becoming a marketing expert OR paying an advertising agency to set everything up hopefully in the right way and hopefully not too expensively OR letting a lead generation agency, such as Marketingdirector.com, supply you with a steady stream of customers on a pay-as-you-go basis.


5 further reasons why getting more customers is not easy in the tree service sector:

1. You told us so - Our anecdotal evidence from conversations with your fellow tree service owners is that a significant number of tree businesses are suffering from poor sales.

2. Brimful of competitors - The marketing effort required to get your tree service business to stand-out and get noticed from the vast multitude of small operators in your vicinity will be significant.

3. Managing digital proliferation - Your marketing challenge is compounded by the increasing technical nature of today’s marketing tactics and by the proliferation of paid digital and social media channels to market.

4. Seasonality - You must already know that tree work is seasonal in nature. In late fall, business dies off by at least 20%. It doesn’t start picking up again until late February/March unless there's storm damage clean-up work. Many tree companies do alternative work in winter such as snow removal in the Northern States.

You and I know the reality is that tree care can extend all year long. Tree pest control and pruning can all take place when the growing season is over. How do you communicate this in the quiet months?

5. Many hats - The small average size of a tree company means the proprietor is wearing many hats. His time is at a premium for the implementation and testing of all the necessary marketing tactics required for success.

Hope on the horizon

Hey, it’s not all doom and gloom. The industry is valued at a lucrative $21bn a year, is growing at a rate of nearly 7% over the last 5 years and supports many individual tree service companies. Nevertheless, the scrabble for customers will be keenly felt by most at some point in their company’s evolution, if not now.

For those with time and money available: In my next blog posts, I will take this analysis and share several low-cost and straightforward non-digital and digital marketing solutions that are working today. I will also show you how the elements can work together so you benefit from a positive, synergistic effect. On top of this, I will reveal a unique and, more importantly, an effective tree service marketing model which will work if you can put in the time and cash upfront.

However, we have something even better for you...

For those pressured by time constraints: My agency, MarketingDirector.com, can secure your tree firm between 20 to 50 new customers per month in your service area. We specialize in making the phone ring for firms only in this green industry sector. There are no upfront fees. There’s no wait and there’s no contract, just a steady, dependable supply of potential customers interested in your services. Tree service demand generation at its very best. 

Click on the blue button below to find out more and schedule a conversation.

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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