I tried some classified ads in the two big gardening mags out here, not a call over 12 months. Spend a lot of time with the local landscape association, great for contacts, get some referrals. Hang out at a few big garden centers once in a while, buy the guys/gals (in the nursery and the pesticide dept) a round of coffees or ice creams in the Summer, GREAT for referrals. I do tons of pruning in the Winter, calls for fruit trees etc I just tell them ok, here is the price to do the job (I stay away from time commitments if I can help it) and let me see now, oh yes, I will be here January ?? until I fill up the months of Jan to March, start filling in weekends if it gets too booked up. Call a couple days in advance to let them know I am coming. Lost a couple over the last few years to on the spot pruners but most I call in the winter and they cant wait to see me. Most of my Spring/Summer work is install jobs and fall I do cleanups and pruning work, still have a few installs as the weather holds too. I also go to a big garden center that I live close to, work for the christmas tree season (2 1/2 weeks over Dec) selling trees and do my own thing on my days off, again, GREAT for referrals come Spring.
I have a medium sized ad in the yp. We have two books here. The one put out by the phone co. is less popular so I put a bigger one in the "local" book. My yp sales guy is always trying to get a bigger ad. This year instead of putting it off until the last minute I spent more time working on the content of the ad instead of just trying to pack in a bunch of stuff that I shuffle onto yp sales guy's desk at the last minute. As well as this year I added a photo ( really made yp sales guy work for his commish this year !) that really made my ad stand out. In fact I hate to say it but based on quality of content and visually speaking it made the competition's ads(some of which were bigger)look like a waste of $$$.
I also keep an ad in our small town papers' services section that I have loaded with the best info that I can fit into a small space. I don't feel like I get many quality jobs from that but I feel like it goes towards over all name recognition. My competition puts ads in that section when they are low on work but pull it when they catch up. One guy is under "arborists" in that section where I have chosen "tree work" since it is sort of a ranching type community and a lot of people aren't real sure what an arborist is but think that it has something to do with family planning.
For a while me and that guy would switch where our ads were just to rib each other and see whose name was first. I would switch to arbo and he would swith to tree service and back again. Then I just put one in each.
I'm back to just one now it was getting to expensive for just a joke.
This is a great topic. I remember when Tom D. hooked me up with this site I asked him what I should be doing to run a tree company and he said (among other things) to put out an ad in the YP. We have two here in Boise (yellow book and quest dex). I have had an ad in the yellow book for about a year with good results (about 30 to 40 percent bookings) and at 60.00 a month it has been a great investment. This coming January I will have an ad in the Dex ( a much wider ‘readership’) but the cost is quite a bit more!! I just hope that it pans out. Out here the main source for tree service is the phone book so I expect a good response. This new ad will put me in play with the five or ten biggest tree services here so I hope for the best. I find that referral plays a large part in new work, as well as my truck signage. The bottom line for me is to do good work at a good price and to deal honestly with the client, which is the best form of advertising I can think of (and it lets me feel proud of my work and my company.) I have also done a bit of flyering in the slow season. I think it was the ISA site that discouraged people from hiring people that used flyering (I could be wrong here but I did see it somewhere) and I felt that was a bit off. I have a full tri-fold flyer with photos, educational info, the city foresters number for licensed arborists, and of course a section about topping trees and have had good response to this.
Had a chance meeting the other day that made me think of this thread. I was working on a job on a cul-de-sac, put in a few hours. Then I noticed a competitor working directly across the street. So I went over and introduced myself, cause that the way I am. Talking to the poor guy was like pulling teeth. I saw the situation as a networking opportunity, maybe talk business a little see where his ideals were at, share mine. Dude was intensly competitive. I asked if he had bid on the job on which I was working and he said yes, for $1100. (i bid $780 and had it done in 10 hrs incl. travelling for 2 dump runs) So then I asked what his hourly rates were, he backed away like I had just slapped him saying 'Thats a trade secret'. (last I checked I am in the 'trade') So I took the high road and said 'There's no reason to be like that, I think theres tons of work out there for everybody. It's more important for the 'trade' to be consistant, for example MY rates are $65/hr up here North of the city where people have less disposable income but no commuting is required. And $85/HR in the city where commuting is required and the market has more money.' He nodded his head in agreement as I spoke yet still remained tight lipped as to prevent any 'secrets' from leaking out. Jeez what a way to live.
Most of the time those of us who participate here on TB, take the high road and share for the betterment of our industry and WE SHOULD TAKE PRIDE IN THAT.
When it comes to competition I think that if you had 10 companies of equal skill and talent bidding on a job it won't go to the one with 'secret rates' it will go to the one that used their experience to think out the job most efficiently (case in point above)OR to the one who most effectively relates to the client.
I just remembered an advertising ploy that seemed to work for me.
I don't know how well this might work in areas that have several phone companies though.
When someone dials 411/information to get a phone number for a company or person there is a recording that says something like, "Your call can be connected directly for a fee of seventy five [or some fee..] cents." When anyone called 411 to get my company's phone number the recording said, "For no additional fee your call can be connected to CTC by dialing #" On my monthly bill there was a line that showed how many 411 calls I paid for. It was generally only a few dollars. I figured that was a cheap way to make my accessible to my clients. No worries about mis-dials or someone writing a wrong number down.
I agree that guy was acting like a meatball. However, the hourly rates we charge are a type of 'trade secret' Those rates were forged if you will through many trials and errors. Our hourly rate is a blend of market, equipiment, experience and skill. I will not disclose it in my market area. This is not to be a d#*k, but to protect an investemnt that has been made. I would disclose the rate out of the market area, but what good would it do?
That being said I have never had a problem discussing the "trade" with local companies. If the discussion ever turns into a training session I refer them to our local chapter of the ISA, the TCIA and the training oppurtunities they provide.
Does this make me Meatball? /forum/images/graemlins/confused.gif
I don't understand how you can keep your rates a secret. Don't you do Time & Materials work? You would disclose your rate at the bid to the client? Can't anyone get a bid from you and find out your rate in this way?
We charge $100.00/person/hour on site for Heather & I and 1/2 rate for grunts. Specialty things like Airspading & Consult are different, but that is the basic rate.
The thing that I don't tell people is what it costs me to do business. In the end, I charge what I think is fair on the job. Basically what I think a decent crew with reasonable experience will get it done for in a day. We normally get it done quicker, but sometimes the bidder has his head up his %^** /forum/images/graemlins/zbanghead.gif! Unfortunately I can't fire him.
I use the good old yellow pages, I went color for 1 year they gave me a special discount. Then they tried to sock it to me the next year so I went back to good old black and yellow ad. I think the business card size works well, it gives you enough room for your information without draining my bank account. I only use the local Salem County book now so the rate is low. I may increase this year to two books depends on the numbers. The other book is a larger county so the price will be more.
There are ways to increase your jobs from the calls your already getting. (or missing) People love to hear a live voice on the phone not the answering machine. I have to use the answering machine (too cheap to hire a phone jockey)but all the tree services here also use them.
Take time when you are doing your estimate. We do free estimates but you can't make the customer feel rushed. I know after working all day then my wife tells me don't forget you have three estimates tonight. I want to just run through and get them all done quickly but thats a mistake. Treat the customer like a friend and take the time to explain the job.
How you appear also makes a big impression. A clean cut person driving a clean truck lettered with the company name who takes his time going over the job with the customer will be able to charge more than Bob's cut and run. Remember your not only selling the job but your selling yourself.
The last thing I want to mention is don't nickle and dime the customer. If the customers wants a branch here or there removed do it for free or cheap!!!
My rule is if it only take 15 min or less I do it for free. The referrals it generates makes it well worth it.
Comments welcomed. I know, I know a little too long on the post. haha