Good news, good ideas do grow on trees. If you want to watch your tiny, sprouting tree service grow into a majestic tower of marketing prowess, it can happen. If you want to watch your withered, shriveled up tree service marketing ideas bud forth into life, that may be possible.
Over the past couple decades I’ve been involved in the Green Industry. I’ve held roles in production, selling and marketing. I’ve seen lots of horrible, average, and downright awesome methods of marketing for tree services. Some I’ve stumbled upon on my own, some from tree service industry experts, and a few learned from painful, personal mistakes.
What Should Marketing for Tree Services Really Look Like?
It would seem like a simple definition, but there are still a lot of misconceptions about marketing tree services. Marketing is not the responsibility of one person at your company or even a few, but rather of your entire organization. Everyone plays a part in marketing. Stop introducing Larry as your “Marketing Guy”. You’re all in marketing. It’s just Larry’s job to lead the Marketing Crew.
Marketing is not the same as advertising. It encompasses not just advertising, but the comprehensive approach to promoting your tree company and individual tree service offerings. It follows a prospect from when they don’t even know who you are to the point where they’re telling everyone how wonderful you are.
Advertising is just one subset to an overall tree service marketing plan and can enlist a variety of specific tools. We’ll get into those in a moment, but first it’s absolutely crucial to understand how to set your company’s marketing efforts up for success.
I’ve done this for one of the Top 150 Landscaping Companies in the country, so this isn’t just some online marketing “ninja” (I hate that term) waving his arms around like an idiot. Stick with me.
Some Ground Work Before Setting Up Specific Tree Service Marketing Solutions
Everyone who climbs a tree or pulls a hose to spray a property knows that giving some thought to your process before you start is critical. The same is true for your marketing strategy.
Who are your customers? Who are 2-3 types of your ideal customer? Buyer Personas are the root of tree service marketing success. They aren’t some term marketers throw around to seem like they are sophisticated, they’re critical to finding more business.
Buyer personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. Understanding who they are will be part of every decision you make when considering the latest shiny, new tree service marketing ideas you see flying about.
Whether your tree service performs pruning, removal, or plant health care services, you have competitors. These could be local companies or large, national brands. Know your competitors. Know how you’re different and how you should and shouldn’t change. Understand your place in your market.
Competitors are both a blessing and a curse. They seem like a curse when they have deeper marketing pockets and a blessing when they are no match for your great reputation. Regardless of how big the giant is, your tree service marketing ideas may pay off quicker. The trick is learning from mistakes and finding the best means to succeed.
Tree Service Marketing Mistakes
Oh the mistakes I’ve made and seen. But this is not all about me, it’s about you and your tree care company. Here’s a quick list of main points to help you start to consider what you may be doing wrong:
- Ask, “How did you hear about us?” on EVERY contact and be able to provide detailed reports on where your leads come from. This is HUGE in knowing where to spend your marketing dollars.
- Don’t compete with big brands if you aren’t one. Not many people are singing, “I like big BRANDS, and I cannot lie.”
- Break-up with bad marketing methods. It’s not you, it’s them. If you’re getting nothing out of the relationship, why are you in it?
- Measure everything. If you can’t tell someone how much you spent last year on marketing, how many people clicked on an offer, how long it took Tony on your sales team to propose or close an opportunity, or other valuable metrics, you’re throwing a rope in a tree hoping the branch will support you, when it may not.
- Change your people or change your people. Don’t make your “Marketing Guy/Gal” figure it out if it’s not their gift. If they can’t cut it, hire someone who is passionate about your company’s brand, doesn’t require constant supervision, and is hungry to learn both about trees and modern marketing trends. If a person has these qualities, it trumps experience or technical knowledge.
- Don’t have a Sales AND Marketing department. Have a Smarketing Department. They are 2 halves of a whole. They perform separate, but yet overlapping duties for mutual, combined success. Close the loop on the buying cycle and make it easy for prospects to do business with your tree service.
- Develop unified, clean branding. Every single element from uniforms to trucks, to pamphlets, to your website should have a uniform look. Less is more. Stick with 2-3 colors, don’t be too busy. Be bold and recognizable.
- Have a plan for cross-selling and gaining repeat business. Your existing and past clients are a source for an easy win. If you are a lawn care company that also offers tree services, you better train everyone how to find opportunities and point them out to your customers. If you sell tree pruning, have a system to go back to those clients 4-6 years later for repeat business.
The Specific, Best Marketing Ideas for Tree Service Companies
If you’ve skimmed down to this part of the article without reading the fundamentals above, have fun flushing your marketing dollars down the toilet. Go back and read them.
However, if you’re ready, here is the moment you’ve been waiting for. Please note that these methods are part of an integrated marketing plan for tree service companies.
Some have more weight than others, so I’ve compiled them in the order you should tackle them.
Your Tree Service Website & Blog
People don’t buy like they used to. Traditional marketing focuses on interrupting people in their life and annoying the crap out of them or beating them over the head so much with marketing messages until they buy.
Consumers are fed up with traditional marketing. They’ve learned to dodge calls, skip commercials, throw away junk mail, not answer the door, and don’t even notice ads in magazines or newspapers.
Inbound Marketing comes from the philosophy, “They ask, we answer.” Your tree service customers aren’t even aware of problems. They have no clue that their tree is even an Ash, nor have they even heard of the Emerald Ash Borer. They haven’t looked up in their tree and seen that dead limb over their roof for at least 2 years. Heck, there’s a limb that’s been on their roof for the past 3 months.
As a tree service, when your website is properly optimized (designed and set-up), and you post regular, weekly (or more) blog articles about these topics, you answer the questions. Then when Joe from your town goes on Google and asks, “How much does it cost to trim a tree?”, BOOM, there’s your article. The search engine has been crawling all over your website and every single thing about your online brand screams, “This is about tree services in Yourtownville.”
(RELATED READING: 7 SEO Quick-Fixes for Your Lawn Care, Tree Care, and Landscaping Websites)
Off-Site Internet Improvements for your Tree Service
One of the supporting ways that search engines connect people with your tree service is due to the work you or a digital agency has done with creating quality offsite connections. These are things elsewhere on the internet, not on your website. They include:
- Directory Listings: Profiles on Google+, Bing Business, Yelp, Citysearch, Better Business Bureau, etc. validate what your business is about and link to your website. Find out the 20 Most Important Local Business Directories your Tree Services should be listed on.
- Inbound Links: These are clickable links on other websites that send a visitor to your website. Good inbound links may be coming from your city’s chamber of commerce, or in an online article about trees from your local newspaper. Likewise, inbound links from your member profile on the Tree Care Industry Association or International Society of Arboriculture website, will help search engines connect big authorities in the tree care industry with your brand.
- Citations: These are the same as an inbound link, but only mention your company by name, not linking to your website. A good example would be your name mentioned in a relevant article in your local newspaper, online trade publication, or as a source for an article on Better Homes & Gardens.
- Online Reviews: Good reviews on Google+, Yelp, or other offsite locations are extremely important. It helps your credibility with both search engines and prospective clients.
Tree Service Trucks as Marketing Tools
Wrap your trucks or at least provide enough vinyl graphics on them to be noticed. Throw away the magnets that make you look like you could go out of business tomorrow. Be able to read your truck from 50 ft. away, moving at 35 mph. Make sure people can read it from all sides. Less is more, but include the fundamental tree service marketing branding points.
- Company Name & Logo
- Phone Number
- Basic Service Offering
- Small accreditation logos
- Relevant and subtle background images
Vehicle graphics are a very cost-effective means to advertise. They last for 7-10 years and you only pay once for them. If you have a decent sized fleet that drives around town each day, it will be no time at all before people are telling you that they “see your trucks everywhere”.
Email Marketing to Increase Tree Service Sales
When Joe was on your website earlier and entered his email to download your E-book, “7 Critical Questions to Ask When Hiring a Tree Company”, he got an automated and personalized email from you 3 weeks later with the 3 featured blog articles from the past month, particularly one called, “How to Tell if Your Tree has Ash Tree Borers”.
Guess what Joe is going to do sooner or later? He’s going to click, read, and move closer to becoming a qualified lead. Email Marketing helps you to stay in front of him with helpful tips that don’t over-sell, but rather educate him on where he is at in his buyer’s journey.
If you and your entire team are not collecting up-to-date email addresses of your prospects and customers, you’re missing an extremely cost-effective part of a tree service marketing plan.
Customer Rewards Programs for Tree Service Referrals
Your customers are also part of your tree service marketing team. If a prospect tells you that they got your name from your customer who they know, pay your customer. Make it worth their while and they will definitely keep referring you to family and friends.
How about a $50 check or VISA gift card coming in the mail with a handwritten thank you note from your company’s owner or the salesperson? Don’t send them a self-serving credit off their next service. Nothing says thank you like some cold cash they can spend anywhere they want.
Tree Service Leads from Team Members
It’s easy for tree care technicians and tree crews to get tunnel vision from production quotas. Add to that the lack of confidence with talking to your customers, and you’ll have a worker that does a great job, but isn’t part of your tree service marketing plan.
What if your tree care company incentivised your production team to talk to neighbors or point out additional service needs on properties? What if all they had to do is to create interest and make some more money on their paycheck?
Internal Lead Programs are one of the best ways to cross-sell and get new business for your tree service. Teach your team how to make customers and prospects aware of issues, then let your sales team sell the solution. Make it worth everyone’s while and they will start passionately working together to grow your company.
Marketing Tree Services with Signs
If your technicians perform 15-20 plant health care treatments each day, post a small sign at the driveway entrance. These cost pennies if you order in bulk.
If your tree crews take down or prune trees, why not post a 18” x 24” yard sign at the road. Spending $10-$15 per sign is a drop in the bucket for the chance of adding another $1500 project down the street.
These signs often stay in a customer’s lawn for days, if not weeks. People in the neighborhood will see them on their walks and on their commute to work.
Social Media Marketing for Tree Services
This one is a tough one. You’ll notice that this is an important tree service marketing idea, but towards the bottom of my list. If you can dedicate internal team members to this task, it’s best. Unless you’re ready to spend some money with sponsored posts, social media will not be a huge success.
Still, strategically posting videos on YouTube, and posting pictures and blog articles to Facebook may help raise awareness of your company in your community and slightly help your search ranking.
Social media done well takes a lot of time and a gifted, passionate team member. It will help, but it won’t generate a ton of sales for tree services.
Yellow Page Advertising for Tree Services
I really would love to leave this one off because at the ridiculously high cost of these ads, but tree service advertisements in yellow pages can work, particularly in less urban settings. If you track how people hear about you and after a year you don’t hear “Yellow Pages”, dump this one. Just follow these tips:
- Don’t put yellow pages ahead of the list above in your allocation of tree service marketing expenses.
- Don’t go too big with ads and only increase sizes if you move significantly in the book.
- Add color, particularly with white backgrounds to stand out on the yellow paper.
- Don’t use yellow pages companies to do your internet advertising. They say they’re great at it, but you can get better work from a digital agency.
Bad Tree Service Marketing Ideas
Tree services are tougher to market than maintaining a screaming-green lawn, or putting a paver patio in your backyard.
Your prospects are less likely to dream about pest-free Hemlocks or Pin Oaks with perfect structure. They will find you ONLINE when they’re ready. Don’t waste your money on any of these tree service marketing ideas:
- Retargeting or Internet Display Ads (use this low-cost ad in moderation, but not in place of a good content marketing strategy)
- Expensive Sponsorships of Clubs, Charities, Churches (just give them a charitable donation and stop with trying to get publicity this way)
- Direct Mail (postcards, mailers, coupon magazines, company newsletters)
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising
- Sponsored Online Lead Sites (ads on HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, etc. are very expensive and have lower ROI than content marketing on your own website).
There you have it! The good, the bad, and some things to ponder in planning your tree service marketing plan. This stuff works! I’ve seen it firsthand, and Landscape Leadership has seen it work for other Green Industry companies that we work with.
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