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16 Feb 2018

Effectively Brand Your Tree Service Hampton Roads Care Business

Effectively Brand Your Business

“It’s important to set yourself apart from the competition,” Judy Macauley, marketing manager for Blooma Tree Service Hampton Roads Experts in Seattle, told Tree Service Hampton Roads Services in 2014. “Some companies rely on cheap price, some rely on quick turnaround. Whatever it is, you should have something that is unique to your company that will make you rise above the crowd.”

Setting yourself apart from your competition is where branding comes in. To put it simply, your brand can be thought of as your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your services and it differentiates your offerings from what your competitors are doing.

Your brand is created from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be. For example, at Blooma Tree Service Hampton Roads Experts, “we have at least one International Society of Arboriculture-certified arborist at all times on the job site,” Macauley explained to Tree Service Hampton Roads Services, “and we emphasize that in all of our marketing.”

Does your tree company need a brand overhaul? Do you need to stand out from increasing competition in your locale? Branding is much more than just a fancy logo or well-placed advertisement. You need to do more. With this in mind, we’ve compiled some tips for creating and executing an impactful and successful brand strategy:

Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages. Where and how you advertise is part of your brand strategy. Your distribution channels are also part of your brand strategy. What you communicate visually and verbally are part of your brand strategy, too.

Defining your brand requires, at the very least, that you answer these questions: “What is your company’s mission?” “What are the benefits and features of your products or services?” “What do your current and potential customers think of your company?” “What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?” Learn the needs, habits and desires of your customers — current and future.

Because defining and developing your brand strategy can be complex, consider bringing in the expertise of a nonprofit small business advisory group.

Your company needs a dynamic and original logo. If you don’t know a graphic artist, contract one (make sure to see examples of work they’ve done for other companies). Once you get a logo, put it literally everywhere — on your trucks, apparel worn by all employees, invoices and estimates, business cards, email signatures, website and throughout your office. The goal is to get the public familiar with your logo so that when they see it on your trucks, on the road or parked in a driveway, they automatically associate it with you. Hopefully, when they need tree work done, they’ll remember that logo and call you. Also, don’t underestimate the power of refrigerator magnets as a place to put your new logo. A very small expense can turn into a great marketing tool. Think about how many times a day a family goes into the fridge — if they get a magnet from you and stick it there, who do you think they’ll call when they have a problem with a tree they want taken care of?

Speaking of logos, it’s crucial to design templates and create brand standards for your marketing materials that are uniform. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout any material you produce. Can you recall ever seeing a Budweiser poster plastered with blue? How about a John Deere promo that’s red? Consistency with branding is crucial.

Create a voice for your company that reflects your brand. This voice should be applied to all written communication and used in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off. For example, an Ohio plumbing company brands itself as being extremely professional. When they give estimates to customers, they don’t say “this will cost you $900.” Instead, they say “your investment here is $900.” It’s all about the presentation.

Deliver on your promises. If part of your company branding is that you give free estimates, don’t ever charge. If you promise that you’ll thoroughly clean up after every job, don’t leave one single piece of debris on the ground.

Be different. Find something that distinguishes you from your competitors, and then promote the difference. Whether your tree service performs pruning, removal or plant health care services, you probably have several competitors. These could be local companies or large, national brands. Know your competitors and understand how you should and shouldn’t change. Understand your place in your market and use that to target customers. “The importance of a good marketing strategy cannot be overstated,” Pete Shamlian, CEO of AdMark’s Bear Marketing told Tree Service Hampton Roads Services in 2014. “Fewer customers have money to spend for maintenance, and others are waiting until their problems cannot be ignored any longer. Customers may need to look for a new tree service, or they may be making decisions based not on long-term relationships, but on cost. This means that you need to have a presence … you want the opportunity to bid on all the work in your market. The question is how to do it.”

Identify where your company strengths lie and know what skills your people possess. Some smaller tree care companies have found great success in not being everything to everyone, so to speak. Maybe your company has an outstanding residential customer base but not a great commercial clientele. If so, consider putting all of your resources into the residential sector and make your strength even stronger.

On the other hand, if your company is large enough to offer a suite of different services (traditional tree care, snowplowing, holiday lighting, landscaping, etc.), you’ll want to make current and potential customers aware of all you do. People love to have a one-stop-shop for services: “You mean I can use one company to care for my trees, plow my driveway, hang Christmas lights on my giant pines and clear out vegetation on my property? Sign me up!”

During the process of creating a brand strategy, talk to your customers. Solicit feedback and find out what they perceive you do well and don’t do well. Also, ask all customers how they found you. Find out where your presence is strong and what kind of marketing events and ads work and don’t work for you.

Get listed in Google Places. Make it easy for people to find and contact you. Fill out social media profiles – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and/or Pinterest. Provide as much detail as you can, being sure to include website links and services offered. All the branding in the world won’t mean anything if people can’t find you.

When it comes to making it easier for people to find you, consider other business owners that you could share referrals with. For example, partner with a local lawn care business to share referrals with.

Be proactive and persistent. You have to keep at it until you find what works for you. Then, to continue your momentum, you have to keep on marketing.

Volunteering your services is great for boosting and increasing your visibility — the only cost to you is your time. Offer to assist at a city tree planting, help clear trees from a new playground site, give presentations on tree care at schools, garden club meetings, etc. When homeowners in your community need to hire someone for tree care services, your name will be the first one that comes to mind. Community involvement increases your presence, helping you expand your customer base. For example, Four Seasons Tree Service Hampton Roads Care in Vista, California, participates as a tee box sponsor in select charity golf tournaments in their area.

The post Effectively Brand Your Tree Service Hampton Roads Care Business appeared first on Tree Service Hampton Roads Services.

12 Feb 2018

Effective Estimating Practices For Your Tree Service Hampton Care Business

You Can Quote Me

For all the information and training available on the technical aspects of tree care work — chainsaw operation, climbing, chipper safety, etc. — one topic that’s often overlooked is estimating. And, really, for a business to succeed, nothing could be more important. Estimating is the foot in the door — the chance to make an impression on a potential client — and it’s the process that, as much as anything, will determine the profitability, or unprofitability, of a job. In other words, estimating is essential.

Ironically, it’s also the one service that’s typically performed for free. “I don’t know of any tree care company in our area that charges for estimates,” says Jordan Upcavage, vice president of Independent Tree Service Hampton Service, serving the Tampa Bay area. “When you give free estimates, yes, you can waste your time, but it’s a foot in the door.” He just recently visited a site to provide an estimate in response to a call that had come in just days earlier. “We’re swamped – we’re booked out at least six weeks out with work. But I showed up the same week she called to give an estimate and the work was already done. So it was a huge waste of my time, but it’s rare for that to happen. To be competitive, you have to give free estimates.”

Some companies have tried to cut down on the number of wasted trips for free estimates. “If someone calls you and you go out there to give an estimate the next day and they’ve already got somebody else doing the work, that’s pretty rude of them not to have called and canceled,” says Harlan Clemmons, who operates Indiana Tree Service Hampton Service in Indianapolis. “All they had to do is pick up the phone.” He’s instituted a $35 charge in those cases to help cover his time and the cost of fuel for the wasted trip. In reality, Clemmons acknowledges, it’s hard to get property owners to pay the fee, but he sends a bill anyhow to try to discourage the practice.

“If we could charge for estimates, we would. But, at least in our area, the way the industry runs is with free estimates,” says Chuck Lowe, plant health care coordinator and certified arborist representative with Beyond the Leaf Tree Service Hampton & Shrub Experts in Pennsylvania. Charging for estimates would definitely limit the number of calls — and potential work — a company received, he states.

Upcavage says that it makes sense to try to weed out any inquiries that might not be worthwhile prior to scheduling an estimate. “If they have one palm tree to trim, we can’t go do that at a competitive rate; it’s just too expensive to send the truck down the road. Or maybe they’re too far away,” he explains. Those jobs are passed on in order to save an estimating trip for a job that can’t be done cost-effectively.

And there are certain types of estimates — those that involve very detailed, time-consuming visits — that can be charged for. “We charge for tree evaluations where we do full write-ups of trees on a property including DBH, species, condition, etc.,” says Sean Lewett, general manager of JL Tree Service Hampton Service in Virginia.

A personal touch

When called out to provide a quote, “It always makes sense to try to do an estimate face to face with the customer,” advises Beyond the Leaf’s Lowe. “It doesn’t always happen that way, because oftentimes they’ll say they’re busy or at work and we should just stop out. When that happens, your success rate drops somewhat, because they don’t feel any sort of personal connection with you. So I do always try to press for a face-to-face meeting.” Being able to discuss the project on-site with a customer also ensures a better understanding of what tree work they are looking for, and therefore a more precise estimate, he notes.

When estimating, Upcavage says he takes an intentionally non-sales approach. “I give lots of estimates every day, and I don’t sell tree work. I teach arboriculture to my customers,” he emphasizes. “I don’t let them say that they need us to cut this and this and this. Instead, I ask them their goals: What are they trying to accomplish or obtain? I listen to what their goal is and then I try to accommodate that goal with respect to arboriculture.”

Many times, Upcavage says, that involves reducing the scope of the job that the client had originally envisioned. “Many times it involves educating them on why we don’t need to do things,” he explains. “I treat every property as if it were my home and my trees.”

If a tree is diseased, for example, he finds out what the client wants: Would they rather remove it now rather than spending money to maintain it only to have to pay again to remove it in the future? Or is it valuable to them enough that they’d rather do some crown work to buy the tree more time? “Again, I figure out what their goal is.”

Upcavage says he believes in being genuine and bluntly honest during the estimating process, rather than pushing services. “And I have a very high closing rate, because I’m not there to try to get the deal. I’m there to teach arboriculture,” he notes.

Factoring in all of the factors

Effective estimating needs to take into account not only the specific tree work that needs to be done, but an individual company’s philosophy or approach to tree work. For example, at Beyond the Leaf, “We try to operate with machinery as much as possible – maybe a skid-steer with a grapple or a mobile spider lift to get up into trees, and we also do a lot of crane work,” says Lowe. “So, in the field, I need to determine what equipment would be required and what kind of rate we would like to see per hour when we’re using that particular equipment.”

Good estimating requires both a knowledge of tree care, and how a particular crew works, he emphasizes.

“Additionally, on each individual job, you need to find out whether they want the wood left or whether it will need to be removed. And that will influence the cost of the job,” says Lowe.

Then there are other customer-specific considerations: If they don’t want equipment on their lawn, for example, that will likely alter how the work needs to be done and the price that needs to be charged.

When he’s estimating, Upcavage says he has a checklist, but it’s one in his head rather than a formal spreadsheet. “I go through all the steps and estimate how long it’s going to take, but I don’t price jobs on man-hours on an hourly rate and put that into a formula that spits a number out,” he explains.

As someone who has worked as a climber, he looks for details such as tie-in and rigging points and what is easy or difficult to limb-walk.

“Then I factor in things like whether I need to bring in a grapple truck. And how many loads with a grapple truck? And what about dump fees?” he says. “Then there are pruning costs, debris disposal costs, permits, stump-grinding.” Experience, he says, lets him know what time and costs will be involved so that he knows how to price a job.

A written record

And Upcavage prefers to present an estimate while he’s on-site with the client. “I think it’s a big advantage to have the opportunity to close on the spot in front of the person,” he explains. “I type the proposal in a software program, I have a printer with me, so I can hand them a formal proposal and look them in the eye and have the opportunity to talk about the costs.” If cost is an issue, then there’s a chance to make adjustments to the scope of work. “That way, I don’t just straight lose because I was too expensive. I have the opportunity to do something that fits the customer’s needs a little better.”

Beyond the Leaf uses Quickbooks for its estimates, so Lowe says his approach is to take his notes back to the office and prepare an estimate there that can be emailed to clients. He says people like to see a professionally prepared estimate like that.

“I know there are some companies that just provide a hand-scratch piece of paper with a price on it,” he says, “but we put everything on our letterhead.”

He includes a line item for every tree to be worked on with a description of the service to be performed to each, but unless a client asks for an individual price for each tree, there is just one lump sum at the bottom. When you price each tree and service separately, customers tend to want to start cherry-picking trees and services in order to try to lower the price, Lowe says.

The company also includes fine print on its estimates that the estimate is good for 60 days, “but in reality, we let it go longer than that,” says Lowe. “Normally we don’t have to change it much for year to year, even, unless our costs suddenly go up.” Still, having that language there is good protection against a client wanting an estimate from many years ago to be honored.

Finally, Lowe says that follow-ups are important after submitting estimates. “You want to give them at least a day or two to look it over, but then follow up if they don’t respond,” he states. “They might be on the fence between you and another company, and that follow-up might be what makes the difference.”

The post Effective Estimating Practices For Your Tree Service Hampton Care Business appeared first on Tree Service Hampton Services.

05 Feb 2018

Using A Credit Card For Your Tree Service Hampton Care Business

Credit Cards

Credit have come a long way since the first one, a Diners’ Club card, was introduced back in the 1950s. There are now countless credit card options on the market, and even more ways to use them. Financial company NerdWallet calculates that the average American family now carries more than $16,000 in credit card debt, and accumulates an additional $1,300 a year just in interest.

Dangers aside, there’s no denying that credit cards are useful tools, not just for individuals but for businesses. In fact, many business owners, especially when they are just starting out, use their personal credit card to help get their business up and running. And not just for small purchases; because it can be more difficult to get a business loan for a new enterprise, even larger purchases may be put on the business owner’s personal card.

But that may be a mistake. The experts say that there are good reasons to get a dedicated business credit card rather than running your business purchases through your own personal card. “Generally speaking, small business owners are better served with a small business card instead of a personal card,” explains Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, an online marketplace that makes it possible to compare different credit card offers. “Small business credit cards often come with higher credit limits, as well as rewards that appeal to businesses, such as extra points at office supply stores.”

Those higher limits give businesses more flexibility when emergency equipment purchases need to be made quickly in order to stay productive. Going through the slower process of getting a short-term loan (even if the interest rate is lower) might result in missed work, ultimately costing more money in the long run.

Another benefit: A business credit card makes internal makes accounting easier. All of your business purchases are kept separate and can be easily tracked and the records retained without having to separate out business from personal charges. And if your tree care company has employees who also are authorized to make purchases, having a business credit card account means not having to hand over your own personal card, and makes it easy to monitor what purchases specific employees are making.

Is it difficult to get a business credit card for a new business? “Many of the same factors that come into play when applying for a personal card are factored in when applying for a business card,” says Schulz. “These include your payment history, your credit score, how much debt you have. Also, be prepared to provide your business tax ID number and other information.”

Every credit card offer is different in terms or rates charged, credit limits, rewards, and so on, so just as you’d do your research cards. “Whether you’re getting a business card or a personal card, some of the oldest advice is still the best: Know thyself. Before you apply, know what you will spend the most on and know what type of rewards you’d like,” says Schulz. While travel miles might be great for personal use, when it comes to your business you might prefer simply getting cash back. So just as you’d do your research to find the right chipper for your business, take some time to compare the specs on different business credit cards.

Schulz also cautions that the protections that were part of the pro-consumer regulations called the “Credit Card Act of 2009” do not apply to business cards. “That means companies are still free to hike interest rates on future purchases, impose fees and close accounts or lower credit limits without warning,” he stresses.

It should also be noted that while there are different ways to structure a business (corporation, LLC, etc.) that offer varying degrees of protection from personal liability, when it comes to business credit card use, it’s not just the business itself that is ultimately responsible for any charges made — business credit cards require a personal guarantee. Similarly, your personal credit can be affected by how you use your business card.

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