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Tips on advertising and promoting your business

Making your brand stand out and getting noticed for the right reasons is essential for gardeners and landscapers and it does not need to cost the earth. Paying huge sums to go into a directory or the local newspaper is not necessary - here are a few tips on getting noticed (and for once, the Internet does not feature) 1. Vehicle sign writing - vinyl signs on the side of your van is the perfect way to get noticed. This method is a lot cheaper than when it first came into the mainstream in the late eighties. Do not make the design too fussy , keep the letters clear and easy to read and make sure your telephone number is readable and prominent. Make sure that the back of your van also has a brief description of what you are and a clear number. If you work in a small area then brand awareness, so often overlooked, is strengthened. 2. Have a work board printed - A square board with your details or even an ice cream type sign with both sides written up, tells potential clients that you are open for business. This works especially well if the client has a long drive and your vehicle cannot be seen from the road (it is worth checking with your client that they are happy with you advertising before you start - there should not be any objections but you never know) 3. Work shirts - All of my workforce wore corporate clothing and at the time I did not add a phone number to the back. The phone number is definitely something to consider. 4. Leaflet drops - Take leaflets with you and drop a few in the neighbours letter boxes in the road or close you are working. Five minutes at lunch time is all it needs. Work can come in from some very obscure places at times and word of mouth amongst happy customers can be useful. Bear in mind though, especially if a client does not wish to lose your services, that some clients will keep your details secret. There is also the danger, if you have plain clothing and a plain vehicle, that a potential client will feel excluded from asking you for help. There is a psychology in marketing doing the rounds that both parties need to give thier permission for a transaction to take place - having a corporate image opens your door to the potential of new business. If you have a tip then please leave a comment below.

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Replies

  • Can I just say that I am in complete agreement to what Philip has just said. Brand everything that you write on, invoices, letters etc. One customer said that he had never seen professionalism showing through on invoices because it wasn't something that some gardeners did.

    I am currently investing in sign writing on our van and flyer's although we already have fleeces and t-shirts with our logos on. It makes your business look bigger than what it actually is. I actually have to say that I'm hoping that our logo will stick in peoples minds through our advertising, corporate work-wear. Its taken me 18 months now to get the business to this stage and I am feeling really positive about the changes we have made and really looking forward to next year now to see what results we will get from this.

    One word of advise is when it gets to difficult customers keep your head down and get on with the work. We've had 4 good referrals from our hardest customer we work for and two of them want us through the winter.

    For really useful advice about gardening business's I bought a book by Paul Powers off Amazon about gardening businesses and I refer to it all the time. This book really goes into the ins and outs of a gardening business.

    Thanks for your help Philip

    Regards Lisa
  • Having a Work Board - we have had boards sign written this year and where the client agrees they are on site 24/7. Our reason being not so much 'clients long drive' but from the point of view that people who are out at work all day can 'see' us after we've left for the day.

    My latest attempt at keeping the cost of advertising down has been to reply to a new community magazine's offer of advertising rates by offering to trade 6 gardening articles for an A5( the size of the mag) full colour advert - my offer was accepted leaving me wondering what I'd let myself in for. Got copy in post today and magazine going out to 1500 homes so will keep you posted!!!
  • Good post.

    Having the van sign written is an absolute must. I originally made the mistake of just having my company name, tagline and phone number on the van but after reading a few books on marketing i actually outline what we do, chosing 'Patio's, Drives and Decking' as a few key services and take up increased significantly.

    I was lucky enough to win the workwear competion, so will soon have some branded workgear - however, by the time im that close to the client in work wear, ive already won the job. I did have a few hundred pounds set aside for work wear for me and my staff, but instead sponsored my local schools football team.

    The resultant publicity in local papers and other village publications was well worth it, as it raised my profile in surrounding villages before people had even seen the kit. It re-inforces the company name when people see the van.

    If you have an oppertunity to sponsor a community service , consider it! Also, if theres any land such as a village green, why not offer to maintain it in return for a 'maintained by....' sign.
  • 1. sign written vans is an absolute must, we also use correx boards for outside customers houses,and we also attach them to the rear of our trailers. our tractor and 9 and 12 foot mowers also carry company stickers with "hire me" (one of phils old tricks,i think),so far, in 4 months we have had 7 paddock cutting jobs)
    2.uniforms, again,a team looks so much more professional if they all wear the same gear.
    3.im with David, if you can get involved locally it can be great for business, we currently look after and plant,the towns planting scheme and will also have our names on 4 sponsored roundabouts around town.
    we also did some cutting rolling before the big, town v chelsea old boys football match,and in return,we now have 6 foot x 3 foot hoarding boards around the pitch.
    4.BE POLITE, even with the difficult customers,its all communication,and they are paying YOU.
    as Lisa points out,even a difficult customer will have you back,then recommend you to a friend .
    5.keep your website up-dated,keep adding recent news/photos and tips etc,the more you post,the higher your visibility on line.
    6. our new site,nearly finished, http://www.vgcltd.com/index.html
  • steve loftus said:
    6. our new site,nearly finished, http://www.vgcltd.com/index.html

    Its a very smart looking site, well done.

    Only criticism is the change from normal font to italic on mouse-over links. This should be more obvious, and use a more familiar metaphor. Show the link in a different colour, preferably underlined. On mouseover change the colour (and add the underline if its not there normally). Do not change the font type or size (that just makes the screen jump around, and will not a familiar metaphor to users). Having links in Black, i.e. same colour as the text, means that you have to wave your mouse around the page to find them - and most people will miss that.

    Sadly the "style" of the links seems to be set within the page, rather than centrally within the style-sheet, so it may not be a single central change (you might want to get the developers to fix that whilst they are at it so that it will be consistent as you add/change the content in the future)

    On the Sitemap page the colour on mouse over changes to Red, but unfortunately Red is used for some of the links anyway, so on those the effect is lost (the colour of the links seems inconsistent on that page too)

    You might want to do something similar with images that are clickable - change the coloured circle-border to a different colour on mouse-over (same colour as mouse-over of clickable links would keep the usability metaphor consistent). Most of the circular iamges are not clickable, but the ones on the "Safety Surfaces" page are - that's not obvious. ("Safety Surfaces" has a Blue tab, but Brown surround to images, whereas other "departments" match the Tab colour to the Image border)

    Is the Current Tab intended to change colour? Which ever tab you click on (although the content changes) it appears that you are still on the "Home" tab because its white colour is "part-of", and "flows into", the body part of the page. I would change the colour of the "current tab", and make it "flow into" the body part of the page.

    I would also change the "clickable area" on the Tabs from currently "must click within the text" to "Can click anywhere within the TAB"
  • thanks kristen,a lot of very helpful advice, a lot of which is due to be changed, it was sent live ,purely to show the other new sectors of the business, i.e sheds,tree surgery etc, many thanks
  • Just a passing thought, in case helpful.

    We are very shy about putting incomplete client site's live. But of course clients want to preview them, show their staff / customers / whatever!, and for that purpose we mount a test site on a sub-domain name - so something like TEST.vgcltd.com - instead of the usual WWW. We disable searching by Google etc. on such sites, and thus only people in-the-know can find & view the site (can still be the whole world, of course, if you want it to be!!)
  • few weeks ago -I was told to look at http://cardellmedia.com
    It gave me some inspiration and many tips.
    One of the the tips there was to give free things to your potential customers.

    A great idea that worked for me wonderful in the past:
    make a cd or a dvd with a slide show /nice music photos of some of your job, some explanations. maybe let happy customers to say a word -that all -and just burn many copies and give as present.
    I found people didnt like to through that so they gave it back to me after watching or even better passed it to other customers.

    another good one was from a friend- print a calender with some nice photos and your contact details.
    it might be hang on the wall for 12 month.

    and If doing Leaflets - I found that in a city there were so much junk mail- that to make my leaflet work I put them in a printed enveloped and tried to write with a pen some details that I know like name or address before leaving it.for me it improved results.
    hope it can help anyone
  • PRO Member
    We have our logo and website address on envelopes.

    But we don't just have our standard website address, we have got some of our taglines as domains, which redirect to the main business site.

    For example www.caring4gardens.co.uk

    In terms of uniforms, we have our workshirts, fleeces & bodywarmers embroidered front & back, and embroidered caps, which not only do we use all year, but you can give them away to promote the business as well. I think £50 per person (ie receipient) is allowed per year
  • I completely agree with Phil's comments

    The most important advertising tool is a liveried sign written vehicle. This will get noticed and then all the other advertising links together. Potential clients will notice the vehicle but may not get in touch straight away, then later when they see your flyer or advert this joins things together and reinforces the message

    One of most important benefits of distributing flyers around the area you are working, but one that is often overlooked, is that it tells people you are looking for more work. Often people will have noticed the vehicle and seen you working but not approached you because from the speed and efficiency you were working they assumed you would be too busy to take on any more work.
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