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Author Topic: Marketing your sawmill / lumber  (Read 1285 times)

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Offline BrandonSchiller

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Marketing your sawmill / lumber
« on: December 04, 2018, 03:21:10 PM »
Hey guys, I new here and also a new sawmill owner (WM LT15 wide). First I would like to say that I have found this forum to be a wealth of information, so thank you. I purchased my sawmill because I was clearing a lot of my own land and wanted to utilize my own trees (mostly hemlock) in order to build a garage. I am well on my way with that project and learning a ton. After I complete my garage,  I have a few other projects in mind but I would be curious to know how guys are marketing their sawmills / lumber. For instance, is there a certain group your targeting, social media? word of mouth? handing our business cards, etc. Obviously I own a small mill so high production isn't really an option but is there place for a single man operation to make a little money. I'm currently working a gov't job and plan on retiring in 3 years. I would like to run the mill as a retirement job if I can find the right avenue to sell. I live in upstate NY about 2 hrs north of NYC so there is certainly a large market down there to sell but not exactly sure how you would get your name out there or to whom. Anyways, thanks!  
"If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ" Gal 1:10

Offline Crusarius

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Re: Marketing your sawmill / lumber
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2018, 05:04:01 PM »
Welcome to the forum Brandon. I can't really help since I have been wondering same thing :)

But I do wonder if you can hook up with someone in the city and get them to sell your slabs. Either consignment or sell to them and let them sell. There is plenty of money in NYC and ppl seem to spend it frivolously.

Some ways i wish I was closer to the city. I am not in a frivolous area by any stretch of the imagination.

Online SawyerTed

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Re: Marketing your sawmill / lumber
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2018, 06:14:04 PM »
I've tried craigslist, Facebook Market Place and a couple of other methods.  My experience has been face-to-face contacts is the best marketing method.  I carry cards everywhere I go and if I see a possible connection I make it.  I visit the hardware store, the feed mill, my insurance agent, builders supply and post flyers or business cards on their bulletin boards. If I meet a contractor, carpenter or other tradesman, I share my card.  Usually I get to have a nice conversation about my products and service but I do not push too hard.

Two of my best contacts have been a tree service and a builders supply.  The tree service has been good for mobile business. The builder supply refers customers seeking rough cut lumber.  

My little sign by the road (think real estate sign) generates a lot of calls and customers.  

Once word gets around, word of mouth contacts from other customers start coming.  

A website and/or Facebook page are another way of generating customer contacts. 

I could saw 6 days a week based on these methods.  
Woodmizer LT35HD25, Kubota MX5100, IH McCormick Farmall 140, Granberg Alaskan Chainsaw Mill, Husqvarna 372XP, Husqvarna 455 Rancher

Offline Old Greenhorn

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Re: Marketing your sawmill / lumber
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2018, 06:33:40 PM »
Welcome and good luck Brandon, I too am 2 hours (and a little bit) north of the city (West of Kingston) and am in a very similar boat to yours.Let me know what kind of outlets you find that work for you. I am not sure where I am going either but would like to generate some side jobs to pay for the mill and supplies. I was thinking of leaning toward crafters and furniture makers for specialty stuff. Not really building lumber production, there are too many guys that are better at that than I will ever be. Maybe we are close enough to collaborate some time?
I ain't the woodcutter, but I can cut wood 'til the woodcutter gets here.

Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Marketing your sawmill / lumber
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2018, 07:08:40 PM »
   I advertise mostly mobile sawing but do sell some lumber from salvage and thinning off my property. My main advertising has been a local trader paper that comes out weekly. I pay for a services ad and have listed lumber, slabwood, tomato stakes, mantels, etc in various free sections but looks like next year I'll have to pay for that.

  A cheap method is to print 2 half page ads on a single sheet of paper and post these half page ads everywhere I go such as feed stores, country/community stores, barber shops, bait shops, etc.

  A couple times each summer I visit a few of the larger flea markets in the area with a trailer load of assorted wood and talk to everybody who will listen and give out business cards. These visits often pay off months to years later in some cases.

  I have a website but get relatively few calls from that. My customers don't tend to think to look there for wood yet.

  I don't do Facebook but am considering trying Craigslist.

  I have done demos for the shop classes and others at local schools and offer that to 4H and similar groups.  

  What works great in some areas in not as effective in others. Try them all and good luck.
Howard Green
WM LT35HDG25(2015) , 2009 4wd Dodge PU, Kawasaki 650 ATV, Sthil 440 & 441, homemade logging arch (w/custom built rear log dolly), JD 750 w/4' wide Bushhog brand FEL

Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

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Re: Marketing your sawmill / lumber
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2018, 07:32:27 PM »
Like WV I have done or am scheduled to do demos at the Mayfest and County Agriculture events.  The Local Forest Service office and Ag Extension office have invited me to do a demo as a part of a wood products and natural resources day as well.  I haven't done school demos yet but have seriously considered it.  I recommend inviting some teachers and the principal for a demo first.  They will want to know about how safe a sawmill will be. 

One of our members was able to set up demos at his local farm supply chain store.  
Woodmizer LT35HD25, Kubota MX5100, IH McCormick Farmall 140, Granberg Alaskan Chainsaw Mill, Husqvarna 372XP, Husqvarna 455 Rancher

Offline Resonator

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Re: Marketing your sawmill / lumber
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2018, 08:29:43 PM »
So far I've had good response advertising my lumber and sawing online (CL). When customers come out I show them my mill, and what it is capable of cutting. (Some becoming repeat customers).  
I charge hourly rate sawing, and with a manual mill I'm more geared toward smaller jobs as my niche. I also set up next to a busy highway, and get people stopping and asking if I could saw for them. (That's when you need business cards). Keep in mind though, I practiced my skills a lot sawing my own trees into lumber before I "went public" and started cutting customers logs.
Good luck!
Under bark there's boards and beams, somewhere in between.
Cuttin' while its green, through a steady sawdust stream.
I'm chasing the sawdust dream.

Proud owner of a Wood-Mizer 2017 LT28G19

Offline BrandonSchiller

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Re: Marketing your sawmill / lumber
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2018, 09:47:44 PM »
Thanks guys, I appreciate the input. I will certainly try some of the avenues suggested. In the area I live I think the average Joe just goes to the big box stores when they need lumber. That's part of the reason I purchased my mill, I got tired of sorting through crap lumber. I'm sure I'm not alone out there but getting the masses to change that mind set is easier said than done. 
"If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ" Gal 1:10

Offline Brucer

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Re: Marketing your sawmill / lumber
« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2018, 12:06:53 AM »
I'm terrible at selling myself. But ... I had to learn to do it after I got my mill.

First thing I did was print up some business cards. I couldn't think of a business name so I just put my contact information and the line "Custom sawing" on the first cards. I used Avery #08376 cards (for an ink jet printer) -- 10 to a sheet, 25 sheets to a package. They have a very clean edge. I would only print 2 or 3 sheets at a time, so I could update my information and eventually add a name and logo. I ended up changing my description several times, so I'm glad I didn't fork out $$ to bulk buy cards from a commercial printer. NOTE: Never give out one card. Give people two. If they try to hand one back, just suggest they pass it on to a friend.

Once I had my cards printed up, I started dropping in at various small businesses in the area and BS'ing with the owners and/or the customers. I'd often run into someone I hadn't seen for a while so I'd ask them what they'd been up to. After a bit of chit-chat they'd ask me what I was doing and I'd tell them I'd just bought a sawmill and was doing custom sawmilling. This led to a lot of very small jobs -- and a surprising number of referrals.

One of my most surprising contacts was a clerk in the local convenience store. She had no need for custom sawn wood, but she asked me for as many cards as I was carrying. She said she always opened the shop and her first customers were local contractors dropping in for a coffee. I got a lot of new customers from an unlikely source.

One thing I learned (before I got into milling) was that there is no single "best" source of advertising. You need to cover as many bases as you can. I've put ads in the weekly classified paper, put posters in the windows of willing businesses, had building supply outfits hand out my cards, even once put a flier in the local paper. And after 5 years in business I'd still have locals driving by and asking when I'd started my business. They didn't even notice my ads because they didn't need wood.

When it comes to web sites, the best web designer (in my opinion) is or very own FF owner, Jeff. For a very reasonable annual fee, you get a web page that's linked back to this forum. Customers don't have to find the Forestry Forum web site to find you -- this site gets so much traffic that any site linked to it shows up on the first page of a Google search.



One thing I'd encourage you to do (starting now) is to learn as much as you possibly can about the wood you'll be sawing. Never stop learning, either. Learn about how wood shrinks, learn about decay resistance of the various species of wood in your area, learn about local building codes. Find out if there are any forestry regulations you need to comply with. Find out about other local businesses that work with wood.

Any useful information you can pass on to a customer will increase your perceived value in their eyes.

Just last week I ran into a guy at the local hardware store. He hesitated for a second and said, "You're the sawmill guy, aren't you?" I told him I was but I didn't recognize him. It turns out I'd sold him some wood to repair a fence about 10 years ago. And he reminded me that I'd explained to him why his Cedar fence was rotting and falling apart after only a few years. So he took my advice, redesigned his fence, and built it with Douglas-Fir (since I didn't have an Cedar to sell him). "So, was my advice useful?", I asked him. "You bet! I think 4 of my neighbours have bought wood from you since then."

Knowledge, given freely, adds value to your product. You can't compete with commercial mills making studs; you can't compete with the big box lumber stores. But you can learn to give better advice than those sources will ever be able to give.

Bruce    LT40HDG28 bandsaw with two 6' extensions.
"Complex problems have simple, easy to understand wrong answers."

Online mike_belben

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Re: Marketing your sawmill / lumber
« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2018, 08:42:08 AM »
Thats good insight bruce.  Teaching people complicated things generates customers like nothing else.  No one wants to hire 'just trust me cuz i know it all and its my secret' guy.  The customer wants someone who is open with information so that they can A, learn something themselves and B, verify you arent full of bull by checking your info.

I built race engines and in the beginning it was beg for work.  Over the years id acquired customers who wanted to understand the "secrets" themselves and i'd teach everything i knew just because i enjoy it.  Not one of them ran off to try it themselves or tell some cheaper builder, they all became confident that i was the guy they wanted to build their motors. The motors ran great and they brought their friends.  It grew to the point i had to constantly raise prices to keep the workload manageable.

Which brings me to another sidenote, nothing makes people 'place an order' like the knowledge that the price will rise in the future.  I was swamped and got a call from a stranger for a big job.  I told him i was overbooked and that i was going to raise the price by $200 per build with every engine i completed that performed right (they all did) to slow down the pace to what i could handle, so his price depended on when he brought them.  He brought me 2 engines immediately and accepted the higher prices and fairly long wait. I kept that price raising policy until i closed the business and nothing ever slowed down. but my income did go up.  Its the only way i ever got good money for anything since im terrible at throwing out high prices from the start.  I can only seem to do it when im overwhelmed and ready to run away.  
Revelation 3:20

Offline moodnacreek

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Re: Marketing your sawmill / lumber
« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2018, 09:12:25 AM »
The problem with advertising is having to answer the calls and selling nothing. It seams that since the inter net all the traditional lumber descriptions are gone. Wane or round edge is now 'live edge' . Slabs are not slabs anymore and a 2x4x8 is something like: 4" high by 2" deep and 7 or 9 or I could take 24 foot and cut em when I get home. I gave up advertising years ago. The first sawmill I ever visited, in Mt. Vision, NY. , The old guy told me 'you'll never have what they want'.    Anyhow, to get the big NYC $ the stuff has to be displayed on the weekends where they shop; parking, bathrooms, credit cards. day care and delivery etc.  They pay 4 times what I get in the yard on my terms.

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Re: Marketing your sawmill / lumber
« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2018, 10:37:30 AM »
That is true, a lot of lonely people are happy to become your new phone buddy, and its a difficult thing to know which guy is gonna pay and which is just ringing your ear.  Fortunately the lumber game has a lot more repeat business (than engines) and you can invest your time into your most frequent flyers buyers. 

 I sold a part of my business (an adjustment tool) to my distributor just to escape the constant "now how do i use this" callback problem.  Inserting instructions is the normal solution but in my case that was excessive liability.  "I did what the instructions said and scattered my $10k engine a year later at the track. I'll sue mike"
Revelation 3:20

Offline JamieK

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Re: Marketing your sawmill / lumber
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2018, 11:33:36 AM »
Hello, I am also a new member here. I purchased my LT28 13 months ago. My first sale was one week after I received the mill while striking up a conversation with a guy at an auction that was selling a bunch of wood working tools. After the winter of doing nothing with it , in the Spring I put an add in the Facebook market place and I get at least 2 jobs per month with some referrals also. You definitely spend some time responding to people with no job scheduled from it, but for me it has been less than half. My business is portable milling and farmers go crazy when they finally find you. Then the referrals will really start coming in.

Good luck and keep us posted on your results 
Wood-Mizer LT28, BMS250, BMT100

Offline BrandonSchiller

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Re: Marketing your sawmill / lumber
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2018, 02:03:17 PM »
So I gave Facebook market place a try. Listed my barky hemlock slabs for $10. a pickup load. Really just need them gone. Well, I got a guy coming tomorrow take them all. As far as I'm concerned if he's willing to load them all and take them away so I don't need to deal with them and he's willing to throw me a few bucks, I'll consider it a win. Its a start for sure. Thanks again. 
"If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ" Gal 1:10

Offline JamieK

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Re: Marketing your sawmill / lumber
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2018, 02:38:48 PM »
Gotta start somewhere. If you advertise milling logs for people you will have to be a bit crafty with the wording. Facebook doesn't allow services to be advertised. Most people who read my ad know it is a service but I get a few that think I'm trying to sell the mill for $75.
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Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Marketing your sawmill / lumber
« Reply #15 on: December 05, 2018, 02:45:19 PM »
Brandon,

 That is what I do. I advertise mine for $25/truck or similar sized trailer load they load. If they come in a pickup, like guy yesterday did, we load and I often charge $10 or so and they are thrilled. If really they seem in need or getting for others in need I give them away. I used to have to move and burn mine so it is definitely a win win for me.
Howard Green
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Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline Old Greenhorn

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Re: Marketing your sawmill / lumber
« Reply #16 on: December 05, 2018, 05:58:23 PM »
So I gave Facebook market place a try. Listed my barky hemlock slabs for $10. a pickup load. Really just need them gone. Well, I got a guy coming tomorrow take them all. As far as I'm concerned if he's willing to load them all and take them away so I don't need to deal with them and he's willing to throw me a few bucks, I'll consider it a win. Its a start for sure. Thanks again.
Funny Brandon but if I knew you had that I could have supplied you with a buyer. I had a guy ask me for that very material around 10am this morning, and he is in Hurley (15 mins from you). i struck a deal to use one of my short ash logs to mill what he needs, but he would have done better with you.
I ain't the woodcutter, but I can cut wood 'til the woodcutter gets here.


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