The Forestry Forum

General Forestry => Sawmills and Milling => Topic started by: JoeyLowe on March 22, 2002, 07:19:26 AM

Title: Marketing 101
Post by: JoeyLowe on March 22, 2002, 07:19:26 AM
 :) I know I've mentioned this before, but sometimes I can be fairly stubborn.  Against some better advice, I did take out the ads in the Thrifty Nickel and a local newspaper.  I targeted 4 different area towns with the Thrifty Nickel.  My ad read:

FOR HIREWoodmizer Sawmill.  I'll come to you and mill your logs into lumber.  Homeowners and Landowners welcome!  Call J. Alexander Lowe & Sons for details. (xxx)xxx-xxxx.

I also bought some monogramed hats, business cards, magnets (gimmick) and letterhead so that my written contracts would appear more professional.  I started talking to everyone I knew about the mill and during the first week, I had three jobs, bam bam bam.  Second week I had 4 jobs.  Here I am in the forth week and I have had only one job, but I 'm wiriting the last two weeks off to bad weather because the weather has been really bad here in east Texas.

Now for my questions.  The responses that I have received from the ads have been weird at best.  People are calling with these outlandish amounts of wood to be milled.  Yall know I had the fella that had 300 logs to mill.  He turned out to be a tire-kicker.  I just had another guy call this morning who has 100,000 BF of pine, sweetgum, bois darc, cedar and red oak to cut.  He seemed like a nice enough guy, kind of elderly, a retired home builder.  He didn't want to leave his name or number, and said he would call when he was ready.  He is in the process of felling and bucking the trees.  My point is it just me or are my ads attracting some jokesters?  Should I remove the ads altogether and just work off of word of mouth?  Why don't get the calls where they only want 1000-5000 bf milled?  Seems like everyone that is calling has the huge forests they want milled.

I know that there is only one large commercial mill operating out here right now and they just cut staff to 17 hands (including office) and appear to just be doing chip-n-saw. Could it be that my ad is misleading and people are calling me expecting that I am larger than I am?  All comments appreciated. 8)
Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: Bibbyman on March 22, 2002, 10:13:17 AM
The only advertising we've ever done was having business cards printed.  A couple are stuck up on the bulletin boards where we do business - like a tire/muffler shop.  I don't think we've every had a call just from a card being posted. Virtually all our business comes from word of mouth and you would be amazed as to how far that word will travel.

Last fall I did run an ad in two area ad sheets two weeks in a row advertising our two Wood-Mizer mills for sale.  I got a lot of calls but most wanted to know about the sawmill business, Wood-Mizer mills in general, or had some other motive.  One old guy finally just admitted he called just to find out why I had two Wood-Mizer mills.  Then we had more than one customer call that had put two and two together and was afraid we were going out of business.  Finally sold one mill through the ad sheet and the other by word of mouth a whole state away.

We do get calls from people and companies wanting us to supply them with product that is well beyond our capacity.  Some of this comes from people reading my posts on the forum and not realizing we are really just a Mom and Pop outfit.  We are also members of the Missouri Forest Products Association - so the inquires through them have been pallet manufactures that want bazillions BF of cheap lumber.
Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: JoeyLowe on March 22, 2002, 04:46:32 PM
 ; Decided to visit the fellow who actually sold me on Woodmizer today.  I brought along a new Suffolk Machine blade as a peace offering considering that I was going to pick his brain about marketing.  Now this guy has a heck of a operation.  He has a WM LT40 Hyd, a skragg mill, resaws, planers, knuckleboom loaders, lumberyard, etc.  Point is that he started with his WM towing it behind his truck a little over five years ago.  He is a very person so when I asked him about what was the best way to get started in East Texas, he immediately took me under his wing and filled my ears full of good information on what to try and what to avoid.  

Just like you fellas, he said that word of mouth will be your best advertisement and get ready to work because just as soon as people find out that you have a mill, you will be busy.
I noticed that he had several stacks of large cedar trees piled at the rear of his yard.  He told me that he just bought those logs for $40/ton and that what I was looking at was 6 18-wheelers of cedar.  He assured me that he didn't have a commercial buyer and that he would sell all of that in a matter of weeks, just as soon as he milled it, S2S and T &G the wood.  Said he advertises in local papers, "Cedar planks for sale"  I think that is awesome. 8)

We visited for about an hour.  He showed me how the skragg mill worked and it's limitations and as we were parting, I offered him the blade as token of my appreciation for his time and knowledge. At first, he refused but upon my assistance, he took the blade and asked for several of my cards to pass out to anyone wanting custom sawing.

Seems he doesn't do custom sawing anymore, nor does he tow his mill around.  Instead it is parked in one location and people bring their logs to him for milling and then they come back (sometimes as far away as 50 miles one way) to retrieve their lumber.  He confided that he had a lot more fun and made just about as much money towing his mill around and custom sawing though.

One last thought, he ran a dust collector system from the mill to a location about 100 feet away.  The collector pipes the cedar sawdust into a neat large pile.  He keeps several snow shovels nearby and a large sign, "Cedar sawdust, Nickel a Shovel load".  Says he can't keep enough sawdust in stock.  I wonder why. ;D ;D ;D ;D

Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: Gordon on March 22, 2002, 05:58:27 PM
Joey, remember that the work will usually come from where you don't expect to get it. You can pour a ton of money out the window for ads in different papers and not get a good response. But leave a paper flyer with tear off phone numbers at the general store and get a months worth of work.

If your going to put out business cards and such try and think what you read or when you have time to read it. Like by the cash register at the general store, hardware store or sub shop.  Places like this will sometimes get results. Or if they have a note board try this. Take a picture of the mill in action and copy it to the paper along with the information about your custom milling and use the tear off numbers on the bottom. Just might get ya going.

U already know but the information might read something like--Portable Woodmizer Sawmill--Turn your valuble trees into lumber, and then give some basic prices of what you charge. This will get the person thinking about the trees he or she has on their property. Remember your selling yourself so make anything you do look professional and most important how it makes better sense to have it milled on site instead of hauling it to the mill and back again.

Word of mouth is always the best from of advertising and even better it's free. It's just getting someones mouth started thats the hard part. But remember this if a person is happy with the job you have done for them they will tell 3-4 people about it. If they are unhappy with the service you have provided they will tell 7-10 people. It's human nature, sad but true.

Mill for a fair price and do a good job
Before you know it you'll be turning jobs away
Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: JoeyLowe on March 22, 2002, 06:46:44 PM
 ;D  Thanks for the advice Gordon.  Got in tonight and I had a couple more messages for people wanting mill work.  Seems to be trickling in at one or two potential jobs every couple of days. :D  I know that patience is a virtue and that I should just concentrate on doing a good job and business will find me.  My excitement keeps me so pumped that when I finish a job, I'm like "Okay, where is the next one?" 8)
Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: Tom on March 22, 2002, 07:13:07 PM
I've never been the "Carnival Barker" type.  Somehow I've always had the idea that TV, Radio and newspaper advertisements fall in that catagory. It's not a bad thing, understand, it is just way down on my list of trying to build business.

My advertising is built around my having fun and meeting people. An example would be "joining woodworking clubs".  I have done that and when people find what I do then I become the center of attention for awhile.  I represent  a different area of woodworking than you would normally find in a woodworking club.  I've been asked to give talks on sawing and wood and trees, as if I were the resident expert.  It sure makes you hit the books.

I also seek resturants where potential customer eat dinner (lunch).  It takes a while but eventually, over several visits, l will strike up conversations with farmers and cabinet makers.

I joined the"Bee Keepers Association' and wasn't even a beekeeper at the time.  They meet once a month and I had heard that one of the members was a bowl turner.  As it turned out, he was a pretty famous bowl turner and he and I have become good friends. (one of my old-timers)  He has been responsible for finding me many jobs.  His many years in the business community have provided me with business contacts and his bragging on me has reached the ears of more potential customers than I ever would have reached on my own.

I donated wood to the local High School wood shop and the shop teachers would bring my name up when they talked with other professionals in the wood field.  

I signed up for the Adult Continuing Education Wood Workshop and met many quasi-professionals who joined just to use the equipment.

Advertising this way may not generate as much immediate interest in me as a printed ad, but I have found that the relationships I have developed are lasting and profitable.  I would have never gotten the ear of the large landowners, farmers, wood carvers and cabinet makers on my own with a printed ad.  Sometimes you have to join the society to which they belong.  The YUPPIES have (re) discovered this recently and they call it Networking.   I call it "being a neighbor".
Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: Bibbyman on March 22, 2002, 07:34:23 PM
Turns out one man, whom I never met not had any business dealings with,  has been responsible for marketing thousands of dollars of cabinet grade lumber for us over the past six years.  

His dad is the local saw blade sharpener (although I don’t do business with him) and knew my brother-in-law from when he was a carpenter and had tools sharpened there.  Somehow from brother-in-law to dad to son,  our name was passed as a source for KD hardwood lumber.  

Well the son lives about 80 miles south of us.  He told a woodworking neighbor about us and he came up and bought some lumber.  The next time he came,  he brought a woodworking friend.  Then the next time he brought yet another woodworking friend.  Both of these guys have been back as well as the original woodworker.

Then last fall another person from that town called and came up to get some walnut to make picture frames (his thing).  I asked him if he had heard about me from the first woodworker that had came up or any of the others but no,  he was waiting to get his car serviced and was talking to this guy about making picture frames and he told about us and gave him our number.  It was the saw sharpener’s son again.
Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: Bud Man on March 22, 2002, 07:50:30 PM
Has a ring of sowing and reaping -- I've always heard good news travels by one's and bad by ten's . But no matter I generally can't deal with but one at a time anyway. 8)
Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: Cedar Eater on March 23, 2002, 10:02:30 PM
I found a sawyer through an ad he ran in the local free paper. His ad simply said: "Portable sawmilling" and gave his phone number. He's had his TimberKing mill for two years now.

I had heard the going price ($150/MBF) from a neighbor who was shopping around for sawyers for some big trees he had felled. When I called the guy with the ad, his price was $140/MBF, so he got my job. My logs were small and difficult, but he didn't complain. The job came to about 1600BF. Meanwhile, the local with the nice big pine and oak logs (~3000BF) came by my place to check the sawyer out and next week, they're doing his logs. The ad lead to word-of-mouth. Now two people in my town will be spreading the word.

I asked the sawyer what he does when work gets thin and the mill is idle (mostly in winter). He buys oak and ash logs, saws them and stickers them out in his yard. When he has trouble making a payment with "new" money, he sells air dried lumber and makes his payments with old money. Sometimes he even advertises that he's buying logs.
Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: JoeyLowe on March 24, 2002, 04:48:12 PM
CedarEater brings up an interesting point.  How do most of you quote your price, by the board foot, by the 100 board foot or by mbf?  Why?
Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: Tom on March 24, 2002, 07:04:12 PM
Either way.  It depends on who I'm talking to and how my mind is running at the moment.  I generally end up saying both before I'm through.

It would be fun to come up with a saying like " 200 a thousand or 20 cents a foot, whichever is more." :D
Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: Bud Man on March 24, 2002, 07:10:40 PM
I like the "TWO FOR A NICKLE OR THREE FOR A DIME"  If they go for the three for a dime you know you can afford to  take the wife out to dinner that night !!  ;)
Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: Tom on March 24, 2002, 07:28:57 PM
I favor 6 for 50cents or a dollar a dozen. ;D
Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: Bud Man on March 24, 2002, 07:44:43 PM
Ain't no choice there Tom, You got to "Steer Them Doggies" and let em take advantage of ya. 8)
Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: Tom on March 24, 2002, 07:48:41 PM
That's why they "paint" that little 9 on the sign at the gas station instead of being able to change it like they can the rest of the numbers.   Duh-h I'm a consumer.... :D :D :D :D
Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: ARKANSAWYER on March 25, 2002, 04:58:26 AM
My business cards have my info on the front and says "one tree or a hundred" and on the back are my rates and sizes I can cut.  I leave them every where and keep them posted to every bulliten board I can find.  Hook my mill up and take it to the car wash, gas station and then to the local cafe for lunch.  I will have work before I get home.
 I buy logs and saw up lumber and sell it from home.  I have chased every tree trimmer in 3 counties to come up with logs that mills do not want.  Now I have so much work that people wait for up to a month at a time.  I have had to build a shed to saw under at home with lights so I can work at night.  And I want to expand as soon as my clone comes in. :D
 I went to the local high shool AGRI shops and did demos and donated the wood to the school for the students.  Now when they need quick cash they will cut some cedar trees off the farm and come find me.  
Keep plugging and sawing it will come.  But start keeping your books now or you will never catch up.
Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: Frank_Pender on March 25, 2002, 06:23:39 PM
On my handout ai have all of the prices briken down by species the fees are listed by the m and the bd fit.   Soft woods like Firs, Spruce, Hemlock and Pines are $210m; Oak is $235m' Maples, Alder, Cottonwood and such are $225m,  Black Walnut is $245m' Madrone and Yew are $265; Black Locust is $285.
Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: JoeyLowe on March 25, 2002, 07:09:37 PM
 ;D  My father in law got a paper in the mail today from the Mississippi Agri Board.  There was close to twenty ads in their classified section for custom sawing by Woodmizer ads.  No two were from the same town.  The cheapest rate quoted was .23/BF in Yahoo City.  The lowest price above that .40/BF with the highest price at .54/BF.   That is a far cry from my .20 here in east Texas.  Wonder what is happening in Mississippi.  Maybe this is why we haven't heard from MaCurtis in awhile.  Meybe, he's out there raking in the gold. 8)
Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: Tom on March 25, 2002, 07:18:18 PM
I'm having a little more trouble with the 20 cents I'm charging now than I thought I would.  This area wouldn't have supported 50 cents.
Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: woodman on March 25, 2002, 07:34:16 PM
    I just charge by the hour and blads, with a 4 hour min.
Title: Re: Marketing 101
Post by: Corley5 on March 25, 2002, 08:22:59 PM
Nice straight, timber 10" and up I'll do for 150.00mbf.  Smaller than that it's 60.00 an hour.  I also charge 50.00 extra for hardware in logs.