Tree Service owner triples his business in three years, and is at a 95% referral based business over the past year and a half, while spending almost nothing on traditional advertising. How did he do it? By incorporating a cost effective relationship marketing program!
This week’s Relationship Marketing Weekly, I interview Totem Tree Service owner Dave Potter from Port Alberni, British Columbia. Dave will discuss his step by step process how he sets himself apart in a highly competitive industry, and how he’s blown up his business in a very short time.
Kody Bateman: Hey everybody. This is Kody B. talking to you from Salt Lake City, Utah. Welcome to our Relationship Marketing Weekly Show. I’m telling you, these shows get more and more fun every week. We got quite a treat for you today. I’ve got a very, very special guest coming to us all the way out of Port Alberni in British Columbia, Canada.
Dave Potter, welcome to our show today, Dave.
Dave Potter: Thanks, Kody. Thanks for having me on today.
Kody: Well, we’re sure excited to have you. Just want to take a minute to say hello to people as they’re calling in. We got a whole bunch of people posting and saying hello. We’ve got people listening in. They’re starting to come in live on the call right now from all over the world. I’ve noticed some people from Australia, some people from – all over the place, even overseas, here in the United States, all the way through Canada. Welcome everybody to this special Facebook Live show today.
Relationship marketing at its very best today. Oh my goodness. This is going to be a whole lot of fun today. You will notice my good friend Dave Potter is – he has got some interesting stuff on him. So Dave, you own a tree service and you got a bunch of equipment on. Just tell us a little bit about all the stuff that’s on your head and everything.
Dave: Well, I’m wearing a hard hat. I’ve got my ear muffs on, face shield. I’ve got a harness on that’s hooked to a bucket. I’m up in the top of a bucket right now on the bucket truck.
Kody: So you’re actually on the job. You’re in the bucket. How high up in the air are you right now?
Dave: About 45, 50 feet right now.
Kody: Before the show started, we’re like, “Hey, how high up are you?” and Dave says, “Oh, I’m not very high. I’m only like 45, 50 feet in the air.” For most people, that’s really high, Dave, just so you know.
So you’re coming live from on the job and you do some incredible stuff. Now a lot of us who live down here in the States, we’re not used to tree services, kind of like the type of work you do. Could you just explain a little bit about your company and the type of clients that you service?
Dave: Yeah. We service everything from residential customers – homeowners to commercial jobs like the highways departments and BC parks and Canadian coastguard and we have like anywhere from – anybody that needs to deal with a tree, whether it be pruning it, whether it be shaping it or spiral pruning or if the tree is dangerous and it needs to be removed and it’s hanging over their house. They will call us up and we will come with our specialized equipment, our bucket trucks, chip trucks, chippers and we’ve got climbers and we will take the tree out for them in a safe manner.
Kody: Now see, where I’m from, when we talk about pruning, we’re standing on the ground and like pruning bushes and stuff. You’re pruning stuff that’s way high up in the air. So a lot of what you do is kind of top of tree type stuff, right?
Dave: Yeah. There’s oftentimes we will be up 120 feet up in the air. Like if you can see that tree that’s behind me there, that’s probably about 125 feet tall and oftentimes we will be up there, sitting out in the tree, letting the wind go through it a little bit easier so that people don’t have the fear as much of that tree coming in, landing on their house.
Kody: Wow, that’s pretty amazing. That’s a good visual behind you there. So you’re up on top of trees like that, pruning them, shaping them, those kinds of – very specialized service. So it’s really cool to be able to see.
Now the interesting thing here is that you run a small crew and you’ve tripled your business in the last three years. Started your business five years ago with almost all referral business and you’re going to share with us today a little bit about what that means, how you do the referral business. You follow up with customers a lot. You use greeting cards. You use gifts to follow up with them. We’re going to share some of those stories.
But my question is – I know that you spend a majority of your time in that bucket. I mean you and your crew, you’re up off the ground doing this work almost all the time.
Kody: When do you possibly have time to follow up with your customers with a custom greeting card gift that they receive in the mail? I mean when do you do that? Because you’re up in the tree all the time.
Dave: Well, I don’t know if you can see here. But I have a pocket right in my front here and I just pull out my cell phone. I carry this thing with me everywhere I go. It’s either in this pocket here or it’s in the pocket in the front of my pants and I am continually taking pictures. I’m looking for opportunities throughout the job.
It’s as important to me now to get cool photographs on the job, of the job, of the customers, of their property as it is doing the work because I know that – what’s coming next. So yeah, every opportunity I get, I’m taking a cool shot of their house or of them and I just simply go to my app on this phone and click on it and click Create Card and it types it out in my own handwriting. I hit the mic and I say, “Dear, Mrs. Smith, thank you so much for the tree work. We really appreciate your business. From Dave and the Totem Crew,” and I just go into the gift store every time, click on a pack of brownies or sea salt caramels and I type in their address and hit Send and that’s done usually between two to four minutes, depending on how accessible their address is.
Kody: You literally do it on the job from 50 to 100 feet in the air, in the bucket.
Kody: So I guess what we could say is there’s really no excuse for anybody to not follow up with their customers, right? I mean –
Dave: No, there isn’t.
Kody: Yeah. That’s amazing. In fact, what – you shared earlier with me a story. You went to a dentist home and you did some work for a dentist. Can you just kind of tell us that story real quick? Because I happen to have a copy of the greeting card you sent them. So this is pretty cool.
Dave: Oh, I just took a shot of their lake home. It’s nestled in the trees. So when I was up in the bucket, I took a cool shot of that. Then I got my ground men to take a – kind of a unique photograph and he probably wondered what I was yelling at him for. I said, “You know, Jay, can you please grab me those two leaves on the ground there?” and he’s – like, you know, he brings up these two leaves to me and I’m filing my saw on the top of the – the teeth on my chainsaw on the top of the headache rack on my bucket truck and I just said, “Hey, can you go over there and just take a picture of me?”
So you will see it in a second there when Kody shows you that card why. But yeah, I just went into the gift or – sorry, into the card section and clicked on “thank-you cards” and because he’s a dentist, I just typed in “dentist” and I picked one that I thought he might appreciate and it’s – you can see it there.
Yeah. So then I – inside the card, I did a little bit of modifications and typed it out.
Kody: So here’s the picture in the bucket over his house, right?
Dave: Yeah, that’s right.
Kody: So that gives you a good idea of where you’re sending greeting cards from, out of your bucket, way high up in the sky and you got a nice little message, “Super nice to meet you both. It was a pleasure working at your beautiful place at the lake today. Thank you so much for the work. I really appreciate your business.” That comes from there. Now what you were talking about, this is pretty cool, if you can see this. I’m going to get up close there.
So this is Dave messing around. Dave – the funny guy. So he says, “Just filing my teeth.” Now he’s doing that with a chainsaw. Just filing my teeth or should I just leaf them alone? Just leaf –
Dave: Got to have fun.
Kody: I couldn’t help myself. Thanks again, Dave. So you’re just having a good time and obviously he’s having a good time. On the back, you got a picture of you and Jenny, your wife. You run this business together and –
Kody: Super, super cool greeting card. Now you always send gifts with it. What did you send with this?
Dave: I put some thought into that one actually, Kody. I was going to send them brownies and I thought, “No, I’m not going to send them brownies this time. I will send the sea salt caramels.” So I just sent them those.
Kody: That’s super cool. It’s great to see the unique way in which you do this. Now we were talking a little bit earlier and I want to make sure that this important – this is a very important message, a great training opportunity for those listening in to learn what relationship marketing is about.
You’re talking about the fact that you take these pictures. You’ve trained your crew how to take these pictures and all of you follow up your clients this way. But in doing that, it has changed the way that you service your clients. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?
Dave: Yeah. It’s – this last couple of years of doing this on a regular basis has changed me as a person. I feel that I’m a lot different than I was two years. You know, like – if a job takes a little bit longer than it would – you know, than we expected it to, that’s OK. Maybe before I might have felt that pressure to get the job done quicker and to make that money.
But now it’s not as important. What’s important is creating the relationship with the clients and making sure that the job is done correctly and that we take the time and my crew knows that. That’s important to me and it’s important to them now as well.
We’re all excited about giving – sending cards and getting those phone calls from the customers.
Kody: So would it be safe to say that you’ve always provided a stellar service? I mean that’s just the type of person you are. But would it be safe to say that since you started sending these greeting cards out and follow-up, that your quality of service with you and your staff has increased?
Dave: Oh, for sure. Yeah. There’s no question to – we’re just a better – we’re better people from doing this consistently. Appreciating, being thankful every day for the opportunity to work on people’s homes, that we have work, having an abundant mindset. You know, it has all played a huge integral part to who we are as business owners and we are – we’re reaping the benefits from that Kody. It’s huge. Like we’re – just the act of giving back to
Kody: I don’t know if it’s this way with everybody – are you there still, Dave? You kind of froze up there for a second. Are you back?
Dave: Yeah, I’m here.
Kody: Yeah, there we go. So you were just finishing up the thought about [0:12:50] [Indiscernible] service with your customers. So really it’s so – that’s funny that that just happened because we were joking before the show and you have a game that you play. What’s your game that you play?
Dave: OK, Melissa. This is for you.
Kody: It’s called the “freeze game”. This is the freeze game everybody. So we like to have a good time. We don’t try to be all stuffy on this show. So we have the freeze game when we do these live, big, important shows. There comes a time when you just –
Dave: You got me.
Kody: That’s for you Melissa Barlock. That is for you. That was great. I love that. That was really cool. So another thing, just – I love your philosophy, brother. I love the deep, caring attitude that you have with sending [0:13:43] [Indiscernible] and you talked about how it changed you as a human being. We’re all about bringing the human race together through kindness. That’s what we’re doing and you’re a great example of that.
As you mentioned, you and your staff and everybody that you know has become better people because you send appreciation out to others. So stellar example that you are. We appreciate that.
Now one of the things I want to talk about is just part of your process. You actually do what I would call and other guests that have been on here call “thanking people through the process”. So you thank people through the process.
It starts with when you do an estimate on a job and then it carries on from there. Can you just walk us through the process of the different times or the different card triggers that you have when you send cards to people?
Dave: Yeah. So oftentimes – not every time but most times, when I’m going to do an estimate, I will find an opportunity to ask the customer if I can take a picture of them in front of their house or in front of their tree and sometimes they will ask, “May I ask why?” and I usually just respond by saying, “Well, you will see in about a week,” and leave it at that.
So I will send them a nice-to-meet-you card and just say, “Hey, it was really nice to meet you the other day. Thank you for the opportunity to bid on your tree job. From Dave and the Totem Crew,” and I will get – like for an example, the other day Kody, I got – I did that. The guy’s name was Louie and he asked me to come and give him an estimate on removing a little hedge. A beautiful little hedge. He just moved to the Alberni Valley and he wanted to take this hedge out.
I said, “Louie, you don’t want to take this hedge out. This is a beautiful hedge and it’s going to provide you with amazing privacy. You got a beautiful heritage home here. Why don’t you leave it?”
I said, “Louie, do you mind if I take your picture?” and he said, “Sure.” I took his picture and a couple of days ago, I got a call from Louie and he said, “Dave, I just want to thank you first of all for convincing me to leave my hedge. I love it. I absolutely love it now and those brownies were awesome. Thank you so much,” and he asked me if I could come by and trim this maple tree that he had in his backyard. I hadn’t given him a quote on it. He just wanted to connect with me and that was – that card that I sent him, he really appreciated it.
Kody: It’s interesting. I love this story because it really teaches a lot of the principles that we teach with relationship marketing. Most people that are in business are looking for the immediate sell, the immediate deal. So here you are out doing an estimate and you talk the guy out of giving you the work.
Kody: I mean most people in business don’t understand this concept. Like you paid gas money to get there. You sat with them. You took an hour of your time and you literally talked him out of giving you money because you knew it was best for him and on top of that, you thanked him with a card and brownies.
Kody: But what people don’t understand is Louie will be a raving fan of yours for the rest of his life.
Dave: Yeah, that’s right.
Kody: Yeah. That is a super cool story. Appreciate you sharing that. Then of course you do the follow-up card after you – well, while you’re doing the service itself [0:17:54] [Indiscernible] examples of that.
Dave: Yeah. So I just like – for another example here, just yesterday – I did a job for a lady Ellen about a week ago and I got this call yesterday afternoon. I thought I recognize the number and when I answered, she said, “Dave, I’m just absolutely blown away. I just got a package in the mail today and I opened it up and there was a picture of my house. I’ve never seen my house from that angle before. It’s absolutely beautiful!”
She said, “You know, thank you so much and then I got the brownies. They’re so good,” and she said, “We – I just want to thank you. We really need more people like you in this world,” and I just thanked her for her call and told her that – you know, that that –
Kody: Yeah, that’s –
Dave: I was taking those pictures and –
Kody: That’s very, very cool.
Dave: Creating the card.
Kody: Love your stories. We love your passion. We love the unique way in which you have taught all of us today. Relationship marketing at its very best, my friends. From 55 feet in a tree, in a bucket, this guy and his crew, Dave Potter and his crew, send these incredible cards and gifts out to people and as a result, they’ve increased their quality of service and increased their referral business and tripled your – the size of your company in the last three years.
Congratulations Dave. Thank you for the time that you’ve spent with us today. We want to thank all of you for being on the Relationship Marketing Show today. Make sure that you share this with other people. This is a story that needs to be shared with as many people as possible and we will see you next time on our Relationship Marketing Weekly Show. Take care everybody now.
Dave: Thanks everyone. Thanks Kody.