Exhibitions or craft fairs

Rent a stall at a local craft fair or exhibition. If you really want to kick-start your new venture and you're not afraid of jumping in at the deep end, this is a great way of filling your diary with appointments. Make sure that you have sufficient leaflets printed and give one to everyone who visits your stall.

Your stand will need to have some sort of inviting, interesting display to attract people to it to begin with. If your own garden is up to it, you could photograph it and exhibit the pictures. My favourite way of attracting attention is to create a miniature garden complete with real turf and water feature. With a little imagination this can be achieved relatively easily. It will provide a wonderful talking point and will certainly give you an opportunity to sell your business.

Sponsorship

If you're unable to oifer your services free of charge to a local charity, you could consider sponsoring a flowerbed, window box or similar. Have a little plaque made up with your business name and telephone number on it and fix it to the bed or box.

You could also sponsor individuals who are doing something on behalf of a local or national charity.

Attracting press interest

In my experience local papers are generally very approachable when it comes to finding some free publicity for your business, provided your offering has an interesting twist, or your business is unique in some way. There's little point in phoning up the editor of your local paper and telling him you're about to launch your own gardening business. His only action will be to pass you on to the classified sales section to sell you some advertising space. But were you the local council's head gardener either leaving or retiring from your post to start up your business then in all probability the editor would be interested in your story. If you're stuck for ideas on what would make your business newsworthy, then think about the reasons why you're starting it. There's a news story lurking there somewhere. All you have to do is dig it out!

Advertising

I believe that traditional advertising can have a place in your business, provided that you do not expect your ad to do all the work for you. If you find that during a certain period your phone is not ringing, then don't be tempted to place as many advertisements in as many publications as you can afford. This doesn't work. You need to understand why your phone is not ringing. Here are some of the most common reasons:

  • Half-term and school holidays. Many of your clients will either go away during these times, or if they stay at home will not want to have their holiday disrupted.
  • Public holidays such as Easter and Christmas. Again many people go away.
  • August - generally the quietest month of the year for new enquiries. Again it is a popular holidaying month, but it's also a quiet time in the garden compared with the rest of the year. Obviously those with gardening rounds or lawn-cutting rounds will still have ample to do, but don't be surprised if your telephone isn't as busy during this month.
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