31 ways to add more customers for your equipment rental business – Part Two

By Malcolm Roach on Jul 04, 2017.

Welcome back to Part Two of our 31 ways to add more customer for your rental business. Unfortunately, because of its length, we had to break the blog in the middle of the section for the six-month task list. You can review Part One here.

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We have organized this blog into different timeframes, as suggested guidelines for when these items could fit into your schedule. Please note that some of the more immediate items are there because they are critical and may be a foundation piece for later activity. You shouldn’t put them off just because others things are easier to do or they appear more attractive to you.

This part will finish up the six month timeframe, give you some great ideas for the twelve month period, and a few important points that are timeless that should always be at the back of your mind. At the end, I promise your face won’t look like the guy above.

19. An effective, legal email campaign is a beautiful thing

And one that isn’t well thought out and executed, or is breaking legal guidelines, is both an embarrassment to your organization and a financial risk. 

If you decide to do the email thing, remember you still need to deliver value to your readers. You can’t just send out notification of your latest company news.

20. Is your rental fleet from the prehistoric age?

If you are afraid your rental fleet may be fossilizing, it might be time to break out the utilization stats. You might be wondering what this has to do with new customers but the two are linked. If your equipment utilization is down, and it’s not because of equipment problems or a major downturn in the economy, you need to know the reasons why. If your fleet isn’t attractive to existing customers, you will lose those sales and the fleet is likely going to be unattractive to new customers.

The other consideration is whether you have the correct mix of equipment for the evolving needs of customers. Are their projects changing? Are they looking for new models of equipment? Are there regulatory requirements driving equipment change? Are there safety improvements customers are looking for?

Be one with your fleet. You need to know it intimately and be ready to change it anytime you become aware of its deficiencies and believe this to be a long-term trend. Don’t be emotionally attached to your equipment. 

To cover deficiencies in the short term, or possibly long-term as a deliberate strategy, figure out where you can sub-rent these newer or missing units. I talked to one customer who refused to carry boom lifts, saying they took too much maintenance and prices were very competitive. They just sub-rented one every time one of their customers asked. If you are a smaller company, consider making an agreement with a competitor where each of you carry a particular class of equipment to minimize training and inventory costs.

21. What is coming down the pike?

A proactive networker is going to talk to project managers, construction managers, or anyone else he can find to see what is coming out for new projects and what types of equipment might be required. It might also be possible to negotiate a project discount that any customer can utilize on that project.

You’ll have better information when reviewing your rental fleet and possibly gain a competitive advantage.

22. Walk hand-hand with your equipment suppliers

This is not just to find out about their new models, it is be on top of what customers are likely to demand and they will be able to tell you what is selling, both to construction companies, or to whatever industry you are in, and to other rental companies. 

They also may have some idea of new projects that might be coming along. For example, if you are in medical equipment rental, it would be extremely useful to know about new long-term care facilities.

Things to do within twelve months

23. Don’t get suckered into buying advertising – advertising companies have clever people

Everyone is trying to sell you advertising but the truth is that much of it is ill conceived and ineffective. Generic advertising thrown into a newspaper or magazine is expensive and unlikely to bring concrete results.

It is possible you are actually executing a thorough brand strategy and will have focused advertising that fits in with your brand. That is not the norm and congratulations if you are doing this successfully. More likely, if you want concrete, measurable results from advertising, you need to develop an advertising campaign centered on your ideal buyer discussed earlier. If you know who your buyer is, you know what he reads, whether paper or online. You know his desires and fears. Now go out and advertise but make sure you know how you can measure the results. That might require training your sales staff to record the results in a CRM system.

24. Trade shows are expensive! Do they actually work?

Sometimes you just feel like you have to go or people will wonder why you didn’t show up. While you might hear that feedback, think about what else you could do with $10-$20,000 in alternate marketing activities. That funds a lot of PPC’s (Pay Per Clicks) or SEO’s (Search Engine Optimization) or even development of your marketing content. Would that give you a better return?

Don’t be intimidated by the people who missed seeing you at the show. You might be able to leverage that expense and effort into 2 or 3 times the numbers of new customers. You can always build a marketing activity around not going to the show but conducted in the same timeframe. You may also be able to attend as an attendee and meet with your customers as you stroll through the vendor’s equipment offerings.

25. Share your expertise – you’re a smart person

There are lots of people who would like to know what’s in your head and how you think. It may take some creativity to figure out how to share it but often it is a matter of chance. When you are doing your networking, keep your ears open for a chance to contribute. It builds more relationships and plants seeds into the community.

We recently agreed to train an unemployed business analyst on our accounting software because it not only contributed to help her find a job, but it created an evangelist for us out in the market place. Maybe free Saturday classes on how to service lawn mowers or something similar would yield positive results?

You need to think out of the box on this one but if you keep at it, you will be happy with the results.

26. Expand your network – there are many people out there waiting to meet you

And they’ll like you. Chances are if you are self-employed, you are an interesting person. Look for opportunities to expand your network. We have already alluded to a number of ways to do this earlier in the document but this point is important enough to warrant its own section.

Figure out a budget of time that you want to give to networking and find some activities that you can schedule into your calendar. Don’t let it be the last thing you get done. As the leader or one of the leaders, you have a direct responsibility to make this happen. I’m feeling a twinge of guilt as I write this as I know I could do better at this. There’s always reasons not to network. Find some reasons to network.

27. Print media is more than advertising

It includes press releases as well. Depending on your business it could involve direct mail or postcards in the mail. Sending out cards to promote the rental of aerators in the spring is likely to be successful. Sending them for excavators, perhaps, not so much.

Remember the sponsoring we talked about earlier? Wouldn’t it be cool if the team or charity you sponsored, showed up in the local newspaper or as an online feature?

Some publications are always looking for content. You might not be ready to be a full-time advice columnist but perhaps you could do a few in the spring if you are a tool rental company. Again, this depends on your market.

Newspapers like feel-good stories. Your sponsorship could be of an underprivileged group. That makes for a good story.

The publications do not have be newspapers or magazines. Ever walked into a local A&W or a coffee shop and seen the local one or two page circular? They want content and ads are generally cheap.

This option generally doesn’t take much effort but you do need to think out of the box to make it work. And make sure you consistently work at it.

28. Big ads often don’t work well and here is why

Various studies say it takes between 6 and 11 touches for a suspect to be converted into a prospect for you company. If you do two big ads per year, people won’t generally remember you, even if you spend like the Fortune 500 companies. Consider taking that advertising money and creating a repetitive series of ads so you are always in the face of your prospective customer.

In our business of selling software, prospects are generally only looking for software during a 3 month period once every 5 to 7 years. If you are not in their face during that 3 month period, you’ve missed out. Try getting your salespeople to wrap their heads around that concept! What is the purchasing cycle of your prospective customers?

You need low-cost, repetitive activities to be most effective. 

Other things to ponder

29. New locations may be the way to go

There are a lot of factors in making this decision. Do you have the capital? Do you understand the market? Have you saturated your current market area, even after considering new rental offerings? Do you have key personnel who start up a new location and transfer your culture to a new office and staff? What is the market potential of the new location? Who would be your competition?

This point isn’t new and unique for anyone reading this document. What’s important is to sit down and think about what it would take to do it so you are prepared if the opportunity presents itself? Check out the next point.

30. Acquisition rules – take over the world – or sell out

Take over the world? Not really. That’s a fast way to overextend yourself and become acquainted with the bankruptcy guys.

But there are often opportunities. People are retiring. They can’t get to the critical mass they need to really succeed but the two of you would be able. The other company may be under-capitalized. They may be missing capable or experienced management. There are lots of reasons and not everyone is going to get picked up by United or the other big guys.

Don’t get sucked into an acquisition for ego’s sake. Better to be good at what you are currently doing than to take on a major problem child. And don’t even consider this option if your own processes are not up to snuff! An acquisition, as you deal with all the issues and new employees, is bound to show up faults you have in your own group.

Again, plan for this so you can quickly evaluate opportunities. Our firm probably gets a dozen opportunities to sell out each year and is offered a few to purchase. Having a clear idea of what our goals are and what makes our culture successful makes it very easy to quickly evaluate whether an acquisition (or disposal) will work. For example, if you have a hard-driving, organized structure and you are taking over a “mom and pop” shop where everyone is laid back and relaxed, you will have some challenges and likely a lot of staff turnover at the new location.

31. Live chat – what is that?

Not easy to implement. For many rental groups, the website and online presence is almost an afterthought and may be several years old. Under yesterday’s model, people are expected to interact via telephone or email.

Check out the section on Millennials in our blog 22 business trends that will change your rental business.

The Millennials (people born between the early 1980’s and early 2000’s) now represent the largest segment of our society and they think differently. It doesn’t matter whether you think that is good and bad. It just is. Just as it was when kids of the 70’s and 80’s introduced long hair and acid rock to their parents. We were quite different from our parents and now we are on the other side of that equation.

Millennials and even some other age groups prefer to interact via a lightweight text or chat system. They don’t want to leave voice mails or email someone. They like the chat option. Your first reaction might be you are thinking you need to have to a live person ready to chat at the drop of a hat. I can understand that thought. It might be your first implementation of a chat system but the next change coming along is chatbots. These automated, light duty AI (Artificial Intelligence) systems are capable of chatting with a live person or escalating the conversation to a SME (Subject Matter Expert) or inside salesperson, if appropriate.

Whew! That was a lot of content, which is why we needed to break it up into two blogs. If you remember back to when we started, our businessman looked quite puzzled over how to attract new customers. Now that we have reviewed 31 ways to get more customers for your rental business, we would like to think you have a more optimistic look on your face. 

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The key is not to be paralyzed by the sheer volume of detail. Start moving ahead.

Think of this document as an options list for a new project. Pick out the items you really need, even if they aren’t immediate. Then sit down and plan out a timeline on how and when you can get these completed. Start with when you need a solution and work backwards through the various tasks to figure out the milestone dates. There are sure to be some items you think of that weren’t mentioned here. Include them in the schedule.

The absolutely, most important thing you can do right now, is go to our website and download a questionnaire on how to determine who your ideal customer will be. You’ll feel much more confident about the road you are on when you know exactly who you are trying to target.

Go ahead, download it now! No sign-up required.

Topics: operations, marketing, business tips

Malcolm Roach is the CEO and President of Open Door Technology, providers of Open Door Rental Software for the equipment rental industry. Malcolm is a CPA with 25+ years of ERP experience and unique insights into the unique needs of equipment rental companies and how technology can address them.