Five out of the box ideas to add new customers for tool and construction equipment rental companies

By Malcolm Roach on Aug 15, 2017.

Repeat customers are great, but how do you get them in the first place.

Advertising is expensive, and with a few exceptions, has become increasingly ineffective. Direct mail has its challenges. This blog will give you a few ideas on five out of the box ways to attract new customers and how to promote those ideas, which hopefully will get you thinking about others that may work for you. Retaining customers will be the subject of another piece in the future.

Blog Five out of the box ideas to add new customers for tool and construction equipment rental companies and how to promote them.jpg

1. Give something away to new customers

We’re not talking about a free pencil here. It needs to be useful and with a chance to upsell the customer, now or in the future. Ideally it wouldn’t have any service requirements and shouldn’t cost too much.

Your choice will vary a lot by what type of customers you have but for new residential areas, what about giving away the rental of a manual post hole auger? It doesn’t cost much. It’s hard to break. And after the customer digs one hole, he might be really motivated to come back and rent a power version. Or perhaps the rental charge kicks in after an extended period of 3 days or so. Most people can’t dig that many holes in a day, if they are not use to doing it.

The point is to find something that will attract people to your store. Get the news to them on your website and possibly a community advertising medium, such as door hanger coupons.

2. Come up with a referral program that is really worth something

Giving someone a $5 gift card to Starbucks might influence a few of your customers to refer their friends but I personally couldn’t be bothered. What would be much more interesting is the potential to allow me to select from a collection of cool gadgets or supplies for my shop. Create a referral card with a good offer for the person making the referral and the person bringing the card into your shop.

Make the program valubale to both the referrer and referee. To do this effectively, you will need to think about who your likely audience is. Where do they live? What do they like to do? I appreciate that some handymen drink Starbucks coffee, but I suspect a lot more would appreciate something useful or appealing. Perhaps for larger value items, i.e. a cool Milwaukee tape measure, you sign your customer up for a “punch card” where they get the free tape after three referrals? I would be motivated. I already have one. I’d like another one. 

3. Sell rental library memberships

Imagine your customers being able to go to the tool store anytime they want and take home a tool available from a selection of tool library items. You get the recurring revenue every month for tools that may sit on the shelf unrented. People borrowing tools likely need more than one tool at a time. Rent  your customers additional tools, even if it is at a discount. They probably won’t be bringing tools back on schedule, if you have a time limit. More opportunities for recurring revenue. Which is the most important factor in the valuation of your business, if you are thinking about selling in the future.

4.Think of something to motivate a renter’s partner

Many people are just looking for an excuse to try out another tool. Is there something to get the person’s partner interested in the process? It might be as simple as taking home some designer ice cream bars when the person rents equipment. Or maybe those Starbuck cards now make sense.

5. Host demonstrations of hot products 

Everyone has probably seen the “Learn how to drywall” demonstrations at Home Depot so this one might not be as “out of the box” as others. But if you are selling tools, what about showing people how to use the latest DeWALT planers or a biscuit joiner? Some people will come to see the latest tool. Others will come to learn. Either way, you will have people in your shop.

Then combine this with a special offer to encourage people to take something home.

Promoting your ideas

It’s one thing to a have great idea but how do you promote it? This will depend a lot on the size and type of your business, geographic location, and demographics of your specific market but here are some ideas.

1. Direct Mail

While direct mail has lost a lot of appeal in the past few years, there are still some circumstances where it makes sense, but only if you are able to carefully target your audience, and measure the results. As an example, send material to new homeowners. These could be people buying into an existing residential market or those building new homes. Test different messages to see how they perform and keep testing. Things change and you need to be constantly adapting.

2. Choose your timing carefully

You want to catch customers when they have a need or are thinking about requiring your products or services. Furnace repair companies often send offers in February in colder climates because by then older furnaces may be breaking down after a hard winter’s use. Send offers out in the spring when people might be thinking about building outdoor structures. Promote hobbyist tools in the fall. Look for patterns and pursue these opportunities ruthlessly. And keep looking.

3. Website 

Make sure these offers are on your website. Also make sure your website is “mobile device friendly” as Google will penalize you in their searches if you don’t. More and more searches are done now from cell phones and no one wants to scroll through full websites on a mobile device.

4. Get blogging

The secret to success on the internet these days is to generate content, which leads to better rankings. You need to establish yourself as an expert and be front and center when people are looking for tools and equipment. The good news for equipment rental companies is you can use product material for many of your blogs. This can take one of three forms that would be very useful to your readers. One is information on new equipment now available. Another is “how to” tips. The third one is actual projects they may be interested in. For all three, content is relatively easy to find and generate. Blogs can be re-branded blogs from your equipment suppliers but they do need to be re-worked as Google will discount duplicate content. 

5. Community advertising

One of the best mediums for tool and light equipment rental is community advertising. It offers options such as door hanger coupons, community newsletters, free handouts, or flyers. There are many choices here and they tend to be less expensive and more targeted to your local market than the local newspaper.

6. Social Media

Most people don’t do much with social media because it can be overwhelming to do it properly. The good news is, you will differentiate yourself. Figure out which social media tools will make the most sense for your business and then task someone with making sure the content is updated regularly.   Just like with blogs, you need content and regularity. People will come to expect to see you online. Don’t be afraid to outsource this responsibility if you can find an effective and cost-effective solution.

You will probably be able to come up with more “out of the box” options unique to your business and market to bring in new customers. The ones above are just some suggestions to get those creative juices flowing. Please feel free to share anything that worked for you by commenting below or contacting us directly. If there is enough response, I will include them in a future blog.

You may also be interested in these blogs about getting more customers for your rental business.

Topics: operations, 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.