“It’s important to set yourself apart from the competition,” Judy Macauley, marketing manager for Blooma Tree Experts in Seattle, told Tree Services in 2014. “Some companies rely on cheap price, some rely on quick turnaround. Whatever it is, you should have something that is unique to your company that will make you rise above the crowd.”

Setting yourself apart from your competition is where branding comes in. To put it simply, your brand can be thought of as your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your services and it differentiates your offerings from what your competitors are doing.

Your brand is created from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be. For example, at Blooma Tree Experts, “we have at least one International Society of Arboriculture-certified arborist at all times on the job site,” Macauley explained to Tree Services, “and we emphasize that in all of our marketing.”

Does your tree company need a brand overhaul? Do you need to stand out from increasing competition in your locale? Branding is much more than just a fancy logo or well-placed advertisement. You need to do more. With this in mind, we’ve compiled some tips for creating and executing an impactful and successful brand strategy:

Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages. Where and how you advertise is part of your brand strategy. Your distribution channels are also part of your brand strategy. What you communicate visually and verbally are part of your brand strategy, too.

Defining your brand requires, at the very least, that you answer these questions: “What is your company’s mission?” “What are the benefits and features of your products or services?” “What do your current and potential customers think of your company?” “What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?” Learn the needs, habits and desires of your customers — current and future.

Because defining and developing your brand strategy can be complex, consider bringing in the expertise of a nonprofit small business advisory group.

Your company needs a dynamic and original logo. If you don’t know a graphic artist, contract one (make sure to see examples of work they’ve done for other companies). Once you get a logo, put it literally everywhere — on your trucks, apparel worn by all employees, invoices and estimates, business cards, email signatures, website and throughout your office. The goal is to get the public familiar with your logo so that when they see it on your trucks, on the road or parked in a driveway, they automatically associate it with you. Hopefully, when they need tree work done, they’ll remember that logo and call you. Also, don’t underestimate the power of refrigerator magnets as a place to put your new logo. A very small expense can turn into a great marketing tool. Think about how many times a day a family goes into the fridge — if they get a magnet from you and stick it there, who do you think they’ll call when they have a problem with a tree they want taken care of?

Speaking of logos, it’s crucial to design templates and create brand standards for your marketing materials that are uniform. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout any material you produce. Can you recall ever seeing a Budweiser poster plastered with blue? How about a John Deere promo that’s red? Consistency with branding is crucial.

Create a voice for your company that reflects your brand. This voice should be applied to all written communication and used in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off. For example, an Ohio plumbing company brands itself as being extremely professional. When they give estimates to customers, they don’t say “this will cost you $900.” Instead, they say “your investment here is $900.” It’s all about the presentation.

Deliver on your promises. If part of your company branding is that you give free estimates, don’t ever charge. If you promise that you’ll thoroughly clean up after every job, don’t leave one single piece of debris on the ground.

Be different. Find something that distinguishes you from your competitors, and then promote the difference. Whether your tree service performs pruning, removal or plant health care services, you probably have several competitors. These could be local companies or large, national brands. Know your competitors and understand how you should and shouldn’t change. Understand your place in your market and use that to target customers. “The importance of a good marketing strategy cannot be overstated,” Pete Shamlian, CEO of AdMark’s Bear Marketing told Tree Services in 2014. “Fewer customers have money to spend for maintenance, and others are waiting until their problems cannot be ignored any longer. Customers may need to look for a new tree service, or they may be making decisions based not on long-term relationships, but on cost. This means that you need to have a presence … you want the opportunity to bid on all the work in your market. The question is how to do it.”

Identify where your company strengths lie and know what skills your people possess. Some smaller tree care companies have found great success in not being everything to everyone, so to speak. Maybe your company has an outstanding residential customer base but not a great commercial clientele. If so, consider putting all of your resources into the residential sector and make your strength even stronger.

On the other hand, if your company is large enough to offer a suite of different services (traditional tree care, snowplowing, holiday lighting, landscaping, etc.), you’ll want to make current and potential customers aware of all you do. People love to have a one-stop-shop for services: “You mean I can use one company to care for my trees, plow my driveway, hang Christmas lights on my giant pines and clear out vegetation on my property? Sign me up!”

During the process of creating a brand strategy, talk to your customers. Solicit feedback and find out what they perceive you do well and don’t do well. Also, ask all customers how they found you. Find out where your presence is strong and what kind of marketing events and ads work and don’t work for you.

Get listed in Google Places. Make it easy for people to find and contact you. Fill out social media profiles – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and/or Pinterest. Provide as much detail as you can, being sure to include website links and services offered. All the branding in the world won’t mean anything if people can’t find you.

When it comes to making it easier for people to find you, consider other business owners that you could share referrals with. For example, partner with a local lawn care business to share referrals with.

Be proactive and persistent. You have to keep at it until you find what works for you. Then, to continue your momentum, you have to keep on marketing.

Volunteering your services is great for boosting and increasing your visibility — the only cost to you is your time. Offer to assist at a city tree planting, help clear trees from a new playground site, give presentations on tree care at schools, garden club meetings, etc. When homeowners in your community need to hire someone for tree care services, your name will be the first one that comes to mind. Community involvement increases your presence, helping you expand your customer base. For example, Four Seasons Tree Care in Vista, California, participates as a tee box sponsor in select charity golf tournaments in their area.