Promoting a new sawmill business

How to get the word out that you have a mill and you're sawing wood. January 16, 2002

I've had my sawmill for a month, and I've only sawed twice in that time. Several people know that I have the mill now and I've given my number out, but I haven't gotten any jobs yet. I am still at my present job with no intentions to quit until I get a lot of work going. I plan to start custom sawing. How can I get the word out that I have a mill?

Forum Responses
Enjoy the quiet before the storm. In our area the work picks up as the weather cools and people get back outside to work on projects. Then it slows as farmers start to bring in their crops. Then it stops during deer season. Then there is some work before the bad winter hits.

If you do a good job sawing and dealing with the customers, you shouldn't be out of work once word gets around. Just don't drop your prices!

The way our business kicked in was we did some sawing along a county road only traveled by the locals. More then a few dropped in to see what we were doing and most ended up having me saw for them sooner or later. Some were so eager that they brought their logs to where I was sawing. I think if you could get some work where the general public could see you saw, you'd have more work than you could deal with.

Also, don't be bashful in talking to other band mill owners in your area. They may have some overflow work they could send your way. We had another guy a few miles south of us that we traded customers with, depending on what the customer wanted and who was busy at the time.

The only advertisement we do is to have our name on the side and bug shield of our Dodge 3500 flatbed and have business cards.

A key mentioned above is getting jobs in open areas. This really draws people and we find the most effective advertising is word of mouth. Do a good job in all areas of business and they will tell their friends, family and associates and before you know it the phone is ringing!

A visit to the local woodworking club and agricultural shows will get your name out. It is also a place to express your niche in the market so that folks know what you do as well as who you are. Get to be friends with the farmers--they always need wood and are good customers to a fair sawyer.

Get business cards printed and put your rates and stuff on the back. I post mine at the stockyard, lumberyard, feed store and stores around town that have bulletin boards outside.

Setting up beside the highway is good but you will not get much work done. Also, I did the county fair last week and just got a job from it. Word of mouth, though, is what's going to make or break you.

I still use this technique: Hustle up some work by looking for dead trees in your area. Find out who owns them and make him understand the value he has in those trees and then explain how you can help. Even if you just get permission to remove them (for safety reasons if the man doesn't want to mill them), you get the wood and start selling the lumber.

There is an excellent publication on how to plan your business, including marketing. Go to the Value-Added Wood Processing Forum and ask one of the moderators, Steve Bratkovich, to send you a copy (he is the author). A planned marketing system is better than just trying a few things, hit or miss. Also, check the archives here for how to charge. If you have a Wood-Mizer, get their brand new booklet which has value-added info, marketing, how to charge, etc.

Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor

Get some small signs made and put them up along the roadside while you are cutting. Magnetic vehicle signs run about $40 a pair here. Keep them simple and clear. "Custom Sawmilling", phone number, name.

Get the saw out of your yard. Pull down to a local lunch spot with signs and saw in tow. Have lunch and entertain questions.

Look in the local farm journals. Rough-cut lumber is always in need! Don't be surprised if someone calls and wants 10,000 feet of pine cut this winter for spring expansion.

The tree service business is a useful source for materials as well as getting the word out for you. I have used this source and it provides numerous jobs as well as materials from people who do not want their trees.

You might consider letting the local, state and national tree groups know you are in business. The local Woodlands Association is a good place to begin. You might even think about joining if you have any trees on your place.