By Simon Petree, Green Leaf Forest Products Given that about 60% of all portable sawmill owners make all or part of their income each year milling lumber and other wood products, it’s surprising how little attention is paid to marketing the business those owners depend on. If you ask what sawyers depend on most for marketing, most mill owners respond, “Word-of mouth.” While it is true that as soon as you set the edge of a blade against the end of a log people begin to notice, and slowly you begin to build a business, but your business - whether full-time or part-time - will never live up to its potential for profit unless you take steps to do at least some marketing. Don’t forget, most voters can’t name the two senators from their state. Don’t think you’ll build much better public recognition of your business without at least some effort to actively introduce yourself to the public you depend on. So, let’s talk about three marketing steps you can take almost immediately with very little effort and little or no cost. First, name your business. Or if necessary, rename your business and put some thought into the name you choose. Think about the success Wood-Mizer has seen over the past three decades. Do you think the company would have had the same success had the founders named the fledgling company after themselves, “ Laskowski and Tekulve Sawmills?” The name “Wood-Mizer” has proven to be a powerful marketing tool and I doubt it cost the founders anything more than a little thinking time to come up with a name that’s become a legend in the industry. When you’re inventing a name for your own business, think about some concepts that are important to people today. Those concepts vary depending on where you live but as a beginning, the term “urban wood” calls to mind images of environmental responsibility, recycling, and woodland preservation, especially to customers living in and near cities. Other terms like “local,” “green”, “recycle”, “sustainable” and “renewable” are important buzzwords today as well. When naming your business, think about what is important to your customer and try to work something into the name that tells the customer you are likely to care about what they care about. Not every name is going to be a home run but you can make a better living hitting singles than striking out. “Farm to Market Sawmilling” is much more likely to evoke a positive image in a customer’s mind than something like “A to Z Sawmilling” will. When you are happy with the name, consider signage, especially if you live or have a workplace along a road with good traffic. Stick a sign out there for people to see every day as they pass by. Got a work truck? You can get a magnetic sign pretty cheaply and slap it on the doors of your rig. Everywhere you go, it goes. If you’ve ever traveled and stopped somewhere because you noticed a sign or billboard you know that signs sell. Have a sign painted that travels with you as you move your portable mill from one place to another. That way, potential customers will see you sawing and signage will give them a way to contact you. Last and not least, think about social media. Start by taking a look at Wood-Mizer’s Facebook page; thousands of people follow their page. That is amazing. You can sign up for a business page on Facebook for the same price Wood-Mizer paid - nothing. You’ll also be starting out with the same number of likes Wood-Mizer started out with - none. But don’t expect thousands of “likes” right away. You will have to pay attention to the page to benefit from the page. Nothing is more forlorn than a Facebook business page where the last entry was made two years ago, but the rewards can be significant if you make a conscious attempt to assure you are current. Begin by asking customers to "like", "follow", and "share" your business via Facebook. Then, at least once a week, post something about what you are doing whether it is milling a special log, cutting for a restoration project, or simply getting on with the everyday life of your business. Keeping in touch with the customer is the “word-of-mouth” of today’s world. But again, don’t forget to keep your page current. Blogs and websites can be effective too but, they do require more work and sometimes an investment. If you’re not all that comfortable with a computer, start with just the Facebook page. It’s easy to maintain, doesn’t consume much time, and will give you a chance to explore the territory. Then, as you get more comfortable, expand your social media horizons to other networks such as Twitter and Instagram . Deciding to take the big step and become a startup business can be a daunting task, but it is also an exciting step into an unknown future. Growing your business is work and it’s best to get off on the right foot. Begin your marketing effort the very day you decide you’re going to be a business owner. Simon Petree owns Green Leaf Forest Products near Lynden, Washington. He is currently writing a book aimed at sharing the lessons he’s learned milling more than five million board feet of lumber, timber, slabs and other products during the fifteen years he’s been in business.