Think about how you will market and promote your business, and about what messages you want to get across to potential customers.
The right image
People's first impression of your business will be influenced by the way it looks - so it is vital to project the right image. Try to keep your premises smart, clean and tidy. Use signs to indicate what tools are available and any other services you offer.
As well as a storage area, you will need a retail/display area, where customers can look at the tools available and you can offer them help and advice. You may well decide to display some consumables and items like safety equipment for sale in your retail area too. Provide some leaflets or posters about tool use and safety - a range of signs, posters, leaflets and marketing materials is available from the Hire Association Europe (HAE).
If you offer a delivery and collection service, bear in mind that your van can be a highly visible mobile advertisement for your business. Consider having the van sign written with your details and try to ensure that it looks smart and well maintained.
Treating customers in a friendly, helpful and polite way is essential. Be prepared to explain to people how various tools work and advise them which will be the safest and most suitable for them to use. Make sure that people know how to use the tools they are hiring and if there is any doubt, offer to demonstrate. Provide printed safety sheets where appropriate and offer the necessary safety equipment for hire or sale. Make sure that the conditions of hire are clearly explained and there is no confusion over damage deposits or insurance cover if this is offered. A good reputation can only be built over time, but from the outset you should aim to offer a high level of service and ensure customers are satisfied with the service they receive and the tools or other equipment supplied. It may be worthwhile giving your customers a bit of leeway over things like late returns - building up goodwill can pay real dividends when it comes to repeat business, customer loyalty and recommendations. Do your best to deal with any questions or complaints promptly and politely.
Joining a safety and quality accreditation scheme will demonstrate that your business is run to a high standard. Members of the HAE can apply to join the SafeHIRE scheme. This will involve a site assessment and unannounced test hires. Successful applicants earn the right to display a certification plaque and note their status as a member of the scheme in advertising literature. SafeHIRE certified members also benefit from being able to join the Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme (CHAS) register as 'CHAS Accredited' businesses. This is used by many private companies, local authorities, government agencies and so on when shortlisting contractors or suppliers.
Advertising your business
It is important that you advertise your business so that potential customers know about you and the tools and services you offer. There are a number of things you can do to promote your business:
- use signs effectively to inform and attract passing trade
- advertise in your local newspaper and any local directories
- place an advertisement on Yell.com
- launch your own website to reach a wider market - particularly relevant if you offer specialist tools not usually stocked by others
- place advertising leaflets at local garden centres or builders' suppliers
Members of the HAE are included in their online 'find a member' database. This can be accessed by the public in order to locate companies in a certain area or dealing with a particular sector of the market. You can find out more about HAE membership and the SafeHIRE scheme on the HAE website.
Think about using social media, blogs, business directories and forums to market and promote your business.