I'm Spencer King, an ex-marquee erector. This blog is designed to help those running a hire business or thinking of starting. I don't claim to know everything, I'm just trying to help people avoid the mistakes I made! Check out our event planning section for advice on planning your own marquee event. Please contact us if we can help or offer advice in any way.
Cost is likely to be Â£180 for the first year, Â£45 a year from then on which we think is very reasonable for what we’re offering:
Home page – supply your own text to fill the page, change the locations you cover, choose your own colour scheme. This will also be optimised for the search engines. Photo Gallery – all photos are included for you to use, we’ll also add your own photos when you get them. Marquee Planner – we’ll add whatever size DIY Marquees you stock. Contact Page – If you want other details for people to fill in we can do it for you. Webmail – log in to send & receive work emails. Advice on getting up the search rankings – We’ll point out what you can do to get your website up the search rankings and links to tools to help you. It can be time consuming but very little expertise is required.
Any extras you would like adding we can arrange (price on application). Once the website is up and running any subsequent alterations we’d also have to charge for (except adding photographs).
A .co.uk domain name is included in the price so you can choose whatever name you like (subject to availability) and your email address would be firstname.lastname@example.org.
With a VAT cut due today it seems sensible to talk about VAT when running a marquee hire business.
On a personal note I’m not sure a ‘2.5% sale’ on everything in the UK is going to make much difference but apparently we’re not allowed by our EU friends to go lower than 15%. Thanks. For. That.
If your turnover is under a set figure (I don’t know the exact figure but it’s around 67k at the moment though there’s also a quarterly limit that affects hire companies more) then you don’t have to register for VAT, if you don’t have to register then don’t. I’ve heard some people think it makes their company appear bigger than it is, and it does mean you can claim the VAT back from any purchases. However, if you’re not registered then you don’t have to charge VAT on your hire prices so you’ve automatically got a sizeable and vital discount on your competitors.
For those charging VAT make sure you put in your terms and conditions ‘VAT charged at current rate’. This covers you if the VAT goes up between taking the booking and your customer paying the balance. Generally we’d have advance notice of any increase (this 2.5% cut is only temporary remember) so any customer who’s paid you a deposit can opt to pay in full in advance and take the lower rate applicable at time of payment. Does that make sense?
Here’s an example:
Jane Jones is marrying John Smith in June 2010. They book a marquee with you that’s priced at Â£5k + VAT by paying a 20% deposit in November 2009 (Â£1000 + VAT at 15% = Â£1150).
It’s announced that VAT will go back up to 17.5% from 1st January 2010 onwards.
You write to Jane & John saying they can either pay the balance before 1st January 2010 and pay VAT at 15%, or they can wait until their wedding and pay VAT at 17.5% (you see how adding that note about ‘current rate of VAT’ in your terms and conditions has covered you here?).
either a) pay Â£4000 + 15% VAT = Â£4600 before 1st January 2010
or b) pay Â£4000 + 17.5% VAT = Â£4700 at the time of their wedding.
Writing to your customer with this gives you goodwill and might help your cashflow while also helping the customer. Win-win 🙂
As it’s the VAT man you’re evading I think this is worth mentioning here. No matter who you are you’ll be offered to drop the VAT for cash. We used to lose around 8% of our business by not accepting cash jobs.
It’s you who’s taking all the risk, not the customer.
You save by not paying income tax & national insurance but personally I prefer to sleep at night and not worry about VAT inspections (which are unpleasant even when you’ve got nothing to hide). It’s up to you. Lastly
Geoff from www.roustabout.info has been in touch in case anyone wants to hire or buy big top style tents. Always worth remembering in case you have a customer who wants something different to clearspans.
Once again apologies for the screwed up fonts on some earlier posts. I’ve no idea how to fix them, I copy & pasted from Word and the blog doesn’t seem to like it in some browsers. I now write on here directly (spilling mistakes and all).
So, back to marquees.
Obviously we got most of our work by being charming, witty and handsome chaps when visiting customers 😉 Unbelievably some people weren’t bowled over by a flash of our pearly whites and actually wanted some substance to our lavish promises.
I talked before (and undoubtedly will again) about site visits so won’t cover that now, just assume that you’ve left a reasonable impression. Likewise if you’re supplying quotes over the phone without viewing the site, hopefully you’ve left on good terms and they’re now expecting a quote in the post.
1st rule –dont leave your customer waiting. We’d always send our quotes out the same day or the following day. Any longer than that (problems can occur) and we’d phone to let them know.
2nd rule –always send a quote 1st class. Trust me, it’s worth the extra few pence.
Presentation is key. Send your quote out folded in 4 to fit into a small envelope and it looks cheap and not easy to lay out and read.
We sent all of our quotes our using A4 envelopes in a blue presentation folder (we actually had these printed with our logo as well but they’ve become more expensive since then). We then included:
Two copies of the quote with terms and conditions on the back. The customer would sign one and send it back with 20% deposit.
Stamped addressed envelope back to us (this can be a small envelope)
Colour diagram laminated
photocopy of the diagram for customer to draw all over
Short of including a pen for them to sign it with we tried to think of everything, it looked very impressive and professional.
If you’re just starting out I’d suggest all of this is a bit much but bear it in mind for the future as you expand. To keep it simple I’d just send out the quotes in an A4 envelope and clip a small diagram (courtesy of our shiny new marquee planner) to the top -remember to cut off our name. That way you’re getting most of the benefit without most of the expense (presentation folders & laminator).
Finally if your printer can handle A4 envelopes I always think it looks better having printed addresses (though that’s more personal opinion).
If there’s one thing that you want to get right it’s heating, if people are cold it’ll ruin their night no matter what the marquee looks like.
So here are things to bear in mind with marquee heaters:
Always always use ones with a fan in, you need to be able to throw the heat around the marquee. Halogen heaters*, patio heaters, cabinet heaters, table heaters are all useless in a marquee. Indirect heaters and space heaters are the best.
Think about the layout of your marquee, heaters should be positioned near seating areas and pointing towards doors or anywhere heat will escape from. Don’t have them pointing towards a dance floor.
In April/May and September/October you will just need heaters to heat the marquee up before people arrive and at the end of the evening when the temperature drops
In Dec/Jan/Feb you need at least twice as many heaters to make sure it’s toasty all night. I always made sure there were enough heaters to make the marquee uncomfortably hot, that way you always know your customer is in complete control (assuming they’re all adjustable).
If there’s snow forecast make sure your customer knows to have the heaters on regularly to melt it off the roof. If it builds up that’s a lot of weight to be on top of your marquee. Even if it means you have to go out with more fuel it’s worth making sure no snow settles on your marquee.
It’s got to be said the ideal heaters are indirect ones, they’re large units that sit outside the marquee and are controlled by a thermostat so the customer has complete control. They can be powered by gas or diesel, we preferred gas as it’s easier but lots of people prefer diesel. The only problem is indirect heaters are very expensive.
Indirect heaters typically cost Â£1500 and hire out for Â£150-Â£200.
Space heaters cost Â£100-Â£200 and hire out for Â£50-Â£90 but they’re quite noisy, not incredibly child friendly (a grate stops anyone touching the flame) and give off water vapour when burning gas.
* Knowing we’d be busy with the showmans show I wrote this 3 weeks ago, since then I’ve been to Paris (on business -which sounds good but really it was just an excuse to see my brother in law) and eaten outside under a halogen heater. I’ll concede that maybe in small (3m/4m) draughtless marquees they may be useful to take the chill off. In winter I’d still go with a fan heater.
Thanks for reading
Some new satin linings have been making their way into the industry, Iâ€™m not keen and think people should be very wary before buying them. Hereâ€™s why:
Weâ€™ve been making marquee linings for 15-20 years -itâ€™s how I originally got in to the marquee hire industry. Weâ€™re certainly nowhere near the biggest manufacturer but we do a good job and everythingâ€™s made by us in the UK. Basically, when it comes to marquee linings we like to think we know what weâ€™re talking about.
For those who donâ€™t know most marquee linings manufactured in the UK use an ivory polyester, although thereâ€™s seemingly 101 different shades of ivory an industry standard is slowly filtering through so they all match. Linings made in China use satin material and with the quantities made in China probably outnumber the polyester ones in the world.
But youâ€™re not reading this for facts, youâ€™re reading this for my opinion. And my opinion is satin marquee linings are crap. Shiny satin linings look cheap and just lack the class of their polyester counterparts.
Are made from cheaper inferior material
Reflect the light (not a good thing appearance-wise)
Are made in the cheapest method possible, this generally means the walls are attached to the roofs and no finishing pelmet or swag is used.
If you do buy satin linings make make sure they satisfy BS 7837: 1996 for flammability, you should receive a certificate with any new marquee linings. A lot of marquees and linings made in China are intended for the US market, unfortunately their flammability test requirements are lower than British Standards.
If you take nothing else away from reading this blog take this:
Just because something states it’s flame rertardant doesn’t mean it satisfies british standards -always insist on a copy of the test report satisfying BS 7837: 1996
Thereâ€™s other gazebos, pop-ups and party tents available but none of them are really suited to the hire industry.
-Neither of us like traditional canvas marquees. They have their place for some companies but neither of us wanted to get involved with them.
-Both of us like aluminium frame structures, no argument there the 9m & 12m wide stuff is very impressive.
-But heâ€™s missing a trick by not using steep pipe marquees for his 6m wide stock.
When I ran our hire company we had 6m, 9m and 12m wide marquees. 6m wide steel pipe marquees are the most lucrative, offering the best return on investment (ROI) of any of the 3 sizes.
In fact about the only thing we had that offered a better ROI was fairy lights (buy for Â£30, hire out for Â£30).
So for all you entrepreneurs out there who donâ€™t suffer from marquee snobbery, hereâ€™s some figures:
6m x 12m DIY Marquee
6m x 12m Aluminium frame marquee
Cost new (with linings)
Expected rental (varies greatly with area)
Expected life span in the hire industry
Marquee: 2-4 years
Linings: 4-5 years
Windows 2-3 years
Linings: 4-5 years
PVC 5 years
Metalwork 20 years
I think itâ€™s reasonable to assume:
-you have Â£8500 to spend
-you rent out a marquee for on average 20 weekends a year
-your profit is 50%
Aluminium frame marquee
-Â£8,100 (6 lined marquees)
-Â£8,500 (1 lined marquee)
Return from 2 years hiring
Profit after 2 years
-Â£5,100 (replace 6 marquees)
-Â£400 (replace 4 windows)
Return from further 2 years hiring
Profit after 4 years
Â£130,800 vs Â£15,100!! I really donâ€™t see thereâ€™s any argument.
As anyone will recognise this is a simplified version of a business. You canâ€™t rely on getting 20 bookings all paying full price if youâ€™re starting up a new company, but then thatâ€™s the case no matter which style of marquee you use.
This doesnâ€™t take in to consideration extras like flooring, lighting, furniture etc which are all lucrative in their own right â€“a lot of companies refuse to do an empty marquee. Surely having 6 marquees gives you greater opportunity to make money from extras than having one marquee?
If youâ€™re starting a business or replenishing your 6m wide stock buying DIY Marquees gives you the best return on investment available.
Iâ€™ve tried to state the facts and figures in an unbiased manner, I just think thereâ€™s a few people out there who need to remember why weâ€™re in this business -putting food on your childrenâ€™s plate/putting beer in your pint glass, whateverâ€™s your motivation.
Thanks for reading, I hope Iâ€™ve given some people something to think about.
Ever gone in to a marquee and the matting looks like the waves on an angry sea? Assuming it was laid correctly there’s actually a very simple reason.
As mentioned in a previous post coconut matting is a very popular way of flooring marquees. Harder wearing and longer lasting than carpet, more attractive (in a lot of peoples opinion) and cheaper than plastic flooring it’s the flooring most marquee hire companies use.
So why does it ruckle up so much even if noone’s been walking on it?
The answer is it’s because it’s a natural fibre and absorbs moisture. If you floor a marquee with matting on a sunny afternoon no matter how tightly you stretched it the following morning it will be all ruckled – it absorbs the moisture from the dew and expands.
So the lesson is if you’re faced with ruckled matting (whether it’s you in the marquee or your customer panicking on the phone) don’t relay it! Wait until the afternoon for it to dry out and it should go back to it’s previous flat self.
Of course if it’s still ruckled in the afternoon it means it wasn’t laid correctly -try stretching it tighter or space the nails closer together.
Lisa from County Marquees made a good point after part 1 -google offer a free tool to research keywords. In my experience this is very useful but not detailed enough to get more specific data (impressions for marquee hire Reigate wouldn’t appear for example).
If you haven’t read part 1 you should go read that first otherwise this won’t make sense (or be practical to carry out).
Optimising your website for your chosen keywords
This step is the hardest. You can do it yourself but it takes a lot of trial and error -it took me over a year to learn. Apparently there are some programs available to do this step but most people seem to pay a professional to optimise their site(s).
Optimising takes 2-3 days and the going rate seems Â£600-Â£1000. If you’ve bought some of our marquees then I’d offer to do this at the same rate I charge my mates (Â£300 currently). I’d prefer not to though as my workload is pretty big but we try to make sure we look after existing customers.
Creating a linking strategy
This sounds complicated but actually is pretty easy.
Inbound links (links from other sites to your site) count as a ‘vote’ for your site. The more relevant the website that’s linking to you the better quality the vote. So a link from a marquee hire advice blog like this would count more than a link from a carpenters for example. Make sense?
Website’s are great things (you’re reading one so let’s assume you know that already!). The bigger you get the more time work and effort should go in to it, especially getting it up the search rankings.
There are 3 steps to getting your marquee hire site up the rankings:
Do some research on what keywords and phrases you want to target
Optimise your website for your chosen keywords
Carry out a linking strategy
I’m going to cover number 1 today and 2 & 3 next week.
Researching keywords & phrases
Ignoring the fact I can’t legally set up a marquee hire company due to the contract I signed when selling our old company let’s imagine I was starting a new hire company -Spencer’s marquees (I like it already).
The first thing is to be realistic.Â You’re not going to get top of the rankings for ‘marquee hire’ without paying a professional upwards of Â£15k/yr (actually good value, we spent more on Yellow Pages years ago). But think about it, unless you’re covering all of the UK you don’t want to be.
I live in Reigate so I’d imagine the terms I want to get are ‘marquee hire reigate’, ‘marquee hire redhill’, ‘marquee hire surrey’ that kind of thing. But before I go any further I need to make sure & do some research.
First thing is to set up a google adwords account -there’s always offers & vouchers around for adwords so look around for those before you sign up. Â£20/Â£30 free is typical (when you pay Â£10). For those who don’t know google adwords are the paid adverts that appear on the right (and sometimes above) any google search. It’s how they make their money.
The next thing to do is put as many phrases into that keyword list as possible. We all know there’ll be lots of searches for ‘marquees’ and ‘marquee hire’ but you need to get inventive, when researching I’ll typically have 60-100 keyword phrases in this list (google suggests some too). Set each bid to the minimum bid 2 or 3p.
Here’s the ironic thing -obviously it’s nice getting people to click through to your website but you’re not bothered if they do or not. What you need is the column marked ‘impressions’. This shows the number of people who have searched through google for that keyword phrase since you started your campaign. Easy research huh?
Check back regularly to make sure no keywords have become inactive then leave it for 2-8 weeks until there’s an established pattern and you know which keywords you want to use.
Until this research is finished you can’t move on to step 2.
A lot of companies will call you up promising to get you “to the top of the google rankings”. The problems with these companies are:
What keywords are they promising to get you to the top for? It’s pointless getting to the top for googling ‘Spencer’s Marquees’, that’s not going to bring in more business it’s just going to increase my ego (which I’m quite happy with)
These companies will only do step 3 of my list above. They’ll quote ‘a recent google white paper’ that mentions you need quality inbound links, which is true but ignores keyword research and optimising your site which isfar more important. Don’t give them your money, it’s not worth it.
Don’t believe I know what I’m talking about? Google ‘marquee hire advice’ and this blog is usually number 1. Google ‘marquee for sale’ and our domestic sales site is usually number 1.
If you’re starting a marquee hire business you should have a website. It’s not essential, to start with you’ve probably got more things on your mind but you should certainly get one sooner rather than later.
What should you put on a website?
Photos and lots of them. People will visit your website wanting an idea of what you do. Photos are the easiest way to do this.
Make all wording reassuring. People want to know you’re reliable and will turn up with their marquee.
It’s up to you whether you put a full price list online, certainly some ideas of prices will help.
Keep it simple, clean and tidy. Don’t start putting loads of special effects or use coloured backgrounds -keep the background white or a very light colour and only use special effects if they’re functional (slide shows for example).
My next couple of articles will be about getting your website up the search rankings. If you want to do this you’ll need to be able to change several things – the title, description, and a few other features which some website design programs don’t allow you to do.
I'm Spencer King, an ex-marquee erector. This blog is designed to help those running a hire business or thinking of starting. I don't claim to know everything, I'm just trying to help people avoid the mistakes I made!
Check out our event planning section for advice on planning your own marquee event.
Please contact us if we can help or offer advice in any way.
I'm human, I make mistakes. All advice offered on this site is to the best of my knowledge and written in goodwill. If you find anything factually incorrect, offensive or generally disagreeable please contact me and it will be removed immediately.
I disclaim any liability incurred in connection to information supplied in this blog.