© Weedezign | Thinkstock.com

The five most effective ways to advertise mosquito control services are word of mouth (67 percent), online (32 percent), email marketing (22 percent), and radio and door hangers/cloverleafing (tied at 15 percent each), found the PCT 2017 State of the Mosquito Control Market survey, sponsored by MGK.

Last year, many PMPs ramped up preseason marketing efforts to existing customers due to the media focus on Zika virus. It was the first time NaturZone Pest Control really promoted its long-offered program, said President Doug Longfellow.

Loyal Termite & Pest Control held a contest to encourage sales to existing customers. Technicians were paired with salesmen so “they would work each other” and “give each other leads,” said President Nick Lupini. A picnic kicked off the incentive program; a party and awards presentation closed it. The resulting number of upsells was “absolutely fantastic,” recalled Lupini.

Companies also tweaked websites and mailed out invoice stuffers, said PMPs in follow-up interviews.

One thing Swat Pest Management didn’t do was play on customer fears. “We’re a company that does not push scare tactics on people,” said Shaun Waters.

It’s not a sustainable sales tactic, agreed Jackie Thornton, COO, Alvin Pest Control. He promoted the service as a way for customers to take back their backyards. “We’re giving them something they didn’t have back,” he explained.

Some customers don’t realize they need a service “until you advertise” it, reminded Shawn Van Gorp, owner, Menninga Pest Control.

The First: A PMP with Zika virus

Jackie Thornton has the dubious honor of likely being the only pest management professional infected with Zika virus.

The owner of Alvin Pest Control in greater Houston unknowingly acquired the disease while on a two-week mission trip to Dominica in the Windward Islands last summer. A week after arriving home in Brazoria County, Texas, he experienced some “pretty pronounced” symptoms, including headache, rash and joint pain, prompting him to seek medical attention.

No treatment exists for Zika virus. “You can’t get rid of it; you can only basically treat the symptoms,” said Thornton. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus can stay active in men up to six months (eight weeks for women) and approximately 80 percent of people infected with the virus do not have symptoms.

“That’s the scary part because if you don’t know you have it then you’re not going to take any precautions” to prevent passing it on, said Thornton.

Four of the seven people on his mission trip showed symptoms of the disease but he’s sure the other three contracted it as well as they all stayed in the same open-air-window home, often getting bit by mosquitoes at night while sleeping, said Thornton.

“The biggest thing I learned was how unprepared our medical community is” for a disease like Zika, he said. He called numerous clinics and hospitals and “nobody knew nothing; they couldn’t even tell me where to go to get a test.”

Once a blood test confirmed the disease, Thornton was put on the “red list” of two area health departments. “I guess they looked at me as kind of like a Typhoid Mary,” he recalled.

Still, no one directed him on how to prevent further transmission of Zika virus, such as by wearing mosquito repellent. “I just knew to,” he said. “I know now I’m a carrier and I don’t want a mosquito to bite me,” especially since the mosquitoes that transmit the disease — Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus — are prevalent in his market area.

Education & Training: Technicians Know Mosquitoes

When it comes to training, PMPs generally feel technicians have an excellent or very good understanding of mosquito biology (66 percent), behavior (67 percent), and control (82 percent), found the PCT 2017 State of the Mosquito Control Market survey, sponsored by MGK.

Stuart Aust, president of Mosquito Doctor, believes the industry continues to increase its knowledge in this area. He recalled attending a regional mosquito association trade show years ago and being the only structural pest management company in attendance. That’s likely not the case anymore, he said. Technicians at Loyal Termite & Pest Control, Henrico, Va., get classroom and hands-on training in the service. In February they had a full-day of field training to prepare for the upcoming season.

Swat Pest Management, Evansville, Ind., begins with online training then heads to the field for hands-on learning.