With all of the “newer media” outlets available for the publicity of pest control companies today, like social media platforms, messaging apps, streaming, and podcasts, advertising on AM/FM radio might seem like an “old school” marketing decision. However, according to Nielsen, a global measurement and data analytics company, audio is available on multiple platforms and devices and “radio alone reaches almost 270 million American listeners each week.” This information could help to explain why one Missouri-based PCO has found radio advertising to be a successful, 18-year marketing and company-branding tool for his business.
IN THE BEGINNING. When Steve Hotsenpiller, owner/president of Steve’s Pest Control in Holts Summit, Mo., walked into the office of Zimmer Radio & Marketing Group one day in 2001 and said, “I’d like to talk to somebody about advertising, I think they about dropped their jaw[s].” Normally radio marketing companies approach potential advertisers, not the other way around, explains Hotsenpiller. “I just realized that I needed help with making people aware of who I was,” and what his company has to offer, says Hotsenpiller. And, he had a “gut feeling” that radio advertising was the avenue he needed to explore. “I decided to give it a good try. We had a jingle written that we still use today,” he says.
A SUCCESSFUL APPROACH. Now, Hotsenpiller knows that his 18-year commitment to radio advertising has proven to be a successful path, and he attributes the achievement to several factors: having a good jingle, being repetitive, and sticking with the commitment. As a result, Steve’s Pest Control stands out in the mostly rural central Missouri area. “We’re unique to our market” because no other pest control company in the area “really has an aggressive branding campaign,” he says.
Hotsenpiller wants to be involved with the marketing and branding of his pest control business, and, as a result, working with the radio marketing group has been collaborative. Their joint effort has produced radio ads geared towards seasonal pest control targets, all while repeating the company name and jingle within each commercial, for branding purposes. “About every 45 days we change the message (for ant or termite season, for example), so at this point we have about 50-some commercials that have been produced,” he says.
Zimmer broadcasts on nine radio stations ranging from “sports, classic rock, pop, country, adult contemporary, and talk radio,” shares Hotsenpiller. Starting with one station in 2001, Steve’s Pest Control now advertises on all of them. “We do a minute commercial on most of them,” so about 25 to 35 commercials a week per station, he says. One successful tactic in particular has been to advertise during the radio broadcasting of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball games where the company is advertised four times per game. “Not everyone listens, but the ones that [do] are pretty die-hard, so I know I have a captive audience,” says Hotsenpiller.
In addition to a typical radio ad, his company also sponsors Zimmer events, like the University of Missouri (a.k.a. “Mizzou”) football game tailgating parties. During each promotion of the event, therefore, Steve’s Pest Control is stated aloud or written.
INcremental sales. Per Nielsen, for each $1 spent in radio campaigns, advertisers in the general home improvement category realized over $9 in incremental sales. In Hotsenpiller’s case, he does not know the exact radio advertising return on investment, but he does know that the immeasurable — or the soft returns — of his 18-year campaigns, like awareness, branding, and longevity, are strong for his company.
Hotsenpiller recommends that other pest control companies interested in radio advertising commit to a long-term campaign in order to be successful. He says, “It’s got to be a monthly, 12-month commitment; you need a clever jingle that is repeated every time; and, don’t spread your advertising dollars out over a large area.” In other words, Hotsenpiller explains that if a PCO only has the budget to advertise on one radio station, “then be strong on that station.”
CONTINUAL AWARENESS. “We spend about 7 percent of our income on advertising, and 80 percent of that is on the radio,” he says. And, repetition of Steve’s Pest Control on the radio is the largest benefit for Hotsenpiller. Generating leads from a sponsored concert, for instance, through the collection of names, addresses, and phone numbers, “is the back side of the opportunity,” he says. The repetition of the company name with daily ads and regular sponsorships, has made Steve’s Pest Control “a household name in the area.”
Steve’s Pest Control, through Zimmer, also sponsors a service called Z-Text. People subscribe to receive text message alerts on their cell phones about school closings, weather, accidents, traffic, and special events. When an alert is sent, listed at the top of the text is Hotsenpiller’s company’s website. “When they promote [the service] on the radio, which they do constantly, [they say], ‘sign up for Z-Text sponsored by Steve’s Pest Control,’” he says. Through the radio ads, the jingle, uniform messaging, and now Z-Text, “we have extremely high top-of- mind awareness,” says Hotsenpiller.
BRANDING & LONGEVITY. “What makes the relationship with the radio company successful is the branding of the name that is said over and over and over,” explains Hotsenpiller. Although it took years to reach this status, now Steve’s Pest Control is advertised on all nine of Zimmer’s stations. To brand even further, the company sponsors the radio’s weather information where before the weather broadcast, the announcer says, “Brought to you by Steve’s Pest Control.” Part of branding is repetition, so when some of the stations provide the weather “40 times a day,” per Hotsenpiller, “over the years you really brand the name.” Additionally, he maintains branding using similar messaging with any other television or magazine ads, as well as using consistent-looking, mint conditioned trucks.
With branding comes long-term recognition. Aside from people occasionally singing Hotsenpiller his own jingle, he says, “We’re getting into a second generation of people.” When he first started radio advertising, “kids who were hearing the [jingle] are now adults, spending money.” This knowledge of longevity with his brand is what will keep Hotsenpiller advertising on the radio for the long-term. “Radio, for me, has been really good,” he says.
The author is an Ohio-based freelancer.