Sarah Thomas-Clark, co-owner and vice president of Thomas Pest Services, Albany, N.Y., recently posed a pertinent question to PCT Mosquito Control Virtual Conference participants: “Why should you consider entering the mosquito management business?”
During her presentation about marketing, she noted that mosquito populations have increased in recent years, as have news media reports about mosquito-borne illnesses. “Our industry is in the business of protecting the health and property of consumers with a beneficial service,” she said. “And mosquitoes have definitely moved beyond just being a nuisance pest. They’ve become a critical public health problem. It’s our obligation as pest management professionals to protect our customers — and that’s an opportunity for you.”
Thomas-Clark encouraged PMPs who have not yet entered the mosquito business to start with their current customer base. Doing so means there won’t be too much of an upfront cost, she said. “Adding mosquito control to your existing services can increase technician production rates and produce a top-of-the-mind awareness for your customers when you’re servicing (their properties). Your customers see your trucks. They get your notifications. They know what services you offer. They then tell family (and) friends, which turn into referrals,” she said. “The media has helped spread awareness of the mosquito problems, unfortunately sometimes (as) a scare tactic.”
EFFICIENT MARKETING. Thomas-Clark, who heads up sales and marketing for her company, including its mosquito control program, shared her ideas on how to market that service efficiently and cost effectively.
PMPs need to create a marketing plan that will meet their company’s needs and the needs of their customers, she advised. A customer survey will help determine those needs. The survey information will point to the educational, sales and communication strategies of the marketing plan.
“It’s always a good idea to survey your customers for their feedback. We do that at several different times — at the height of the mosquito season to make service adjustments if needed, and at the end of the season to see how they perceive our service and pricing.”
She said technicians are helpful in obtaining person-to-person feedback, too. Several years ago, two of her company’s technicians reported their customers said the products being used were not giving them results, so mid-season Thomas Pest Services changed products successfully.
WORKING WITH CUSTOMERS. “Your technicians are always interfacing with your customers. They’ve formed relationships with them, more so than your office staff. So when they’re at a customer’s home, ask them to take a few extra minutes to do an environmental audit of the property,” Thomas-Clark said. “And if they find a mosquito control need, that could be communicated to the customer and could be an easy sales pitch for your techs.”
Marketing efforts can be a big help in providing top-of-mind awareness, she emphasized. “An email newsletter or email service notifications, such as ours, can also inform your customers about your new service and even offer them a money-savings coupon. Our company also produces brochures and invoice stuffers that promote our mosquito service, as well as door-hangers and oversized postcards that include pertinent information.”
Thomas Pest Services advertises in local newspapers as well, which has been highly effective, she said. The company changes the content of the ads periodically to keep messages fresh and sometimes combines different service promotions in the ads. One ad promotes mosquito, ant, tick and squirrel services and offers a free environmental audit, to further promote mosquito control. “If someone responds and asks for that environmental audit, that gives us another foot in their door,” she said.
Her company also uses online PPC (pay-per-click) advertising, which is designed to get new business from customers who respond to their online ads. PPC is a model of internet marketing in which advertisers pay a fee each time one of their ads is clicked. It’s a way of buying visits to their website and capturing information from responding prospects on a landing page.
SEARCH ENGINES. Search engine advertising is one of the most popular forms of PPC, she said. It allows advertisers to bid for placement in a search engine’s “sponsored links” section so when someone searches a keyword that is related to their business offering, the firm appears. “Every time our ad is clicked, sending a visitor to our website, we have to pay the search engine a small fee. When PPC is working correctly, the fee is (nominal), because the visit is worth more than what you pay for it.”
Much is involved in building a winning PPC campaign: from researching and selecting the right keywords, to organizing those keywords into well-organized campaigns, to setting up PPC landing pages that are optimized for conversions. Search engines reward advertisers who can create relevant, intelligently targeted pay-per-click campaigns by charging them less for ad clicks. If your ads and landing pages are useful and satisfying to users, you’re charged less per click, leading to higher profits for your business. If you want to start using PPC, it’s important to learn how to do it right, she said.
BROCHURES. Thomas-Clark encouraged PMPs to create a brochure specifically about mosquitoes and mosquito control. “It can help customers learn about your service and it can provide them with tips on how to reduce the risk of mosquitoes on their property.”
The personal touch can enter the marketing communications arena as well, she said. “When your techs are servicing for mosquitoes and a next-door neighbor is out raking leaves, for example, we encourage (them) to talk to the neighbor and explain what they are doing. Hopefully that will trigger some questions about the neighbor’s needs that we can answer.”
Thomas-Clark said her company was lucky in that most of their firm’s technicians are outgoing and like to sell. (They do earn commissions.) The organization recently hired its first sales inspector and started a sales competition to see who could sell the most vector services using the company’s customer base. “A $300 cash award is their incentive to win, and I know our people love a good competition. It motivates them to sell,” she said.
The author has been writing about the pest management industry for more than 30 years.