It used to be that people didn’t talk about having bed bugs. They didn’t want anybody to know; not family, not close friends. That’s changing. People are “not as secretive as they used to be. They’re now asking around” about the service and if they hear you do good work they’re not so concerned about the price, said Garey Clark of Clark Pest Remedy, McDonough, Ga.

Brad Carrier of Bugsy’s Pest Solutions, Waterloo, Iowa, has received a few bed bug referrals. “That would never have happened five years ago,” he said.

“There’s not that hysteria that there was six, seven, eight years ago. The vast majority of people I’ve talked to either have had them or know someone who’s had bed bugs at some point,” said Adam Carace, operations manager, Pest End, Methuen, Mass. They understand that control may take weeks, multiple treatments and lots of preparation and “they’re OK with that,” he said.

The fear of reporting a bed bug problem “definitely has to change,” especially for tenants of multi-unit housing because “when people keep it a secret and they’re ashamed to report it for whatever reason, that’s when those numbers build,” said Tami Stuparich, owner, California American Exterminator, Boulder Creek, Calif.

Of course customers still want discretion. “We have been asked multiple times not to have any markings on (bed bug service vehicles) whatsoever,” said Scott Ballard of S&S Termite & Pest Control in Opelika, Ala.

On billboards and radio, PMPs generally advertise bed bug control as one of the services they offer. They promote it specifically online, using pay-per-click advertising, SEO and social media. “If they search for bed bugs on Google we’ll come up,” explained Carace.

According to PCT’s 2018 State of the Bed Bug Control Market survey, sponsored by Zoëcon, pest management professionals highlight their certified technicians (63 percent), excellent control (56 percent), free inspections (46 percent), discreet service (43 percent), service guarantee (43 percent) and use of mattress encasements/active mattress liners (40 percent) in marketing efforts.

The author is a frequent PCT contributor.