Whether they have many years of experience in the pest control industry or just a few, all PMPs have different reasons to be confident in their businesses and their skill set. The key is communicating that message to prospective customers. That’s where marketing comes in.
“We’re not talking about strategies for closing sales once you have the opportunity, we’re talking about marketing techniques that are all about generating those opportunities in the first place,” said June Van Klaveren, founder of Compelling Communications, a marketing and communications firm that’s been serving the pest management industry for years. “These are methods for targeting promising markets, building your brand and generating and nurturing leads to drive faster growth and higher profits.”
According to Van Klaveren, most people choose the pest control service that offers the best value for their money, and there are a few simple strategies for maximizing the perceived value.
ADDING VALUE. “The best way to win business is, of course, not to cut prices or rates, but instead to add products or services that elevate your offerings, making them too good to resist — and this is called bundling,” she said.
For example, if your mosquito treatments are also effective against other household pests, let your customers know because that is something that raises the value of your service. Also, if your firm offers guarantees on your work, let customers know because such “add ons” definitely boost the value of your service.
Another strategy for adding value is productizing. Van Klaveren suggests adding a physical, educational component like a booklet or a tool kit to your services. This material is a tangible way to show your expertise in a service, while educating the customer in what they can do to prevent the pest.
Creating different service levels is another way for pest management professionals to add value, said Van Klaveren. Different service packages at various price points give potential customers options.
Once your offering is bundled, productized and put into tiers, it’s time to communicate that to the appropriate market.
COMMUNICATING EFFECTIVELY. “You might think everyone’s a candidate for your services; after all, mosquitoes can be a pest to just about anybody. But the determining factor really is who can afford your services,” Van Klaveren said. “Studies show that 45- to 65-year-olds are the age group that look for mosquito services. They’ve reached that age where they can afford your services and they have a real need.”
She added this age group is likely out of the do-it-yourself phase of their lives, and are looking for a service provider to make things easier. They also likely have children (or grandchildren) and pets they are looking to protect. Most live in a single-family home with a nice yard they want to enjoy.
Once you sell to that customer it is important to keep them engaged by upselling and reselling, which costs a lot less and gives a significantly higher yield than marketing to new prospects.
“As your technicians are performing their regular pest control services, they should take note of elements around the home that indicate that the family likes to spend time in their backyard, like patio furniture, and then ask them to record those leads,” said Van Klaveren.
She added, “They might look for grills, pools, a wooded area, hot tubs — anything that says to them, ‘Hey these folks like to spend time in their backyard,’ and then be sure to have them record that address because that becomes a great lead for you, as well as any neighbors they have that fit that criteria as well.”
MAKE THE SALE. Technicians can talk to homeowners about conditions at their home that may be conducive to mosquitoes or other pests, and leave behind support materials after these inspections/surveys. Incentivize your technicians to bring those leads and that information back into the office by offering some type of reward if they become customers.
You can even advertise those complementary property audits to customers.
“A lot of times companies do a lot of different services but they fail to talk about them, just assuming that the client or the customer knows all about it,” Van Klaveren said. “Well you know what they say about assuming, so come right out and tell your clients and tell your prospects that we offer a free mosquito conditions audit.”
Then, Van Klaveren suggests using a combination of sales tactics and marketing techniques to reach out to these customers and prospective customers every four to six weeks. That includes sales calls, mailers or emails with your best offers, as well as educational materials like newsletters and case studies.
But what exactly are you going to tell them with your messaging?
“There’s a lot that goes into marketing your mosquito services and one of the most important things, if not the most important, is your message,” said Van Klaveren. “I always like to talk about identifying benefits because a lot of pest control companies will feel that one of the benefits of their service is that they’ve been in business for 40 years or something like that, when the real benefit is that they are so experienced that they will be able to handle any pest control problem that comes up.”
Van Klaveren suggests taking some time to identify your company’s unique benefits, especially what sets it apart from the competition.
“Maybe it’s the way you communicate after service, maybe it’s the materials you use and how you apply them, maybe it’s your guarantee, but whatever it is write down your unique benefits and use them in all of your marketing messages,” she said.
These benefit-oriented messages are far more effective than fear-oriented messages.
She added that pest management professionals also should set customer expectations with their message. Be sure customers are aware of all aspects of a service and that they understand any guarantees that may come along with that service.
CREATING A NICHE. Once your message is set, it’s time to look at your marketing approach, and Van Klaveren suggests starting by finding complementary companies.
“It’s a real cost saver if you partner with companies that complement yours and who are likely to refer their clients to you,” Van Klaveren said. Partners could be any entity from tent rental companies and wedding planners to landscaping and pool installation companies.
“Choose one and develop a niche,” she said. “The fastest growing firms tend to be the specialists in carefully targeted niches, and that’s an area of the industry they understand thoroughly.”
Specialization like this also simplifies your marketing efforts by distinguishing exactly what sets you apart from your competition.
“Specialization is the most powerful differentiator, and when you get right down to it people want someone who is an expert,” Van Klaveren said.
THE RIGHT MESSAGE. Education is another important aspect of a pest management marketing approach. “I think your message should be 70 percent education and 30 percent sales,” she said. “People appreciate information. They don’t always appreciate sales.”
Choosing the right channel for your message is nearly as important as the message itself. Use current channels that you know work, like home and garden shows, fliers, post cards, invoice stuffers, online ads, radio and TV, but also focus on low-hanging fruit like using your website homepage to highlight services you are trying to push.
“What about a letter to your current customers?” Van Klaveren asked. “Gosh, this is one of the easiest things you can do. A well written letter introducing your mosquito services is a great idea and it’s cost effective.”
Less conventional avenues, like Pinterest, also can yield high results.
“Pinterest is one of the most highly trafficked areas on the web. Now you may feel that this is just for recipes or decorating tips…but just as an experiment go on Pinterest and search for mosquito control,” Van Klaveren said. “You’re going to find a lot of do-it-yourself stuff and tips about using the craziest things to repel mosquitoes, but you’ll also find some pest control companies that have actually used Pinterest to their advantage.”
Another unconventional opportunity on social media is posting in Facebook and LinkedIn groups. A high participation group is a great way to answer potential customers’ questions and to show your expertise.
And no matter what channel the message was originally developed for, it can be repurposed for other mediums. Break down information from a blog to use in Facebook and Twitter posts, or edit a video to show on different platforms.
“Timing is also important,” Van Klaveren said. “You need to be marketing your mosquito services now and throughout the season, not just when it gets to be hot weather and mosquitoes are at their peak. Start now before they become a problem.”
Just remember, creating a successful marketing plan boils down to communication.
“The most important thing really in marketing your mosquito services is communication — communication with your customers and communication with your technicians so they know exactly what their role is in the whole thing,” Van Klaveren said.
She added that a little creativity is exactly what sets successful pest management professionals apart.
“‘Business unusual’ not ‘business as usual.’ That’s really what you need to focus on because the unusual is going to stand out,” Van Klaveren said. “There are so many marketing messages out there that really stand out; you need to be a little unusual.”