Check your mailbox. Notice the yard signs. Mosquito control is a growing service, and it’s only a matter of time before treatments are a household norm if you ask the franchise founder and CEO of Mosquito Joe, Kevin Wilson.
Mosquito Joe has grown to 170 franchises in 26 states, and Wilson expects about 80 more to come online this year. Lawn care companies also are jumping on board, with companies like LawnAmerica in Tulsa, Okla., rolling out a division called Buzz Off. Its dedicated mini-van is emblazoned with “Buzz Off” to create brand awareness.
Humoring customers with the reality of how annoying mosquitoes can be is one of Mosquito Joe’s marketing strategies. (They’re not interested using that four-letter word in ads — Z-I-K-A.)
The company’s no-fear marketing uses messages like, “We haven’t seen you outside in a while…” Another postcard reads, “If you decide not to call us, save this card for swatting.” Homeowners can relate to come-ons like, “Tired of being the main course in your own backyard?” and “Are you tired of donating blood on the way to the mailbox?”
The point is: Mosquitoes bite, and there’s a way to control the nuisance and help protect against the viruses we’re reading about in the news.
So, in a market that seems buzzing with potential, are these strategies effective? What kinds of advertising are we seeing?
To find out, PCT talked to Wilson and Ben Whitmer, senior director of marketing, planning and strategy at Terminix.
What message do you hope potential clients get from your advertising?
Kevin Wilson (KW): We use a lot of humor in our marketing. We take what we do seriously, but we don’t necessarily take ourselves too seriously. So, we use humor in a tasteful, tactful way — and that’s not easy to do in marketing. But, if it is done well it can create a lasting memory for the potential customer, and when they have that point of pain (and are fed up with mosquitoes), they’ll remember to call us.
Ben Whitmer (BW): This year, Zika publicity has many customers interested in mosquito control services. Google-related search queries for mosquito-related terms are up 27 percent year-to-date vs. last year. We take pride in the fact that more than 2 million customers trust us to protect their homes and families, and many chose to add our innovative mosquito solution when it was introduced two years ago.
What about scare tactics? “Zika,” after all, is a four-letter word. (So is “West” and “Nile.”)
BW: Consumers are smart. They know when a company is being insincere. Scare tactics aren’t a part of the Terminix marketing approach. We continue to earn our customers’ trust by providing them with the education and tools needed to make sound decisions for their home or business.
KW: We have seen companies (marketing) in ways we decided not to, and one is focusing on the fear of getting a virus. We will occasionally educate on what Zika is and what it isn’t. We created a landing site on our web page because we had customers calling us all the time saying, “Tell me about Zika.” We stream news and information on to our website so people can look at articles from the CDC. We created a Q&A that we sent out, but we have never taken the approach of using the fear of getting a virus.
Is there more competition in the mosquito market now?
KW: We are seeing more companies get into the business, and that puts some pressure on price, at least in the short-term. New entrants (to the market) think the best way to get customers is to cut prices. Eventually, customers realize that going with the cheapest service doesn’t pay off.
Does your advertising prompt people to call?
BW: Typically, a customer is calling because they have a pest problem and want it taken care of right away. Because of our technicians’ personal relationships with both commercial and residential customers, we often receive referrals and calls based on word of mouth.
KW: The fact that our (humorous campaigns) cause people to smile when they call us, they remember us that way. We use different slogans every year, and overall we get very positive feedback through surveys and calls. People say they like the humor and it makes us different. We have seen some competitors attempt to replicate our humor, but the challenge is it has to be part of your entire strategy. You can’t just send out a postcard that’s funny and expect it to work. The person answering the line has to engage you in a meaningful way. You can’t change your look and brand with a one-off postcard. And, of course, you have to deliver quality service that backs up your promise.
The author is a frequent contributor to PCT.