Editor’s note: The Professional Women in Pest Management (PWIPM) held its Leadership Forum virtually in November. More than 160 people registered for the event. UK-based freelance journalist Frances McKim filed the following report for PCT.

FAIRFAX, Va. — In November, and for the second time within 30 days, the National Pest Management Association hosted a virtual event. Following the success of their flagship event, PestWorld 2020, next it was time for the inaugural International Professional Women in Pest Management Leadership Forum, which was held Nov. 9 and 10. Once again the industry showed its adaptability by embracing this virtual format.

NPMA CEO Dominique Stumpf greeted attendees, expressing pride that these events dedicated to supporting women in pest management had grown over the last 20 years from breakfast meetings with fewer than 12 attendees, through lunch meetings to the now popular breakfast session held at PestWorld and attracting up to 200 participants. She announced that this virtual meeting was the first International Professional Women in Pest Management Leadership Forum (WLF).

Top left, clockwise: A panel on the first day of the program included Marillian Missiti, Buono Pest Control; Stacy O’Reilly, Plunkett’s Pest Control; Emily Thomas Kendrick, Arrow Exterminators; and Judy Dold, Rose Pest Solutions.

“The WLF has been designed with industry-focused programming, leadership development, business growth, personal development all around the perspective of the woman’s life cycle in the workforce,” Stumpf said. “All this is designed to address issues and challenges relating to women within pest management, yet with the involvement of male colleagues whose support is critical to achieve this goal.”

On behalf of the event’s premier sponsor, Bayer, Ildem Bozkurt, previously head of pest management and public health in the United States but recently promoted to head of vegetable seeds commercial operations for Europe, the Middle East and Africa and Asia-Pacific, touched on a topic that was soon to become a recurring theme of the event — namely how the COVID-19 pandemic had not only stopped the world in its tracks, but how women had been particularly affected.

Over the two days of the program there were excellent motivational and leadership speakers, maybe none more so than Kristen Hadeed who, almost by accident, founded Student Maid. She related her journey and assured her audience that it was totally fine to be “perfectly imperfect.”

Of course within the pest management industry itself there are inspirational female leaders — none more so than Judy Dold of Rose Pest Solutions; Emily Thomas Kendrick from Arrow Exterminators; and Plunkett’s Pest Control’s Stacy O’Reilly. The three women, under the chairmanship of Marillian Missiti of Buono Pest Control, held a panel discussing how women can break those “glass ceilings.” Dold said she felt there was an implicit bias as far as women were concerned but her three key messages were: to seek advice and the more senior the person you ask the better, to find a mentor and most of all, to be yourself.

PCT’s Editor-in-Chief Jodi Dorsch gave a presentation on the results of two recent surveys undertaken by PCT and NPMA. The first was featured in the January 2020 issue and researched how employees felt about their workplace, while an earlier survey featured in the January 2019 issue explored the diversity of those working within the pest management industry. Of particular relevance to this group of attendees was the finding that a mere 8.4 percent of technicians are female, despite the fact many residential customers are female and feel more comfortable with a same sex technician in their home. Eighty-three percent of office staff were female.

In addition to educational presentations there were coffee chats, a networking reception and even a yoga class. — Frances McKim


Matriarch of Cook’s Pest Control Passes Away at 92

DECATUR, ALA. — Eleanor “Jo” Mitcham Cook, the matriarch of Cook’s Pest Control, died on Dec. 7, at her home surrounded by her family. She was 92. She was best known in the pest management industry as the supportive wife and “right hand” of John Cook Sr., founder of Cook’s Pest Control.

Born Sept. 21, 1928, in Atlanta, Jo was the only child of James and Lola Mitcham. After graduating from Commercial High School in Atlanta, she met her future husband, who was enlisted in the Navy and served during World War II in Atlanta and in the South Pacific until discharged in 1946. On July 12, 1946, they married.

Mrs. Cook worked as a secretary while her husband studied architecture at Georgia Tech, graduating in 1950. That same year, after the death of his father, Mr. Cook gave up his dream of a career in architecture and returned to Decatur to fulfill termite guarantees for the family business, North Alabama Termite Company, later renamed Cook’s Pest Control. Under his leadership and with his wife’s help, Cook’s grew from one full-time employee and only a few accounts to become one of the largest pest control companies in the United States.

Mr. and Mrs. Cook built Cook’s Natural Science Museum in 1980. On June 7, 2019, Mrs. Cook and her family opened the newly created Cook Museum of Natural Science in downtown Decatur.

Mrs. Cook served the community through the Civitan Auxiliary, the Decatur General Auxiliary (now Decatur Morgan Hospital), the Junior League of Morgan County, Business and Professional Women’s Club and as area representative for the Christian Women’s Club.

In 2008, Mr. and Mrs. Cook’s life story was recorded in the book, Employee Number 2: The Story of John Cook and Cook’s Pest Control. In 2012, Columbia International University awarded Mrs. Cook an honorary doctorate.

Mrs. Cook is survived by her son John Robert (Lyn) Cook Jr.; grandson Brian (Leslie) Cook; great-grandson John Davis Cook and two great-granddaughters, Nora Jean Cook and Virginia Kate Cook, all of Decatur, Ala.


CO2 Presents Marketing Trends in 2021 and Beyond

Editor’s note: CO2, a pest control industry conference presented by Coalmarch that focuses on marketing, sales and customer service topics, was held virtually in December. Attendees heard from a speaker lineup that included Tim Pollard (Arrow Exterminators); Mike Romney (Fox Pest Control); Ian Robinson (Massey Services); Bobby Jenkins (ABC Home & Commercial Services) and more. Another highlight was a presentation from Coalmarch’s Rachel Betterbid, who played a large role in the creation of Coalmarch’s 2020 Pest Industry Marketing Benchmark Report.

RALEIGH, N.C. — To emphasize just how drastically digital is changing the marketing landscape, Coalmarch Vice President of Digital Marketing Rachel Betterbid reminded CO2 attendees that in 2019 smartphone traffic equaled desktop traffic.

“People are consuming digital content on an hourly basis,” Betterbid said as part of her opening remarks during her presentation titled State of the Industry — Marketing in 2021. “So it’s no surprise that digital marketing has become the main way that businesses are advertising themselves the last five to ten years, with more traditional means of advertising like billboards and print ads and TV ads essentially dying out.”

These smartphone usage numbers are only expected to increase, creating “a situation where people are using their phones more and more to find really fast solutions and to engage with businesses just like yours every single day,” Betterbid said.

A NECESSITY. Coalmarch’s owner, Donnie Shelton, also owns and operates fast-growing Triangle Pest Control (TPC), Raleigh, N.C. Betterbid used TPC as an example of a company whose steady, consistent growth has been driven exclusively through digital marketing. Specifically, Triangle has focused its resources on search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) efforts in order to dominate search engine results pages (SERPs).

“Coalmarch’s main marketing strategy [with Triangle] has been gaining what I would call search engine repetition and dominance,” said Betterbid, who then showed a Google screen capture where the words “Pest Control and Raleigh” were searched. At the top of the first page, in the paid section, Triangle Pest Control showed up twice: once in the Google local service ad and again in the traditional pay-per-click ad. In the organic section of the results page, in the map section, Triangle shows up first, and it is also the No. 1 organic result. “This shows that Triangle is showing up four times on one page, which also happens to be the very first page. That’s a lot of real estate to take up on search engine results,” Betterbid said.

How did Triangle attain such dominance, and how can other companies improve in these areas? It starts with Google Services ads. “It is the very first thing people see on a page when they search, and they get about 14 percent of all clicks,” she said.

Another area of importance is the Google Map Pack, which is important because this section includes reviews. Lastly, there are organic search results (driven by SEO). “This portion gets majority of the clicks (45 percent) and continues to be one of the best investments for your marketing dollars.”

2021 AND BEYOND. While Betterbid stressed that Google still dominates the landscape and that performing well on Google is critical to home services businesses, she said Coalmarch and Triangle Pest Control are investing in and investigating other areas.

The goal is to have an omni-channel marketing strategy, “which aims to provide customers with a seamless experience no matter where they are or what device that they’re using. And the operative words here are ‘multi-channel’ and ‘seamless experience,’” Betterbid said.

Digital marketing channels Betterbid said PCOs should keep an eye out for in 2021 include:

Amazon — Amazon has rolled out numerous new advertising features the last couple of years, including traditional display ads. “You don’t necessarily need to be selling a product in order to be advertising here. You can be a brand that just wants to direct traffic to your website,” Betterbid said. Right now, Betterbid said this is very expensive and cost prohibitive for most pest control companies, but she said, “I think in the upcoming years, Amazon is going to continue to try and compete with Google.”

Instagram Story Ads — Since Instagram began selling story ads, they have become extremely popular as marketers want to reach the half-billion people who visit Instagram daily. “I personally look at Instagram stories more than I do my actual feed,” said Betterbid, who added, “it’s a great way to get your brand in front of people in several different areas throughout Instagram.”

Influencers — Influencers are people on social media who have a sizable following and are able to influence or affect the purchasing decisions of whomever is following them. Although not common in the pest control industry now, Betterbid encouraged PCOs to look into influencer marketing. “I think it can help boost general brand awareness, trustworthiness and brand advocacy.”

Facebook Messenger — It’s becoming even more popular for consumers to talk directly with businesses via Facebook Messenger, Betterbid noted. In addition, Facebook Messenger has added new features like auto responders, chat boards, etc., that businesses can utilize to provide real-time information to several customers at once. “In addition, I think that simply monitoring Facebook Messenger and making it part of your daily process and your CSRs’ daily responsibilities is going to be really key.”

This year’s event had 160 attendees. Coalmarch said it plans to host CO2 in Raleigh next year. Learn more at https://co2.coalmarch.com/tickets2021. — Brad Harbison


Syngenta’s Pat Willenbrock Retires After 30 Years


GREENSBORO, N.C. — Syngenta’s Pat Willenbrock, head of marketing for Professional Pest Management, retired in December. Willenbrock had worked at Syngenta and its legacy companies for more than 30 years.

Prior to joining Syngenta, Willenbrock started her career as a market research analyst before joining Merck Animal Health in 1989, where she fulfilled the role of global abamectin product manager. Upon the Novartis purchase of Merck in 1997, she held the roles of diazinon product manager and home and garden marketing manager at Novartis. She eventually served in the head of marketing information role for Syngenta Crop Protection after Novartis and Zeneca merged to become Syngenta in 2000.

Willenbrock said she is proud to leave a legacy of teamwork, education and innovation. Under her leadership, Syngenta successfully launched numerous pest control solutions, including the PestPartners 365 Program and assurance programs such as the SecureChoice Mosquito Assurance Program.

Willenbrock has had a great impact on her colleagues, including other women in the industry, offering mentorship and support throughout her career. “All who have worked with and for her will miss her greatly,” said Laurie Riggs, brand manager for PPM at Syngenta.


PCT Bookstore: Select Titles Now BOGO

VALLEY VIEW, Ohio — PCT is clearing its shelves in anticipation of several new books being published this year. As a result, three popular books are now buy one, get one free: the Bird Management Field Guide by Richard Kramer, Ph.D.; the Spanish version of the Technician’s Handbook (4th edition) by Richard Kramer, Ph.D., and Joshua Kramer; and the Field Guide for the Management of Structure-Infesting Beetles (Volume I: Hide & Carpet Beetles/Wood-Boring Beetles).

To order, call 800/456-0707 or visit www.pctonline.com/store. When ordering online, the discount is automatic (order one, get two). The buy one, get one deal is only good on like titles.

Details include:

  • The Bird Management Field Guide is $4.99 and buy one, get one free. This 122-page book is a handy resource on all aspects of bird management, and its convenient size makes it easy to use on the job. This comprehensive yet easy-to-use field guide is an essential tool for any professional involved in bird control. With more than 70 photos and illustrations, the Bird Management Field Guide features insights and tips to identify and control pest birds effectively and profitably.
  • The Spanish version of PCT’s popular Technician’s Handbook (Manual Del Tecnico — 4A Edicion) is $9.95 and buy one, get one free. This 300+ page handbook, written in Spanish, provides PMPs the most important identification and management information for 100 commonly encountered pests. Use this essential guide to pest identification and management as a training manual and as a field resource.
  • The Field Guide for the Management of Structure-Infesting Beetles (Volume I: Hide & Carpet Beetles/Wood-Boring Beetles) is $7.99 and buy one, get one free. This is a handy, pocket-size guide to the biology, behavior and control of beetles. It is written in an easy-to-understand style and features hundreds of illustrations, a four-color photo identification section, key identifying characters and practical pest management strategies.


Dave Braness Launches Market Research Firm

RALEIGH, N.C. — With more than 20 years of industry experience and as a third- generation pest management professional, Dave Braness, formerly with Bayer, recently founded DataWave, a strategic market research firm.


“In the last 10 years, more than 70 new insecticides were introduced in our industry,” Braness said. “Many went on to generate millions of dollars and fill a market need, but just as many fell short costing corporations millions of dollars and missed market opportunities. The idea for DataWave originated from my passion to provide decision-making tools so more of these products align with customer needs and lead to commercial successes. It’s important to me because this industry is one that I care about deeply.”

Braness said he is in a unique position since he’s worked at all levels of the industry starting as a service technician and advancing to a decade-long run in sales and marketing at Bayer.

The team at DataWave includes his father, Gary Braness, Ph.D., who has had a successful industry career holding various positions in research, product development and consulting, acts as technical research director. Together, they connected with a consulting team from the University of North Carolina to assess the industry, conduct research and develop statistical models. To balance the Braness’ combined 60 years of industry experience, they partnered with Pedrom Rejai, who was the project lead on the consulting project and will serve as market data analyst.

Braness said DataWave is poised to provide actionable insights for business leaders, technical teams and marketing managers who are tasked with making decisions on products that protect health, food and property. DataWave’s first offering will be a syndicated report focusing on the ecommerce market segment. “I couldn’t be more excited,” Braness said.

Learn more at www.datawaveresearch.com.


Global Bed Bug Summit Goes Virtual for First Time

Editor’s note: NPMA’s Global Bed Bug Summit 2020 was shifted to a virtual event held in December. UK-based freelance journalist Frances McKim filed the following report for PCT.

FAIRFAX, Va. — Organized by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and premier sponsor BedBug Central, the Global Bed Bug Summit 2020 provided an educational mix of live presentations, pre-recorded talks available on-demand, networking sessions, roundtable discussions, and a Bugs, Beer and Bad Decisions virtual reception. There was also a virtual trade show, called EXPO Central, displaying goods and services offered to this specific market. In total there were 280 participants.

NPMA CEO Dominique Stumpf greeted attendees then passed the mic to Robert DiJoseph, president of BedBug Central, who explained how this event started back in 2010 and ran for two years as BedBug University: North American Summit before they joined together with NPMA and the event became the Global BedBug Summit. He said, “NPMA added their signature polish to the event but this is the very first time it has been held virtually.” DiJoseph announced that the company was about to expand beyond bed bugs and that this month a new company name would be announced.

Opening the technical presentations was Dr. Chow-Yang Lee, University of California, Riverside, who spoke about the rise and development of resistance in bed bugs and how to utilize the variety of insecticides available for maximum effect. He identified insecticide resistance as the primary cause of the global resurgence of this pest.

What followed was a much more practical presentation from Joey Hoke, American Pest Management, Manhattan, Kan., and Jen Fox, Terminix International, Temecula, Calif., who provided a lively double act. They said identifying the right type of person to be a bed bug technician was key, ideally someone who is “intelligent and prepared to think outside the box.”

Fox warned of the perils of customers searching bed bug information on Google, which doesn’t always have correct information. PMPs must manage customers’ expectations professionally and consistently throughout their experience with the company. Hoke implored anyone uncertain as to what to do to ask him, or other experts, for advice.

Dr. Karen Vail, University of Tennessee, discussed her work in multi-unit housing where infestations can develop into severe problems. She stressed the importance of catching infestations early and not relying on infestation reports from either residents or housing managers. Her work explored the number and types of monitors required to detect an infestation, but reported that although housing managers were prepared to spend budgets on ineffective treatments they were reluctant to pay much for monitors.

COVID-19 PROBLEMS. The problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic were discussed in a three-way presentation from Darren Van Steenwyk of Clark Pest Control, Lodi, Calif. (who was kept company by his dog), Mike Panichi of Platinum Pest Solutions, Lansing, Ill., and Galvin Murphy of Yankee Pest Control, Malden, Mass., who attendees were able to hear, but unfortunately not see, due to the failure of his camera (the perils of virtual events!).

All three of these professionals reported an overall decrease in bed bug treatments. However, COVID-19 had created its own specific issues, first and most important was the safety of their own employees and, understandably, there was a reluctance of homeowners willing to welcome technicians into their homes. Van Steenwyk explained how fumigation was his firm’s prime treatment method, but this also caused problems as homeowners need to vacate their property for up to several days, but in the current situation they had nowhere to relocate to.

Heat and the use of canines was Murphy’s primary treatment, but Panichi said he had treatments cancelled by customers due to the use of dogs. This was countered by Murphy who had also experienced this, but said he explained to clients that the use of scent-detection dogs was not only quicker but also fewer items were touched by hand.

The networking and beer event proved very sociable and popular, illustrating once again the need for social contact among attendees.

In addition to premier sponsor BedBug Central, this year’s Global Bed Bug Summit was sponsored by Allergy Technologies, MGK and Conidiotec. — Frances McKim


Two Texas-Based Competitors Join Forces

ANNA, Texas — Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex-based competitors EcoArmor Pest Defense and QuickSumo Pest Control merged to form EcoArmor and QuickSumo Pest Control, expanding their services to better serve their customers, the company said.

EcoArmor Pest Defense was owned and run by Jordan Hopewell, while QuickSumo Pest Control was owned by Josh and John Hopewell. The three brothers decided to join forces amid the COVID-19 pandemic after being reminded of the importance of family, they said.

“With everything going on with COVID, we’ve just realized that family is more important than ever,” Jordan said. “And merging the companies to create a bigger company would not only be beneficial to us, but it would help us widen our spectrum of services for all of our customers across the board and help us better serve our customers and our community.”

The companies were close competitors for about three years before deciding to merge, Jordan said. Jordan will serve as president of the new company; John will be vice president; and Josh will serve as secretary and treasurer. The new company has recurring revenue of $550,000 and will be heavily focused on residential services.

“We’re more about building relationships with customers, so the residential structure fit our model a little bit better individually,” Jordan said. When combining the two companies’ models, they fit seamlessly as both had greater emphasis on residential, he added.

Eventually, the company hopes to transition all of its branding to EcoArmor Pest Defense. — Erin Ross