As pest season heats up, bringing with it high consumer demand for pest control services, now is the time to ensure your marketing plans are up to snuff for the busiest time of the year. While many homeowners may have forgotten about the timely return of these summertime pests, I would be remiss to not acknowledge that this summer is not business as usual.

While vaccine rollout plans are providing a clearer timeline for a COVID-19 pandemic recovery, a recent Marketing Dive article states 2021 is set to be another volatile year for marketers. Although we will certainly continue to feel the pressure of last year’s long-lasting effects, there are steps business owners can take now to get their summer marketing plans in tip-top shape as we gradually transition toward a post-pandemic world.

START OPTIMIZING. SEO is still one of the best customer acquisition strategies for locally focused businesses, according to Forbes.com, yet a study from Small Business Trends found only 30 percent of small businesses actually have an SEO strategy. With the arrival of summer pests just around the corner, residential and commercial customers alike will undoubtedly start looking for a pest control company, so it’s crucial to ensure these folks know where to find you. But with the internet continuously growing by millions, if not billions of webpages per day, that may seem like a daunting task.

Ahrefs conducted a study of almost a billion webpages to discover how many are completely invisible — meaning that they do not receive any organic search traffic whatsoever. The study concluded that a whopping 90.88 percent of webpages are totally invisible. While it’s safe to assume you would not want to find your business adrift in the midst of those invisible pages, there are ways you can prevent your business from getting lost in the shuffle.

With SEO, you can ensure your business stands out among the noise by building backlinks, choosing content with organic traffic potential, matching search intent and making sure everything is properly indexed. Investing in the right seasonal strategy goes a long way in maximizing your annual marketing budget during high pest pressure months, and SEO is one of the most effective strategies to do so.

Let’s face it — SEO should be a key strategy for businesses of all sizes thanks to its cost-effective nature and efficiency to help boost your digital presence. The good news? Most small businesses manage their SEO strategies on their own through the use of programs such as Moz Pro and Ahrefs, so there’s no need to invest in experts to start optimizing.

SOLIDIFY SOCIAL STRATEGIES. As the global population continues to rely on the internet more than ever before, it’s clear that social media will take center stage in the post-pandemic marketing world. To put things into perspective, just about half of the world’s population is now on social media, so it’s clear why businesses can and should build a strong foundation for their social campaigns from the get-go.

According to Facebook’s Small Business Report, 51 percent of businesses increased online interactions with their customers as a result of the pandemic. Harvard Business Review also notes organizations willing to re-evaluate their social media strategies in a rapidly changing landscape will minimize risk and maximize the opportunity to connect with consumers.

Historically, marketers mapped out campaigns months in advance. However, the unanticipated pandemic bulldozed that practice, forcing us to adapt by tweaking entire campaigns on a dime. With these new experiences under our belts, we’ve learned that shorter planning will be the new norm and that we’ll need to be able to adjust campaigns and priorities on the fly.

An effective social media strategy is one that is consistently nurtured. Show up for your audience and deliver consistent content. Awareness weeks are a great opportunity to engage with customers on timely pest-related topics while helping to ensure a healthy cadence of content. Not only will this keep current customers engaged, but it also will invite potential customers who stumble across your page to follow along and, more often than not, drive traffic to your site.

Effective social media marketing strategies are rooted in data. As such, pay close attention to metrics like reach, clicks and engagement as well as organic and paid likes. Platforms such as Facebook Analytics and Hootsuite are great, user-friendly options to keep a close pulse on your content performance and how it resonates with consumers.

Now more than ever, timeliness is incredibly crucial for marketers. Not only do customers expect rapid-fire responses from brands, but they also crave meaningful, authentic conversations. Whether it’s a quirky response to a compliment or a quick response to an unanswered question, meaningful engagement goes a long way as customers grow more accustomed to the modern-day concept of customer care via social media.

BE REACHABLE. As temperatures continue to climb, so too will the need for pest control services. With unlimited information at their fingertips, consumers can quickly and efficiently vet professional services with the click of a button, using a business’s online presence as an indicator of the quality of service they would receive should they decide to move forward.

Make sure your contact information is easy to find and provide links to several platforms to reach you, including up-to-date social media pages. Once folks are able to find you, you’ll want to ensure they feel supported. According to customers, the most important attribute of quality customer service is fast response time. While research from Sprout Social shows a brand’s average response time is around 10 hours, most users expect a response within four. A study conducted by Applied Marketing Science found that customers are willing to spend more with a business that responds quickly to their inquiry, so consider implementing customer service software such as Hubspot to offer round-the-clock support.

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED. More than ever, we’ve learned over the past year the importance of maintaining an open line of communication — both internally with employees and externally with existing and potential customers. Engaging and being easily reachable for customers reduces the likelihood that a negative experience is left unanswered. While it may sound small, these steps can do wonders for making customers feel that you really care about them.

If there’s one thing we learned in 2020, it’s that fostering a personal connection with consumers is imperative. Ultimately, keeping customers happy and informed is paramount to the success of any business, and so taking extra steps to ensure an organic client- business relationship is essential.

There’s no denying that we’re living in a hyper-connected world, so customers inherently expect businesses to be reachable around the clock. Staying accessible to customers and engaging with them at each stage in their respective journey are integral steps to building lasting trust.

Like many other industries, pest management is significantly impacted by seasonal factors. By maximizing business in these peak months, you’re taking the necessary steps to maintain a strong online presence year-round and, as a result, positioning your business as a consistent, reliable leader in the pest control space.

Cindy Mannes is executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance and senior vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association. Learn about PPMA at www.npmapestworld.org/ppma.