Over the last few years I have heard time and again about the importance of data, especially when used in the larger context of “big data.” Whether reviewing small controlled studies or larger data sets, the value of good research is clear — but are you taking advantage of it? There is certainly a lot of research already at your fingertips if you have Google Analytics set up for your website, a Facebook page with Insights or a customer service line, etc., but digging through these materials can be so time-consuming that I wonder: how many of us in the pest control industry are placing enough emphasis on data when putting together marketing strategies?

I can tell you firsthand that the Professional Pest Management Alliance (PPMA), which handles proactive consumer media relations campaigns on behalf of the National Pest Management Association, relies on sound research and statistics to drive home the validity of story topics we pitch to reporters and also to establish credibility when working with the media. We also conduct research strictly to inform our marketing communications program and ensure we’re on the right track with the messages and vehicles we use to communicate with target audiences. The findings can deliver incredible consumer insights and information about behavioral patterns, purchasing decisions and more. (I’ll share more on that later.)

So, not only is data not losing its importance anytime soon, it in fact will only continue to grow more essential as client customization and creating greater personal experiences become necessities to acquire consumers’ brand loyalty. That means marketers need to put in the legwork of both doing and digging through research to ascertain key statistics that help support important business decisions.

SURVEY SAYS. There are vast amounts of resources now to gather and compile consumer research, but sometimes even the simplest study can get the job done. A basic survey — which is scalable as it can be developed through free, online services like SurveyMonkey or through a paid partnership with a polling company — still stands the test of time. In an article on Business.com titled, “Survey Says: The Importance of Survey Data in Marketing,” Becky Wu, Ph.D., senior executive vice president of Luth Research, wrote, “In this high-tech era of analytics, the idea of a customer survey sounds almost quaint. Even with all the technology available that allows marketing and research companies to find out exactly what consumers want, sometimes it’s still best to go straight to the source and ask them yourself.”

PPMA recently commissioned and released the results of its 2016 New Consumer Attitudes Study, a survey aimed at measuring and analyzing American homeowners’ choices to use or not use professional pest control services.

Key highlights from PPMA’s 2016 Consumer Attitudes & Usage Survey revealed substantial support used to develop marketing strategies for pest control management professionals, including:

  • Seven in 10 respondents (70 percent) who have a regular pest control service say they do so because it best protects their home and/or family.
  • The main reason that respondents did not elect to have a contract or regular service with a professional pest control company was cost, with 49 percent of respondents saying it’s too expensive, and 33 percent saying they could deal with the problem themselves.
  • Almost half of respondents (49 percent) said they are most likely to use a friend’s recommendation when looking for a professional pest control company, while two in five would use the Internet (39 percent) and one in five the Yellow Pages (19 percent).

Consider the reasons why homeowners don’t have regular professional pest control companies on standby: cost and a sense that they can handle these problems themselves. This small data point is telling in a big way — it’s clear that pest control professionals need to develop tactics to communicate why spending the money on their services is just as essential as other costly, but still valued, purchases such as car insurance. Likewise, there is a need to communicate just how difficult, and sometimes even dangerous, it is for homeowners to implement pest control practices. Let them know why they should hire professionals instead.

With this knowledge, marketers can build strong foundations for plans indicating not only what they need their messaging to express to consumers, but also why they must be able to implement their plans. This is especially important as business owners are looking to minimize budget spending.

DIGGING DEEPER. Once hard data points are established, marketing professionals can dig into insights even further by layering on qualitative behavioral data. Focus groups are a great way to do this. Focus groups should consist of about four to 12 people who share commonalities that will give them the sense that they are in a safe space to freely discuss their opinions. Led by a moderator who guides the discussion with key questions, focus groups can help marketers uncover additional rationales behind consumer decisions that may not be as easily traceable in a one-sided survey. A moderator can pose follow-up, hypothetical questions among focus group members, for example, which cannot be done as a person completes a survey with a limited set of questions already listed.

As marketing professionals in the pest management industry, we should have our fingers on the pulse of what drives consumer action and what will help grow both our collective companies and the industry as a whole. The only way to do this is to dive headfirst into research, extracting data and interpreting it with a business lens. With the first quarter almost over, I encourage all marketers to look at their strategies for the year, ask themselves if they have the data to support their decisions, and if they don’t, find a way to integrate research into the rest of 2017.

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