New customers are the lifeblood of any pest management company. Without them, businesses won’t grow. And without them, you won’t replace customers who move away.
Traditional methods of customer recruitment—newspapers, TV, the Yellow Pages—no longer work as well as before. Exploring new options may seem scary, but they don’t have to be extremely expensive—or long-term. Some new methods of advertising and marketing can be tested and abandoned quickly if they don’t work. Other options may not deliver a direct return-on-investment but can pay dividends in the community and with your workforce.
“Advertising and marketing are really what drive new customers to act,” said Mitch Taylor, president of Capital Pest Services, Inc., which operates in the Raleigh area of North Carolina.
The same goes for finding those new customers. It means being where they are and giving them what they want.
Any pest control company that does not have a heavy digital presence, one with both a strong website and robust social sites, is missing out, to be sure. But what worked just a few years ago is no longer enough.
These days, Capital has invested in optimizing its website—ensuring that it is usable by those on mobile devices and tablets—and “we have a pile of money that we use for pay-per-click advertising,” Taylor said. “We spend a lot of time and effort in the digital marketplace.”
More and more, companies are finding that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are difficult to navigate—and users are shifting.
“With all that’s happened with Facebook, the template is going to change,” said Jeff Fenner, partner with B Communications. “I still think it’s a valuable platform to be engaged with, but with any social media, you have to temper expectations.”
Instead, review sites like Yelp and Home Advisor may deliver more tangible results for pest management companies, Fenner said. But even they are not a one-sized-fits-all solution. “Some consumers look at them more strongly than others. Some will base everything on what they read on Angie’s List or Yelp. Others will take word of mouth.”
Fenner expects to see more solutions available on the PestWorld tradeshow floor to help companies manage customer reviews, including how to solicit them and what to do.
At Dugas Pest Control in Louisiana, they know exactly what to do with those reviews. They are prominently featured on the home page of the website, with links to the major review sites: Google, Yelp, Angie’s List and Facebook.
“Referrals are really important to us,” said Daniel Hill, branch manager of Dugas’ Northshore & New Orleans locations. “We encourage reviews and are proud of them. When they’re researching a pest control company, people will look for consistency and how recent the reviews are.”
While digital efforts are necessary, they do put some of the power in the consumers’ hands. Customers are more likely to engage in a few different ways before they initiate a discussion. “They don’t want to feel sold,” Hill said. “Oftentimes, they’ll skip the first few results on Google because they know that they’re ads. They’ll look for genuine people doing the reviews. They’ll look at those no matter how they find us in the first place.”
That, Fenner said, is a good thing to remember: No matter how you initially introduce yourself to a customer, they will check you out via social media, review sites and, yes, your own website.
“Your Google ranking may pop up, but they’ll go to your website,” Fenner said. “Can they get an answer to a question there, or at least get more information? Website content with some very basic information, photos, images and video of pests help people get a better handle on what they may be dealing with. There are tips that you can provide that don’t give away professional secrets, but that help raise awareness and educate homeowners.”
While that sort of static information is important to provide via the website, social media can personalize your company and employees—and it doesn’t have to cost a lot.
“A technician or anybody in the company can pull out their phone if they see a bug that’s interesting. They just need to say, ‘I’m Daniel with X company. This is a bug that’s interesting to me,’ and why,” Hill said. “It’s also informative and, with the right hashtag, can draw people. That’s an absolutely free way to get your name out there.”
Investing in the community
Social media and reviews can humanize the company, but so can community involvement. “People are looking for purpose and to see what you’re about,” Hill said. Dugas frequently will offer free pest services to a person in need or a charitable entity. It provides free pest control at a local homeless shelter, for instance.
“We primarily give our services because that’s where we feel we can add the most value.” But Dugas also invests in projects that its employees are passionate about. One instance: A local animal shelter was hit with a serious flood. “It was running wild with rodents, but they couldn’t afford the service,” Hill said. “We gave the product and a couple of technicians volunteered their time. That gave a lot of value to the technician who saw that we were investing in the things they care about.”
Those efforts may not always directly result in a new customer, but they are important to do anyway, Taylor said. “It’s just getting in the community,” he said. “We’re in an area where new people are constantly coming in and high schools are being built right and left. We want to be in front of them. We do sponsorships for special events at the school and fundraisers.”
Taylor said Capital will support just about any nonprofit with a small donation. But more significant sponsorship investments must align with where Capital wants to grow.
One of the biggest projects is donating service for the Frankie Lemmon School and Development Center, which offers education for students with and without special needs. In addition to the pest services, Capital supports fundraisers at the school. It also provides pest control services for North Carolina State University and its athletics programs.
“A lot of those choices have been made in the last few years to create more brand recognition,” Taylor said.
But it also pays off with its employees. “As we’ve grown, the age of our average employee has decreased,” he said. “Younger people in the workplace want to feel that it’s not just about the work. They enjoy it because they feel part of it, even though they aren’t donating the money to it. It makes them feel they’ve invested into their community.”
And engaged employees might just be your best customer recruitment tool, Fenner said. “Engage them in the process. Find out what they’re seeing and hearing. They interact with customers every day. They’ll see opportunities that you haven’t thought about.”
By Sandy Smith
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