Taking a strategic approach to community outreach can yield major benefits
Community outreach is one of the most valuable efforts a business can make to strengthen its organization, bolstering key strategic areas such as brand awareness, employee engagement, recruiting, customer loyalty and relationship-building. For pest management operations, the question is not whether they should emphasize community outreach—it’s how they should do it. Because the benefits are many, operators say.
“Regardless of if you’re in the pest industry or in any business, you should always know the community you’re working within,” said Daniele Collinson, director of client experience, Blades of Green Lawn Care and B.O.G. Pest Control in Maryland. “It certainly helps to know your client base and to know the needs of your client base, but I think it also helps from the aspect of just knowing the needs of the people that you’re servicing, hearing what ails them and being able to add and provide help in certain areas as needed.”
“The major benefit for us to do community outreach is to build relationships and build trust within our communities,” said Niki Campbell, director of marketing for Sprague Pest Solutions, who noted that Sprague sees an increase in customer referrals from community partnerships. “That trust helps us increase customer loyalty. In some of our newer markets, it helps generate brand recognition.”
Ultimately, Collinson said, “people want to work for people and do business with people that care about the community they live in.”
SEEKING A STRATEGIC FIT
Pest management businesses typically receive many more requests for help from organizations than they can accommodate. They need to take a strategic approach to sort through the opportunities and select the ones that are best for them.
“We get emails and notifications on a daily basis asking for sponsorships or donations or to attend this event or that event,” Collinson said. “It can be very overwhelming.”
Businesses vary in how they determine which organizations to support.
Melanie Matthews, vice president of Modern Exterminating in South Carolina, said community outreach should include a combination of strategic purpose and authentic interest in the cause.
“If you’re thinking about what you support, and you’re supporting things that you really do believe in, people will take that seriously and understand that you’re really dedicated to helping,” Matthews said.
Collinson said B.O.G. aims to partner with organizations that align with both B.O.G.’s vision and values and the vision and values of its team members.
Matthews said it is important to evaluate each community outreach opportunity carefully before saying yes. Modern Exterminating avoids anything political or polarizing, she said. The business also wants to make sure the organization “does what they say they’ll do,” she said.
“We want to know that they’re actually making an impact,” she said.
Campbell said Sprague’s overarching community outreach mission is to support food-oriented organizations. Efforts include a day of giving when each of Sprague’s 19 branches selects a customer or partner and donates time and money to support their mission. In 2022, Sprague had 90% staff participation on community outreach days, Campbell said.
“We’re always looking for things that are really near and dear to our heart,” Matthews said.
Among B.O.G.’s outreach efforts is working with a career program for local high school students who are not on a path to college, hosting them for field visits and mock interviews, Collinson said.
Campbell said some organizations occasionally might be reluctant to partner with pest management businesses because of the association with pests themselves.
“It does become a little bit tricky sometimes because we are in pest control, but there are a lot of companies out there who just want to partner with…names in the community,” Campbell said.
ENGAGING CURRENT TEAM MEMBERS AND ATTRACTING FUTURE ONES
Pest management operators say community outreach not only strengthens internal teams but also boosts the recruiting of new team members.
In addition to company-led efforts, Matthews said Modern Exterminating strives to encourage team members to find their own way of giving back to the community. Modern Exterminating makes a point of recognizing team members for their service and selects a team member four times a year as the “volunteer of the quarter.”
The more employees become involved in community outreach efforts, the more businesses can get involved in those efforts, allowing them to spread their impact and exposure.
Internally, community involvement helps develop teamwork, Campbell said.
“We’ve learned that when branches are able to select who they partner with, or where they give back, you get a lot more staff participation,” Campbell said.
“It’s important to lead by example,” she said.
Matthews said a new hire recently said that he accepted Modern Exterminating’s job offer in part because he knew how active the business is in the community, saying, “That’s the kind of company that I want to work for.”
“It’s something in the interview we always talk about and let people know that we feel strongly about,” Matthews said.
Campbell said Sprague promotes its community outreach mission on hiring platforms such as Indeed and Glassdoor, emphasizing that it is an important part of the Sprague culture.
“We definitely want to attract the talent who wants to give back versus coming in for a job and checking out,” Campbell said. “We want those people to be well invested in our mission.”
PROMOTION—BUT NOT SELF-PROMOTION
When a business supports a community effort, it is essential to support the effort without undermining it with self-promotion. For instance, B.O.G. has a large blow-up frog that it uses for marketing—”It’s definitely an attention-grabber,” Collinson said—but the business makes sure to only display the frog when it is appropriate—yes for the local St. Patrick’s Day Parade, no for National Night Out.
“Make sure that your presence is there, but do not try to steal the show,” Collinson said.
Campbell said Sprague seeks to focus on the cause and how it can help. In some cases, Sprague is able to help organizations that lack marketing muscle by using its resources to promote them and get them exposure they would struggle to gain on their own, Campbell said.
“It’s really important for us to understand why the organization is doing what they’re doing and how our involvement can better them,” Campbell said. “And then the promotion side for us is just like the cherry on top if we do a good job.”
Matthews said Modern Exterminating shares their community outreach efforts on social media but focuses on the organization that they are supporting rather than themselves, helping to create additional exposure for the cause.
“Ideally, not only is somebody going to see it, and possibly use us for business, but hopefully somebody or more than one somebody is going to see it and support that organization and their needs,” Matthews said. “That’s our ultimate goal.”