Before we dive right into this important marketing lesson, I want to share a personal story that will help drive this lesson home...
Last week, my annual vehicle inspection came up for renewal. I don't know about you, but every year it always sneaks up on me. Now for me, when it comes to where to have that inspection performed, I've got no less than 13 garages to choose from within a 10 minute drive of my house. And it feels like a new garage opens up every couple months.
For me as a consumer, this is obviously a good thing. It means choice. But for the mechanic operating in this market, it means competition.
Here in Texas no matter where you go, the cost of the annual state inspection is exactly the same. Every garage is required by law to advertise the same state-mandated price . It can't be discounted. Which means, the state vehicle inspection is basically a commodity. And it's never a good thing to be in a commodity business.
Yet, for the past couple years, I've found myself a loyal patron of the same garage year after year. And as I was driving to the garage last week (passing at least five repair shops along the way) I was reflecting on the reason why I continue to go to the same place year in, year out.
I realized it comes down to two simple reasons:
1. First, they have a clean, comfortable waiting area with Wi-Fi internet (which, as a business owner is important to me because it means I can get work done on while I'm waiting...)
2. Secondly, and more importantly (because this is what really sets them apart), anytime you get your state inspection done at their garage, they throw in a full premium car wash (inside and out) - valued at $14.95 - absolutely FREE, no strings attached...
Now, there's an important pest control marketing lesson to all this which we'll be getting to in a moment...
But first, it's important to note: While every other mechanic out there is making vague "prove-it-to-me" promises about fast service, promoting how many years they've been in business (why should I care?), or worse: offering "coupons" for vehicle inspection at the state-mandated price, my mechanic's strategy is simple and brilliant:
Free Wi-Fi and free car wash with every inspection. Period.
And he's the only guy doing it.
Now obviously, the guys at his shop take good care of my vehicles - and as far as I can tell they know what they're doing . But by offering the full, inside-and-out car wash, they've completely differentiated themselves in an otherwise crowded, commoditized marketplace. And at the same time, they've also overcome an objection I have as a consumer every time I need to take one of my vehicles in for service:
The fact that every time you pick up your vehicle from the garage, they always somehow manage to leave it dirtier than when you arrive - with some sort of "surprise" stain or smudge.
But if they'll wash my car inside-and-out? Well, that solves the problem then, doesn't it.
Here's How This Relates To Your Pest Control Business
Now, the reason why I bring up this example, is to get you thinking about what marketing psychologist Dr. Glenn Livingston calls "price of entry" benefits vs. "point of difference" benefits in our industry - and how you should incorporate both types of benefits in your marketing.
Let me explain...
People Buy Because of "Point of Difference" Benefits
What is a "point of difference" benefit, exactly?
A "point of difference" benefit is something people will actually pay money for because you've distinguished yourself from your competitors. It's in contrast with a "price of entry" benefit which is something every competitor in the marketplace must have to even be considered in the running.
In the pest control industry, price of entry benefit examples would include things like the fact that you accept credit cards - or the fact that you show up on time.
A "point of difference" benefit on the other hand, would be something like: Being the only pest control company in your local area with a bed bug detecting dog, and therefore being able to determine whether a property has bed bugs in 1/3 the time for 1/3 the cost.
See the difference?
The first puts you in the running, whereas the second is what puts you ahead of the competition. While the customer certainly wants someone who accepts credit card and shows up on time, they make a decision to go with you over the competition, because of your point of difference benefit.
Also, notice how an actual benefit to the consumer is tied back to the differentiating statement:
The fact that you're the only pest control company in the area with a bed bug detecting dog is nothing more than an interesting trivia fact until you connect that fact to a benefit to the consumer:
Detection in 1/3 the time for 1/3 the cost.
Big Marketing Mistake: Leading with "Price of Entry" Benefits
One of the biggest mistakes I see pest control operators make in their marketing - whether in Yellow Page ads, direct mail, or online on their website - is leading with "price of entry benefits" - and failing to provide any sort of "point of difference" benefit in their marketing.
For example, I can't tell you how many pest control companies I've seen lead their marketing with some variation of:
- Been in business since 1983
- Accept Visa, MC, Discover
Whenever I see this, I shudder because I know it means the owner is losing out sales he should otherwise be generating. And I'm not surprised for a second when an owner tells me their Yellow Page ads aren't giving them the same return they used to... Or that direct mail "doesn't work" for them.
As the marketing expression goes: Differentiate or die. And that statement hasn't been any more true than in today's economy, when people are struggling financially. Because of this, more than ever, people need you to give them a compelling reason to start (and keep) doing business with you.
Now, don't get me wrong: The fact that a company is locally-owned, has been in business for 25+ years, and accepts credit cards is worth mentioning. But it shouldn't be front and center, in your headline, and the "big reason why" a prospective customer should do business with you.
And the reason for this, is because when a dozen of your competitors can say the same thing, all it does is put you in the running. It doesn't give prospective customers any sort of "point of difference" reason to do business with you.
Differentiate Using Unique Benefit Combinations
Instead, when it comes to your marketing, you want to lead with your "point of difference" benefits. If you can't prove that you're better, you can at least explain what makes you different. And if there's no one thing that makes your business completely unique, then you can always use a combination of factors which together make you unique. Let me explain:
For example, you might not be the only woman-operated and owned pest control company in your area. And you might not be the only pest control company with a full-time bed bug detection dog.
But perhaps you are the only woman-owned company with a full-time bed bug detection dog.
So what you might say in your marketing is this: Because we're the only woman-operated pest control company with a beg bug detection dog in the area, this means we can get in and out of your house in 1/3 the time, at 1/3 the cost - with the type of attention to detail and gentle care to your home only a "woman's touch" can provide.
Instant differentiation. And to the consumer who cares about saving time and money - and who values a "woman's touch", you become the clear choice in your market.
The time to establish new "point of difference" benefits is now, before your business begins to become commoditized. It will happen, and ostrich head-in-the-sand avoidance will not solve the issue. Ask yourself, how can you differentiate your business from your competition by using a similarly bold, unique "point of difference" benefit in your marketing?
Ryan Levesque is the president of Pest Control Marketing Systems (PCMS), an advertising and marketing agency dedicated to the pest control industry. For a complimentary Marketing-Strategy Session and Pest Control Marketing Newsletter, call 800.434.8103.