What is it? How should it be done? Who should do it? Is it any different for the pest control business than other businesses? When is it most effective?
With more books and so called "marketing gurus" than ever before, the essential answers to those questions are harder than ever to find.
But, after 30+ years, marketing in this industry is still about one fundamental thing:
Acquiring new customers, keeping them, and ethically extracting as much money from them as possible.
To do this, it's vital to get inside your prospective customers head when creating your marketing strategy and message. I'm sure you've heard the popular saying: "If you want to know why John Smith buys what John Smith buys, you've got to see the world through John Smith's eyes".
After countless customer surveys & interviews, I feel like I have a pretty good idea what the world looks like through John "I Need Pest Control" Smith's eyes. So, in an effort to help you get inside your prospects world, I've written you letter that represents a majority of your prospects. In this letter, John Smith will tell you how he sees the world and how to best market to him in 2013 and beyond…
"Dear Mr. Pest Control Operator,
My name is John Smith. I'm your prospective customer and worth a lot of money to you…if you market to me properly.
You see, I haven't found the need for pest control services yet. I've seen your trucks in my neighborhood, yet I regret to inform you that I haven't thought twice about how you might be able to make my life easier and my home safer and cleaner for my family. Yes, even though you have that logo and an "easy to remember" phone number, I still haven't thought much about you.
But, before I forget to tell you, I can't go to bed at night without having to kill two or three gigantic spiders running across the kitchen floor... I hear that because spiders eat other bugs, spiders might be a sign of more serious problems?
Maybe this is where you can help me?
The truth of the matter is I'm a busy guy. I work full time and have a family to take care of. Thinking about calling up half a dozen pest control companies to get "several quotes", having the confidence to pick one (based on what criteria, I have no idea...), and then taking time off from work to sit around at home and wait for a service technician to show up and treat my home - 45 minutes late (I've heard the nightmare stories) - is not at the top of my priorities right now...
Oh, and since we're on the subject of work, in case you're wondering I'm actually a real estate agent here in town. I spend most of my day showing homes and dealing with new home owners. Because they're often new to the area... And because I'm usually the only trusted professional they know in town... They're always asking me for recommendations on things like pest control service to help protect and maintain the cleanliness and beauty of their new home.
I usually just direct them to the yellow pages, but wish I had answers for them... Better yet, I wish someone would be willing to offer a "special discount" to my customers in exchange for referring business. Man, that would be a real win-win-win...
Since you're a pest control operator, you're probably thinking: "Gee, I could solve a lot of this guy's problems with my services!"
Here's the problem…
If I'm aware of you, you haven't motivated me enough to call you up and take time off from work to setup an initial inspection. You haven't made me feel like you're going to show up right on time, every time... You haven't made me feel like the stuff you're going to spray will be safe for my kids and pets. And, I can't determine why I should choose you over the other 24 pest control companies in the area...
Your yellow page ad looks just like your competitors. So even if I'm motivated to use a pest control service, I have no clue how to choose the right provider...
If I'm not aware of you, why are you hiding? Why aren't you presenting me marketing materials that captivate my attention and motivate me to spend my hard-earned paycheck on pest control services? Why should I choose you over your competition? Why is it that when I search for pest control on the Internet, you're nowhere to be found? Or if I can find you - why does your website look like it hasn't been touched since 1998? Are you guys still in business??
I have needs and wants. I want a clean, bug free home I can be proud of. I want my kids and pets to be safe.
I want to provide my new-to-the-area real estate clients with recommended service providers - and I want to have a reason why I should recommend your company over all the others...
So, will you please help me? I'm just waiting for a good reason to pay you the money you so desperately want.
P.S. Why hasn't my neighbor who uses your company told me about you? Don't you have a proactive referral program?"
I hope that letter gives you the same spark it gives me. With the knowledge that you've just gained about your prospects, you can now create an ultra persuasive marketing message and deliver it to the right audience. Doing so will make 2013 one of your best years ever!
Rather than leave this up to interpretation, here are the fundamentals you should focus your marketing energy and resources on in 2013.
1. When creating marketing materials, don't focus on you. Focus on your customers needs and wants and how you solve them. Try to find areas of their life that have emotion since emotion is the fuel of action. Emotions like fear of loss and protecting your home as an investment, being a bad parent or spouse by not keeping the house clean and safe for your kids and pets, embarrassment about having a bug-infested home when friends and family come over, and so on are prevalent in this industry.
2. Precisely define your target market. Focus your advertising dollars only on people who can say "yes" to your offer and who are a good fit for your business. Typically, this means focusing on households located on a pre-existing route, or within a 10-20 mile radius from your facility. The 1% rule of thumb that works best for most operators. In other words, to reach your new business growth target, it's reasonable to assume 1% of those receiving your marketing message will respond. If you're looking to bring in 100 new customers for a given campaign, focus on the closest 10,000 households and businesses.
3. Use your service vehicles to your advantage. Instead of using signage focused on your logo, interrupt with an intriguing and persuasive message. Have your techs park their marked vehicles in strategic neighborhood locations after hours. You want folks in the neighborhood to say, "I see your trucks everywhere!"
4. Create a proactive referral program. Your customers are your biggest asset and should be raving fans of your service. Make it easy for them to give you referrals by structuring a program that gives incentive to the referrer and the referee. Your customers don't remember your phone number or exact address. If you use referral cards, they can easily hand one to a friend in need of pest control services.
5. If you don't have a clean, professional website, get one. Our society is rapidly becoming accustomed to searching for stuff online.
6. If you have a website, make sure it is optimized on all major search engines so when prospects search for pest control in your city, you are there. Your fancy website is no good if nobody can find it.
7. Form alliances. There are many local businesses in your area that have credibility with your prospects and see them at least once per week. Businesses like maid services, lawn care companies, real estate agents, and plumbers are all willing to help you if you help them in some way. Forming mutual-beneficial alliances with them is one of the least expensive and most effective ways to grow your business.
Sure, there are fancier are more technical ways to market your pest control business. Furthermore, I advocate testing those that make sense. But, by all means, don't do so at the expense of taking your eye off the fundamentals.
If you look at the owner/operators who are most successful, they stay focused on seeing the world through their customer's eyes and executing fundamental strategies…whether they know it or not. It's my sincere hope you'll do the same in 2013.
Ryan Levesque is the president of Pest Control Marketing Systems (PCMS), an advertising and marketing agency exclusively dedicated to the pest control industry. For a complimentary Marketing-Strategy Session and Pest Control Marketing Tips Newsletter, call 800.434.8103; or visit www.PestControlMarketingSystems.com