Pest Control Marketing Then and Now
I want to share a three-part series where we are going to look at how pest control marketing has evolved over the years and why it matters. Join me on the journey I guarantee you’ll learn a lot.
Our first stop goes back to the days when my Dad started off in pest control working with his Dad, the chief. In the early years of pest control marketing there was no internet, everything was done offline. If you wanted to grow your business, then you were a prisoner to the yellow pages. Each year the price of the ad would increase, supposedly because the printing prices had increased and the cost of circulating the book. In order to soften the blow for the jacked-up ad they would toss you a bone by offering a “free upgrade” and each year they would sign a new contract for more visibility than the three of us would go out to lunch and “celebrate” for all the new clients that we just knew would come our way in the New Year.
There was a problem with pest control marketing via the yellow pages. First of all, the calls came in from the ads were seasonal. 3 to 4 months out of the year the phone would ring off the hook, but the rest of the year, the calls would just trickle in. However, that didn’t stop us from having to pay the exorbitant prices for the ad each month, all year around. Another issue was that people would simply call every pest control company marketing in the book until they found the cheapest price in ton. They were treating our service as a commodity and at the time we had no way of distinguishing ourselves from our competitor other than price.
A typical conversation with a potential new customer would be
“Hello, I am interested in pest control”
“Yes sir, we can help you with that!”
“How often do you come?”
“We offer quarterly services”
“How much is it?”
“It’s X dollars a quarter”
“Okay thank you”
For these reasons, the yellow pages did not even give us the kind of growth we so desperately needed. Fast forwarded to today and I understand that it takes multiple tools working together to grow a business in any significant way, but back them I was clueless!
Pest Control Requires Multiple Marketing Tools
Fast forwarded to today, February 2nd, 2022, and I understand that it takes multiple tools working together to grow a business in any significant way, but back then I was just a whippersnapper who didn’t have a clue and couldn’t even buy one!
One of the hardest things to do when building a business is to figure out how to fill your time with so thing productive if you don’t have enough work to keep you busy full time. One of the things the Chief made Dad do was to drive around and make cold sales calls on businesses, condos, apartments, restaurants, hospitals, or any other place he could think of that could use his services. While he could pick up a few accounts this way it took tremendous effort for the little bit of return he got from it.
When you do not have a pest control marketing machine to keep your pipeline full you face slow to moderate growth which makes hiring employees difficult to say the least. Chief would have too much work to do to keep him and Dad busy but not quite enough to justify hiring another person. The Chief, God rest his soul had a way around this by hiring independent contracts who received commission on the work they performed. If they didn’t do any work, then Chief did not have to pay them. However, this had its own set of troubles including quality control. Not to mention in Florida, its illegal to have an independent contractor perform pest control services for you under your licenses. One of those independent contractors Chief hired were the Pipers, husband, wife, and all 5 kids from sixteen down to five years old!
Chief always had a soft spot for people and would sometimes base his hiring decisions upon a sympathy verses practicality. The Pipers, all of them worked for Chief and Dad until they saved enough money to go back to Oklahoma where they came from. Looking back now Chief and Dad lacked any kind of past control marketing system or hiring system. They didn’t know how to screen good people, so they always seemed to end up with the dullest knife in the drawer or the dimmest bulb on the shelf. Part of this problem was again, lack of money to at least have a shot of hiring quality technicians that showed up, did a good job, and satisfied their customers. Let’s face it; if someone brings their whole family to work at a tiny pest and lawn business as an independent contractor its most likely because they could not find a better job anywhere else.
Now you maybe asking-
what does this have to do with pest control marketing?
Listen, the way we use marketing may have changed but the reason for pest control marketing remains…
If you want to hire good, quality technicians than you MUST have a system that continuously delivers leads so you can create a team. If you can not create a team your reputation is going to suffer immensely.
And that’s not all
Having a decent facility to work out of was also a challenge while growing the business and working with minimum cash flow. Chief and Dads place of business was a rented office space in the middle of a row of 7 connected offices. It was under 1,000 square feet and connected three rooms and a bathroom. It had a gold shag carpet from the 70s, when I was born, and the furniture was second hand from Goodwill. There were no outside storage units, so the chemicals were inside the building. When you walked into the office it reeked of chemicals! It was not a very healthy environment, so I didn’t get to spend much time there. Every once in a while, the, landlord would mention to Chief that the tenants beside them was complaining about the odor and could they please do something about it.
Service trucks was a little four-cylinder Dodge Ram D50 and a Mazda pickup, neither one with any AC and a full-size Chevy pickup that also didn’t have AC which was like hell when you consider most days in Florida are hot and humid. The Dodge had a 100-gallon spray tank with a Brigg motor and a roller pump in the back of the bed where the chemicals had eaten through. The small trucks did the lawn sprays to pretreatment, filling it up with customers garden hoses as often as they needed to.
The business operating system was rudimentary, granted back in the late 80s PC were not yet common but all the scheduling and tracking of customers and money were done with index cards, To communicate they used land lines and voice agers that whiner they went off you had to quickly remove from your belt and press it to your hear to hear the message. Again, this was right at the genesis of cell phones. At one point Dad tried to convince Chief to buy a car phone but it was the six of a purse and Chief didn’t see the value of it, even after a cell phone rep allowed Dad to use one for a week and he was able to respond to Chief pages immediately instead of having to find a pay phone.
Dad plan was to work with Chief for three years and then take his pest control licenses and start his own business. That’s what Dad did, he was eager to get out on his won and in 1991 took his exam, got licensed to do L&O, GHP, and Termites and started his business.
Why did I have this story?
Let me ask you, can you imagine having to run a business this way?
Yet most of the playbooks you’re using for your pest control marketing are just as outdated and what’s even crazier is you wonder why they aren’t working?
Traditional strategies like branding, networking, cold calling, and emailing have much less of an impact. This is why your pest control marketing budget is going to waste. The good news is there is a new strategy and ideas that are working and if you are willing to get out of the stone ages from ten years ago, heck five years ago and pivot then you can stay effective and even better you can excel at pest control marketing!
Tomorrow we are going to look at these strategies and formulas, this story really does have a happy ending.