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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Jeff Fenner


[Top 100 Executive Summit] Getting with the Program

PCT Top 100

Generational marketing is an effective tool for driving sales and customer loyalty.

August 26, 2014

Editor’s note: Bobby Jenkins, president, ABC Home & Commercial Services, and Dan Moreland, publisher, PCT Media Group, gave presentations at the PCT Top 100 Awards Ceremony and Executive Summit titled “Marketing/Branding in a Multi-Generational Business Environment: One Size Does Not Fit All.” The following article addresses how today’s PMPs are targeting their customers with generational marketing.

An approach that adjusts marketing strategies and tailors marketing messages to appeal to the shared attitudes, styles, practices and consumer behavior of market segments defined by their generational groups.”

This definition of generational marketing encompasses many elements that marketers through the years have tried to use to reach consumers. Adjusting, tailoring and segmenting are three of the many spokes in the marketing wheel for many pest management companies, regardless of size.

Focusing marketing efforts at specific age groups, specific geographic areas and through specific delivery mediums makes up the baseline for how pest services marketers attempt to reach consumers. Do these efforts constitute true generational marketing or are they a hybrid of traditional efforts that happen to reach the same objective?

For example, if your company chose to launch a marketing campaign for ant control services strictly via text message, you made a generational marketing decision.

The real reason could have been cost efficiencies or better availability of cell phone numbers vs. e-mail addresses but because you chose texting, you likely steered your effort toward Millennials (up to 34 years old), who are more likely to use mobile devices to research, schedule and purchase goods and services.

The same holds true if you have fact sheets professionally printed to use during presentations. By doing so you are using a method of communication preferred by the Baby Boomer (50 to 68) and Mature generations (older than 68).

This isn’t to say a 75-year-old grandmother doesn’t text or a 24-year-old hipster won’t read a printed brochure but finding the right button to push, with the right communication vehicle, is critical.

“Being versatile and understanding why they are the way they are when it comes to how to approach them through marketing will help you find the right method,” says Peter Comis of NuVue Business Solutions, a Raleigh, N.C.-based training company that provides sales and leadership training. “Each group is influenced by the time period they grew up in and you have to take that into account.”

Knowing how your customer base breaks out by age is the starting point for any generational marketing effort — and your technicians can help you with that task.


“Train your technicians to be observant and take mental notes while on their route,” says Comis. “What are the customer age ranges on their route? Do they have children living at home and what are their ages?”

Taking this information and plotting it on a map will reveal where the generational pockets in your market area are located and allows you to adjust and customize your communications efforts.

Generation X and Millennials are green-oriented and want what is best for themselves and their family, and they want something different. Their proclivity for the digital world also allows them to complete most of the sales process — reviews, comparisons, company history — before they contact you.

“Gen X and Millennials want the safest service possible and want the relationship with your company to be personal,” says Comis. “They need to feel like the service you are providing is unique to them and that is the challenge pest management marketers must rise to in order to capture this segment.”

Asking for the Sale.

The Broadway-play-turned-Hollywood-movie Glengarry Glen Ross is about a fictional real estate firm where sales are treated as a life or death exercise. The lead character constantly shouts at his staff to pound the phones and to remember their A-B-Cs — always be closing.

While that sentiment still rings true today, how a sales staff goes about achieving that goal across multiple generations of consumers differs.

“With the Mature and Baby Boomer generations, it is expected that you will ask for the sale after the presentation but that isn’t the case with Generation X or Millennials,” says Comis. “They don’t want to be pressured, they want a lot of options, they want to feel like they are getting the best deal in town and they want to feel part of the process.”

Comis added that sales representatives play the role of facilitator for Gen X and Millennials by providing the customer with multiple ways to close the deal themselves and say they will buy from you.

But sales representatives beware, Gen Xers and Millennials can spot a phony sales pitch a mile away and will shut you down if you come on too strong. As for Baby Boomers and Mature customers, they too do not like a hard sell but they will move quickly if there is an urgent need and are likely to be loyal customers for life if they like the service.

Generation X and Millennials also have proven to be loyal once you get through the initial sales process but their post-sales needs differ from the Baby Boomers and Matures. They require more regular follow up and check-ins and they want to hear they made a good choice in selecting your company.


In the Trenches.

For its generational marketing efforts, Clark Pest Control looks closely at its customers’ buying habits and lifestyles.

“We want to know what type of consumer they are when it comes to discretionary spending,” says Nicole Kirwan Keefe, marketing and advertising manager for California-based Clark. “We run segmentation analysis against our customer list to see how the various groups spend and who we are doing well with.”

About NuVue

NuVue Business Solutions is a global full-service company that provides sales and leadership training. “We specialize in classroom training with reinforcement tools that turn learning into action and action into results,” says Sales Representative Peter Comis. NuVue says its programs are proven to:

  • Increase sales
  • Produce higher margins
  • Build stronger leaders
  • Increase overall productivity

NuVue’s “Learning That Never Stops” training is tailored for each individual client, with the goal of transferring the skills learned back on the job. Extensive email, coaching tip sheets, conference calls, ROI best practice sessions, mini eLearning and mLearning modules are some of the ways the firm helps its clients grow. To learn more, visit

In the data-pull process Clark is able to identify generational groups and how they spend their discretionary income regardless of their geographic location. “You can have concentration of Gen Xers in a neighborhood but they each can spend in a different way,” she adds.

Factoring in generational technology adoption is another aspect Clark considers when deciding how and where to deliver its message. The company varies its delivery methods and informational materials according to the age demographic it’s trying to reach.

For example, the company’s sponsorships of youth sports programs are targeted primarily at parents in the Gen X and Millennial demographic while support of a community concert series is most likely to have an impact on the Baby Boomer and Mature market.

It also includes using specific images and designs that will catch a specific generation’s eye. For example, in a direct mail campaign, Clark will use various images to match the targeted demographic. For Baby Boomers that could be a couple walking the dog and for Millennials it could be children playing. “Regardless of the targeted audience you must know who they are, what is important to them and gain their trust,” says Kirwan Keefe.

The company also works to pair technicians with customers based on customer surveys and demographic data to create a targeted sales and customer service experience. The formula includes the following:

  • Closing Percentage — Can the technician close with the customer? Why or why not with certain customers?
  • Number of Callbacks — What are the reasons for the callback? Could it be the result of an area-wide problem with an invasive pest or is it because of poor service or poor communication?
  • Customer Satisfaction Rating — What are their detractors with customers? What is causing it? Does a younger technician do better with Gen X and Millennials vs. Baby Boomers?

Kirwan Keefe cautions that generational marketing isn’t an exact science and that she reviews her demographic research carefully before launching an effort. “Companies can throw around a lot of money without ever identifying a target,” she says. “The goal is not to outspend the competition but to be smarter and more precise with your spend.”

At Olympia, Wash.-based Eden Advanced Pest Technologies, the focus is on local, targeted marketing that incorporates generational marketing through social media.

Eden technicians have individual Facebook pages where they can connect with customers via social media (typically Generation X and Millennials). The pages include photos and videos from the field, as well as useful pest information and reminders.

“We help our technicians build a social media profile and it appeals to a certain segment of our client base, especially our commercial customers,” says Jen McCauley, marketing director for Eden.

McCauley says social media allows Eden to communicate with Gen Xers and Millennials as well as segments of the Baby Boomer audience who have taken to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social outlets.

“Some may look at social media as a niche way of communicating with specific customer segments but it affords us the chance to educate consumers and build brand awareness with the next generations of clients,” adds McCauley.

Eden also adjusts its website content to match the demographic of its most frequent visitors and the company also has enjoyed success with online sales through Groupon and LivingSocial offers.


The author is a partner of B Communications, an integrated communications/marketing firm, Email him at