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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Missy Henriksen

director of the Professional Pest Mangement Alliance.


[PPMA Pulse] Big Data and Your Customer

PPMA Pulse

December 30, 2014

Did you know that analytics can provide insights that your company needs?

The dynamic shift in consumer behavior in recent years has challenged companies to stay ahead of the curve by utilizing new ways to engage with their customers, as well as to predict new consumer trends. Pest management companies are no different — despite offering a service most homeowners need or should have — shifting consumer attitudes toward a “greener” lifestyle and a movement toward do-it-yourself projects pose marketing challenges for the industry. Companies can help better understand their customers and overcome these perception challenges with careful and strategic mining of consumer data.

However, not all data is created equal. Most big data has become almost unusable unless firms know how to approach it and to extract the specific information they need. Businesses and their marketing teams must find the balance between analytics gleaned from company websites, social media, smartphones, industry surveys and customer trends and personalized insights through customer emails, sales and service visits.

In short, the data must tell a story, otherwise it remains static data comprised of unusable numbers.

Big Data & Consumers.

According to Gartner, big data is high-volume, high-velocity and high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for decision making.

Consumers today have many more options for providing feedback on their purchases and services than they did in the past and they are more apt to use social media and online research before making a purchasing decision. In many cases, consumers already have made that decision before they see an advertisement or receive a promotion via email. It is this consumer behavior that companies struggle to address, and look to big data for assistance.

According to a 2014 survey by Lavastorm, 75 percent of businesses have yet to successfully deploy big data analytics solutions to gain business-impacting insights, despite 65 percent increasing their investment in analytic services and technologies this year. These results illustrate that most businesses understand the importance of big data and are committed to implementing the necessary technologies, but are still struggling with how to properly harness the necessary insights.

The first step in successfully finding and using big data is to understand consumer behavior patterns, which can be recognized through analytics from social media or sales promotions. For example, if pest management companies wanted to find out which Facebook users are talking about pest problems or inquiring about pest control in their service areas in order to market to them, the company will be able to mine that information using the Audience Insights tool on the backend of their Facebook page. Companies will be able to obtain demographic information about their target audience, including trends about age and gender, relationship status, job roles and lifestyle and interest information. Additionally, companies can purchase information about their target audience, including online purchase behavior, which categories they’re mostly likely to buy in, and location data that may help you identify where to run special promotions or host events. These consumer behavior patterns are valuable because companies will then be able to present the consumer with the desired services instead of waiting for their services to find the consumer.

Most importantly, by using big customer data and available technologies, pest management company marketers can actually treat every prospect and customer as an individual — a winning marketing strategy.

Using Data.

Gregg Clark, American Leader for Consumer Products in the Advisory Services at Ernst & Young, offered the following opinion regarding big data: “Companies have invested in high-end customer analytics and have armies of people trying to make sense of disconnected and confusing data. They run statistic reports and push them to the sales and marketing teams, reporting on the past.”

While true, what companies do with that past information is what determines whether big data insights are successful or not. At the end of the day, only two factors matter — the consumer and the brand’s market share within its industry. To that end, the role of big data is to ensure that the company’s consumers are happy and that the business is growing. By using insights from what happened yesterday, companies can predict what might happen tomorrow and take the appropriate actions to prevent or leverage the results.

The old adage “You don’t know what you don’t know” is the basis of why big data mining is a factor no company can ignore. Because of the amount of data available, pest management companies need to determine their marketing priorities and focus their data insights on those objectives. For example, if a company has noticed that target households with small children are more wary about professional pest control due to their perception of chemical treatment methods, the company can market specifically to those households using educational materials and information about the safety of the products, as well as provide them with alternative options as appropriate.

All companies that aim to utilize customer data in their marketing efforts should ensure that the insights meet the following criteria:

  • Be functional/useable
  • Enable the company to forge a deeper or create a new relationship with the customer
  • Boost profits

If this criteria is met, pest management companies will be able to use big data to gain the following benefits:

  • Retain/upsell existing customers. Online retailers know this well by tracking browsing history and then offering “you might be interested in this” companion items. Pest management companies can do the same based on website, social media or e-newsletter behavior, customer service conversations or in-person conversation with customers.
  • Identify new customers. With big data, firms can discover new target customers based on their behaviors and interests, such as posting about pest control or pest problems, rather than more traditional demographics.
  • Invest in more profitable ads. With almost real-time analytics from online advertising, pest management companies can employ a fluid marketing strategy and adjust campaigns according to audience behaviors.
  • Measure results more accurately. Because of the abundance of data, companies can better understand which tactics worked and which ones didn’t by analyzing how each channel performed and delivered on set objectives and can then budget accordingly.


The Bottom Line.

Big data has transformed the way firms operate, engage with and deliver expectations to their customers, as well as plan for future trends. As the field of big data continues to increase, companies will continue to work hand-in-hand with technology to extract the usable from the static. Similarly, as consumer behaviors continue to evolve, successful firms will continue to adapt through the help of not just big, but smart, data.


The author is executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance. For more about PPMA, visit