How online marketing programs can drive sales, improve service and provide valuable customer insights.
The average American logs on to the Internet 57 times a month, visiting 90 different websites in the process. Is your company’s website one of them, or are they clicking through to your competitor’s website?
Driving visitors to your company’s website and keeping them coming back is a challenge every company — except those named Google, YouTube or Facebook — wrestles with day-in and day-out. Designing a graphically pleasing website is not hard to do, nor is it overly costly. In fact, most pest management companies likely already have a solid, baseline website in place.
But do your digital marketing efforts — your website and social media outlets — have the juice to drive the sales needle upward, improve customer service practices or gather valuable customer opinions? If the answer is yes, then keep moving ahead. If you responded in the negative, then it is time to swing into action.
At the 2010 Marathon Data Systems User Conference, Matt Moog, president and CEO of the Viewpoints Network, a Chicago-based social media and technology company, told attendees that using digital marketing to drive sales, improve service and gain customer insight are “the triple bottom-line of social commerce.”
Moog challenged his audience to ask themselves five important questions when they are performing a self-analysis of their company’s digital marketing tools and their performance.
- Do you collect feedback from your customers?
- Is the feedback truly actionable?
- How do your customers find you?
- Are you creating content to attract search users?
- Are you giving your customers a reason to talk about you?
“Translating feedback into ways to improve your business, that’s the really hard part,” said Moog. “The easier it is for customers to give you feedback, the more you’ll get.”
Seeking truly honest customer feedback isn’t always a pleasant exercise but it is necessary to move your company’s brand awareness ahead in these increasngly competitive times.
However, before you dive into the deep waters of gathering and responding to customer feedback, you first must identify how your customers are finding you on the Internet and what you are doing to keep them coming back?
Moog theoriz-ed that the customer funnel has evolved away from a linear progression — in which the customer researches the service, calls the company for an estimate, negotiates the final terms, purchases the service or finds another option — to more of a customer decision journey guided by digital marketing, mainly social media.
“Your customers are constantly seeking feedback about companies and services they are interested in purchasing, including pest control,” said Moog. “Are you making it easy for them to talk about you in the social media arena?”
A recent Smallbiztrends.com survey revealed that 47 percent of small- and medium-sized business owners either aren’t sure or don’t think their customers spend time on social media sites. “Most people don’t think their customers are social media users and that is a dangerous assumption,” said Moog.
SHARPEN YOUR WEB IMAGE.
What can pest management professionals do to maximize their social media presence with current and potential customers? Well-recognized social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn are options but Moog said you don’t always need to be on Facebook to be successful with social media.
“Your company’s website is a lot more valuable in helping with social media than you probably give it credit for,” said Moog.
He told PMPs that research has shown that most websites capture a visitor’s attention for three minutes. “Don’t have the expectation that a customer is going to spend 15 minutes going through your site to find out about your services,” he said.
This means designing and maintaining a website that is clear and concise in both content and presentation. The use of video and interactive customer surveys are two ways to boost the likelihood of keeping people on your site longer and getting them to come back.
Then there is the question of how easy is it to find your company on the web? Aside from the traditional methods of promoting your website to customers, including it in all print ads, sending e-newsletters to customers, including it in all e-mail signatures, etc., Moog encouraged PMPs to think about what words their customers might be typing into search engines like Google or Bing, or social outlets like Facebook, in order to find them.
“There are 120 million people using the web for two hours every day, so there is a lot of noise out there,” said Moog. “They are looking to connect directly with what they are thinking and that is done through social media.”
He recommends to his clients that they engage people through the social channels and get them to create content about your company. Will they do it?
According to a Business Week poll, conducted by Penn, Schoen, & Berland Associates, 70 percent of Americans say they consult product reviews or consumer ratings before making a purchase. This can also include social media outlets including Angie’s List, Craig’s List and Amazon, in addition to Facebook and others.
Moog said many companies engage in social media purely for reputation purposes, and while that isn’t an unacceptable strategy, he encouraged PMPs to keep their eyes on the prize and focus on engaging customers that are most happy with them.
“It is becoming an increasingly customer habit to trust more and more the genuine word of their fellow consumer,” said Moog. He explained that for his customers, they don’t correct grammar (in testimonials) because it is a sign of authenticity.
“There are lots of people using the Internet and when it comes to commerce, they are depending more and more on the feedback of customers when deciding whether or not to buy,” said Moog.
CONTENT IS KEY.
So how does a pest management professional achieve a social media presence? By simply delivering content that provides the information prospective customers are looking for — mainly helpful links explaining your services and a way to connect with you or fellow customers.
“Twenty-five percent of search results for the world’s top 20 brands are links to user-generated content,” said Moog. “Customers are responding to user-generated content and that is what you want to have on your site.”
He recommended pest management companies create pages that are content-specific — bed bugs, rodents, termites, commercial pest management, inspection services, etc. This will help increase your visibility in the search process because the more key words you can provide the better.
He also pointed out that being “local” is a strong marketing tool that you should take advantage of. Build your website and social media accounts to reflect the needs and trends in your geographic service area. Moog referenced a survey from Smallbiztrends.com that showed 69 percent of consumers responded they are more likely to use a local business if they can find it on a social networking site.
The other key is to dedicate time and resources to maintaining a steady fresh flow of content. What type of content are customers looking for? Consider these items when putting your website and social media content together:
- Links to helpful resources or articles on specific pest management issues (i.e. bed bugs)
- Online surveys
- Photo galleries of insect images
- Video clips of your service technicians in action
- Customer testimonials (post videos of customers for a different twist)
- Service promotions and specials
- Links to your social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn
- Prominent links on your company blog.
“You have to keep the content fresh,” said Moog. “New content should appear at least once a week at the minimum.”
With 55 percent of the United States adult population using the Internet every day, the potential for gaining new customers certainly exists. Pest management companies must keep in mind that while it takes time and resources to develop an effective Internet and social media marketing channel, the payoff could be significant.
“Customers want more from the companies they do business with than just a presence on social media,” said Moog. “They want you to be authentic and act like they are standing in front of you talking.”
The Five Ts of Word-of-Mouth Marketing
With social media being today’s conversation over the backyard fence of years gone by, there are important guidelines to remember when creating and executing your digital marketing efforts. Matt Moog of Viewpoints Network calls them the “Five Ts of Word-of-Mouth Marketing.”
Talkers – Find People Who Will Talk
Topics – Give People a Reason to Talk
Tools – Help the Message Spread
Taking Part – Join the Conversation
Tracking – Measure and Listen
Educational Sessions, Focus Groups Highlight MDS User Conference
If you want to get rich quick, Las Vegas is the town for you. Slot machines and gaming tables beckon both seasoned gamblers and first-time visitors to “Sin City.” Yet more than 250 PMPs traveled to the “Entertainment Capital of the World” for a different reason last December; not to make a quick buck or take in a show on Las Vegas’ famed strip, but to grow their business, learn about new technology and benefit from in-depth software training at the bi-annual PestPac User Conference sponsored by Marathon Data Systems (MDS).
Every other year, MDS brings together current and potential customers to unveil the latest features and benefits of the company’s cutting-edge software, share insights about technology trends, and lead focus groups where attendees can share what they like and dislike about the company’s products and services, all with the goal of better meeting their customers’ needs. “The conference gives us a chance to sit down with a large group of customers and learn about their businesses,” according to Marathon Data Systems Marketing Manager Jamie Mish. “It gives everyone a chance to talk about their needs from a technology perspective and share best practices so they can learn from one another and we can learn from them.”
This year’s conference, held at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, featured more than 25 educational sessions on such diverse topics as online customer acquisition, advanced accounting, search engine optimization, basic scheduling and collections. In addition, Matt Moog, founder and CEO of Viewpoints, a social technology and media company, discussed “How to Master Social Commerce to Drive Sales, Improve Service and Gain Customer Insight” (see related story, page 36). Finally, MDS representatives hosted single-topic educational sessions focusing on various aspects of the company’s software, including PestPac Executive Dashboard and PestPac Mobile.
In opening the three-day conference, MDS President Chris Sullens said the New Jersey-based company employs 65 people and services 1,400 customers, with the vast majority of those customers in the pest control industry. In an attempt to communicate regularly with those customers, MDS held more than 100 free training classes in 2010, enhanced its internal reporting systems and launched an “Inside PestPac” blog this past year. “We want to improve our communication with the base and these are the kinds of tools that will allow us to do that,” he said.
Those investments are paying off in the form of a 50 percent reduction in the “time of resolution” of service calls, according to Sullens. “The good news is we’re making progress,” he said. “The bad news is there is more progress to be made. What you need to know is this is something we care deeply about.”
Sullens, who has a MBA in finance, strategy and entrepreneurship from the University of Chicago, Graduate School of Business, joined MDS in 2008 as chief financial officer before being promoted to president 10 months later. He previously served as vice president of Internet Marketing and Retail Initiatives for ServiceMaster.
Much of the company’s efforts this past year have been dedicated to laying the groundwork for PestPac2011, the latest iteration of the company’s software program. “We’re giving our smartest people the time and attention to focus on it,” Sullens said. Jason Kochel, chief technology officer, told attendees the changes to PestPac are going to be significant. “It’s not just a fresh coat of paint we’re throwing onto the existing software package,” he said. “It’s the best parts of PestPac, built on an entirely new framework, plus enhancements to the weakest parts of PestPac.” The initial launch of the new software is scheduled for the second quarter of 2011.
Mish added that the PestPac User Conference has been critical to the company’s success throughout the years. “We want to hear from our customers,” Mish said. “That’s the only way you get better as a company.”
The Las Vegas event was the fourth User Conference since the company was formed in 1984. Previous conference sites include Orlando and Tampa, Fla. Sponsors of the most recent conference included Dow AgroSciences, Telogis, ARM, Intermec, Motorola, Honeywell, Brother Printers, CTP Solutions, Datalogic and U.S. Fleet Tracking. To learn more about Marathon Data Systems, visit www.pestpac.net or call 800/762-0301.
The author is partner of B Communications (www.b-communications.com), an integrated communications/marketing firm specializing in the needs of pest management professionals. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.