Today’s media landscape is more fragmented than ever before thanks to always-on mobile connectivity and the proliferation of social media as a rising source of news. According to Reuters, 77 percent of Americans turn to online resources to consume news, and as a result, more and more digital adoptive and digital native outlets are popping up than ever before. To help build credibility with customers, read on for three tactics to better position your company for success in today’s digital age.
TACTIC #1: PUBLIC RELATIONS. Reporters are tasked with publishing anywhere from three stories a day to upwards of 10, and are thus in constant need of quality content. By proactively reaching out to the media with seasonal pest topics, new product launches and company milestones, you’re ensuring that members of the media will turn to your company when expert commentary is needed, and not to your competitors. To guarantee your messaging stays top of mind with the media, public relations is key. Readers trust editorial content above any advertising or third-party endorsements. According to Forbes.com, public relations still accounts for 10 to 50 times as many conversions as advertising. Companies who embrace an open, proactive approach to media — both in good times and in bad — have the opportunity to earn a strong foundation of support and trust for their organization, the long-term value of which should never be underestimated.
A positive media placement can put your company on the map and can help boost sales without costing a dime. To capitalize on this potential revenue stream, try developing an editorial calendar that incorporates holidays, awareness weeks, industry events and seasonal pest topics as a way to tie in your company’s messaging. For example, Rodent Awareness Week is coming up Oct. 20-26, so consider distributing a press release ahead of time with tips to help customers spot an infestation. Mainframe.org, PPMA’s online digital agency, is a great resource for this, as well as other assets you may need to help your firm stay top-of-mind with the media.
Public relations also can be extremely effective in increasing local market visibility, as the media always wants to hear from local experts when issues arise. Monitor news on a daily basis and “newsjack” trending news to elevate your brand’s message. For example, if your local newspaper runs an article on holiday travel, reach out with tips to help their readers prevent bed bug encounters while on vacation. By staying apprised of daily news and reaching out with timely angles, you are giving your company an advantage in the media relations race.
TACTIC #2: WEBSITE. According to Inc.com, millennials check their phones 150 times a day, but this generation isn’t the only one that prefers the web over other forms of media. PPMA conducted generational research and found internet searches are one of the top three places millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers turn to find a pest control professional. To ensure your website is successful amongst all age groups, it’s important to first assess whether or not the fundamentals are in place.
Kissmetrics notes 40 percent of visitors will leave a website if the loading process takes more than three seconds, and that a web page should ideally take one second to load to give users the feeling that they can navigate freely. A great tool to assess how your website stacks up in this race for attention is Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Just enter your website’s URL in the search bar, click “analyze” and Google will tell you how your site stacks up and what’s slowing it down. Once the site’s speed has been assessed, it’s important to then ask if the navigation makes sense and drives users where you want them to go? Are you providing helpful and educational information, and not just hitting them with sales messages? Are your social pages linked on the site for users to make those connections and easily follow you on those platforms? Is the site itself mobile-friendly?
To help ensure all of these important aspects of your site are up to snuff, make sure you have a solid hosting partner with reliable service and an easy-to-use content management system that allows you to make frequent changes to keep the site fresh. GoDaddy is the most popular web hosting platform at just $3.66/month and is great for small businesses with basic web needs. If you’re looking for something a bit more robust, TechRadar recommends InMotion hosting, naming it the best web hosting provider for businesses of all sizes.
TACTIC #3: SOCIAL MEDIA. Social media greatly influences customer behaviors and decisions. Sprout Social notes that as much as 74 percent of consumers rely on social media to influence their purchasing decisions. With more than 2.2 billion monthly active users on Facebook alone, it’s a great platform to invest time and attention in order to raise awareness of your company. To capitalize on the influence of Facebook, however, you must ensure your page is well maintained, as it serves as an extension of your company’s online presence. Regularly sharing information and news lends credibility to your company, and having a dedicated person to monitor for questions and comments provides an easily accessible consumer relations outlet for customers.
Frequency is also key with Facebook, as the platform prioritizes fresh content, so be sure to post no more than once per day as additional daily posts may cannibalize each other. Timing is also incredibly important when posting on Facebook, and Wednesdays and Thursdays between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. and 8-9 p.m. usually see the highest engagement. While these are good rules of thumb, however, the absolute best time to post for your page should be calculated based on data specific to your audience, time zone and industry. The Facebook Insights tool allows you to evaluate your page’s content and performance to determine what resonates most with your audience, and when.
FINAL THOUGHTS. The digital age and its implications are impossible to ignore. Companies can either hide from it, or capitalize on it to ensure the long-term success of their business. By finding timely tie-ins with trending topics in the media, ensuring your website is working for you and not against you and taking full advantage of the opportunities that await on social media, your company will be better positioned to not only survive but thrive in today’s digital-first landscape.
Cindy Mannes is executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance and vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about PPMA, visit www.npmapestworld.org/ppma.
Glenn Matthews stared down in disbelief. The bill in front of him, which was from his family’s pest control company, was old, stained and yellowed. Printed in the top right corner in faded green ink was the date: Dec. 31, 1971 — more than four years before he was born.
“When he put it down on the table, I was shocked,” Matthews said.
Matthews is the owner and president of Modern Exterminating. The firm, based in Columbia, S.C., has remained under the ownership of the Matthews family since it was opened by George Matthews Sr., and Katherine Matthews, in 1955.
A current Modern Exterminating customer discovered the bill during kitchen renovations. The 47-year-old bill, which belonged to a previous owner of the house, had fallen behind the kitchen cabinets. Matthews believes that despite changes in the house’s ownership, Modern Exterminating has been providing it with pest control services since it was built, which he sees as an example of the firm’s ability to retain long-term customers. In addition, Matthews said he felt proud looking at the bill because it demonstrates the hard work and quality service that make up his family’s legacy.
“I think it says a lot about us,” Matthews said. “It shows we’re in it for the long haul.”
Running a family-owned business is a rewarding experience for Matthews, Modern Exterminating’s third-generation owner, who feels he was born into the pest control industry. Matthews grew acquainted with the company at an early age, going with his family to see it when he was three or four years old. Matthews earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina in 2003. In 2013, he became president and owner of Modern Exterminating.
Matthews said changes are constantly being made to Modern Exterminating’s processes and procedures to keep up with the rapid growth of technology. During the last six months, the company has expanded throughout South Carolina. In December 2018, Modern Exterminating acquired Smith and Son’s Pest Control and took over the firm’s daily operations. Modern Exterminating also purchased Carolina Pest Control, based in Irmo, S.C., in January.
The author is a Cleveland-based writer and can be contacted at email@example.com.
Ladybug Swarm Shows up on Weather Radar
On June 4, National Weather Service radar picked up a giant blob moving swiftly over southwestern San Bernardino County, east of Los Angeles. Around 8 p.m., forecasters at the agency’s San Diego office called spotters on the ground, who told them it was an enormous swarm of ladybugs.
According to an NPR article, the phenomenon is known as a ladybug “bloom.”
“It was very strange because it was a relatively clear day and we weren’t really expecting any rain or thunderstorms,” Casey Oswant, a NWS meteorologist in San Diego, told NPR. “But on our radar, we were seeing something that indicated there was something out there.”
California has numerous species of ladybugs. It’s not certain what kind made up the cloud, but it’s highly likely they are Hippodamia convergens, commonly known as the convergent lady beetle, Cornell University entomologist John Losey told NPR.
Syngenta has introduced Advion WDG insecticide, a sprayable formulation of the Advion brand. This product will give PMPs a more versatile, non-pyrethroid, non-neonicotinoid solution for commercial and residential areas, the company says.
Syngenta says Advion WDG controls a broad range of targeted insects, including large-colony ants, cockroaches and termites. It also features a MetaActive effect that activates the insecticidal properties of the active ingredient, indoxacarb, once it reacts with enzymes only found in target insects, meaning non-target organisms are less likely to be affected by the product, the manufacturer says.
“Our MetaActive effect is an advantage for PMPs,” says Marshall Gaster, market manager for Professional Pest Management (PPM) at Syngenta. “It offers peace of mind by providing the targeted control their customers expect.”
Syngenta says Advion WDG is a versatile product that can go anywhere Advion gel baits can go — and more. In addition to flexible indoor uses, it can be applied as a perimeter band outdoors up to 10 feet, making it ideal for applications around single- and multi-family residential buildings and commercial facilities, the manufacturer reports. Advion WDG also can be used with Syngenta gel baits to enhance efficacy against target pests.
Additionally, the Advion WDG label allows for use in food-handling areas. This means PMPs can use the product in a variety of commercial spaces, like commercial kitchens, and as spot and crack-and-crevice treatments in food-processing facilities while the facility is running.
“PMPs have used the Advion bait products for many years, and we’re proud to provide the same reliability in a sprayable formulation,” says Pat Willenbrock, head of marketing for PPM at Syngenta. “Adding Advion WDG to a pest management rotation should be an easy decision for PMPs who are familiar with the Advion brand.”
Liphatech, manufacturer of rodenticides, including FirstStrike, Resolv, TakeDown, Generation, BlueMax, Maki and Borderline brands, is providing PMPs a unique opportunity to enhance their bottom line by offering free product with single-pallet purchases of those brands.
Free product quantities are based on the brand of pallet purchased and there is no limit on the purchase amount. However, purchases must be full-pallet quantities of one product on a single invoice. Liphatech will ship product directly to qualifying PMPs 10 to 12 weeks from the date of purchase.
The promotional offer is available through Aug. 31, 2020, to PMPs who purchase from select Liphatech distributors. The offer is only available in the United States, except where prohibited. For full promotion details and instructions for redeeming the free offer, visit liphatech.com/structural-pest-control/.
“This offer provides a great opportunity for PMPs to stock up and get free product amidst heightened summer and fall rodent activity,” said Charlie Passantino, structural pest control business director at Liphatech.
Senet, a provider of cloud-based software and services platforms to enable global connectivity and network build-out for the Internet of Things (IoT), recently announced a technology and go-to-market partnership with Woodstream Corporation.
Leveraging Senet’s Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) connectivity and device management services, the firm says Woodstream is enhancing its next-generation Victor brand rodent control platform. By combining cutting-edge technology in its wirelessly connected VLINK rodent trap with Senet’s Low Power Wide Area Network services, professional pest controllers servicing a variety of markets will be able to monitor their rodent control program from anywhere in real-time, the manufacturers say. Easy web and mobile application pairing, multi-year trap battery life and real-time alerts provide enhanced visibility and reduced cost for indoor and outdoor rodent control programs, the companies report.
“Our strategic collaboration with Senet is enabling our customers to quickly and seamlessly deploy new connected pest control solutions to protect their facilities and goods from rodent contamination, disease and damage,” said Ashley Brown, senior marketing manager for Victor. “Senet’s network deployment model and robust network management features uniquely allow Woodstream to rapidly deploy to our customer base, enabling a new level of visibility, quality and service.”
Senet says LoRaWAN networks, such as its Low Power Wide Area Virtual Network (LVN), are ideal for IoT applications that require dense coverage in difficult-to-reach places, long end-device battery life and long-range communication. Further, Senet says with its network buildout business models, a network deployed in commercial buildings for a pest management application can be easily leveraged and expanded to support a wide range of additional smart building and smart city applications with revenue share opportunities available to all solution providers, including pest management professionals.
Slingshot, the customer engagement platform for home services providers including pest control, announced it has closed a $2.4 million seed round led by RET Ventures. Slingshot provides home services providers, such as pest control and lawn care companies, with a turnkey, 24/7, omni-channel call center solution that engages leads, increases close rates and improves the customer experience, the company says. This funding will help the company expand into new home services verticals, scale its operations and make strategic investments in R&D that will solidify Slingshot’s leadership position within the $400 billion home services provider market, the company adds.
“One of the primary inhibitors to closing a sale in the home services industry is simply the inability for a potential customer to get a live human on the phone,” said Taylor Olson, CEO for Slingshot. “Sales leads are perishable so it’s important that businesses connect with customers the moment they are ready to make a purchase. Through our decentralized call centers and proprietary software, we enable home services providers to leverage the benefits of an always-on call center that is adept at closing sales as well as providing a best-in-class customer service experience.”
Slingshot says home services providers typically don’t have the resources to operate a fully functional contact center that can close sales across multiple channels, including voice, text and web chat. Slingshot says it offers small businesses a cost-effective and scalable solution that leverages highly trained, remote sales and customer service representatives to ensure customer issues are handled 24/7.
“We were impressed with the traction Slingshot was able to gain in the highly fragmented home services provider market,” says John Helm, managing director of RET Ventures. “We believe that an omni-channel customer service platform capable of closing leads is attractive to many small businesses, giving Slingshot a wide range of possible verticals to target. We are excited to work with the Slingshot team to help them expand into new verticals and deliver a truly game-changing service for small businesses.”
Our 18-year old female cat went missing recently. Everyone in the house began a massive search for the cat except me. I had a lot to do and I knew that if she did not want to be found, she would not be found. The question came an hour later, “What if she died?” “Then we will find her tomorrow much easier than today,” I replied. There are times I would like to take that same attitude to a really difficult rodent job, but I really enjoy finding and eliminating these pests.
What happens when the pest technician has done their best to eliminate a rodent population from your client’s property and is now frustrated and stymied? That is when the rodent experts are called in for a review. Now, I am not claiming that I am an expert. I hand that title off to someone like Bobby Corrigan, or in our own company, Don Foster. However, I am good enough to know one trick, and I take full advantage of it. The detailed, all encompassing, no-holds-barred inspection is still king in rodent work.
I usually come into the situation after there has been a fair amount of work done. I often go in alone, but it is hard to train the technician to do a good inspection if they cannot be there with me, so I have a back-up plan. As soon as I meet the technician, I ask him or her to refrain from sharing their perspective on the problem with me until after I finish my inspection. I only want facts and answers to my questions while I do the inspection. I need to draw my own conclusions based on the inspection.
My inspection consists of two parts — a review of the paperwork associated with the account, and an actual physical inspection of the location.
DOCUMENTATION DEEP DIVE. What to do first — the documentation review or the hands-and-knees inspection? That depends on where your strengths lie. I start in the data because I am an auditor at heart. I look at data to spot trends and indicators (or clues) that tell me where to look in the physical inspection. What data is most helpful? The customer sighting log is my first stop. It tells me where the client has seen the activity, but usually only reflects a fraction of the actual sightings by the people in the facility. The site map or location list of where the traps or bait stations have been placed is vital to knowing where we have been using corrective measures. Trend reports are helpful, but most small accounts don’t actively leverage them or have them readily available, so I just work up my own trends from the service data. The service report our team leaves with the customer tells me where they have seen activity; trapped or baited; what stations had activity; what type of traps or lures are working; the sanitation, structural and environmental conditions and history of the facility; as well as many other things. Every piece of data is a clue to the rodent mystery being solved.
Today, we have many additional pieces of data to review if we are using remote monitoring systems and cameras. While these items or services can be pricey, the data they provide can be of tremendous value. We have used trail cameras for several years to determine the movement of rodents in an area to either confirm or rule out that area for trapping. We found that sometimes we were not dealing with the pest we originally thought, resulting in a change of strategy to resolve the issue. Making the correct identification of the pest using the cameras can be one of their major advantages.
With so many remote monitoring systems on the market or being tested today, there is a treasure trove of new information soon to come or available now. We can find out much about the area of activity and the quantity of rodents captured or missed. As the sensors and cameras merge into the same systems, we will be able to determine where they are coming from and where they are going. We will be able to know the species. We will be able to determine if there are males, females, adults or juveniles in the population. However, as with devices that cannot monitor remotely, the data will still be dependent on correct placement of that device, which relies on a good physical inspection.
Physical Inspection. Why do I say physical inspection instead of just inspection? Because now I am putting my eyes and hands on everything I can possibly find that will tell me where the rodents live and eat. You have to get dirty. You will need personal protective equipment both to protect you against bacterial exposure and hazards of the building. And, even while I am on my hands and knees looking and checking, I am still searching for more data.
As you move through the facility, make conversation with all the employees onsite. They will naturally share more information/data to add to what you have in the documentation records you reviewed. Take notes on their reports of sightings and catches during your physical inspection. Take notes of your own findings with pictures as well (unless you are prohibited). In some situations, the client may wave their “no photo” rules for this situation.
Here are some common questions you must answer during the inspection, but you will find more questions based on the facility type you are inspecting:
- Is the activity inside, outside or both?
- Is there travel potential between outside and inside?
- Where are droppings found?
- What species do the droppings indicate are present? (You may have more than one species.)
- Where is nesting occurring?
- Where is feeding occurring?
- What is the most logical travel route between the two?
- Where is sebum (rub markings) found?
- Is there an area that no one has inspected because it is just too difficult to get to?
In many cases, the last question is the key. Rodents want to nest where there is very little activity and almost no chance of them being disturbed or found. You need to access the most remote areas of the facility, in between construction elements, and under or above the building, if you are going to solve the issue. This may mean crawling into access tunnels or getting above a very high suspended ceiling. Until you find the most remote hiding spots and potential rodent travel routes, you will not be able to eliminate these pests.
Finally, pull together the data and notes from your physical inspection, comparing it to what you found in your documentation review and what the technician previously noted or shared with you. This cross-analysis may be the key that will give you the answer your client and teammates need to resolve the activity. Finish it with a written summary. What did you find and what do you recommend as corrective actions to alleviate the problem?
Follow-up inspections are also a must. They allow you to adjust your assessment and recommendations as the rodents adjust to your corrective actions (which they will do). Rodents are driven to survive, and we must inspect and work hard to stay ahead of them.
So, what about our cat? She sneaked out of a laundry room storage cabinet (where no one even thought to look) late the same night.
The author is an Associate Certified Entomologist and director of technical services at Gregory Pest Solutions, Greenville, S.C.
Copesan is an alliance of pest management companies with locations throughout North America. To learn more, visit www.copesan.com.