[Mannes on Marketing] Tell Your Story

Columns - Mannes on Marketing

February 26, 2015

I love this industry. The pest control industry simply isn’t like any other I know. Much of that, I believe, is because it is an industry of hard-working entrepreneurs, who for the most part have built (or are building) a successful business one customer at a time. Folks who care about people and the environment; who contribute to the overall economy by providing jobs. We protect Americans’ health and property each and every day. We like to say that while eliminating pest problems and solving our customers’ problems is what we do — we’re really in the people business.

This industry is family oriented with strong beliefs and views from politics to religion and pretty much anything else! Attend an industry meeting, pick a topic for discussion and you will have a cacophony of views in less than 5 minutes! This is an industry of passionate and action-oriented people.

There is one thing that stands out to me — something I’ve not found in any other industry. It’s your stories. I never get tired of hearing your stories from how you built your business one customer at a time and now in many cases through multiple generations. Stories about your families and your businesses — the successes and the challenges. Stories told with modesty on how you have helped in your communities, churches and with your employees. I dare say this is one generous industry.

This is an industry of storytellers and you have told some of the most inspirational stories I’ve ever had the privilege of listening to. I find myself emotionally connected to many in this industry because of your amazing stories — and your ability to tell them.


THhe Art of Story Telling.

Consumers are bombarded with thousands of ads and marketing messages every day. We get to choose which messages we see or read. In the digital world — as well as in traditional marketing — there is a lot of content out there and we ignore most of it. In today’s “connected life,” meaningful and authentic story telling still stands out. The power of a story is that it gives you the ability to spark an emotion with your customers (and potential customers). Your story can offer value to your consumers regardless of where they are in the buying journey.

Okay. Sure. Large companies like Coke and Chipotle understand the story matters. It’s not always easy to stay true to your “story,” keep it authentic and stay on message. BUT if you commit to the idea that your marketing and advertising content should have an underlying story that conveys the heart of your company and services, your customers will be much more willing to pay attention.

In today’s marketing world much of what we hear about is the buyer’s journey. In 1898 a man named E. St. Elmo Lewis was credited (though not definitively) to have developed the first idea of a purchase funnel (see above). The stages were: awareness, interest, desire and action. For more than 100 years, that is how marketers (and you are a marketer) have approached the buyer’s journey.

But Not Anymore.

Your consumers are more empowered now than ever and they don’t want to be sold “to.” Our job is to solve their problems by providing relevant and valuable information when they need it. It’s all different types of information that guide your potential customers into making decisions. We used to say what do we do to make the “phone ring”? But now it’s not just making the phone ring. Your connected consumers may send you an email or they may visit your website and send in a request. But (still) the No. 1 way they find you? They ask a friend.

Being emotionally connected with your customers and potential customers is key to retention. Serve them up your story and that may be exactly what they are looking for.

You will need some research first to find out what questions they are asking. Your “research” can be as simple as asking your sales or customer service teams what questions they are getting. What do your customers want to know? Craft your story around it — so when they are ready to buy they think of you!

The buyer’s journey today is not a funnel but rather circular (see above). It is discovery, exploration, engagement, validation, purchase and post-purchase. Retaining that customer (and making their journey successful for them and for you) requires all of those components.

Tell your story. Stay authentic to it. This is an industry of natural storytellers. Use it to your advantage to grow your business.


Author’s note: Special thanks to Kimm Lincoln for introducing me to E. St. Elmo Lewis!


The author is chief marketing and strategy officer for Arrow Exterminators, Atlanta.