You’ve Got Marketing Questions, PPMA Has Answers

Features - real-world marketing

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October 15, 2021

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Editor’s note: In April, the Professional Pest Management Alliance’s media relations partner, Vault Communications, hosted the “Ask Us Anything” virtual summit, which featured Vault’s digital marketing specialists on a Zoom call. On the line to answer questions from PPMA contributors were Vault members Jessica Phelan, president and partner; Patty Stofanak, senior vice president; Sara DeViva, vice president of creative strategy; and Colleen Lynch, director of digital strategy. What follows are some of the highlights from the session, which covered everything from digital marketing to creative development and traditional marketing to media relations strategies and tactics.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Q: Can you share some insights on the importance of having a presence on social media from an agency/business owner perspective? Is there a platform you particularly recommend that PMPs should have a presence on?

A: This is something that we’ve talked about at PestWorld again and again. There’s a lot of interest in how to get involved in social media. I would say at this point, it’s downright irresponsible to not be on social media. And that’s because the majority of younger customers, new homeowners — and by younger, I mean like sub-50 years old — we know they’re turning to social media many times before they’re picking up the phone and calling you. They want to see, are you real? What are you saying? How you are participating in the community and on those social media platforms will give them a gut check before they engage with your business or hire your business.

That said, don’t think I mean PMPs should be on all social media. There’s no time available in a small business’ schedule to manage multiple channels. So, my advice would be pick one. Do it really, really well. Have a great strong presence there. And at this point, probably Facebook would be the channel that I most recommend. It is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. We don’t see that changing any time soon. It may not be everyone’s favorite at this point; I think based on age, based on geography, you may prefer another social media, but typically, everything else is just a plus one. Right? I’m on Facebook and Instagram. I’m on Facebook and Snapchat. I’m on Facebook and TikTok. But Facebook is just that baseline network.

Q: What are some best practices for marketing a business on social media, such as content strategy tips and tone?

A: Remember to always be social. It’s social media for a reason. Users are really used to interacting and engaging with their friends and family, and so that’s a really good starting point when you develop your voice and content strategy for social. You have about six seconds to make an impression in the feed before they’re scrolling right past your post. So, you really want to use it wisely.

The No. 1 thing to do when you’re considering your content development is just keep your copy really short and simple. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and it can be just fun. You can always include a visual. That’s really going to help make sure that people are stopping as they’re scrolling. And video is a very, very important piece of content strategy today. Rather than typing out a long update, consider speaking to your audience in a video. That can be a way to get across to them in a more visually appealing way that’s going to help stand out in the feed. Consider showing a behind-the-scenes tidbit or capturing educational tips and tricks that are related to this season that we’re in.

Developing content pillars is a really great way to guide your content strategy. So, think about what you can say from the perspective of your company, news and updates, making sure that you’re peppering in some industry trends and looking at seasonal tips and tricks based on your area. If people are considering hiring a pest management professional, how can you help them? Having a set of content pillars is a really good way to make sure that you’re on track and balancing some of your more promotional content that’s asking people to drive back to your business with things that are going to keep them engaged and keep them entertained, which is an important piece of a social media strategy.

Consistency is really key. So, developing those content pillars go hand-in-hand with a content calendar. We recommend looking at content on a monthly basis where you’re mapping out your content for the full month, and then you can consider batching and scheduling that content at least a week at a time to make sure that you’re not having to worry about it every single day. Looking at it on a weekly or monthly basis is a good way to be able to find some efficiencies with that content development, because it can definitely be time-consuming. You want to post at least once per week and up to once daily.

So, usually for our clients, say between three and five times per week is a sweet spot, especially on Facebook. You never want to post more than once per day because of the fact that those posts will then compete with each other in the algorithm. So, one post per day is going to perform well. And try not to have big gaps in between posts. Make sure that you’re posting at a consistent frequency, whether that’s once per week or a few times per week. You can carve out specific days that are going to be your posting days.

 

ONLINE MARKETING

Q: What are some of the most effective online marketing strategies to increase brand awareness?

A: I think any service-based business that maximizes positive customer testimonials is going to find you a good return. Offline, that includes signals that people are hiring you. Think about your trucks driving around the neighborhood or yard signs that homeowners put up. Whenever people can find you organically around town, you’ll want to maximize that presence. So, that means attractive, highly visible branding on your fleet, yard signs that pop, and including your phone number or a memorable URL.

When it comes to paid advertising, billboards, door hangers, postcards and other traditional forms of marketing, there’s not really one-size-fits-all or one rule that shows you that something is effective and working in your area. No, I can’t tell you that billboards are going to always send new customers, but when you are paying for that type of marketing, you’re going to want to customize your URL or get a unique phone number that you can track if something is working. If you run two ads, for example, and one shows a photo of a real employee and one shows a stock photo of a family at home, if each of those ads is tagged in some way with a unique URL or phone number and you get calls, you’ll be able to see which one performed better. There’s no way that there’s a one-size-fits-all best marketing strategy based on your market or your competition, but you can keep improving on what you are doing by understanding how each piece is performing.

Knowing your demographic and your market is critical to that, because, for instance, if you’re in Atlanta, I can tell you for sure that a billboard strategy is a great strategy, because people pre-pandemic were spending an hour and a half in their car one way driving to work. So, they spend roughly three hours in their car. If there’s an opportunity for billboard advertising, again, it’s knowing your market. That’s kind of critical. If you really understand how the people in your area operate, that will add to it as well.


© Designer | iStock
 
Q: What are some tips for increasing clicks on digital ads?

A: The first one is just writing compelling ad copy. You know who your customers are, who your potential customers are. Writing to them in a way that’s going to stand out is really important. I mentioned this before: Testing different ad types and formats is also a big thing when it comes to digital. There’s always a new ad format. There’s always a new type of ad campaign that you can run, and it’s really important to test and see if that is something that resonates better with your audience. And if that is, then you lean a little bit more in that direction rather than pull from somewhere that’s not.

A lot of times, we’ll see that offers/promotions in headlines will work really well. So, 30 percent off services, and then you give them a special link to access that promotion. They can fill out that form, and you know that they came from that specific area. Those always tend to perform really well, just based on the nature of people being more interactive.

Incorporating a strong call to action is always important, like your “call now” or “contact us.” It seems like a no-brainer, but when you don’t have a call to action, people just really don’t know what to do. So, they don’t click, or they don’t call. You’re missing out. Make sure you’re including that and be strategic by your audience targeting.

Make sure you’re paying really close attention to Google Analytics. It’s a really, really helpful resource to understand who you’re targeting and how you’re targeting them and what’s working well. Playing around with audience targeting and setting up different parameters for that can be something that could make your clicks a little bit higher, because you’re hitting the right people who are going to click those digital ads.

Making sure that you have engaging copy is such an important piece of this. And one of the free tools that we love when it comes to copywriting is called the Hemingway app (www.hemingway app.com). It’s a tool that you can log on to and plug in the copy that you’re wanting to write for your social post or for your digital ad or anything similar. And not only will it tell you the character count that you’re looking at, which is an important thing to keep in mind, but it also will tell you how complicated your text is and if it’s easily readable and what reading level it would be.

Oftentimes, you want to try and stay at a sixth-grade reading level when it comes to digital copy because of the fact that people are reading it so quickly, and you have to make it very, very simple for them to understand quickly. So that is a really great tool for if you’re writing your own copy for either ads or even social posts.

 

BRAND BUILDING

Q: Which tactics are best for brand building for PMPs?

A: When we’re thinking about brand building, we want think about how rather than what. It’s not, am I running a TV ad? Am I running a billboard? But how are you utilizing those venues, and how do you appear? Make sure that there’s consistency. Make sure that whatever you’re investing in for brand awareness and getting your name out there, if you’re investing in a platform specifically, that your colors are consistent, that the visual style of your photography is consistent, that when people see the ad, even if your logo is removed, there’s something identifiable to your business there.

I think it’s also important to talk about getting creative about brand awareness. What are some alternative ways that you can build awareness of your brand, like referral programs or local sponsorships or just having a presence locally in your community? It’s important to think about your brand as your reputation, and it’s an experience that people have. Is it great if you can run a ton of TV ads? Is it great if you can run a bunch of billboards? Yeah, I think that all helps. But I think that it’s important to think about the nuances of what that brand experience is. I think of a company like Chick-fil-A, where they’re known for the food is good, but also being super friendly. Try to be known for something: on your Facebook page, that you’re responding quickly to customer questions and comments; that you’re managing your reviews on Yelp and Google; that if you have an unhappy customer, you’re immediately responding in a very friendly and professional way. I think all of these things contribute to your brand awareness and your reputation, which is really what your brand is. It’s your reputation amongst your customers.

When you are designing something or having something designed that’s going to be in the market, make sure that everything is consistent, that your brand experience, from your website to your Facebook page to your billboard to your TV ad, that there’s a thread of consistency in how those things look and sound, your tone of voice and language that you use, but also other small, nuanced ways that you are reinforcing your brand and reinforcing your reputation in the community.

 

LOOKING AHEAD: MARKETING TRENDS

Q: What are future focus trends or emerging channels that should be on our radar for 2021 and 2022?
A: TikTok is absolutely a channel that we have been following, and we are finally getting our feet wet and really participating in the space. It’s a video-based app that features short snippets of video. So, between 15 and 60 seconds. It’s a unique style of video creation. If you’re not on TikTok, we do recommend hopping on and really getting engaged and taking a look at the content that’s being created there. The videos are linked to trending sounds and memes, so hashtags and certain dances and things like that take off on the platform. Branded hashtags have definitely taken off on the platform. We’ve been watching that growth for over a year now.

I think that COVID was definitely a factor in the explosive growth of TikTok because people really tuned in, I would say, about a year ago, when COVID started lockdowns. It’s the most downloaded app right now. It actually is at 689 million monthly active users. Now, that’s globally. We don’t have U.S.-specific stats, but we do know that the largest age demographic is between 16 and 24. But that older age demographic continues to grow very quickly, which is why we are keeping such a close eye on it.

The interesting thing about TikTok is that engagement on the app is actually very low, because it’s a passive experience. It is something that users are really addicted to, though. The average user spends 52 minutes per day on the app, and 90 percent of users are accessing the app daily. So, it’s a situation where people are really getting into their own routines and accessing the app on a regular basis.

It’s a place to garner organic impressions and views through discoverability. We’re talking a little bit about how Facebook has changed, and organic views aren’t as easy to capture there. TikTok is a place where you absolutely do still have an opportunity to be discoverable on the app. We’ve seen several pest control companies and pest control professionals really gaining traction and getting an audience there, which is really great. Educational and entertaining content definitely seems to work well here.

There’s a very strong algorithm. The algorithm is what determines what you’re going to see in your feed at any given time. And that algorithm really creates a niche experience. You’ll see that very specific topics have actually been carved out on the platform. It’s easy to find similar videos and topics that you’re interested in, which is interesting. So, it’s something that we’re absolutely tracking. We just recently launched a presence on behalf of PestWorld. We feel like it’s totally the new frontier, the latest and greatest as far as social media. It’s a place we’re excited to be engaged on behalf of the organization.

Editor’s note: For more information about PPMA, its marketing programs or how to get involved in supporting the professional pest control industry, visit www.npmapestworld.org/ppma.