Traditional marketing methods like brochures and print ads have certainly had their place in the pest control industry, and they probably won’t go away anytime soon.
But there’s another type of marketing that has been popular among field services businesses: word of mouth.
Word-of-mouth marketing can be an extremely potent tool for taking your business to the next level, but many business owners leave positive reviews and commentary about their business up to chance.
Yet there are many ways to intentionally promote word of mouth to take advantage of the benefits.
Here’s what you need to know…
Why Word of Mouth Works
According to Nielsen, 90% of consumers will believe a recommendation from a friend or family member over any other form of marketing. This can work either in your favor or against it, depending on what is being said, but the fact remains: word-of-mouth marketing simply works.
But studies have shown that while 64% of marketing executives indicated that they believe word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing, only 6% say they have mastered it. So if word of mouth works, why aren’t more businesses focused on it?
1. It’s about connection
Part of the problem could be that marketers tend to be focused on “collecting” information from customers instead of actually connecting with them. They want to know how many people are saying good things, so they will include reviews or referrals as a part of their marketing program, but they never take the next step in actually responding to those customer reviews.
But it’s not about collecting fans on your social media page, it’s about finding people who genuinely believe in your service and getting them to interact with you. Word-of-mouth marketing works because people buy in to your brand: they’re engaged and they want to talk about it.
2. It’s about trust building
Word-of-mouth marketing is also effective because your customers are happy with their service, but that doesn’t mean that a bad review is bad marketing. Word-of-mouth marketing is about building trust, so even if a bad review pops up on your radar, you can address it directly.
Many companies are already doing this through social media. When they post an advertisement and someone leaves a negative response or comment, a company spokesperson will address the issue directly on the page for everyone to see.
This is perfect for smaller, field service businesses, like pest control, where much of your interaction will be in person or through social media. The owner of the company can respond directly to questions, comments, concerns or frustrations, which builds trust. Customers know they’re dealing with real people and not another cog in the machine.
3. It’s about saving money
As they say, “talk is cheap.” This is true about word-of-mouth marketing as well, as it’s relatively inexpensive (or free) to get people to talk about your business if they’re happy with your service. Even things like referral programs, while not necessarily free, can be cost effective compared to printing hundreds of brochures or purchasing an ad spot on the radio.
But part of the reason many marketers still avoid word-of-mouth marketing despite the cost savings is the level of risk. If you purchase a television ad, you know what’s being said will always be positive – after all, you wrote it!
But the same can’t be said of referrals – some may like you, but others may have been dissatisfied. This puts a lot of pressure on businesses to improve their customer service (but that’s probably where you should be spending most of your marketing budget anyway).
The good news is that if you focus on connection and building trust over throwing ads at people and hoping they stick, you will find a much more loyal customer base who can provide your company with long-term value.
Word-of-Mouth Marketing Techniques
Of course, many business owners fail to engage with word-of-mouth marketing simply because they don’t know where to start. Here are a few helpful techniques that can facilitate your word-of-mouth marketing program and help you engage customers in a powerful way.
Start an email campaign. If you have an email list, encourage subscribers to forward messages to their friends or to leave you reviews. You can use a third-party review tools like BazaarVoice or GIGYA, or point customers to your Yelp and Facebook page where they can interact with you directly. You can combine your campaign with a referral program for maximum impact.
Start a referral program. People love to tell other people about excellent service they received, and they’re even more inclined to do so if it means they reap some reward. If you don’t already have a referral program in place, consider adding one to provide incentive for positive reviews and recommendations.
Create shareable content. Plenty of businesses are jumping on the environmental bandwagon in order to talk about “green” issues. No industry is better suited to do this than field service, especially those who already deal with environmental issues on a daily basis. Consider starting a campaign that encourages customers to have important conversations about green issues and engage with them on social media about what matters to them. Being a thought leader in the industry will work wonders for your brand (and will work especially well if you’re trying to court the Millennial generation).
Respond on social media. We already talked about this briefly, but it’s important to actually interact with potential customers. The more you interact, the more likely they are to interact with you. Follow customers on Twitter, respond to comments, and address any concerns as soon as possible in order to show that real people run your company and actually care.
Talk about the competition. This isn’t to say that you should necessarily promote other people’s services or even bad mouth “the other guys,” but part of trust building will come down to showing that you know your customers could go somewhere else, so you’re happy they’re sticking with you. Consider offering price comparison tools – like Progressive does with their insurance customers – or other forms of comparison so customers can “window shop” without having to leave your website. If they can find the answers they’re looking for with you, they may have no incentive to look elsewhere.
Of course, the absolute best marketing technique is to treat your customers like gold. The more effort you can put into maintaining great customer service and meeting needs, the easier your marketing campaigns will be.
That being said, you can also encourage customers to start talking by providing them with easy opportunities to leave reviews, as well as by enabling discussion around issues in the industry that matter to them. Remember that social media can be your biggest marketing tool (and thankfully, it’s free).
Don’t be afraid to offer comparison shopping options, and don’t fear negative reviews. Take it as an opportunity to address needs head on and to build trust with your customers. Remember that no marketing brochure or radio ad will be able to substitute genuine human interaction.