Diversify your business by offering perimeter pest control
While many green industry professionals focus on providing their customers with green lawns, many have also realized the benefit and opportunities in offering add-on services, such as pest control. Providing these additional services offers consumers the ease of having one trusted service provider to meet both their landscape and pest control needs. This also affords lawn care operators an opportunity to increase revenue, generate additional sales, increase their brand awareness and build a loyal customer base. If you're considering adding this service to your business, take some tips from the experts profiled below. If not, you may want to reconsider.
TRADITIONAL PEST CONTROL VS. PERIMETER PEST CONTROL
Traditional pest control companies require the homeowner to be home at the time of service, thereby providing access inside the home. Companies offering interior pest control attribute successful insect elimination to providing both interior and exterior pest control applications. The interior applications are aimed at those insects already inhabiting the home, while exterior treatments target insects before they have an opportunity to enter the home.
Massey Services, which operates 50 family-owned-and-operated service centers in Georgia and Florida, provides both initial interior services and ongoing exterior services designed to prevent pest access and activity to the inside of the home. Bob Belmont, pest prevention training and technical director for Massey Services, has his master's degree in entomology and owned his own pest control company for 16 years prior to joining Massey Services in 2000.
“We offer pest prevention, which entails a comprehensive initial treatment and regular inspection and services thereafter, centering on sealing the structure and using low-hazard baits or residuals outdoors, only where necessary,” Belmont said. “Customers prefer this service to traditional indoor pest control, which incorporates the indiscriminant broadcasting of pesticides to the inside of the home, whether needed or not. During our regular visits, we perform a thorough inspection to determine what preventative actions need to be taken, such as caulking pest access points or pruning plant limbs to help prevent pests from getting inside. Depending upon the inspection findings, low-hazard baits or granules may be used in garden areas where pest activity is found.”
Lawn Doctor, Inc., which supports approximately 475 locally-owned-and-operated franchises coast to coast, provides its customers with Perimeter Pest Control in addition to its Lawn Maintainer Care Program. Lawn Doctor's pest control treats only the exterior of the home.
“With households becoming dual income, it's become increasingly difficult to gain access to the home during the regular business day,” said John Buechner, director of technical services for Lawn Doctor, Inc. “In order to help solve the pest control problem while accommodating the needs and concerns of the consumer, we've opted to move toward Perimeter Pest Control to help control the inhabitation of insects into the home.”
Doc Nichols, Middleton Lawn and Pest Control, has his Ph.D. in entomology and has more than 30 years of pest control experience. Middleton Lawn and Pest Control, located in Florida, operates 22 privately held locations.
“We don't do conventional pest control; we don't do any spraying inside the home,” Nichols said. “Instead, we use a baiting process, which takes technicians about two to two and a half hours for a 2,000-square-foot house. We use gel bait in the kitchen and bathrooms, granular bait around heavy pieces of equipment like the stove, washer/dryer and refrigerator. Then we treat harborage areas with dust and crack and crevice treatments.”
MARKETING PERIMETER PEST CONTROL TO CONSUMERS
Although the pests may change depending on geographic region, the concern for the health of family and pets remains the same. Consumers who already employ a professional lawn care service provider are an excellent target audience for add-on services, such as pest control.
“Primarily, offering Perimeter Pest Control as an add-on service just makes sense,” said Scott Frith, marketing director for Lawn Doctor, Inc. “It allows our franchise owners to use their resources more efficiently to generate additional revenue. It also provides our customers with something much more important: an opportunity to utilize the same professionals they already trust to take advantage of an extended menu of services. We also market pest control to consumers at large, using advertising materials that describe the program and its benefits created by our marketing staff.”
Many lawn care operators market pest control using traditional marketing materials sent via regular mail or left behind for the customer following a service. Middleton Lawn and Pest Control also targets customers using e-mail and actually convert their pest control customers to lawn care.
“We are a full-service company, and they [customers] often move from being termite customers to pest control customers and then to lawn care customers,” Nichols said. “We bundle our services to offer a discounted rate.”
According to Belmont, Massey Services receives a lot of pest prevention sales simply through word of mouth. Although this type of consumer-driven advertising is beneficial to any business, many organizations find it necessary to market their customer-base with professional materials.
“We do all kinds of cross-selling using brochures, discount incentives and our inspectors' professional sales skills, converting at least 75 percent of our lawn care customers' inquiries about our residential pest service to our pest prevention service,” Belmont said. “Once they [consumers] meet our inspectors, they're sold.”
THE SERVICE PROGRAM
The number of pest control services varies, primarily due to the differentiation between interior and exterior applications. Although those organizations promoting interior pest control maintain the value of eliminating insects from the inside out, they only treat the interior as needed and, instead, focus on exterior treatments to help keep unwanted pests from inhabiting the home.
“The number of services is determined based on the initial inspection, history and conversations with the customer,” Belmont said.
In fact, the number of services provided by Massey Services is partly dependent on the geographic location of the infested structure. Massey Services' technicians meet their customers' needs using both interior and exterior treatments, based on the situational analysis conducted during the initial inspection.
Although Massey Services provides interior treatments, technicians do not provide them regularly, unless deemed necessary based on customer pest sightings, infestation history or inspection. A commercial property may require monthly services, whereas a newly built home generally requires only quarterly visits.
“During inspections, we look for dead insects, live insects, droppings, nibbling and whatever samples the customer provides,” Belmont said. “We look in and around the home for avenues and for sources of infestation; a gap under a door, for example. Then we make appropriate recommendations or treatments based upon the findings. We regularly seal and caulk structures to eliminate pest and rodent avenues of entry.”
According to Nichols, Middleton Lawn and Pest Control provides an initial inspection at no charge to the customer. Once customers sign up, they receive their first service, which is performed to both the inside and outside of the home. The second service, six months later, treats just the perimeter of home for insects, providing a barrier to pest infestation. The pest control service offered by Middleton Lawn and Pest Control covers all pests including termites, roaches and rodents.
“Lawn Doctor's pest control is comprised of three to six services, depending on the area of the country,” Buechner said. “Lawn Doctor owners in Florida, for example, offer six perimeter applications because of the warm climate and longer growing season. A service program in the Midwest, however, may consist of three or four services.”
Providing pricing recommendations proves to be challenging for some lawn care service providers because of the variables associated with each customer, including home size, lawn size, the application of either interior or exterior treatments and the frequency of applications.
“Based on the climactic differences from region to region, it's not possible to provide a standard pricing structure for our pest control program,” Buechner said. “We encourage our franchisees to provide a free inspection, which gives the customer a specific price quote and an outline of Lawn Doctor's program.”
Massey Services does have a pricing scale for its technicians to follow. According to Adam Jones, vice president and director of quality assurance, the pricing is based on how long it takes to provide the service, the lineal footage of the exterior foundation of the home, the number of structural elements that need to be treated (such as attics and crawl spaces) and how many recurring services are required.
“Although this service is site-specific, it is not as site-specific as lawn care. We use a rate card that consists of a monthly care rate, a bi-monthly rate and a quarterly rate, all offered following the initial inspection and treatment,” said Jones.
Massey's general price model is used as a guide; special situations, such as serious pest problems, the degree of infestation and unusual treatment issues are priced accordingly. For a monthly and bi-monthly service plan, a customer can expect to pay $90 to $120 for the initial service and $25 to $60 for each recurring service. For those customers receiving the quarterly pest control plan, they can expect to pay $120 to $150 for the initial service with recurring services costing $80 to $95.
For lawn care service providers looking to make pest control part of their business, Jones recommends the following, “Shop in your own market to find what's going on. Mystery shop your competitors.”
PEST CONTROL CHALLENGES
Large and small business owners in the green industry face various challenges. Some of these include communication, licensure, retaining staff, marketing and customer loyalty.
“There are many challenges, but some of the bigger ones are dealing with ‘double digit’ growth and keeping everyone trained properly and in the same line of communication,” Belmont said. “Everyone needs to know what's happening and recent changes when they are made, so that the company can run smoothly. Good communication is an important key to successful growth.”
“Lawn Doctor franchisees are encouraged to offer Perimeter Pest Control as an add-on service to lawn care, and the materials are provided to aid their success,” Buechner said. “However, state requirements for licensure can be challenging and can actually prohibit some of our guys from offering the service.”
Clearly, many lawn care operators are moving in the direction of offering pest control services in addition to their lawn care programs. Implementing this add-on service as part of your overall business model requires some planning. Primarily, be sure to find out what your state's license requirements are prior to marketing this service. Next, determine what your resource needs are, including both personnel and equipment. Finally, create effective marketing materials that let your customers know about this new add-on service. Including pest control, whether it be interior, exterior or a combination of the two, will help you grow your business and increase your customer loyalty.
Cherylyn Salerno is a copywriter/project manager with Lawn Doctor, Inc. (Holmdel, N.J.).
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