There is no need to go over what is going on causing all this as if you have been on the internet/Facebook or watched TV you know all about it.
My expertise is not as a pest control operator but, I am an expert at pest control and bed bug marketing. I have access to actual data from many different markets spanning several years. What I can give you is my analysis of how this is impacting marketing/lead generation efforts and what I think will be strategies going forward to help get you through this current crisis.
First, let’s start with what has happened all across the country. Chances are what is happening to your business marketing is also happening to nearly every pest control operator everywhere. Search volume has dropped to ½ normal volumes while paid click volumes have dropped to ⅓ of what I would expect to see this time of year. Even though people are at home in mass, they are distracted by other issues that might seem more important to them at the time.
Fewer searches and fewer people looking for pest control and bed bug extermination that means reduced call volume across the board. In addition, those that do call are less inclined on average to spend money, especially on higher-ticket services. Yes, that means it is harder to close a bed bug call, as a much higher percentage of people are not sure when and if they should spend money.
That is some pretty bad news, but I do believe that there is some good news recently just coming in and a path forward to the future. President Trump has been talking about at least partially restarting the economy by Easter. That gives us a time frame to at least shoot for. The Senate just passed a $2 Trillion economic stimulus bill. Wow that does sound like a lot!
I don’t fully understand what the stimulus package will include just yet. I believe each American will get a check or checks from the government, and businesses like yours can get loans to keep operations going until the economy is up and running again. I believe those loans will be forgiven. No matter the details the stimulus package will help from two fronts. Consumers will have more money, and while not a lot, they will be more confident to spend the money they do have to make calls easier to close. The forgivable loans should also make it possible for you to keep your employees and the doors open.
What will happen in the short term?
No one knows for sure exactly what is going to happen in the near future but we do know enough to get close. I am going to make the assumption that the economy will at least start to restart, in select locations, around Easter or maybe a week later. That puts us in an “essential only” economic shutdown for 2 to 3 weeks. At this time (March 27th, 2020) it is generally believed that the stimulus package will pass the house and be signed by the president.
For the short term search and click volume will remain low. With the reduction in click supply, the demand for those clicks will go up along with the cost per click. Increased cost per click, in turn, is going to increase the cost of each call you get. The cost per click is already rising but I do expect it to reach an upper limit.
What should you do about it?
Covid-19 Virus Notice
Come up with a Covid-19 action plan and post it on all web assets. Exterminators in every location that I know about are considered an “Essential Service”, meaning you are allowed to travel and operate.
That notice should include the following but not be limited to:
- Essential Service – Let your potential clients know you are allowed to and still on the job. Now they don’t have to wonder if you are at work and available for a phone call or not.
- Health & Saftey – Let your clients know that you are taking the health & safety of them, your employees, and yourself very seriously. Also, give them the peace of mind to call you.
- Special Operating Practices – List the best operating practices that you developed to keep you and your client safe and not sick. That could include washing hands, additional PPE, and some way for them to pay you and interact with you and your staff with as little contact as possible.
You could include more but the notice should contain at minimum these points. The idea is to give potential customers the confidence to call you instead of your competitor down the street who is also scrambling to get more revenue coming in. It is hard to close new clients unless you can talk to them on the phone first.
Paid Search (PPC) Strategy
I will assume that cash flow is limited or at the very least you don’t want to waste your advertising budget. This is what you can do NOW to maximize the calls coming in.
Cost per click will be going up during this period so each one needs to count. By far the number 1 factor determining how many calls you do get is a function of the conversion rate of the landing page. Make sure your Covid-19 notice is there and in an appealing format. The more your potential clients feel comfortable the more will call you.
Of the options, searchers for your service have to call you the lowest cost of those is Google’s mobile click-to-call ad extension. The pest control industry gets fully 80% searches from a mobile device. The extension makes it possible for the searcher to call you directly from your ad, skipping the landing page altogether.
Raise Bids Selectively
Cost per click is going to go up no matter what you do. What you can do is pay for clicks that are more likely to convert into a phone call. You should already have call tracking implemented and be tracking each call back to a keyword and ad. Raise bids on keywords that have generated the most conversions in the past & those keywords with the lowest cost per lead. Spend money where it is the most impact on call volume.
- Landing Page – You want a highly effective landing page with your Covid-19 notice displayed prominently.
- Click-to-Call – Make sure you have a click-to-call ad extension setup.
- Raise Bids Selectively – Pay more and get clicks on keywords that produce conversions.
Website / SEO / Google My Business (GMB)
If you have been aggressive with your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaign previous to this then you are reaping the rewards now. If you didn’t focus on SEO then it is too late to increase rankings in the next few weeks. After the crisis is over you should seriously consider working SEO into your budget.
Organic calls are also down in number as a result of the reduced search volume. The advantage of organic phone calls is you have made the investment and not paying for each one. If you are well placed in organic results now, including the local listings, then call volume is down but it is still there and every call counts right now.
Website – Make sure your Covid-19 notice is one your website. Just like a landing page you want to instill confidence in potential clients. You will also want to double and triple check the function and security of your website. We have seen a shockingly high volume of hacking activity. They seem to sense weakness and want to capitalize. Make sure your web assets are safe.
Google My Business (GMB) – Your listing is important. You should have it already updated and using all the options available to you. I will assume you have done that already. Right now you need to post a Covid-19 notice. First, the notice will let potential clients know that you are operational and on top of the crises. Give them the confidence to call. Additionally, that will tell the Google algorithm to know as well. There is no time for data on this one but I do believe that will be a positive impact on your local rankings.
The pest control industry, along with the rest of the country, is in turbulent times right now but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There are some simple changes to your marketing strategy that will help minimize the reduction in revenue. My goal is to do everything I can to help you all of my clients through and be in business on the other side of the current crisis.
This is a fluid situation so stay tuned. There is more to come.