Friday, January 08, 2010

Build relationships, not brands

December 9, 2009 Pest Control Technology Magazine
[Growing Your Business] Build Relationships, Not Brands

Creating an emotional bond with customers can be more powerful than branding to build trust and loyalty.

Branding" is big buzz in pest management marketing these days, but one expert said small- and medium-size companies should focus on what they do best: building relationships.

The emotional bond of a relationship is stronger than "any kind of a bond someone can have with a logo," said George Torok, marketing expert and best-selling author. (See his marketing insights at "Relationships make customers feel good," he said, while branding often makes the company look superior. A brand might imply only smart customers use XYZ pest services, while relationships give customers confidence. They build trust and make it harder for customers to leave, he added.

Although firms need to present a consistent, uniform message, they shouldn’t invest blindly in hard-to-measure branding, he said. Instead, nurture the relationships already in place.

A PERSONAL TOUCH. Technicians at Craig Thomas Pest Control in Hyde Park, N.Y., gather customer information, which is then plugged into the computer and shared company wide. When customer service and office staffers follow-up with customers, they have the account history as well as children’s and pets’ names, health concerns and other items of interest at their fingertips. Conversing on a personal level shows you care. It’s all about "demonstrating that we are part of the family," said President Craig Thomas.

Relationships must extend beyond front-line employees. "You want to put multiple hooks into your customer," Torok said. David Castro, president, Merlin’s Pest Control, Dover, N.J., rotates technicians’ routes. This allows customers to build relationships with multiple employees. "They’re comfortable with your company," which spreads the risk should a technician leave, he said.

Owners and presidents need to get out of the back office and interact with clients by phone, open houses, special events or direct mail, Torok said. Avoid "cold" direct mail "done like an ad" and instead send a memo or personal note from the president, he suggested. Thomas sends customers thank-you notes with 10 $2 bills for each referral. "Every time they pull out a $2 bill, they’ll hopefully think of Craig Thomas Pest Control." He also supports a program that resonates with customers: Nothing but Nets, which provides malaria nets to families in Africa.

Relationships with employees are just as critical. Most people tend to leave jobs because of bad relationships, Torok said. "If you have good relationships with your staff, it’s harder for them to leave." Open communication and regular customer service training build relationships with employees, which in turn helps them communicate the company’s values to customers.
Business relies on technicians until a long-term relationship is established, said Joey Toth, president of Pitbull Pest Control, Las Vegas. If customers have no attachment to their technician and can get quality service at an affordable price elsewhere, "they’ll take their business someplace else."

Contact the author at

As published in Pest Control Technology Magazine

George Torok, marketing expert

George Torok is available for media interviews

George is available for speaking engagements


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