Let Your Peers Help You Boost Your Business

|  April 13, 2015
Illustration: ©istock.com/Rawpixel

Illustration: ©istock.com/Rawpixel

What a terrific time we had last month in sunny Florida — several pest management professionals (PMPs) gathered for a couple of days of intense learning, camaraderie and nighttime entertainment in a noncompetitive environment. Throughout the years, I’ve attended many peer group meetings, and now run several of these groups along with the terrific membership.

You might wonder what goes on at these meetings and how attending can help you improve your business. First and foremost, participation requires a desire to learn and share information about the never-ending process of business improvement. Typically, our peer groups meet twice a year and each member presents information about his company regarding:

financial matters;

operational results;

marketing and sales projections and results;

information technology (IT) issues and strategies; and

human resources (HR) topics.

Information is submitted before the meeting using a carefully crafted survey that draws information from each member’s profit and loss (P&L) statement, as well as operational reports and a series of questions about short- and long-term projects. Members usually take about eight to 10 hours to work on these submissions, so when they arrive at the meeting, they’re serious about presenting to the group, asking questions and listening to feedback.

Two of the hottest topics discussed at the February meeting were marketing and the function of HR, including attracting outstanding people.

Marketing topics
Direct mail, online pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and organic search engine optimization (SEO) for websites were discussed. The following discussions scratched beneath the surface of these topics.

The real cost of customer acquisition — We concluded it depends on the marketing medium used, the time of year, the location and the sales conversion rate. This might seem like an easy calculation, but how do we determine the real source of a sale? Companies that have been around for a while usually have a significant amount of referral work. How does that tie in?

Why technicians believe upselling is a dirty word — In many cases, our technicians tell us their job is providing service — not selling. How do we get them to understand why selling additional services to a customer in need is a great use of their time because it provides service, additional revenue and potential commissions for the company? How do we reduce our technicians’ fear of selling?

Websites, SEO, PPC — How does Internet marketing parallel the concept of direct-response marketing? Internet marketing strategies are different. Some use the Internet effectively, garnering leads at a cost-effective price. Others struggle with this. What strategies can help to harness the power of the Internet?

What drives response rates — Are there ancillary activities that drive response rates? The group discussed participating in and sponsoring local festivals, Little League teams and charity events. While not completely measurable, most members agreed this kind of participation elevates visibility in the community.

Door-to-door sales — This technique was especially popular in the 1990s, and it’s making a comeback. Discussion focused on creating a door-to-door team, managing that team and finding success despite various local restrictions on this type of solicitation.

Consumer review websites — While online entities such as Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor clearly want to take our money for elevating our presence on their sites, we need a way to manage our reputations and get our best customers to review our services on these sites.

HR Topics
We all know business would be easier if we could hire and keep the right people. To that end, two key discussions emerged:

Reducing turnover through training and outside consulting — Discussion centered on where companies recruit, how they recruit effectively, and the importance of performing background checks on applicants.

Compensation — How much we pay our staff and comply with local Department of Labor (DOL) regulations were discussed. For instance, many members pay incentives to their staff, but want to make sure the incentive plans comply with DOL regulations.

Action plan
The meeting ended with each company committing to at least two action steps that would be implemented by the next meeting. These steps could range from increasing sales to installing a new phone system. The steps are recorded in the meeting minutes, and form the basis of the opening discussions at the next meeting.

Dan Gordon is a CPA in New Jersey and owns an accounting firm that caters to PMPs throughout the U.S. He facilitates several peer groups that help PMPs increase growth, profitability and accountability in their firms. Visit www.pcobookkeepers.com for information about his firm, PCO Bookkeepers. Gordon can be reached at dan@pcobookkeepers.com.

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1 Comment on "Let Your Peers Help You Boost Your Business"

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  1. Art Manon says:

    Sorry I missed this, I’m in South Florida, and Ironcilly , I addressed many of these topics @ the Pest Vets committee with Will Nepper in attendance . I proposed a Bold Idea of NPMA
    Incorporating a Uber type share a ride service, we can promote our brand while earning a cash revenue as well, this is a multi billion dollar Concept & the gold min of leads we can obtain from Airport travelers, hundreds of new residents pass through airports daily, these are our best demographic, That’s where Vets come in, we can hire them to do this hole training & as an added Bold idea, I suggest we consider offering signing bonus will be considered to Vets, again money from the added feature of Share A ride, again Will Nepper was in attendance, would love to hear his take & his report of how & when NPMA will implement this program
    Art Manon