Grading Your Pest Control Company

Evaluating your pest control company is a continual process requiring updates throughout the year. For the next three months we will provide articles for pest control operators to grade their marketing ability, employee performance and financial status. The articles are intended for individual use and may need to be adopted for each PCO based on application to specific topics.

After each section determine a grade for your company based on how well it performs in the discussed area. After the grades are completed average them for a final grade. Keep the final grade from each article to determine exactly how your company is performing in 2012.

GRADE SCALE

1. Poor; 2. Fair; 3. Average (budget); 4. Above Average (15 percent over budget); and 5. Excellent.

After the first eight months of 2012, how do you rate the effectiveness of your marketing plan? How many new customers are receiving your service for the first time? Why was your company chosen over the competitors? What ongoing marketing are you currently undertaking or planning to perform in the next four months? What is your customer retention rate?

Understanding that the winter months are the most critical for a PCO, the development and implementation of an effective marketing plan should be established during this slow period. Regardless of the size of a PCO’s business, a through marketing plan needs to be developed and followed.

In 1995 many PCOs are referring to the phrase “going back to basics” to attract new customers. PCO s are developing marketing programs as a result of listening to customers during the last few years. The continual drive for customer satisfaction and listening to the customer have made the development of an effective marketing plan a much more simple straight forward task.

Direct Mail

Direct mail advertising is an up and down approach to marketing because often the target market and message of the sender are not clarified. Even though a PCO may spend hundreds of dollars developing a direct mail piece, if the desired response is not achieved, the entire process may need to be reevaluated.

Too often a PCO believes he has the perfect direct mail piece even though his response rate is less than one percent. Evaluating direct mail pieces is difficult unless experienced personnel are utilized. How many pieces were sent our during the initial eight months? What was the expected response rate? What was the actual response rate? How many direct mail pieces are planned for the remainder of the year?

Media Use

How effective has your radio and television advertising been for 2012? PCOs who develop their own commercials are often in for a heartbreak as a result of their dismal response rate from the commercial. PCOs often develop commercials without a clear understanding of what they are trying to achieve. Increased customer awareness, new service identification or name recognition are only a few of the options to portray when developing a media campaign.

Professional advertisements require qualified professionals to overlook and administer the development of a strong media plan. By using friendly local media it may be gentle on your accounts payable, but hard on the accounts receivable because business did not increase as a result of the media spot. In all media their is some degree of risk involved. Through experience and professionally produced commercials, the desired responses may be achieved if the message is clearly understood before hand.

Trucks

The use of vehicles is a common mistake among PCOs. Vehicles along offer an excellent means to reach your target market and ensure customers. Because your vehicles are traveling billboards they demonstrate to uncertain customers how predominant your company is in the local market. Displaying the company colors, logo, or telephone number are only a few ways vehicles may be utilized to help the company.

Referrals

A valuable tool not used by PCOs is current customers. Current customers offer an opportunity to reach the target market from a different angle. A continual increase in the number of referrals each year is a positive demonstration of how well your service is received by customers.

Customers are the key to every PCO’s survival and if the customers are not only receiving your service, but also looking for ways to expand your service when applicable, it is the best situation for everyone involved. How many referrals have you received?

Telemarketing

Measuring the effectiveness of telemarketing is difficult to do. Telemarketing may begin with a phone call and progress to direct contact for pest control mesa service later. If telemarketing is used after a sequence of direct mail pieces or other inquires, telemarketing will clearly be more effective than a cold call.

The Next Four Months

Whether or not you have used a marketing plan for the first eight months of the year, now is the time to continue or implement your marketing plan. The first months of each year provide an opportunity to try different techniques to attract new customers and determine which techniques are going to work this year.

By September, the customer base in established and receiving service at some level of regularity. With the customer base in place, now is the time to solidify the base and begin to expose the customer to additional services that will become applicable as the seasons changes from summers to fall and fall to winter.

Pest control operators who have done little to no marketing during the first few months may begin to market now because it is much cheaper and easier to administer. Marketing over the summer is always cheaper because during the summer almost everyone is experiencing bugs. Regardless of the customer base, summer is when PCOs are driving the company billboard also known as the company vehicle.

Take the time now before the year is over and make sure the marketing plan developed in December and January is on course and moving in the direction it was intended for. If it’s behind or off course, move it back into place because it is the single strongest means for maintaining and growing your customer base.

Dental health tips for yuppy

If you’re part of the yuppy generation, the hairs are graying, the wrinkles are coming, you’re getting too short in the arms to read comfortably and long enough in the tooth to require more frequent visits to the dentist. What’s happening with the hair, skin and eyes we can understand. But this “long in the tooth stuff”- not that.

The big bucks words are “gingivitis” and “periodontitis.”

Most commonly, the trouble begins with plaque causing an inflammation to the gingival tissue surrounding the teeth. But plaque is not the sole culprit. Many different bacteria are there to help.

You know you have gingivitis when simple things like eating, toothbrushing or flossing result in bleeding gums. The diagnosis is confirmed when your dental hygienist suggests iron tablets to replace the blood you’ve lost as a result of the gentle cleaning she’s just given you. Other symptoms are red and swollen gums.

But gingivitis is just the beginning. The periodontium is what supports the teeth. When all that inflammation spreads to the periodontal tissues, you’re in trouble. Little pockets form where the teeth go into the jaw bone.

Then there’s all those bacteria. Bacteria for which you are providing a warm, moist environment laden in food. They turn on you by congregating in the pockets, where they slowly but continuously dissolve the very bone that your teeth are (were) once firmly anchored in.

While most dentists gauge the extent of periodontal disease by the depth of the pockets surrounding teeth, there is good evidence to suggest that the method is not as accurate as one might like. X-rays will show the bone loss that occurs with advanced disease, but are not all that useful in diagnosing early periodontitis.

A recent dental review suggests there are no adequate methods of detecting periodontal disease activity. But lack of diagnostics hasn’t prevented North Americans from spending billions on periodontal disease.

While periodontitis effects 53 per cent of 18- and 19-year-olds and 98 per cent of people over age 60, only 8 per cent of adults and about a third of the elderly have advanced disease. Even when the disease is severe, it generally affects only a few teeth.

It is not, as you may have thought, the main cause of tooth loss in adults and rehabilitation, for example all on four.

What about brushing and flossing? The evidence that it has any significant beneficial effects in preventing periodontal disease seems to be scanty and conflicting.

Which way you brush does not seem to be important so long as you do not scrub parallel to the gums. This horizontal brushing may damage tooth structure and is more likely to put bacteria into your bloodstream than brushing up and down.

Nor is there any convincing evidence that electric toothbrushes do a better job than manual ones.

Chlorhexidine mouthwash, which can be obtained by prescription from your dentist or physician, has been shown to reduce plaque and gingival bleeding. One study showed it to be superior to Listerine, which is itself better than a placebo. There are no published long-term studies using Plax, Scope or Cepacol.

The long-term value of anti-plaque additives in toothpastes is likewise unknown.

Can dentists or hygienists help? They clean the teeth and gums with scaling instruments and then polish using an abrasive rubbing compound. Root planing involves scaling root surfaces. It is sometimes carried out as part of a surgical procedure. There does not seem to be any good evidence showing that adults with healthy mouths benefit from more than an annual cleaning.

Actually, even that may be too often. Literature on the subject seems to suggest that the frequency of professional care should be an individual thing. If you have established periodontal disease, then scaling and polishing might be appropriate every 3 to 4 months. If you don’t, then more than twice or even once a year may not be necessary.

How to Choose a Financial Planner

Need help in picking mutual funds or reducing taxes? While there are plenty of folks eager to help your money grow, it’s hard to find a financial planner you trust and who has the financial smarts.

To help you better understand the rules of the game, here are five things a planner won’t tell you. 1. “I haven’t gotten around to taking any financial planning courses.”

Anybody can hang a shingle in this business, since the industry is largely unregulated. The credentials and academic background of financial planners vary widely.

Typically, the planner introduces and thanks the speaker and raffles off a prize. You have to submit personal details to qualify. Later, you’ll get a phone call from the planner asking if you want a free consultation.

Why the sales pitch? It costs a hefty sum to hire a speaker, advertise and rent a hall. (Mutual fund companies may pay up to half that cost.) Planners have to sell about $500,000 in back-end load mutual funds to net commissions of $15,000 to $20,000 to cover the cost.

“There is no free lunch,” says Dan Richards, president of Marketing Solutions, a market-research company. “If they are putting on a seminar, they are putting it on for a reason.” 3. “I teach courses at local schools to hunt for customers.”

You may see ads for a three-evening course, with a $50 to $100 fee. A popular one is the 10-hour Successful Money Management Seminar package, which planners can buy for $6,500 (U.S.) from Portland, Ore. The information is generic and products aren’t sold, but you are later offered a “private consultation” on your finances.

The course content can be useful, but it’s still a way for planners to gain new clients. Says Glorianne Stromberg, a commissioner with the  Securities Commission: “People go with the expectation to be educated and all of a sudden, the rules change and it’s basically a sale.” 4. “I’ll recommend some products and not others.”

Financial planners who work for life insurance companies or banks typically recommend only in-house products. In some cases, there is a link between a financial-planning company and a mutual-fund company. For example, fund manager AIC Ltd.  and Berkshire Investment Group Inc., a  financial planning chain, have the same owners.

Investors Group Inc. of Winnipeg is a fund company that has a captive group of in-house financial planners.

To understand any possible biases, ask if the financial planner is limited to selling in-house products and what percentage of their business comes from in-house products. 5. “I make good commissions on what I recommend.”

Some planners give the impression they’re offering free advice when they are compensated by commissions – largely invisible – from products they sell you.

Commission-paid planners often recommend load funds and ignore no-load funds. They also prefer to sell a back-end load fund — sometimes called a deferred-sales-charge fund — where you don’t pay a fee unless you redeem your units early. Back-end load funds are more lucrative, because the planner receives an immediate commission of about 5 per cent, plus ongoing service or “trailer” fees from the mutual fund company.

But back-end load funds may hamper your investment decisions, forcing you to stay in a fund longer than you should, warns Toronto-fee only planner Warren Baldwin of TE Financial Consultants. “And if you redeem early, it could be expensive.” Bottom line: How do you find a good financial planner scottsdale?

Ask friends or colleagues with a similar income and lifestyle for referrals. Or call the Canadian Association of Financial Planners, which can give you a list of financial planners in your area.

Interview at least three people. Ask the same questions to each so you can compare them. You might even take notes and assign a score. Here are smart questions to ask:

— What are your educational credentials and job history? Do you have a designation such as registered financial planner?

— What type of clients do you work with? What is your typical client’s age, profession and income level?

— Can you give references from clients with similar financial objectives to mine? How about showing a sample financial plan you did for someone like me?

— What are your specialties? If investments, what is your investment approach and does it jive with mine? Will you provide an annual statement showing my overall rate of return?

— If you are a generalist, do you have access to in-house tax or estate planning specialists? Do you have a working relationship with accountants, lawyers, insurance brokers and investment counsellors?

— Will you deal with me directly or have an associate handle my account? (If an associate, be sure to meet with that person too.) How often will you meet with me? Do you have a newsletter?

— How are you compensated? Fees only, fees and commissions, or commissions only? How much does a financial plan cost? Do I pay for ongoing service? What commissions do you earn if I buy certain products?

— Do you limit your recommendations to certain products, such as load funds? Does your sponsoring company manufacture its own financial products or have links to financial products firms?

Now, tally up the scores. If they come out equal, consider other less tangible factors.

Did the planner appear genuinely interested in you and ask about your needs and objectives? “Make an assessment in terms of chemistry,” Mr. Richards suggests. “How comfortable are you working with that person? That’s really what it comes down to.”

The process is time-consuming, for sure. But it should give you confidence that you have found the right person for your needs, not just someone you have found randomly through a free seminar or course.