Success Stories

Relationship Marketing Weekly: Pest Control Edition

This week’s interview features Carl Wilson of Extermiman Pest Control in Bountiful, UT. Carl has used many common strategies as a business owner to grow his business and client base. Strategies such as; networking groups like Business Network International (BNI) & social media. However, in 2006 he was introduced to a relationship marketing system that allowed him to stand out, be different, and show appreciation easily and effectively.

Carl will discuss an organic marketing strategy that makes Carl stand out in his highly competitive field.

Kody Bateman: This is Kody Bateman. Welcome to this week’s edition of Relationship Marketing Weekly. We have a very special guest on our show today from the pest control industry. This is the owner of Extermiman out of Bountiful, Utah. Please welcome to our show today Carl Wilson. Carl, welcome to the show.

Carl Wilson: Thank you for having me Kody. I appreciate it.

Kody Bateman: Well, I’m really excited to have you on here today. You really understand the essence of the heart of our system. We talk a lot about if you want to implement relationship marketing, you got to create a balance between a system that you use and put the heart into the system and you’re a master at that. You’re really a big advocate of sending heartfelt greeting cards and messages to people. We want to talk a little bit about that today.

First of all, tell us a little bit about your business. How long have you been in business? What kind of marketing and advertising or anything do you do to generate new customers?

Carl Wilson: Sure. I’ve been self-employed since about 2002. I was in business with family up until about 2006. We split. I’ve been doing my own thing since then. When I first got into the industry, the Yellow Pages were still – the hard print Yellow Pages were still kind of a thing. But as I moved out on my own in digital marketing and advertising was – things were transitioning there. That became a big push and an emphasis for me. It was to try to move everything into the digital space

My top four lead generating activities are online search-related advertising and another big component is customer referrals and BNI or networking organizations is another one and I also do a bit with – working with my competitors, coopetition if you will.

So those are the four main lead generating activities I do.

Kody Bateman: Coopetition. What is that? Tell us what that is.

Carl Wilson: So a surprisingly good amount of my business comes from competitors. So a lot of people, when they think of their competition, they think of, “Oh, that’s the guy I got to fight against or with,” and people will have bad feelings or bad blood towards their competitors.

I have a completely different outlook or paradigm on that where I look at my competitors as friendly. Your competition, they may not like to go to certain areas. They may be too busy to do certain things. There may be certain type of work they don’t want to touch or do. There may be certain niches that they don’t do or perform that you will.

So I’m a big believer about nurturing my relationships with m competitors and there are times maybe where any of the above I just listed, I may not want to do those things either. So I have the opportunity to refer people to them as well.

So I try to work in harmony with my competitors rather than having bad blood with them and fighting with each other.

Kody Bateman: And you call it coopetition. How do you say that?

Carl Wilson: Yeah, coopetition. I think that term was originally attributed to Ray Noorda with Novell years ago and it’s used from time to time in some different spaces or situations. So I didn’t coin it. But yeah, it’ coopetition, working with your competitors.

Kody Bateman: Wow. That’s incredible. I think it’s – I love that. I love it. I think it’s really good and knowing the pest control business, I’m sure there’s a lot of opportunities for you to do that. I know that we – my wife and I purchase pest control and I will tell you, you know, it’s a busy marketplace out there. It’s hard to find good help these days.

So sometimes, people are weeks if not months out in scheduling. So I can see how coopetition would work in your industry, especially when it’s a busy time.

So let’s talk a little bit about some of the other things you do. You mentioned referrals and there’s a couple of referral generation pieces that you do. You mentioned BNI. You’re a member of Business Network International. So obviously that’s a resource for referrals. You also use our relationship marketing system which – tell us some of the things you do.

I would like to know – we would like to know a little bit about what do you do at a BNI to generate business for your pest control and what you do in sending out tangible touches like greeting cards and gifts. Let’s talk about both of those. Let’s talk about BNI first. Go ahead.

Carl Wilson: You bet. So BNI is a professional organization. It requires a commitment. Someone needs to join the organization. They’re vetted by a membership committee and once you’re in, there’s a regular regimen of showing up weekly.

So you’re making weekly contact with the members of your chapter and you’re trying to build credibility with these people. You’re working with them. You’re many times performing services for them in their own homes, for them in their family and their friends.

Then with the principle of reciprocity, giving back and forth, I’m trying to help them get to what they want or who they’re looking for. So I tap into my own network, my own contacts. If I have a friend for example that’s in my chapter that’s in the carpet cleaning business and I see that he has a good reputation with the group, then I will want to try to seek out the people within my circle of influence to be able to connect him to and refer him to them.

So each one of us in this chapter of professional organizations is trying to tap into the power of our own networks to help one another get to what we’re looking for.

Kody Bateman: So the best way to receive referrals is to give them.

Carl Wilson: That is the correct. Yeah. We want to give first, not worry so much about getting. Give, give, give. A number of years ago, I read in a – I don’t recall the book but there was a study done that when we give to people, there’s a psychological instinct in us that not only do we want to give back, but we want to give more actually than what we were given.

So yeah, I just try to have that top of mind awareness that they’re really – don’t worry about what I’m going to get, get, get. But what can I get in there and give and help people connect to? Naturally, they want to help me and give back whatever way they can.

Kody Bateman: Well, BNI has that philosophy called “Givers gain.” The whole concept is you go to your chapter meetings once a week to give referrals and allow reciprocity to work. You’re a great example of that.

The other method is SendOutCards, which is our relationship marketing system, and we run on a philosophy of it’s – well, really the same thing as “Givers gain.” We call it “Give to give.”

You give and you reach out to people for the sake of giving or serving those people. We have a way to do that. We have tangible touches, real physical greeting cards and gifts that you send out to people. You use that service Carl and you’re a master at what I would call “heartfelt cards”.

I mean you’re like – like your examples of heartfelt cards you send to your friends, to your customers, probably even to some of your competitors when you do that activity. Can you give us some examples of how you do that?

Carl Wilson: Yeah, absolutely. I was first introduced to SendOutCards somewhere back around in 2005, 2006. I ended up joining, I believe it was, in 2006. I was introduced by a friend and colleague Mark Appelbaum and I had heard a number of examples. He and I were in the Chamber of Commerce together and I heard him share a number of stories about the service.

Sending cards to people and the cards, the sentiments you could send. You could create customized cards. You can also attach gifts to the cards and all of this could be done very easy online. I had already been a believer in sending handwritten cards to people. But it’s a little bit inconvenient when you have – when you’re very busy with family and business and all the activities people have to do.

The idea of just jumping online and creating a card and sending it off, stamped, mailed, the whole thing, was very appealing. So anyway, when I first started using this service, I learned you could take photos, digital photos and embed those into the cards.

I did a number of fun things with friends and family and some customers. It was just unique. It was different. It was fun. Over time though, I wanted to best understand how I can both in business and my personal relationships best utilize this service.

For me, what evolved was at specific times, when I felt impressed – hey, there’s somebody I would really like to connect with here, whether that was trying to find a new customer and I needed a unique way to reach out to them or I had a damaged relationship personally or in business or I became aware that a customer was dealing with a significant health problem or a family health problem. This was a unique and special way to reach out to those people and to just let them know I was thinking about them and I care about the situation.

For me, I’m a pest control guy. But any other number of businesses, if I was a carpet cleaner, window washer, plumber, electrician, if you have a hardship in your personal life, in your family and somebody that provides one of these seemingly menial services for you, the pest control guy, the dog walker, whatever, and they take the time to send you a card and a gift. For me, anybody that would provide any of these services for myself, I would say, “Wow. Really?” This guy or gal took the time to do this for me and the bond and the loyalty that can be created and come out of that, to me is a very powerful thing.

So I just – I fell in love with it over time, being to strategically use this at different times and opportunities to create a more powerful emotional connection between me and whoever the recipient was of the gift.

Kody Bateman: Yeah. So it’s like when was the last time anybody received a sympathy card from their pest control guy, you know. I mean –

Carl Wilson: That’s exactly right.

Kody Bateman: Definitely separates you and makes a huge impact. It just sets you apart as somebody that genuinely cares about another human being, not necessarily a customer. I will tell you, that’s what relationship marketing is. That’s literally what it is and it’s really hard to teach the business community that principle.

Carl Wilson: Yeah. If I could share two short stories.

Kody Bateman: Yeah, absolutely.

Carl Wilson: Semi-recently I had one customer. A staff member had called them to set up their regular maintenance service and we were having a difficult time connecting with this customer and maybe on the third or fourth phone call, the lady in the house answered and let us know that one of her children actually had passed away. Severe hardship.

So I told my staff member. I said, “Hey, don’t continue to call them. It’s obviously a bad time,” and not myself. I wanted my staff member to have the opportunity to engage in the process. So I asked my staff member. Hey, log on to my account and send them a card and send it to them in your own words.

So they took the opportunity to do that. Attached a gift to it and we didn’t have anything come back. The customer hasn’t, as of now, called back and had some raving experience.

But the opportunity for me to have a staff member engage in this whole process is a very nice, very sweet thing. At some point, I expect that customer – there probably will be an opportunity to connect and follow up, maybe hear the rest of the story. But that was a semi-recent thing that was a pretty sweet experience.

Then I had another one recently where again we had set up a service with a customer and she had to cancel and reschedule and informed me that her son had to go to the hospital over something again. I personally sent a card out to her with a gift attached to it through the SendOutCards service.

I believe it was a week or two later. She got in touch with me and profusely thanked me for the card, how very thoughtful it was and just – it just feels great being involved in that process. This is a very simple thing.

I mean I do pest control. People like that service. But to be able to have this experience in line with my business, I could do it in my business. It’s beneficial to the business and I’m having an entirely – another experience of just giving and the feelings connected with all that in this daily process of everything else I have to do.

Kody Bateman: So just out of curiosity, between your BNI activities and your SendOutCards activities, how much of your business comes from referral now?

Carl Wilson: Total referrals between customers and BNI, that’s tough to quantify. BNI is approximately five percent of my business. I’ve looked into those numbers and quantified that. Customer referrals, a little bit more difficult to know. Some people will tell me, “Well, five percent? That’s not a really big number.” It’s relative to the volume and size of your business.

But for me, I’m a big believer in diversifying my marketing plan and strategy. I don’t like all of my eggs in one basket. So to me, it’s a healthy enough portion of my business to be involved and engaged. I know some people have a very different story. Hey, BNI or a networking organization is 90 percent of my business. So for those people, it’s a little bit of a no-brainer. Well, obviously you need to be doing that.

For me, I would just say that – you know, I have a number of people in business ask me, “What’s the secret to what you’re doing?” and there really aren’t a lot of – not a lot of secrets per se. It’s trying a bunch of different things that are working and keep focusing on those things and keep replicating and duplicating them.

So BNI and relationship marketing, the cards, it’s just all part of the overall strategy and it’s not a magic thing that’s going to happen overnight. Relationships are hard to work at and to keep up. They do take work and that’s fine. It’s fun.

Kody Bateman: Yeah. Just a challenge for you over the next six months or so is perhaps to find a way to quantify some of those referrals that come in because based on what you’re saying – and my assumption is you don’t ask people for referrals. You just treat people nice, right?

Carl Wilson: That is true. Yeah. We do know – we do track inbound lead gen. About 15 percent is customer referrals. About 15 percent comes from BNI. About 50 percent is online search and about 15 percent is from competitors.

So we know lead generation, as far as what we’re already doing, I know about 5 percent is from BNI. But anyway, yeah, there are some more numbers we can dig into. But yeah.

Kody Bateman: It sounds like you got a hold of your numbers pretty good. That’s very impressive and I like how you diversify your marketing strategy. I think that’s really good. Just in closing, you – this is a powerful story. You tell a story about somebody that was past their warranted phase.

Carl Wilson: Yes.

Kody Bateman: You ended up having a challenging interaction with that customer. I kind of like to close with that story because it really describes what relationship marketing is all about and kind of what you’re all about. So could you share that with us?

Carl Wilson: Yeah, you bet. So I think this was about three years ago. We had provided a single treatment for a gentleman and we attached a 30-day guarantee to it. He called me a couple of days after the warranty and let him know that the warranty was up. He was aware of it but still wanted me to honor it and take care of it anyway. The treatment didn’t meet his expectations.

So I let him know, well, I could give him a reduced cost on coming back out. I couldn’t just do it for free because it’s past the warranty. Ended up banging heads with him and in hindsight, I would have handled it differently now, just with some of the other experiences I’ve had in business. I would have just taken care of it. But he took the – so anyway, he took the opportunity to slam me really hard on social media and that was a learning experience for me.

But anyway, probably about – I think it was about a year later. The experience was still on my mind. I should have handled that differently. I was kind of beating myself up over it and I thought, “Well, why don’t I send him a card with a gift?” My favorite gift in the SendOutCards arsenal is the brownies. That’s just my personal favorite.

So I sent him a card with a gift of some brownies attached to it and a few days later, I happen to receive a text message from him that said, “Hey, I got your gift. I’m expecting you want me to change your review that I gave you online.”

I said, “Truthfully, I have no expectations. If you want to do that, that’s fine. I just wanted with my own conscience to send this to you, to do my part, that I’ve done everything to fix this the best I can, to apologize for anything on my part I could have done better or different.”

He took the opportunity to counsel me in business, how I should have done it, so on and so forth. So I just ate humble pie and listened to him and I agreed with him and I told him in hindsight I probably would have handled things differently. But anyway, he did not change the review. He left it.

But again, I had no expectations for anything, whether he changed it or not. This was really about me trying to get me better and improve myself and to do everything I could in the situation. So for me, it was still a very positive experience. Just because I didn’t get that – I had no expectations to get that. I just wanted to do the right thing.

Kody Bateman: The reason I love that story Carl is we get a lot of stories like that. They’re typically the stories that you did, that you made this effort and then they did change the review and everything was all cool at the end and he brought you more business.

You know, you hear those stories a lot. But sometimes, it doesn’t work that way. Sometimes, you did the right thing and you showed your nature, your true nature and your true heart by doing it. As a result, you were able to release on whatever feelings you had about it. You know at the end of the day you did the right thing and people are not always going to respond the way we think they should perhaps.

Carl Wilson: Correct.

Kody Bateman: Rather than be reciprocal, I take the opportunity to lecture you, like this guy did. Sometimes that doesn’t land well. But I think it’s really a great way to close this show today is at the end of the day, none of us misunderstandings matter. The only thing that matters is that you are at peace with yourself on how you conduct business and how you treat other human beings and you’re a model example of that my friend and I appreciate that so much.

So those of you who are listening, just be nice to people whether they’re nice to you or not. It doesn’t matter. Just be nice to people and be kind and it all does work out in the end and as a result, does work out in the end and as a result, you run a highly successful pest control business and have a great life that you live.

So Carl, we appreciate you being on the show today. Those of you, if you want to know how Carl does all this stuff, just get back with the person that shared this show with you today. I’m sure they can share with you the systems and things that we have.

So Carl, thanks again and thanks everybody. We will see you next week on another edition of the RM Weekly show. Take care everybody.

Carl Wilson: Thank you.


To secure your best year yet, you may consider using a service like SendOutCards. In just minutes, you can create a custom card, add a personal message and picture, and do it all right from your mobile device!  You can even include one of their many gift selections like their amazing brownies, their new premium line of chocolates, you can even include a Starbucks card!

If you would like to learn more about how to incorporate a Relationship Marketing Strategy in your business, feel free to call or text me at {LEAD_OWNER_PHONE|}I will answer all your questions and help you build relationships, increase referrals, and make an amazing impression on all your clients, friends and family!

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