- June 18, 2021
- Posted by: Marisa Palmieri Shugrue
- Category: Accounting Advice, Uncategorized
Amanda Ragar, who co-owns the company with her husband, Trent, discussed their journey founding and growing an independent pest control firm to $2.8 million after being forced to sell their Scotts Lawn Service franchise to TruGreen in 2016.
Watch the presentation, “Crush Your Competition: Secrets to Pest Control Success from a Top PMP,” on YouTube or read on for a few highlights from the discussion.
Natural State first got its name out by doing door-to-door sales. Although it’s not cheap and it’s not easy, it was a good way for the company to enter the market, Amanda Ragar says.
Trent Ragar had sold newspapers door to door in college and the Ragars’ Scotts franchise did door knocking when direct mail failed in 2008, so they had some experience in this realm.
The key is finding the right people and training them, Amanda Ragar says. At first, Natural State hired Lenny Gray, the author of “Door-to-Door Millionaire” to train their team.
Eventually they faced challenges with door to door beyond hiring and training. Companies that specialize in door to door moved into their market and the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to selling this way.
Thankfully, Natural State’s digital marketing efforts were underway. When it comes to digital marketing, the company focuses on several areas:
• Google My Business
• Organic rankings
• Google Local Services
• Search engine optimization
“We’re trying to be a little bit everywhere,” Amanda Ragar says. “We’re trying to hit some of the social media too. All of this has improved over the years. You can’t just come out the gate and expect to get all these leads coming out of online marketing.”
It takes time, but staying the course has paid off, she says. Natural State is a client of marketing agency Coalmarch. The agency also helped them develop their logo and branding when they started up.
Early on, Natural State sought opportunities to get their brand in front of as many people as possible, so home shows and vendor fairs were part of that effort.
“We were doing home shows, we were doing fundraising events, and any kind of festivals where we could set up a booth and hand out mosquito wipes and Frisbees,” Amanda Ragar says. “We wanted to be in your face so that everyone could see our logo and brand and know who we were. We don’t do as many anymore. We try to focus on events that are a little bit more high traffic, so that it’s worth our time and our effort.”
On customer reviews
The number of customer reviews Natural State has compared to its competitors helps set them apart, Amanda Ragar says. The company has more than a thousand reviews.
“I couldn’t even tell you the number of people who have called us and said, ‘We only called your company because of all the reviews,’” she says. “We have both positive and negative reviews, but I think the most important thing is you need to respond to each review that’s on there, whether it be positive or negative, because you’re not going to make everyone happy, but it’s important for the customer who’s searching for a company to see that you’re a real company.”
Natural State uses Podium to generate reviews. “If you’re a company out there that is not using any kind of a software program to obtain reviews, I would highly advise to get it going quickly,” she says. “It has been a game changer for our company.”
The team at Natural State wants all team members who talk to customers to sell.
“When somebody calls into our office, our CSRs aren’t there just to schedule a service call,” Amanda Ragar says. “They’re selling to every single person. We sell every single service that we offer over the phone with the exception of bedbugs and commercial.”
Natural State would rather not sell one-time treatments, Amanda Ragar says, noting she prefers to sell bundled services, which they bill monthly (with an initial fee) and treat triennially, to generate recurring revenue. Clients are set up on autopay, which keeps accounts receivable low.
“The key to keeping your cash flow up and your accounts receivables down is to have those accounts on auto pay,” Amanda Ragar says. “We don’t even offer a prepaid discount.”
Natural State, which uses PestRoutes, was originally drawn to the software because of the sales routes feature, which enables a door-to-door sales person to generate a service agreement on the spot.
“It was fantastic with sales routes because the door-to-door salesperson actually scheduled the initial treatment and collected their payment info at the door,” she says. “That eliminates so many steps and work that the office didn’t have to do.”
That feature isn’t as important now that they’re getting away from door to door, Amanda Ragar says, but PestRoutes has many other benefits, such as emailing or texting clients from the system, sending invoices with a few clicks and providing user-friendly dashboards.
Amanda Ragar likes to keep a close eye on accounts receivable and cash flow, which she can view easily in PestRoutes, while her husband favors tracking year-over-year sales.
“(PestRoutes has) a really cool dashboard that has all these pie charts,” she says, noting she also likes to look at services completed and pending and collections. “It’s got some great, powerful little dashboards that you can view just by the click of a button.”
As a client of PCO Bookkeepers, Amanda Ragar is also a big fan of the firm’s monthly One-Minute Manager report.
“It’s a fantastic snapshot that we get every month from PCO Bookkeepers to see exactly where we are, see the trends and we even get to compare our numbers with other companies in the industry, which is fantastic. It’s very powerful.”