Case Study: Using Business Texting to Reach Millennial Homebuyers

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Merchant: Environmental Pest Service
Vendors: Text Request, Google, Velocify
Bottom Line: The value in business text messaging is for brands to be able to communicate with customers how they want to be communicated with.

As the Millennial generation settles into adulthood, businesses that cater to homeowners are looking at new strategies for reaching this target demographic. At Environmental Pest Service, the Florida-based parent company of Arrow Environmental Services, Bug Out Service, Skyline Pest Solutions and State Pest Control, director of marketing Mandi Harris has started using business text messaging as a way to increase customer engagement and improve the effectiveness of her Google AdWords campaigns.

“With millennials being as large as the baby boomer generation and making up 50% of new homebuyers, it is important for us to make it easy for them to communicate with us—hence our integration of texting in our communications strategy,” she says.

Harris’ decision to work with the click-to-text vendor Text Request stemmed from a cold call she received from one of the company’s co-founders, Brian Elrod. Environmental Pest Service hadn’t been using any text platform previously, but an email from Elrod describing how Google is making it easier for customers to text through Google My Business and AdWords caught Harris’ attention.

Although Harris oversees marketing for four companies under the Environmental Pest Service umbrella, she’s opted to roll out business text messaging at just two of those companies so far—Arrow Environmental Services and Skyline Pest Solutions.

At Arrow Environmental Services in Florida, Harris added a “Text Now” feature to the brand’s Google My Business and AdWords campaigns. She’s also changed the “Chat Now” button on Arrow’s mobile site to read, “Text Us.”

“We are looking to communicate with current and potential customers,” she says. “I included the text option for the first time on an email to about 15,000 customers the week before last as a mode of communication, in addition to email and phone.”

She’s implemented Text Request’s technology a little differently at Skyline Pest Solutions. At the Atlanta-based Skyline, Harris is using Text Request to exclusively reach out to current customers.

“We have a small group of about 500 customers that we need to convert from one termite baiting system to another. We have for over a year been sending emails, letters, and calls asking people to call us and schedule their free conversions. We texted these customers asking them to call us to schedule their free conversion,” she says. “I [also] included the text option for the first time on an email to about 10,000 customers the week before last.”

Harris says she’s been pleased with the 5% response rate at Skyline, particularly because those are customers who are known to be difficult to reach. She’s been less satisfied with the responses at Arrow, where she says the response rate has been “dismal.”

“We are receiving on average about two text conversations per week from AdWords and one to three per week for GMB [Google My Business] or organic,” Harris says. “Unfortunately, Text Request cannot track the source of organic—we would like to know this information. About 75% of the texts are spam.”

Despite the early returns, Harris says she’s continuing to pay close attention to engagement via text.

“I’m not sure why the dismal participation. Is it the market—southwest Florida—people don’t want to communicate with their pest control company via text? Most of our leads for new service come via phone versus email or online form submission, so I don’t expect this medium to hit it out of the park, but I would have expected more,” she says.

The value in business text messaging for a company like Environmental Pest Service is in being able to communicate with customers how they want to be communicated with. Harris plans to wait another few months before looking at the cost per conversation and determining whether this is a mode of conversation that makes sense to continue.

“At this point, I see more value in reaching out to customers with a specific call to action,” she says, “versus using it as a communication to talk to current or potential customers.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.