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I have always been fascinated by people. Trying to understand why people do what they do is one of the primary reasons I decided to start a career in marketing.

When selling or marketing a product/service, many people think that the buying process involves a randomized process of steps and choices by consumers ultimately resulting in a purchase.

Luckily, those people are wrong.

I am happy to be able to tell you that not only is there a clearly defined, heavily researched set of steps in this process, but you also likely already have the tools necessary to tap into this process to win more business.

The Consumer Buying Process

So what are these mysterious steps? See the diagram below:

These 6 steps are the key to understanding how to effectively market and sell to your prospects. There are many variables in how various demographics behave in each of these steps, but whether they know it or not, they follow this process.

1. Problem Recognition

In pest control, this often takes one of two forms. First, and likely most common, a resident is walking through their kitchen late one evening and wakes the whole neighborhood with a blood curdling scream caused by seeing an intrusion of cockroaches.

Voila. Problem recognized. (PS – a group of cockroaches is literally called an intrusion. Trust me, I looked it up.)

Second, and more rare than the former reason, a pest control company has a killer communications program that effectively reaches out into the community to educate on the efficacy of proactive pest control treatments.

This is a more roundabout way of consumers recognizing the potential problem they have; but the result is the same, they have now recognized their problem.

2. Information Search

So regardless of how they have reached this point, they are now aware that they have a problem. They have some variety of nasty critter intruding (get it… like an intrusion of cockroaches) on their lives which is having a direct impact on their quality of life.

Given that 88% of consumers spend time researching products and companies online before making a purchase, the internet is likely where most of the time in this step is going to be spent.

If you want to stay top of mind through this second (and arguably most important) step in the buying process, you’re going to need to bolster your marketing efforts. Don’t worry, we have you covered there.

Most of this search is going to be done through the following channels:

  • Google search (let’s face it, no one uses Bing)
  • Social media
  • Local directories
  • Word of mouth

If you are not found through one of these methods, then you are out of the running. Jim from down the street won this new customer because he decided to get rid of his 10-year old website.

3. Evaluation Of Alternatives

Once consumers have stepped past the initial information search, they start narrowing down their list of alternatives to a handful of potential service providers.

Do you know what most consumers are going to rely on to finish this evaluation? You probably already know… but I will tell you anyway:


84% of consumers trust online reviews AS MUCH as they trust their friends and family. This is a really big deal.

If you don’t have a strategy for how to build and respond to reviews, then you have officially been taken out of the running.

Let’s be honest, the majority of consumers are going to see those 3 listings and immediately choose the one that has a 5-star rating with 349 reviews.

4. Purchase Decision

They have recognized the problem, researched the problem and various solutions, and evaluated all the alternatives. Now a consumer is ready to give you their credit card information and sign up for a subscription to your pest control service (hopefully you have one of those; if not, check out this post).

You are at the finish line of closing a new customer. This is the stage where it is most important to show that your company is trustworthy, that consumers are secure in doing business with you, and that your staff cares about their wellbeing.

Make sure your staff is trained to remove as much friction at this step as possible, otherwise you won’t make it to the next step, which is…

5. Purchase

Yes. As weird as it may sound, purchase decision and purchase are two separate steps. Take a step back from pest control for a minute and think about your own experience as a consumer.

You have made it all the way through the buying process and have made the decision to buy a new pair of shoes online. You have added the shoes to your cart and click to start the checkout process.

The webpage you are on looks like it is broken. Nothing is loading and you receive a 404 error.

You no longer feel secure putting your credit card information on this seemingly broken website, so you go back to the evaluation step and pick one of the other alternatives.

While your customers’ experience won’t look exactly like this, there is always a possibility that you will lose potential customers between the decision and the final confirmation.

6. Post-Purchase Evaluation

You won the new customer! Hallelujah.

Now you’re done, right?


Each and every one of your customers is worth more than 10X their original purchase value.

Now is the time for you to show these customers that you value their business and that you are committed to providing them with the best user experience possible.

32% of consumers will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience.

Don’t give them that experience.


This process has been studied and researched over and over again, and it really is a map to understanding your prospects’ buying process. Take the time to understand each of these steps and identify where you may have gaps currently, and address them accordingly.


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