Caroline Mytton is the head of Rentokil.com – the world’s largest commercial pest control company. This global brand is present in more than 50 countries, operates in over 28 languages and have been leading experts in their business since the 1920’s. With plenty of experience managing a multinational organisation, Caroline shares some of her valuable knowledge with us at Heavy Chef.
Hi Caroline, thank you for talking with us. How are you using online to help your business stand out?
We try to make our brand as ubiquitous and knowledgeable online as it is on the ground. We achieve this by engaging and sharing insight with the public through social media channels, aiming to keep content original and interesting. We respond to people’s pest queries, fears and concerns promptly via social media. In 2012 we will be launching a few really innovative social media projects so watch this space. It is intended to help drive brand awareness and make us more approachable.
We offer high quality and authoritative web content in all our marketing and we try to reach out to the widest audience and customer base possible though our SEO activity. We are also slowly transitioning our websites from brochure sites to transactional for some key residential pests and some of our product range. This is also intended to make us easier to do business with, and on a 24/7 basis. And we also offer PestNetOnline to our commercial customers.
Which online routes have you adopted (eg: SEO, PPC) and which have worked best for your business?
We use a combination of both SEO and PPC. Our SEO activities are targeted and focused, as driving up our organic web performance increases organic visitors and enquirers, which in turn drive down our CPE.
Paid search perfectly complements the SEO strategy, filling the gaps and covering a wider range of keywords whilst being a cost effective and targeted channel. On the face of it, it appears to be much easier to measure the effectiveness of PPC than organic SEO, purely based on the analysis layout that automatically exists in AdWords. However, if correct goal tracking is set up to track web interaction, then organic SEO can also be measured. This requires far more analysis and planning and is also time consuming.
We find we need to judge the effectiveness of one versus the other on a country by country basis as our search performance is affected by other factors such as online competition and brand awareness. Therefore we adjust our strategy to meet each market’s needs.
You have a blog called ‘deBugged’ that offers some great tips and information. How did this idea come about? And is it very popular?
We are proud to say it’s increasingly popular, and that is year on year. The idea came about back in 2008 when we were beginning to consider our social media offering and we realised that we could increase our online expertise by crafting interesting content with an unusual angle, in our case pest control. We like to think we have a good understanding of the kind of content which attracts our readers and real life stories seem to be hugely popular. Everyone has a pest control story to tell and we are now being approached by guest bloggers, which is extremely exciting. So our early adopter approach for social media has paid off.
The blog, twitter and our other social media channels also bring a personal face to what the public may view as a very large multinational brand and this helps underpin the statement that whilst we are a global brand, our service technicians are almost always local to our customers. We are a service industry and our technicians lie at the core of our business. They have some great stories to tell, and we thought that the blog would be a great place for them to share their tales.
The blog also plays an important support role in our SEO activities and we try and ensure that all posts are focused around a key search term.
How do you manage a multinational site, with each country having specific needs that surely differ slightly from each other? Is each country responsible for their own site?
Ah I wondered if we would come to the 60 million dollar question!
Localisation of each site is critical and core to our strategy. It is important that our country sales, marketing and management teams feel ownership of their website and that visitors to the country feel that it is country specific rather than having been crafted by a large corporate. At the same time it is important that we operate within our brand guidelines and maintain a consistent look, feel and message.
We have a separate site for each country in which we operate and we tailor the architecture to meet the individual countries needs. Translation and localisation is carried out within each country and we have regular review meetings with each countries marketing lead to keep the content up to date and fresh.
The rentokil.com is responsible for all the sites but with differing degrees of input, according to resource available, from each market. We use a CMS system and have really great people managing that side of things within the team. For our larger markets we have dedicated resource for each country that is usually part of the rentokil.com, and they oversee paid and organic search and implement our search strategies on an ongoing basis. We also have language specific people within the team.
Can this make it challenging to maintain a seamless brand image across different cultures and countries?
Challenging is probably an understatement to how it can be at times. I won’t go in to some of the challenges and frustrations a change to the Google Algorithm can bring, but just say that managing our suite of sites and being responsible for all aspects of it is sometimes quite daunting, always busy, sometimes frustrating but certainly never dull. The success of the site and the hugely important role it plays to support the Company’s Enquiry Generation initiative, is also extremely rewarding.
Do you have any tips for organisations that are spread across different countries and struggle to integrate or unify their brand online?
In brief I would say have a clear, well defined strategy and do not over complicate it. Make sure that detailed keyword research and competitor research is done on a country by country basis and do not be tempted to roll out a corporate template for this important piece.
When I have spoken about this with our search performance leads in the team and the social media leads, they have said that if you manage your online activity centrally, you have to be open-minded about country and language-specific needs and how these could affect your online strategy. An overly prescriptive approach can lead to sub-optimal results and unsatisfied regional businesses. A good system allows you to control your global online presence but requires your businesses’ willing cooperation and buy-in.
With regards to Web performance, having one main corporate website with the ability to navigate to country specific sections or with GEO targeting functionality may be the best way, but this may not appear to offer enough of a local solution to a particular market and perhaps may prove to be difficult to achieve top organic results in local markets. Clear direction on brand guidelines relating specifically to web should always come from the very top, so that their is a unified approach to your online message in all the markets in which you operate.
For social media at Rentokil, we have one global twitter account which comments on pest control stories around the globe. It’s important that the branding is consistent right down to country level and that each tweet or facebook comment posted communicates our brand message. We want our customers in the USA to achieve the same high level of knowledge and expertise as those in Belgium.
Start small and only get involved with social media if you have adequate resources. A half hearted attempted at going online will take a lot of time and effort but not yield the best results. Run a small pilot of countries or markets and with trial and error you will soon be able to ramp up the projects to a higher level. Doing it this way, the business impact will be lower than if mistakes are made on a massive scale. But when mistakes are made, learn from them. It happens to us all at one time or another.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us, Caroline. Heading a global brand is no easy task and we are grateful to be able to get a small glimpse of how you do it so well.