Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tis The Season To Make A "Splash" With Social Media!

With our season in full swing there has never been a better time to use social media to build relationships and strengthen your business.  I wanted to start the week by sharing this letter.  Another great example...

May, 26, 2011

Vance Gillette

2620 Commerce Way
Vista, California 92081-8438

RE: Zodiac Pool Systems

        Business Development Programs

Dear Vance:

Both Bob Jehle and I cannot thank you enough for all the valuable support you and Jason Anderson have given to our company PoolBuilders, Inc. over the past few months.

Your recommendation that our company begin working with the fabulous people at Small Screen Producer, specifically Brie Romere and her incredibly efficient staff members, has produced results that neither Bob and I could have imagined.  Because of the addition of social media tools that were introduced to us by Brie via your recommendation, we were able to develop a contest that is returning valuable information and new sales leads that we could not have imagined were available in this recession arena we are all experiencing. 

Please accept our heartfelt thanks to both Jason Anderson and you yourself for a wonderful job well done. We look forward to our next innovative idea having come from you invaluable service to our organization.


Richard B. Clements

PoolBuilders, Inc.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Passing The Passion This Season

Memorial Day weekend is upon us and in the past several weeks I have had the opportunity to meet with several individuals I consider both friends and industry icons.  Every conversation centered on a discussion of where our industry is headed this season.  In many ways, we find ourselves where we were a decade ago; competing with a variety of leisure-time activities that tend to siphon discretionary dollars that could be invested in the total backyard environment.   On the other hand, we are standing on the threshold of a new and exciting opportunity this season!  The opportunity to use new channels of communication in social media to reconnect with our existing customers who will help us connect with new customers.  Those same channels allow us to educate the public on new technologies available for our pools.  Most consumers are totally unaware of the last decade of changes in our industry and how these technologies have impacted the swimming pool experience.

The industry icons I  met with, over the past several weeks, share a passion for their work.  They live it daily, passing their passion to all those who cross their paths.  I challenge you to go into this season doing the same.  Show your customers your love for your product.   Explain to them the benefits of converting their backyard into the resort their families will "live in."  Our industry has the power to positively impact so many families this year.  Let's all keep our focus on passing the passion this season!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It's Not What You Say But HOW You Say It...Customer Experience WOW

The WOW Factor in Customer Experience
Heading home from Seattle, I got this sinking feeling when I was checking in for my Continental flight back to Austin when the terminal check-in kiosk message read "No record found." I had been wondering why the automatic "Check in for your flight now..." email hadn't arrived..but assumed it was because I changed my seats at the counter in Austin. It suddenly occurred to me that I might have a bigger problem, that I might just be at the airport on the wrong day. In over 50 years (literally) of flying it would be a first for me...but as they say "There's a first for everything."
I quickly searched for my itinerary on my Android, and sure enough, instead of 4/13 the departure date was 4/14. Oops. You might be wondering "C'Mon Dave, you've traveled before...didn't you look at your itinerary? Answer, "yes, but..." My 30-day travel schedule is as follows: Seattle, San Francisco, Delhi, Mumbai, Toronto, Amsterdam, New York, and then Chicago. All travel is on Continental, btw.
I walked up to the counter, where Continental agent Trini M was standing. She asked "How can I help you." I explained that I had specified the wrong date when setting up my travel (in other words, I took full responsibility for my mistake). I asked Trini what my options were. She smiled, pressed a couple of keys, and handed me boarding passes for the same flights, today. No fees, no questions. Just a smile. As I stood there not knowing what to say (other than "Thank You," which was immediate) I asked if it was normally this easy.

 She said "No. I just did it for you you.

A friend sent me that article & I re-read it often. It always leaves me with one thought..."WOW"!
Think about the customers you have the opportunity to interact with today & sieze those "WOW" opportunities!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Changing the Industry's Focus

The time has come for a major change in the pool and spa industry: Time to think differently about how we promote and market our products; time to recognize that our products bring more happiness and excitement to people than anything else they can buy; and especially time to dump the negativity of the past and greet the future with enthusiasm, because our products offer experiences everyone desires.

Consider the fact that when you see an ad for a Marriott resort, a Hyatt Regency hotel, Sandals or any other vacation destination, the companies express the joy our products bring by showing water in the form of luxurious pools and spas. They don't highlight the lobby or the rooms they show the remarkable pool experience. They don't spend time with the restaurants or shops. The imagery is mostly dominated by fun around the pool — people living the good life, making memories and enjoying the richness of outdoor aquatic experiences.

The reason for this is obvious: Pools and Spas provide experiences that people remember and cherish, and more important, that they anticipate. For reasons we all know (or at least should), people of all ages and all walks of life simply love pools and spas. They associate them with fun, family togetherness, luxury, parties and even freedom and sensuality — all in and around water.

Yet when you look at what we talk about as an industry, none of this comes through as the primary point of discussion. Instead, we discuss safety, child drowning, suction entrapment, diving accidents, the toxicity of chlorine and an array of other issues that, while they deserve attention without question, mostly serve to distract and drive people away from the amazing benefits and experience we offer our clients.
Seeking Experiences
Right now, we need to drop the overall downbeat tones and attitudes. Both individually and collectively, we need to passionately market the experiences that make our products so amazingly desirable.

Yes, we need to be as technically competent as possible. Yes, we need to be up to speed on energy and water conservation. And yes, we need to make sure our products are as safe as humanly possible. That’s all true and important. But we also need to step back and look at what people are really buying when they pursue pool and spa ownership. In a word, what they're doing is seeking experiences.

Look at it this way: If you care about the car you drive, the first thing that comes to mind is the brand. It’s a BMW, a Mercedes, a Lexus, an Audi, a Ford or a Chrysler — the make is all that matters. But do you ever really stop to think about who made the spark plugs, the radiator or the transmission? Ferrari doesn't design its cars with the transportation needs of Los Angeles commuters in mind. It designs its cars with their DREAMS in mind.”

What we do know about our cars these days is what the experience of driving them is like, especially if it’s enjoyable. Maybe you love your Mercedes’ interior, your Audi’s amazing ride or the raw power of your BMW.

People think of pools and spas in the same experiential way. In truth, nobody cares at all about the variable speed pump other than to appreciate the fact that it makes running a pool more affordable. Nobody cares about the specifics of the filtration system or the chemical feeder or the pool cleaner. All they know is whether they like the water quality. Way beyond all that, what people really do know is this: “My pool gives me enjoyable experiences.”

When you look at the psychographics of our industry and the psychology of our clients (not their demographics and their age and gender), you quickly learn that what characterizes our clients is their desire for the experiences they can have in and around their pools and spas. And this surfaces in lots of ways. Some crave pride of ownership, others are drawn to aesthetic beauty, and still others want a place to hang out with family and friends, or a place to play in water, or an opportunity to luxuriate in a spa.

Everything they're after – everything! – comes from positive past associations and the lifestyle preferences they create in the present and for the future.

To that point, let me add that I believe the term “swimming pool” is antiquated. Most people do not swim or exercise in their pools. While some do strive to achieve transforming health benefits (and we would be in an even stronger market position if more people did), the fact is that the majority don't. So when you talk about motivating people to buy — notice I did not mention selling (more on that below) — we're not really there to educate them about health issues, but rather to amplify, reinforce and exploit their desire for the experiences they do already have in mind.

Backyard Entertainment

When we consider this concept of experiences, I like to say that the best thing about memories of pool and spa ownership is..... making them. When you think about the experiences of pool and spa ownership, you should immediately consider the fact that you are no longer in the swimming pool business but are instead in the “backyard entertainment” business.

As has been discussed for years in WaterShapes and by other progressive voices in the industry, water is just part of an overall picture.  (Banquet for the senses) Yes, pools and spas might be the most significant investment and sometimes the most prominent feature in a backyard, but they exist as parts of overall environments that may also include outdoor kitchens, dining/entertainment areas, fire features, landscaping, lighting, shade structures, outbuildings and purely decorative watershapes such as ponds, streams, reflecting pools and fountains.

It’s all about the experience. That’s our business, fulfilling our clients’ desire for the overall backyard entertainment experience. That’s why we should be the world’s most vocal proponents of the excitement and unabashed joy of owning a great outdoor environment.

And make no mistake: I'm not talking about selling here, but rather about an absence of selling. Our clients are already sold on the types of experiences they want. That’s why they called you in the first place. They don't need to be convinced that owning a beautiful setting for fun, entertainment and relaxation is something they want. They already know it — which is why, both as individuals and as an industry, we need to develop the communication skills required to translate visions into realities.

We haven't been helped by the economy during the past two or three years: It’s done little to inspire visionary thinking, let alone optimism. The numbers may be argued, but roughly speaking, about 200,000 new pools were built in 2006. For 2009, that number dropped down below 50,000 — a decline of more than 75 percent in just three years.

That’s enough to darken the outlook of even the most optimistic among us. Even so, as we move toward a recovery at glacial speed, most of us (with regrettable exceptions) are still here. Each of us should be proud of having persevered. But we also must be sublimely aware, more than ever, that we can't allow opportunity to pass us by simply because we're shy about embracing the amazing set of benefits we offer and are ready to provide.

Bouncing Back
Indeed, being ready — right now — is what’s important because there are strong reasons for redoubled optimism. Consider, for example, the wealthy households that are prime targets for luxurious backyard treatments. We should all be encouraged to know that households worth more than a million dollars (excluding income from property ownership) grew by 16 percent in 2009. Families worth more than $5 million grew by 17 percent and now are more than 980,000 strong.

Further consider that in many cases those people have held onto their money the past two years in fear of the rough economy.  Although their spending habits have temporarily changed, that has done nothing to separate them from positive thoughts about pools and spas. I'm among those who believe that all this amounts to is tremendously pent-up demand.

On top of that, we know that banks have been ridiculously reluctant to lend money for home improvements or purchases, even to qualified borrowers. Recently, however, we've heard noises from the financial community (including statements from financial mogul Warren Buffet) predicting that banks are poised to begin lending again.

Combine these macro-trends with an improved and more focused message from our industry — one that can be proclaimed by industry leaders as well as the rank and file   ready for a dynamic resurgence. But we must be ready with that message. Be prepared with lines of discussion that zero in on all those experiences we know people want.

The great thing is, we already know what those experiences are because  we share those desires with our clients. What designer or builder doesn't share a sense of the value of living with a well-designed, beautiful space made for spending time with loved ones, having fun and feeling relaxed? So we know what to say; the trick is being ready to say it, over and over again, without hesitation, fear or compromise.

As for the means of disseminating these messages, we need to consider marketing campaigns, product literature, promotional videos and all sorts of aggressive marketing vehicles. We need to get involved in social networking and turn our existing contact lists into collections of friends, past clients, colleagues, current clients and potential clients.

There is simply no excuse: We must make the case for our products and let people know we can deliver on their dreams. To do that, we must start believing again in the value and benefits and joys of what we offer and provide. We must leave behind any sense that pools and spas are second-class citizens of the design world, leave behind attitudes of defeat and failure, and instead declare ourselves to be professionals who give clients what they want the most in life..... great experiences.