Seven Crucial Marketing Secrets Every Pool Builder Should Know
Pool industry marketing expert shares his most important and most misunderstood marketing tips for swimming pool professionals
No. 1: The Pool-Buying Process Is Unique.
Can you think of any other product or service that has all of these unique marketing challenges?
• It’s a large purchase. This means it’s similar to just a handful of other high-dollar items, such as homes, automobiles, boats and recreational vehicles.
• It’s a rare purchase. You may purchase between five and 10 cars or homes in your lifetime. But most people will never purchase a swimming pool. (To purchase two or more pools in a lifetime would be exceedingly rare.)
• It’s a custom product. The features and technology on a modern pool are dramatically different from a pool built just 20 years ago. And even if it’s a cookie-cutter pool design, it still has to be handcrafted in your backyard.
• It’s a permanent decision. If you buy the wrong car, boat or RV, you can trade or sell it. But you can’t sell your pool unless you decide to sell your house.
With this in mind, we can appreciate what a challenging decision-making process this is for the average homeowner. It’s very expensive, you’ve never done it before and if you make a mistake, the only way to fix it may be to sell your home. Not exactly the ideal selling environment.
No. 2: Your Online Image Is More Important Than You Think.
Because the decision-making process is so challenging and intimidating, most homeowners will spend months or years thinking and researching pools before they ever pick up the phone to call a builder. And where are most homeowners going to conduct research about swimming pools? The Internet, of course.
Twenty years ago, a homeowner would pull out the Yellow Pages and choose three or four builders to call. Nowadays, they will go to Google, Yahoo, Yelp or Angies List, to find three or four pool builders to research. They’ll start by looking at photographs on your website. Then they may read your About Us section or look for online reviews. If they see something they don’t like, they’ll scratch your name off the list.
The lesson here is that it may not matter how good you are in a face-to-face meeting. If your website isn’t up to par, a homeowner will choose your competition long before you ever get an opportunity for a face-to-face meeting.
No. 3: To the Average Homeowner, You Look Just like Everyone Else.
This is perhaps the most universally frustrating marketing challenge for all business owners. You know you provide a superior service, product and value. You’re aware of things your competitors do that are inferior and would be a bad choice for any homeowner.
But the only reason you understand and appreciate these differences is because you’re an expert in the industry. The average homeowner doesn’t know the difference between one pool builder and the next. Further, most business owners don’t know how to explain their unique advantages to the homeowner in an interesting, compelling and believable way.
Thus, the average homeowner won’t recognize any differences, and will then default to one of the these deciding factors:
• Who had the prettiest pictures on the website?
• Who has the lowest price?
To overcome this challenge, you’ve got to learn to differentiate yourself — on your website, in your brochures and in the words that come out of your mouth.
No. 4: You’ve Got to Automate Your Follow-Up Processes.
As previously noted, people spend months if not years evaluating their options before deciding on a new swimming pool. Meanwhile, most sales reps have been trained give up on a prospect who doesn’t buy within the next 30 to 45 days. In one or two years from now, that prospect who was initially interested in you may finally be ready to buy. But since they haven’t heard from you in nearly two years, they’re more likely to contact the sales rep who contacted them most recently.
Set up automated follow-up emails or postcards to keep your visibility up to maximize the likelihood that when the homeowner is finally ready to buy, they will contact you first.
No. 5: Social Media CAN Help, but You’re Probably Doing It Wrong.
Perhaps one of the greatest travesties of my industry (marketing consultants) has been to relentlessly beat up business owners and tell them to get on board with social media. No doubt, there is value in SOME social media, but it should be done strategically. Here are some guidelines for pool builders:
• Facebook is a great place to show your current clients the day-to-day progress of their project. Many of them will share the photos, which means hundreds of their friends will learn about you and your company. By contrast, Facebook is a horrible place to make sales pitches.
• YouTube is a great place to post interesting videos. But remember, if they’re worth posting on YouTube, they’re worth posting on your website. You should not encourage people to leave your website to go look at a video. They might never come back.
• Twitter. Everyone says you should be tweeting, but do you follow your plumber or car mechanic on Twitter? How about your roofing contractor? Your car salesman? Probably not. So if you’re not interested in their idle ramblings, what makes you think anyone would be interested in yours?
• LinkedIn. If you’re looking for a job or an employee, you might benefit from LinkedIn, but don’t expect your typical homeowner to have any interest in your LinkedIn profile. If a homeowner goes to LinkedIn, it’s most likely because they’re looking for a job or they’re looking to hire someone.
No. 6: There’s a difference between “Marketing” and “Advertising.”
Most everyone understands that advertising’s purpose is to generate leads. Billboards, magazines, radio ads, yard signage and pay-per-click ads are all common forms of advertising for the pool industry.
Marketing, on the other hand, is more broad and complicated than advertising. It involves creating your message, then determining how and where to share it in the most compelling manner. Consider product brochures, on-hold messages, a sales script and a free pool ideas DVD.
Ultimately, advertising will help you get more leads; marketing will help you persuade and close those leads. Once you recognize this difference, your marketing and advertising decisions get much easier. If you need more leads, however, look at advertising. On the other hand, if you’re getting plenty of leads, but you’re closing fewer than one in five of your appointments, look at your marketing.
No. 7: Always Measure the Results of Your Marketing.
If you’re not tracking your metrics, you’ll have a very difficult time knowing whether your marketing and advertising dollars are well spent.
Here are some basic metrics every pool construction company should be tracking:
• Number of leads per month (by lead source, and overall)
• Number of first appointments and second appointments per month
• Number of sales per month (by lead sources, sales rep and overall)
• Cost per lead (by lead sources and overall)
• Cost per sale (by lead sources and overall)
• Project profitability (by sales rep and overall)
If you don’t have answers to these metrics, you are vulnerable to the next ad rep who tries to convince you that their advertising medium, product or service is the best way for you to get more leads and sales.
There are many ways to promote your business, but you don’t need to get bogged down in details. Focus on these top seven, and you’ll be on your way to more successful and profitable pool construction business.
From the Author:
After a decade of marketing consulting for the swimming pool industry, I’ve learned quite a few things about the construction of swimming pools. But that doesn’t mean I should build a pool for you. I’m a marketer, not a pool builder — which means there are lots of details and subtleties about pool construction that I don’t understand.
By the same token, you’ve probably learned a number of marketing tricks over the years, but that doesn’t mean you’re an expert marketer.
That’s why I created this collection of most commonly overlooked and misunderstood marketing secrets for pool builders: so you can discover the secrets from an expert rather than trying to figure them out yourself.