Building Customers for Life

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With spring in full bloom in most of the country, your pondkeeper customers are dreaming of new possibilities and options for their ponds. Perhaps you have a few first time pondkeepers inquiring about the ins and outs of water gardening. They may be thinking of an elaborate pond without realizing the steps they must take to guarantee an enjoyable hobby for years to come.

As their pond expert, it is very important for you to take the time to discuss the details that go into creating a pond and the supplies and practices that will ensure a long, successful pond season. Be sure to not overwhelm your new pondkeepers, take it one step at a time and they’ll keep coming back to you for advice, recommendations and supplies.

Step one: Creating the pond oasis

The most important advice you can give your pondkeepers is to plan their pond. They shouldn’t just wake up one day and decide to put a pond in later that afternoon. There are many resources online (www.tetrapond.com) that have tips to help get your customer off to a good start. Advise your customers to dream about what they envision their pond to be. They should take some time to visualize the pond in their yard, and how it will become a wonderful new hobby.

Once they’ve done the dreaming part, encourage your customers to put their dreams on paper. Have them ask these questions: how big will the pond be, where will it be located in the yard, is it on a slope, how much sun, will the pond have fish or aquatic plants or both, etc.

Next, they should plan any waterfalls, streams or fountains. If you have an experienced pondkeeper looking to add a water feature to their existing pond, encourage them to also put it on paper and then talk through how to make their dream a reality. Remember, more than half of pond owners change their land- and waterscapes regularly. Feed your customer’s imagination by stocking a variety of spitters and fountains so that your pondkeepers have many options from which to choose.

Just like in choosing a home, remind your pondkeepers that location is everything. Educate them about the benefits and drawbacks of too much sunlight and too much shade. Typically 5-6 hours of direct sunlight on a pond is plenty. More than this will likely cause an algae problem inhibiting the enjoyment of the pond. Your plants will need sunlight so help pondkeepers find a happy medium that offers both.

When deciding on the size of the pond, encourage your water gardeners to opt for larger than what they originally imagined. There are many benefits for the fish that will inhabit the pond, such as greater movement and more stable temperatures. Ponds with fish should be 30 square feet with a depth of at least 18 inches. This will allow for an overall balanced ecosystem.

Step two: Equipment

As retailers, spring is the time to stock the shelves and gain an edge on the trends in pond keeping. For you to have the competitive advantage with your customers you must be prepared with options in equipment and consumables that you know are reliable and trusted.

When setting up a pond, it is most important to understand how the equipment works and why spending a little more on a durable system will benefit the pond and pondkeeper in the long run. While a pump may seem expensive, remind your customers that energy efficiency will save them money in the long run.

Pumps

Explain to your pondkeepers that the pumps are the heart of the pond and the filter and UV clarifier complete the filtration system.

The primary purpose of a pond pump is to circulate water to the pond and maintain the overall health of the ecosystem. Another consideration is the size of the waterfall or stream they desire. Recommend to your customers they purchase a pump that is large enough for their pond, As a rule of thumb, pumps should circulate the entire water volume of the pond every two hours- including waterfall spillover. Remember, when choosing the size of the pump be sure your customers take into consideration the pumps ability to power the filter and water features such as waterfalls and fountains. If there is any question as to which sized pump to purchase, suggest a more powerful pump than what they might need. Over-filtration is not harmful, but under-filtration will lead to poor water quality, extra work and overall frustration. Also explain to them that for every 100 gallons per hour of discharge at the top of the waterfall, they can expect approximately 1 inch of water flow for their waterfall.

Filters and UV Clarifiers

There are two basic methods to filtration: mechanical and biological. Mechanical filtration uses foam filters to trap dirt and debris while biological filters use the natural biological process to improve the water.

Remind your customers of the importance of implementing both aspects of filtration in their pond. To further ensure clear water, suggest your pondkeepers install a UV clarifier to eliminate suspended microscopic algae that cause “green water” and destroy its reproductive ability. Microscopic algae are so tiny that they pass through even the finest filter. Most UV Clarifiers remove heavy algae blooms within five days, keeping the pond algae-free. For optimum efficiency, remind pondkeepers to replace the UV bulb every spring or every 11 months of continuous operation.

To make this entire stage in pondkeeping simple, some pressure filters are equipped with a complete filtration system (mechanical, biological and UV clarification) in one rugged efficient unit, eliminating the need for separate pieces of equipment. These feature a convenient reversing valve, which back-flushes the filter, removing sludge and debris easily. This reduces the amount of needed to clean sponges and bio-media during the season.

Step three: Consumables

Fish food

When planning your pond department, whether it’s one row or several aisles of your store, remember to place consumables such as food and water treatments at eye level. Customers can be easily confused if there are too many options in food and water treatments. Be sure you understand the differences so that you can educate and advise appropriately.

Remember, encourage your customers to follow the Seasonal Feeding Cycle:

• Summer: Above 50?F, feed fish foods for growth and diets promoting vitality and color enhancement.

• Spring and fall: In water temperatures between 39?F to 50?F, use a wheat-germ based diet, which is highly digestible, to transition fish in and out of the season.

• Winter: Stop feeding entirely once water temperatures dip to 39?F and below.

Most retailers know of the basic types of foods available for pond fish. But it is also important to stay on top of new trends in food and understand the benefits to the fish. One such trend is the benefit of feeding Koi a diet developed specifically for their health and condition. A premium Koi food is produced with high quality ingredients for the correct balance of nutrients to help the finest Koi reach their full potential. Be sure to recommend the best fish food possible to your pondkeepers.

[h]Water care and treatments[h/]

For day-to-day maintenance and water care, keep customers informed of solutions for algae control, treating tap water and other remedies. Provide literature to educate your staff and have on hand for customers to refer to as they need it.

Only about 50% of pond owners claim to use a water conditioner when adding tap water to a pond. Be sure to educate your consumers about the importance of making tap water safe for fish by using a water conditioner that removes chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals.

The number one complaint of pond keepers is the presence of algae and sludge build up in their pond. In addition to other non-life-threatening challenges, algae obscure colorful fish and deplete valuable oxygen. With a few simple treatments for healthy water, algae can be eliminated. Stock and recommend an algae control product that is proven to combat green water, string algae and blanket weed. Also stock a sludge reducing product. There are also water clarifiers available that work fast to remove contaminants.

Pondkeeping is a very enjoyable hobby if your customers understand the various aspects of the pond. When possible, stock brochures and educational materials that will spell out the steps listed above. Support your pondkeepers by offering online instructions through emails, websites and newsletters as well as one-on-one consultations in the store. Also, help your pondkeepers to stay on top of trends in pondkeeping by offering in-store seminars and classes. Remember, you are the expert. Without your knowledge, support and understanding your customers may not succeed in their hobby. Build the relationship as soon as possible to keep them coming back to you for all of their pondkeeping needs.

Source: Pond & Garden Lifestyle May/June & July/August 2008

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