In the first two articles, in a series of three, we explored how the *laws of the marketing curve, the current economical impact, and the changing demographics of the core discretionary spending group (ages 35 to 55)* has not only transformed the Water Garden Industry into the Water Features Industry, but has also pointed out the importance of marketing goods and services to a diversified customer base over the next 3, 5, and 8 years.
Edward Barlow Jr., President of Creating the Future, Inc., stated, “People and organizations tend to force their past experiences and successes into the future. As market conditions change or cycle this approach generally doesn’t work.” He also stated, “The future is in the hands of those who choose to understand it.”
**The laws of the marketing curve** have provided the industry with rapid growth over the last twenty years, primarily in water gardens and pondless water features. As the industry continues to evolve, it is the diversification of products and services that will prove to be the single most important contribution to future growth.
The industry now provides a much broader base of opportunities to find new customers in water gardens, water features, fountains and statuary for landscapes, entry-ways, and patios, spillway kits with LED lighting for the outdoor living areas with retaining walls, and outdoor kitchens. And don’t forget the rapidly growing market for diffused aeration and fountains for lakes and pond management, which includes commercial retention ponds, private earthen ponds, and larger lakes.
The opportunities are many, and the future will be a bright one, however, knowing where, when, and how to focus marketing dollars is extremely important as many contractor/installers, distributors, water garden retailers, and lawn & garden nursery centers fine tune their marketing plans and explore new ways to invest their marketing dollars to secure new customers in the future. Networking will play a big part in these plans.
This is why “business” focused articles are so valuable. The most valuable contribution one can make to the industry is to share their “business management and marketing successes” with other business owners in the industry. I encourage you to pick a topic…write it up…and send it in. The Landscape and Pond Industries has benefited from this type of sharing for years, and everyone wins.
The combination of the current **Economy** and **Changing Demographics** has certainly impacted our industry. However, moving forward it also holds a lot of opportunity for those who are diversified. Look at it this way: The most successful financial portfolio is one that is diversified. When one segment of the market is slower there are others that are producing faster growth. We are fortunate that our industry provides these same advantages.
Baby Boomers, with the most discretionary dollars and plans to continue working longer, are still putting in ponds, Just-A-Falls, and spillways along with retaining walls, outdoor living spaces that include kitchens, and fireplaces. Market yourself in these geographical areas and/or team up with hardscape contractors and provide your expertise in design and installation techniques.
Commercial and industrial sites, housing developments, and individuals with ¼ acre and larger earthen ponds are paying more attention to the “green benefits” of diffused aeration, fountains, and beneficial bacteria, which provide ecologically balanced ponds while reducing the use of chemicals. Locate these bodies of water, contact the associations, market a program, and secure the business opportunities?
Home ownership with Gen Xers will continue to increase over the next 3, 5, and 8 years, and once this group with dual professional careers enters into home ownership, and college debt is paid off, they will be one of the most financially influential groups in history. Team up with realtor associations and know where and when the growth is happening.
If as a lawn and garden retail center you can (1) provide knowledgeable sales staff to assist customers with pond and waterfall designs, (2) have working displays that are kept clean, and (3) signage showing cost breakdown of pond and landscaping material, you can be successful. If this just doesn’t work into your business plans, you can still take advantage of the fountains and statuary category. Today there are realistic looking quality fountains and statuary available with suggested retails between 200 and 300 dollars, and without the disadvantages of costly heavy weight stone or weather sensitive light weight resins. You still become a destination for traffic flow.
Another way of securing new customers is by partnering up with other business owners. As a lawn and garden retail center, if you don’t have a landscape division that installs water features, team up with a contractor who does. The contractor does the installation, you get an agreed upon finder’s fee, and the contractor who doesn’t want call backs refers the customer back to your garden center’s water feature department for treatments, plants, and accessories.
Here are a few other ideas and web sites to check out for finding new customers.
**Personal Web Site** – Contractors and installers tell me that 60 to 70% of their business comes from their web site. Key search words that include all the services you provide like landscaping, outdoor living, water gardens, Just-A-Falls, spillways, and fountains are critical. Make sure your city and state are included to insure maximum hits from your market area.
Once on the site, contact information should be easy to locate. You would be amazed at how many sites I have been on where I can’t tell what city or state the business is in. The photo library is a must and it is more important to show examples of a variety of projects and services than it is to show 6 different angles of the same feature. Be sure to list testimonials, awards, and your memberships with professional groups.
**Become the Local Expert** – Benefit by helping to meet the needs of others. Become a local resource for T.V. and radio programs, garden writers, newspapers, local magazines, county extension services, or a speaker at local clubs.
**Write and Distribute a Press Release** – write a press release about your business, or get the local T.V station or newspaper to cover a business or outdoor living story about your business, new product introduction, pond tour events, charitable event, history or years in business, recent awards.
**Use Social Media** – Write a Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. According to a recent poll 72% of respondents checked out a company’s reputation on chat boards before buying. 74% based their buying decisions, at least partially, on what they read. 81% thought that blogs, online rating systems, and discussion boards gave them valuable feedback.
**Seek Partnership Businesses** – who also attract the kind of customer you want and would be interested in your products and services. Make a list of potential partners, schedule a meeting, and create a joint marketing program. A common one is to exchange Coupons or Gift Certificates at each other’s business. Another one is to utilize customer mailing and/or email lists sharing promotions at each place of business. You don’t have to exchange customer lists, just use both customer lists to distribute the shared promotions.
**Get Involved with the Local Home Show** – Get a booth, set up a water feature, take along a flat screen T.V. and roll pictures of your projects, and pass out a lot of cards.
**Partner with Charitable Causes** – Work with non-profits to raise money by donating a percentage of all sales to their cause. Send an endorsed mailing with an enclosed Gift Certificate and/or have an after-hours Gala at your store where you will donate X% of every sale that night.
**Hand out Gift Certificates** – at the event you attend.
**Check out these web sites for more ideas…or just Google finding new customers.**
Inc.com – then type in search – new customers
Microsoftbusinesshub.com – click on solutions – reach more customers
Wishing you the best of success in this wonderful business.