Over the past several months and maybe longer, I have heard many in the water feature industry asking questions about the viability of the industry as a whole. Statements indicating that the industry is dying are concerning, to say the least. While it is true that many of us have certainly taken a hit in the past few years, there is no reason to throw in the towel. Since I started in the water gardening business in the late ‘80s we have seen exponential growth. And while I think everyone expected growth to slow, we may have not expected the steep decline we have seen.
This decline has no single source. Many of the factors that brought us here are greatly out of our hands. However, there is one cause that is greatly manageable: the public perception of pond keeping.
I have seen the idea of a water feature go from part of the American Dream (albeit a small part) to yet another thing to maintain. The harsh reality, my friends, is that we are all at least partially to blame for this. How many times have you heard a potential customer mention a friend or neighbor who complained about his or her pond?
“Oh, what a nightmare.”
“It’s always green! I can’t even see my fish.”
“My fish are all dead. I have to clean the filter every day.”
“I finally filled that pit in with dirt.”
Countless people who were potential water feature customers are hearing these statements and many more like them. So, how do we fix this public perception? There are many ways, and most of us already do them. We just need to do them better. This obviously involves a well-designed pond with good filtration. But where I feel the biggest hole has been left is customer education. We cannot simply sell or install a water feature and leave it to the customer to figure it out.
We must educate the customers on how to reduce maintenance and care for their ponds in ways that bring the joy and beauty that they expected from the start. We all know what a well-cared-for water feature can bring. We have to make sure each and every customer has the opportunity to experience the same. Only then can the potential new customers hear comments like:
“Let me show you my waterfall!”
“I love sitting by my pond after work.”
“Have you met my new koi, Waldo?”
“Hey! I know someone that can help you get a water garden of your very own so you can experience this, too!”
That is what we all need to bring to the table. And the goal of this column is to get us all thinking about what we can do better to make this happen. In each issue I will present a new angle. It may be specific information that needs to be spread to the customer, or it may just be a starting point to get our wheels turning.
If the industry is dying, then only we, the pond professionals, have the power to bring it back to life. As this column continues I want to hear your thoughts and ideas as well.