When YouTube sensation Logan Paul mentioned in one of his video blogs, or vlogs, that he wanted a koi pond, my smartphone instantly blew up! I knew a little about who Logan Paul was. What I didn’t know was how many of my friends followed him! Within 48 hours of his vlog hitting YouTube, I was in Logan’s backyard designing his new Aquascape water feature. I had no idea how that encounter would be my first step into the new universe of vlogging and a new tool for marketing water features.
One year and 250 vlogs later, I can honestly say that if I knew then what I know now, I would have been way too overwhelmed to start my vlogging journey. Thankfully, though, I was naive about the amount of work vlogging would take. Today, I couldn’t be happier with the fruits of my labor and the traction it’s producing for introducing the world to the Aquascape lifestyle. Still, the daunting and relentless task of creating compelling content four times a week is a grind not for the faint of heart.
In 2012, we signed a contract with NatGeo Wild to produce the reality series “Pond Stars” to chronicle our exploits as the world’s largest decorative water feature company. I thought it would be the greatest promotional effort ever for Aquascape and our industry. It didn’t take long — maybe the second day of filming — until I realized that my dreams for what the show could achieve might be in trouble.
The first sign something was amiss was during my very first on-the-fly interview, where I was handed a script written by the producer to read. The reality was that “Pond Stars” wasn’t actually a reality show covering our projects; it was a scripted production in which we were low-paid “actors” being told what to do. I don’t want to come off as bitter, as I ultimately believe that everything happens for a reason, but let’s just say that I learned a lot about how Hollywood does business — and it’s not for me!
Fast-forward to fall 2017. Knowing I needed to leverage the pond build with Logan Paul, one of the top YouTubers in the world, I decided to launch my own YouTube channel titled “Greg Wittstock, The Pond Guy.” Unlike Hollywood, though, I wanted my YouTube channel to be unscripted and follow my journey visiting some of the world’s most beautiful, decorative water features. Better still, my channel would get to focus on the individual Certified Aquascape Contractors (CACs) throughout North America, and the myriad consumers who are uniquely living the pond life.
The concept of “Greg Wittstock, The Pond Guy” vlogs was simple, but the outcome was potentially game changing. In a nutshell, I show up to an area of the world, visit water features I’ve never seen before, meet homeowners I’ve never met, and let them, in their own unscripted way, describe what it looks and feels like to be a water feature owner. If their water features are appealing and their words are compelling, then maybe these vlogs could start to demystify water features to the general public. If “Greg Wittstock, The Pond Guy” vlogs could achieve that outcome, then it would accomplish the very goal I’ve been working to achieve for the majority of my life — taking decorative water features mainstream!
A Connected World
Never before in the history of time have we lived in a world as connected as it is today. That could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you utilize technology while keeping it from fully consuming you. The world waits for no one as it evolves, and it’s quickly evolving away from traditional print, TV and radio. The Sunday paper is about as thick as a former weekday edition. People are cutting the cord on cable TV in masses. And when the radio is on, it’s more often tuned into a streaming podcast or a commercial-free station. If you think home shows are the answer to finding customers, the dwindling attendance is a direct result of anything and everything being a mere Google search away while you’re in the comfort of your own living room.
Times used to be a lot simpler, indeed. However, never has it been easier to get your message across to your customers. Everyone has a smartphone, which allows businesses to create on-brand messaging and content that can be shared directly with prospective customers through digital media. No longer are we at the mercy of third-party gatekeepers, whether it be traditional ads, home show organizers or the post office. It’s a golden age of opportunity for the pioneers who aren’t afraid to venture into new waters.
“I Love My Job!”
For all 52 weeks of 2018, I exclusively featured CACs on my vlog. I visited three countries, profiling 44 different and unique businesses, and showcased hundreds of one-of-a-kind, work-of-art, custom creations. Along the way, I developed a catch phrase that has become my calling card, ending every vlog with, ”I Love My Job!” It’s the perfect saying that embodies the spirit of how I feel visiting my customers and seeing their amazing work firsthand. What started with my vlog is carrying over to the marketplace as our 2019 Pondemonium theme. I want everyone we support to live out that mantra, because I believe it’s the perfect elixir for when times get tough. When you’re dealing with the inevitable struggles of business, it’s easy to forget that we are truly blessed to be earning a living creating people’s dreams.
Beginning in January 2019 and running through mid-April, we will feature the projects our own Aquascape construction team created around the world over the last 27 years. We are the world’s only manufacturer of water feature products that builds water features full-time, and all the projects we will showcase have served as the research and development division for the products we ultimately create for our customers. Beginning in mid-April, we will feature projects from our CACs living Down Under in Australia. In total, I’ve scheduled visits to 48 customers in multiple countries across three continents in 2019.
Besides vlogging water features, my role is to set up as many YouTube collaborations as possible. Although Logan Paul and his 17 million subscribers (at the time) was the first collaboration, we’ve done quite a few others and have a lot more to come. By collaborating with other YouTubers, businesses and even not-for-profits, our little niche channel has been exposed to millions of eyeballs, all of which belong to potential water feature owners. From famous rodents like Justin Beaver (for whom we built our first-ever beaver pond with a waterfall built to be damned) to the world-famous YouTube snake wrangler Brian Barczyck, to 17-year-old hobbyist Paul Cuffaro, working with these digital influencers will expose whole new marketplaces to what we can do as water feature installers.
The only way to justify the immense effort and resource allocation to create hundreds of vlogs a year is to make sure it is tied into growing the business. One of the ways we are measuring the success of vlogging is by tracking conversions on our contractor-locator on our website, which is designed to connect CACs with consumers interested in getting a water feature. As of late, our CAC locator is generating the highest number of leads ever!
In addition to reaching potential customers, the vlog has proved beneficial for connecting CACs with career-oriented individuals who are inspired to create the backyard paradise we showcase in the vlogs. As every water feature business owner knows, finding qualified people who are motivated to be part of your team is one of the biggest challenges we face today. An unexpected benefit of vlogging is the exposure of what we do to a whole new audience who might want to do what we do.
Besides “Greg Wittstock, The Pond Guy,” we still have our corporate site, “Aquascape Ponds,” in addition to a third YouTube channel, “TEAM Aquascape,” which takes viewers behind the scenes every week through an entire year in the trenches with the Aquascape construction crew. All of it is real, unscripted and fun, and it contributes to why — wait for it — I love my job!