As inflation and rising interest rates show no signs of letting up, seasoned pool and spa professionals are warning that it's time for companies to start thinking about what to do when the boom stops.
"People are already starting to tighten their purse strings," said Dan Lenz, vice president of All Seasons Pool Spa & Outdoor Living. Lenz noted that he's already had at least one high-end customer pull the plug because the price tag was too high.
But Lenz isn't worried. That's because he's already been through this cycle during the 2008 housing crash—and he's figured out how to survive even the worst of times.
How? The answer is simple. Instead of simply being a pool builder, Lenz diversified into selling the whole backyard. Other experts, such as Carecraft CEO Greg Howard, have also encouraged pool and spa pros to diversify into the backyard experience.
For Lenz, one of the most dramatic examples of powerful it can be to do so was a pool he was working on for an existing client who was notorious for hard bargaining. The client had already negotiated the pool down from $108,000 to $95,000. But then, Lenz started talking to the client about his vision for the whole backyard and the conversation—along with the budget—changed completely.
Suddenly, a simple pool job evolved into a retaining wall, hardscaping, water feature, landscaping, outdoor kitchen—even an elaborate sandbox for the kids. And the budget ballooned to about $500,000.
How did Lenz transition from selling pools to selling the whole backyard?
Here are seven steps he took that he recommends for other pool and spa firms:
1. Change your name and even your logo.
When Lenz decided to make the shift to the whole backyard, he realized he needed to make sure customers knew. The simplest way was to change his name to include "outdoor living." He even changed his logo to reflect the new emphasis.
2. Use trucks to emphasize the "whole backyard."
Along with a name change, Lenz made sure to wrap his vehicles with graphics-rich images showing the whole backyard and what's possible. "If the service tech is the backyard, the homeowner might look at the truck and say look at that…," he said.
3. Get crews certified in hardscapes.
Lenz said this step was crucial in being able to truly sell the whole backyard experience and allowed him to get more creative with budgets. For example, using concrete pavers rather than just masonry structures allows Lenz and his team to be more flexible in what they can offer homeowners—and stretch budgets. Additionally, he said hardscapes such as pavers are much easier to maintain around pools.
4. Be aware of budgets, but don't be afraid to push.
Selling the whole backyard can be profitable—if customers can afford it. So, before he goes too far into offering different options, Lenz is careful to feel out the customer's budget. But he said customers often have more money if they see something they really want. His approach is to show customers what more they can get if they spend more, but to be able to easily remove the addition if it's too costly.
5. Put together an idea book for customers.
Lenz said many customers aren't thinking beyond a pool—until they're shown possibilities. A straightforward way to do so is through a "lookbook" of beautiful backyards and the different amenities possible. Ideally, some of the images would be of your own projects, but Lenz said these pictorials could simply be collections of online pictures.
6. Start a backyard conversation.
This is another powerful way to get customers thinking beyond the pool. How do they envision using the pool, and how does that fit with their vision of the whole backyard? Lenz and his team take the time to go through the "whole gamut" of what's possible—often with success.
7. Invest in design software.
Few things are more powerful sales tools than being able to show customers how you can transform their backyard. Many programs are available that allow pros to superimpose elements onto existing images to pique customers' interest. Lenz said providing that vision is key to selling the whole backyard.