Monique Nelson's Posts (43)

The pool industry in North America is very seasonal, which means that most businesses hire seasonal staff on an annual basis. This can sometimes be trying, because we often work with high school students who may or may not have the work ethic that leads to a well run, profitable business.

In addition to being seasonal, there is actually a lot of work that goes into a pool industry job. On the retail end of things, there is a lot of training required to understand how pools work, what different chemicals do, how water is balanced, etc. It's certainly not flipping burgers or folding jeans. 

On the service side, there is actual physical work to be done that can sometimes be taxing, sometimes kind of "icky" and often hot and sweaty.

Hard work and summer vacation are not synonymous terms in the minds of many teenagers.

Which is why, from this day forward, every time you hire a new high school student to work with you, you should play for them the speech Ashton Kutcher gave at the 2013 Teen Choice Awards. 

Scratch that. Every employee - every PERSON - should watch this video.

I will be honest when I say I have not been the biggest Ashton Kutcher fan in my life, and my jaw dropped to the floor when I first watched this video. But it is honestly worth spending 4:41s on, and it is definitely worth sharing.

Watch the video now, and continue reading the post after. DO NOT read the rest of the post before watching the video!

(url: http://youtu.be/FNXwKGZHmDc)

SPOILER ALERT. STOP READING IF YOU HAVE NOT YET WATCHED THE VIDEO.

I was amazed at the wisdom that poured out of "Chris's" mouth. Its not only kids that need to take these thoughts to heart, but everyone. The world of marketing, especially! Have you seen Diesel's marketing lately? Compare this video to the one you just watched: Diesel: Be Stupid

Now tell me which one you want your children, employees and fellow human beings emulating. You have to be stupid to take risks? Tell that to best stock brokers in the world. Smart people are scared to fail? Tell that to Thomas Edison. Being smart crushes possibility!? Smart sees things how they are and stupid recognizes what they can be? What about the Wright Brothers? Or NASA. Or any scientist, really. 

I never thought I would say this, but I'm with Ashton. Work hard. Be smart. Build your life.

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How Healthy is Your City?

The 2013 American Fitness Index has recently been released - you can view the entire study / results here: http://americanfitnessindex.org

It is phenomenally interesting.
At a quick glance you can discover the Healthiest - and least Healthy - of the top 50 Metropolitan cities in the USA. If a quick glance isn't enough to satisfy your curiosity, you can also download the full report with much more detailed findings. 

A very interesting feature is the "Strengths & Weaknesses" window that pops up when you click on one of the cities. For example, I found that city ranked #1 for health, had "fewer swimming pools per capita" as one of their weaknesses. This seems like a golden opportunity for pool builders to market towards! On the other hand, the 42nd and 43rd (out of 50) ranked had "more swimming pools per capita." This indicates a need for aquatics professionals in those areas to hit the drawing boards and come up with interesting new programs to facilitate health in a fun and exciting new way.

The website's blog and resource sections are a veritable wealth of information, and you could easily spend hours devouring the content if you were so inclined. 

My favorite part, however, is their Community Action Guide.

It may be dated for 2009, but the topics covered are evergreen and enlightening.  (The material shared makes me so motivated that it has actually elevated my speech patterns!)

So far, I have only had the luxury of skimming the content, but I plan on going through it again and again. Here are a few of the tidbits I have picked out so far:
  • There is strength in numbers - not to mention variety! - so try forming a coalition to accomplish the goals your community has set forth. This coalition might include local businesses (aquatic centers? pool suppliers?), notable "figureheads" (athletes?), community professionals (swim coaches? gym teachers?) and even government agencies (Parks & Rec departments?)
  • Celebrate success! You would be hard pressed to find a better motivator than success. If you start with baby steps in all your programs, you should have no trouble coming out on top. Share with your community every time a finish line is crossed and you will be surprised at how quickly others will want to join in the adventure, whatever it may be!
    • added suggestion - use social media to your best advantage! Share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube and your community will help you pass along the good news!
  • Understand the difference between your WANTS and NEEDS. Aiming to satisfy all your community's desires is not a bad thing, but planning the lion's share of the project to meet the needs of community will have stronger long-term results.
  • "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." ~ Margaret Mead
What are your thoughts? How is your community getting involved to create healthy lifestyle habits? Where does the Pool Industry fit in? Please, leave your thoughts and comments in the section below!
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Walk, Bike, Bus and Shop?

When was the last time you thought to yourself - "Self, I wonder how my shoppers get to my store."?

Have you ever really stopped to think about it? I think most business owners would assume their customers are driving to their stores to do their shopping. 

In fact, a very interesting article I read recently shared results from a study that survey merchants on that very question. Apparently 70% of merchants surveyed believe between 11 - 75% of their customers came by driving. That is a huge variable, and it sounds completely reasonable to me. 

What surprised me was that a contrasting customer intercept survey found that only 10% actually drove!

This article forced my thinking-cap on; what would it mean to your business if your customers were really walking, biking or busing to do their shopping? Here was what I shared on my blog today:

I read the most fascinating article in Marketing Magazine recently. It was titled "Why Won't You Believe I Walked to your Store?" It is all about the new reality that many shoppers are leaving their vehicles at home. They are  walking, biking and taking public transit to shop. Fascinating, no? 

It is a Canadian magazine, written by a Vancouver, BC based writer, but don't let that dissuade you from reading the article. Much of his research deals with New York - a decidedly un-Canadian, un-West Coast city. This is happening all over the world - its not even just North America!

I pulled this interesting statistic straight from the article:

"Five years ago, New York City put the continent’s first protected bike lane on Ninth Avenue. Retail sales along the lane have increased 49%. Where the city replaced parking with public plazas, retail sales went up 120%."

Now that is astonishing! Is it time to start lobbying your city for a bike lane? 
Here is another tidbit I came across in the article: "going back to June 2005, vehicle use has gone down for almost 100 consecutive months in North America...the decline reaches 23% for 16-to-34-year-olds."

I even did some extra researching on this statement, and found a supporting article with interesting graphs and more fascinating figures.

So what does this mean for retailers in the Pool, Spa and Backyard industry? It means that there is an entirely new market waiting to be catered to, and your competitor's don't even know it exists (unless they read my blog as well)!

Here are a few ideas that might help; most suggestions are a mix of what I read in the article and experience from my own shopping life, sans voiture.
  • Offer Delivery Services - and feel free to charge for it. Shoppers like myself are glad to pay a reasonable premium for the convenience of not having to lug heavy awkward packages home on the bus, or be forced to call a cab or friend to help out.
  • Install a bike rack in front of your store
  • If you aren't currently in an area with heavy foot traffic, consider hosting a booth at a farmer's market, or opening a season booth or pop-up-store in a busier part of town
  • Offer plastic bag alternatives, like reusable cloth bags with shoulder straps, or hard plastic / wicker baskets for sale at the counter.
  • Sell bikes and bike accessories - this is a great complementary item to the lifestyles of pool owners, so why not make the most of it of a growing market!
  • Advertise your location - on your website make note of the nearest public transit stops, and any nice features nearby that your customers may want to visit after they take care of business
Ask your customers, when they come in, how they got there. Perhaps shoppers in our industry or to your location are not following this trend. But if they are, it will be very helpful for you to know. You can then suggest they visit more often, and purchase less in a single visit to make it easier to carry home. If this is the case, try to set them up on a schedule, so that you can send reminders when they need to visit you again. This would be helpful for them, and a safety net of sorts for you.

On the other hand, if they did drive, you can suggest the opposite - buy in bulk now in order to save on mileage and gas in the future. 
What do you think of this fascinating research? Leave your thoughts and suggestions below!
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First of all, I would like to admit that it has been way too long since I have really participated here at the PGN and I am SORRY! I miss you all very much, but my focus has been laser targeted lately, and I simply haven't had the opportunity to join you in discussion. I hope that will be changing now, and I am really looking forward to spending more time here again. 

Next, I recently wrote a blog post that I thought would go over well here. So, I am sharing it. I hope you enjoy; I look forward to your comments!

I read an article in Aquatics International recently that really started me thinking. It was an interesting and thought-provoking look at the way we communicate, and the differences between the generations. When you get a free moment, I'd recommend reading: "All in How You Say (or Text) It" by Tina Dittmar.
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I think the reason why I got so involved with the article was, in part, because I was so shocked by the realization that communication has evolved so much over the years. I think that I missed the train, personally, and as I write this blog post I am actually turning into my parents. 

One of the first reactions I remember having as I read was this "Texting at work!? Inappropriate." As I continued reading, it dawned on me that this article should be an eye-opener! I think of myself as fairly progressive in business - I am a marketer after all, I have embraced web 2.0 like a Koala bear. But texting? With staff!? 
According to the general snapshot presented in the article, I should - chronologically speaking - fall into the Gen Y generation. The thought of being on the same wavelength as someone who is 14 years old, however, makes me chuckle. 

Under the heading "Communication" I relate much closer to Gen Y: I do text and use social media, but certainly not exclusively. Texting is reserved for brief updates between friends, sent in full sentences (I abhor "abbreves"), and used as a supplement to actual voice conversations, not an alternative to.

As an employee, I actually find myself relating to the Boomers thoughts about feedback. I operate under the assumption that I am doing a great job that will be remunerated with money and title. I hold myself to high standards and don't wait for positive reinforcement because I am fairly certain I am my own hardest critic. However, I do assume that if I do something wrong, I will be held accountable. The concept of looking for feedback on every action I take is foreign to me.

The generations apparently expect and give respect differently as well. In my mind, respect should be earned by a combination of experience, life choices, ideas and suggestions. I guess I span the generation gap on this topic. Each of those four concepts need each other to thrive, and shouldn't ever stand alone. 

The future of management? There are some days when I look at the younger generations - Y and Z, and wonder when the world is going implode. But there are other days - thankfully many more of them - that I watch the accomplishments of people who are SO young and I wonder how we got this far without them. Forecasting how the future of workplaces will look is way beyond my imaginative capacity, but I retain high hopes.
The article certainly taught me a few things about my way of thinking. If nothing else, I realized that, despite my own weird concepts of professionalism and communication, I need to get with the times. I need to be able to communicate with my clients regardless of how old - or YOUNG - they may be. I need to learn the new playing field. 

If you haven't read it yet, make sure you read the original article in Aquatics International, All In How you Say (or Text) It.

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter. Does your chronological age fit with the "generation" that you belong to? Are you taking special measures to bring new methods of communication into your business? Leave your comments below - this really should be an interesting discussion! 
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Do you enjoy watching Disney movies? I do! 

 

Aside from the pure enjoyment they bring me, I often find them very inspirational. There are some great sales tools you can find within Disney movies, not to mention life lessons!

 

Today I want to remind you of a little movie titled "The Little Mermaid." I'm sure you've seen it - and if you haven't GET TO IT!

 

I think one reason Disney movies tend to hold such powerful places in our hearts and memories is the use of music and song. That, in itself, is a lesson for you. Play music. Everyone loves music! It will put shoppers in a good mood and create happy memories of your store. I would even go so far as to suggest you play music from your childhood - who doesn't want to get a bit nostalgic and childlike when they are shopping for pool products!?

 

That is not my point for today, though, so let me go back a bit. 

 

There is one song in particular I would like you to remember. In fact, I'll even jog your memory by providing you with a video: Poor Unfortunate Souls

 

Now that you remember the song, there is one line I would like to draw your attention to:

 

"You've got your looks, your pretty face. And don't underestimate the power of body language."

 

(That's my favorite part of the song, by the way. I talk about it often.) 

There are two angles I want to look at.

 

1) Whether or not you belong on the cover of a magazine, "your looks" should signal to your customers that you are a professional, and you are there to help them, the pool unfortunate souls that they are. Your body language should confirm this.  

If you (or anyone working with you) slouches around the store in ripped up jeans and a snarl on his / her face, not many customers are going to feel comfortable approaching him / her to ask questions.  

On the other hand, if you (and everyone working with you) is nicely outfitted and beaming a welcoming smile, your customers are going to smile and be happy too. Especially when they are directed towards the product of their dreams by the happy, smiling staff member. 

 

2) Don't underestimate the power of body language as radiated from your customer. I am reading a really great book right now, you might be interested in it: " The Ultimate Hot Tub & Pool Sales Book by Marco Longley. *" I'm not very far yet, but there is a great section right at the front about reading the signals your customers are giving you. If you miss them, you might miss your sale opportunity. For example (his example), if a client keeps going back to that same spa, running their hands in the water and sighing, chances are they really want that spa. That is body language for 'Sell to me NOW!" 

 

Where do you get your inspiration from?

 

*I'm not endorsing or promoting this book, nor am I affiliated with Mr. Longley, I am simply reading and enjoying it!


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What is Your Policy on Upgrades?

I was reading through an article in Pool & Spa News today - Replacement Parts Outpace Repairs by Ben Thomas - and it got me thinking about upgrade policies. 

 

At Flexible Solutions we have considered our Heatsavr Kit to be an "Upgrade" from our Ecosavr fish. We have found that when a pool owner has been using Ecosavr for years and loves the results, they are generally interested in giving their pool an upgrade to the permanent system. 

 

What is your system for upgrading? Whatever you are selling, do you encourage customers to take it to the next level when that option is available? Or do you prefer to keep a satisfied customer happy with what they have?

 

I am certain there are many success stories for both tactics and, of course, you must always act on what would ultimately benefit the individual client, but I am truly curious to see how sales strategies differ from company to company. 

 

More than just that, sales strategies differ depending on what the economy is doing.  For a while now I am sure many people have been careful not to push any boundaries, because the economy had created a new type of customer - one that would dart at any sign of "sales" at all!

 

The article quotes PoolCorp's CEO, Manuel Perez de la Mesa, saying, "The economy is beginning to get a little better, so customer behavior is starting to revert back toward normal." How will this affect your processes?

 

Another fantastic point the article made was regarding warranties. Though the economy might be looking perky, people are still a bit nervous; while they may be willing to spend a bit more, they want to be sure they are protected when they do so. This actually looks to be a great thing for sales as pool owners are looking to buy something new that comes with a nice warranty instead of simply repairing the equipment they already have.

 

Energy efficiency is also an indicator. Again, consumers are a bit more willing to spend money, but they want a promise of a good future return. That sounds like a great time to introduce items that maybe have a bit of a higher ticket price, but that will save money in the long run - heat pumps, variable speed pumps, solar systems, Heatsavr sytems, etc. 

 

I like what this mindset encourages. Even though the consumer may simply be after a long term plan to save money, upgrades, warranties and energy efficient products are all very important aspects of a good customer retention and happiness program for retailers, service companies and builders alike. 

 

I always love the replies you share, and I am really looking forward to hearing your take on the situation as outlined here and in the article. 

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What is Your Policy on Upgrades?

I was reading through an article in Pool & Spa News today - Replacement Parts Outpace Repairs by Ben Thomas - and it got me thinking about upgrade policies. 

 

At Flexible Solutions we have considered our Heatsavr Kit to be an "Upgrade" from our Ecosavr fish. We have found that when a pool owner has been using Ecosavr for years and loves the results, they are generally interested in giving their pool an upgrade to the permanent system. 

 

What is your system for upgrading? Whatever you are selling, do you encourage customers to take it to the next level when that option is available? Or do you prefer to keep a satisfied customer happy with what they have?

 

I am certain there are many success stories for both tactics and, of course, you must always act on what would ultimately benefit the individual client, but I am truly curious to see how sales strategies differ from company to company. 

 

More than just that, sales strategies differ depending on what the economy is doing.  For a while now I am sure many people have been careful not to push any boundaries, because the economy had created a new type of customer - one that would dart at any sign of "sales" at all!

 

The article quotes PoolCorp's CEO, Manuel Perez de la Mesa, saying, "The economy is beginning to get a little better, so customer behavior is starting to revert back toward normal." How will this affect your processes?

 

Another fantastic point the article made was regarding warranties. Though the economy might be looking perky, people are still a bit nervous; while they may be willing to spend a bit more, they want to be sure they are protected when they do so. This actually looks to be a great thing for sales as pool owners are looking to buy something new that comes with a nice warranty instead of simply repairing the equipment they already have.

 

Energy efficiency is also an indicator. Again, consumers are a bit more willing to spend money, but they want a promise of a good future return. That sounds like a great time to introduce items that maybe have a bit of a higher ticket price, but that will save money in the long run - heat pumps, variable speed pumps, solar systems, Heatsavr sytems, etc. 

 

I like what this mindset encourages. Even though the consumer may simply be after a long term plan to save money, upgrades, warranties and energy efficient products are all very important aspects of a good customer retention and happiness program for retailers, service companies and builders alike. 

 

I always love the replies you share, and I am really looking forward to hearing your take on the situation as outlined here and in the article. 

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I once attended a company's sales meeting that involved the GM tossing rolls of cash out to his sales force. It was a motivational technique. While I was in this meeting - not catching any of the cash, as I was a guest, not an employee - I noticed that everyone around me was very motivated. However, once the meeting was over, the motivation quickly dwindled. 

 

There started to be complaints... 

  • last year they threw bundles of Twenties...not ones!
  • last year there were so many more bundles, no one walked out empty handed
  • last year they were throwing money at us from a resort, not a hotel lobby...
No one sounded very motivated anymore, even the ones who actually caught the cash!
 
That makes me wonder - how the heck can you motivate your employees to work harder, smarter and better if MONEY won't even do the trick?
 
Well, I am here to tell you money isn't everything. There are many, many ways to motivate your employees at no extra cost to you, or at least a very low cost. 
 
Here are a few of my personal favorites:
  • Spend some personal time with your staff:
    • Making yourself available to hear ideas, complaints, and general feedback will help your staff feel more welcome in the business. Employees who feel like they are an important part of a company will want to help build the reputation of your business.
    • Take your employees out to lunch every now and then to listen to what they have to say, or simply schedule a meeting with a box of doughnuts and encourage open discussion.
    • Activity: Many people spend just as much, if not more, time at work as they do at home. In order to have motivated employees, your staff should feel like their job is a welcome 2nd home. Set up a "Staff Recommendations" section in your store, and encourage your employees to add their favorite products to this area. Have "marketing sessions" with them where everyone creates a flyer, poster-board or other type of promotional piece explaining why they chose their products. Make sure YOU are doing this with your staff. Customers love to hear recommendations, but every customer doesn't always have the benefit of one-on-one contact, so this section will become a popular selling feature in your store. You will probably find that the products in this section will sell more, partly because of the "personal recommendation" and partly because your staff will now feel compelled to encourage sales in order to protect the status of their recommendation. Everyone wins!
  • Reward good behavior, correct bad habits:
    • If you notice someone doing a good job, thank them. You would be surprised how far simple complements can take you. If you notice someone preforming FANTASTICALLY, reward them. If you have a few extra dollars in your budget, create a trophy wall of fame and get a plaque created for them. This will motivate everyone - who doesn't want their name on a plaque on your wall!?
    • You should also be on the lookout for less than ideal conduct. Instead of instituting a punishment policy, however, help the employee correct their mistakes. If you can diplomatically explain the reason the employee should change their ways, and provide them with an alternate solution, they will be glad to improve themselves...especially if they know great performance will bring rewards!
  • Offer education, training and career advancing opportunities:
    • If you don't have it in the budget to offer a big raise, try offering additional training instead. A workshop in public speaking looks great on a resume for future careers, but it can also help the confidence of your staff and make them more successful salespeople...win-win.
    • Offering education that can help your employees advance themselves will show them that you really do care about them, and it will also have the added benefit of increasing the skill set within your company.
  • Bargain with time off:
    • Again, if you don't have the extra money in your coffers to hand out raises or bonuses, try bargaining with time off. The employee with the highest sales every week gets 2 hours off on Friday to enjoy their weekend...paid! You may have to pay an extra $30 each week, but your staff will be selling their best to get those precious hours to themselves!
  • Join the "team":
    •  One of the biggest motivators for your team is going to be joining them. If your staff sees you "pulling your weight" and doing the same jobs as they are, they are going to realize you are devoted to the company, and not just some executive handing down orders. If you are willing to man the water test station, handle a few customers on cash, and greet people as they come in, you will be encouraging your staff to follow in your footsteps. It will give them something to emulate, and they will respect you more for helping with the grunt work.
What motivation techniques can you share with the group?

 

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Building Your Sales from the Ground Up

I have recently noticed that I spend a whole lot of time sharing tips and techniques can help with the retail end of a product life cycle. There is much more to the pool industry than just retail, however, and today I would like to spend a few minutes talking about techniques that can just as easily be applied to Builder's and Service Companies as they can to Retail stores. 

I would like to help you build your sales from the ground up

From the moment a home owner decides they might like to have a pool someday, there is a large sum of money on the table, just waiting for you to come and take it away - leaving a nice, shiny new pool-owner lifestyle in its stead. 

There is a long and involved process that takes place when a pool is being built. A home owner asks themselves a whole list of questions - 

  • What kind of pool do I want?
  • How big should it be?
  • What features should it have?
  • What do I want to do in it?
  • What equipment will I need?
  • How expensive is it going to be - to build, maintain, and enjoy?
  • Who is going to take care of it?
A pool professional is required to help answer these questions and most prospective pool owners are going to be searching a variety of sources to find a comprehensive answer. Builder's, service professionals, retailers - all potential sources of information. No matter what corner of the industry you inhabit, if you can offer answers that will make people happy, comfortable and safe, you will be wooing a lifetime client.

 

My big tip of the day is to offer a full meal deal. In our busy world of "I want it all" and "I want it now" you need to be able to capture a client's attention and hold it. The internet offers a very enticing distraction from reality. I am sure you have had a client or two come to you begging for help after ordering something online but still needing your expertise. If you create a package custom made to their needs and demands, they will have absolutely no reason to look elsewhere. 
In this day and age there are not too many pool builder's left who wouldn't welcome a few extra dollars at the tail end of their invoice either. If you are going to dig a hole and put a pool in it, it makes sense to fill that hole with as many profitable items as you can. This will make you more money, and leave behind a very satisfied customer. 
This rule doesn't just apply to Builder's either. Service companies can increase their sales by offering new services and more products that will help a pool owner enjoy their pool. If you're going to be there working for $100, why wouldn't you want to add a new product to their pool that will add on an extra $10, $15 or $25 dollars? And if you pick the right products for each of your clients, they will hand over the extra cash with a hearty "thank you, sir!" and a handshake.
It is the same with Retailer's and add-ons or up-sells. If a client is in your store, there is no reason for them to leave with only one item - or worse, empty handed! They are there for a reason, all you need to do is expand their horizons. 
How do you build your sales?
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There are a lot of people surrounding me lately that are heartbroken. I am NOT going to talk about the crushing defeat that the Canucks suffered in hockey, but I would like to talk to you about the intense emotions surrounding this event.

 

Whether or not you follow hockey (I don't), you know what happens when there is a series event - the Stanley Cup, the Superbowl, the World Cup, the NBA Finals, the World Series...you get my point. They all have incredibly intense fans that support their teams fanatically - so to speak.

 

Do you know WHY there is such an incredible emotional high surrounding these sports events? I can tell you in one word: COMPETITION.

 

We love competition. Some people love competition too much...the riots in Vancouver are a great example of taking it too far. But there are many people who truly respect the competition and see each fight as a chance to prove to the world how far a team can go. 

 

I have two friends who are die hard Canucks fans. I have to smile when I heard them both say something to the extent of "They played an incredible season. Congratulations to the Bruins, but my heart still beats for the Canucks."

 

That is respectable. I have no idea how the players on the Vancouver team are reacting right now, but I am happy to see that some of their most supportive fans are remaining strong in the face of disappointment. More to the point, they are big enough to realize that the winning team won for a reason, and deserves respect for that!

 

So...how does this relate to you and your business?

 

In a few ways, actually. Whenever there is an event that generates this level of excitement, you can tap into that fervor by shouting out your support. For example, there is a restaurant chain in Canada called Boston Pizza. During the finals it was all over the radio that they were putting up signage that "changed their name" temporarily to Vancouver Pizza. It created a buzz, to say the least. They were able to tap into the fervor with great success!

 

There is another way you can benefit from the reality of sports competition. Create it. 

 

In every job I have ever held, the biggest sales were always brought in during periods where there was some sort of employee competition going on. Sometimes it was small...like the staff was divided into two teams, and the highest sales for the week would get to share a box of doughnuts. That is not a huge investment for the company, but it worked! We sold our best - not necessarily because we really wanted doughnuts, but because we really wanted to win.

 

Other times it was product specific. Like the sales person to sell the most of Product A would win a Product A (or some other exciting prize). Sometimes it was just a challange between a few employees. Whatever the situation, whenever faced with a competition, the staff would raise to the challenge. 

 

Just a few weeks ago I got a call from a retailer who has been selling our Heatsavr Kit like CRAZY this year. I asked where the momentum was coming from and he said that he had a personal challenge against a colleague to see who could install the most systems before the end of the season. They were literally racing to beat each other to clients who were interested in covering their pools. And boy...was it working for them!

 

So, maybe it is time for you to tap into some competition. Share your ideas and results with me - I LOVE to hear your stories! Good luck, and stay respectful!

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The #1 Sales Tip to Selling More Is...

For the past 2 days, I have been sharing with you what I believe to be the TOP 3 WAYS TO SELL MORE WITHOUT SPENDING A DIME ON MARKETING.

 

Today will provide you with my final tip, but if you have missed the first two, you can read them here:

Tip #3

Tip #2

 

So here we go:

 #1: The Most Important Thing You Can Do

to Grow Your Sales Is...

 

Before I get right into it, I want to ask you a question:

 

If you walked into a shoe store looking for a new pair of work shoes, and nobody was in the store, what would you do? Would you try on shoes, find a pair you like and wear them out? Nobody is there, why not?

 

Probably not. 

 

That would be theft, of course. So you would probably just leave, eventually. But it would be worse than that, wouldn't it? You would leave that store frustrated and annoyed because you couldn't buy anything. You were thwarted in your desire to BUY because there was nobody available to SELL to you. That store just lost your sale, possibly for life.

 

Now here is another question for you: what is the difference between a store where there is NOBODY there, and a store where there is nobody SELLING to you?

 

Precious little, in reality. 

 

If there is a cashier at the till, you do have the ability to buy something, unlike a totally deserted establishment, but if that cashier - or anyone else - doesn't try to sell you anything, you may still leave empty handed. 

 

Whenever a person walks into a retail store, they WANT to buy something. Even if they are just browsing or window shopping, I guarantee you they would not be in a store if they didn't WANT something. Even if they are not planning to buy something, they WANT something. 

 

Today's tip is this: find out what they WANT and sell it to them

 

It just doesn't get any more simple than that, but it is so very sad that way too many shoppers walk out of retail businesses empty handed. 

 

You can start growing your sales today if you apply this very simple - NO COST - tip. Find out what they want and sell it to them.

 

Find out what they want and sell it to them.

 

That's all there is to it, but I feel a very strong need to repeat it over and over and over.

 

Don't fool yourself into thinking that just because this is as simple as making jello pudding that you are going to convert ever person who walks through your door into a customer. 

 

There is skill to it. You can't just ambush people and push products on them. Think back to the last time you were shopping and a sales person asked you if they could help with anything...what did you say? Personally, I am likely to say something along the line of "Thanks, just browsing for now." That usually gets them to leave me alone. And then I often walk out of the store empty handed. 

 

There are many ways you can get shoppers to open up to you and share their wants with you, but you will have to find a strategy that works for you and sounds sincere from you. Welcoming everyone who comes into your store is a big step. 

 

Having adequate staff to help your customers in all corners of your store is another great step. If someone is "just browsing" and spends 10 minutes looking at the colorful Ecosavr box, there should be a staff member there within the first 2 - 3 minutes asking questions and sharing information to encourage the transition between interest and ownership.

 

Learning how to read people is another great skill that can help your sales go up, up and away. If you can tell the difference between a frustrated pool owner, a frustrated wife, and a frustrated mother you can improve your sales. A frustrated pool owner wants a solution to their pool problems. A frustrated wife wants to solve the problem her husband failed to, in a easier and cheaper way. A frustrated mother wants to find something that will keep her kids happy while she shops to find items that will keep her happy. This could be the very same woman, but her WANTS are going to be different each time, and your sales approach will become exponentially more effective if you can realize this. 

 

Anyhow, to sum it up, the #1 thing (in my opinion) that you can do to increase your sales without spending a single dime on marketing costs is to find out what your shoppers want and sell it to them.

 

If you can supplement this #1 tip with making your store "Red Car" ready, and by making it really easy to buy new things, and a bit harder to buy necessary things, you can increase your sales dramatically and almost immediately without spending a dime. 

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Yesterday I started to share with you what I believe to be the TOP 3 WAYS TO SELL MORE WITHOUT SPENDING A DIME ON MARKETING.

 

As I said, giving you all 3 at once would take up too much space (and too much of your time), so I have started a 3-day series, of which today is Day 2. If you missed the first one, you can read it here: http://www.poolgeniusnetwork.com/profiles/blogs/top-3-ways-to-sell-more

Onto today's tip:

 #2: Red Car Syndrome

:: Coming to a Store Near You ::

 

I watched an infomercial, or advertisement, or a study, or something like that a few years ago and it really made an impact on me. It was essentially a study on perception.

 

A whole bunch of people were shown 2 videos - one of a red car going around a track, and one of a blue car going around a track. They were then asked which one they thought went around the track faster. The answer was overwhelming in favor of the red car. 

 

In fact, both cars were carefully going the exact same speed.

 

People are, for some reason, pre-programed to think that Red Cars are faster. Ever heard of "Sports Car Red"? 

 

Apparently there are a whole bunch of people who remove the mufflers from their vehicles because...loud cars are perceived to go faster too. 

 

So, my #2 tip is about creating a "Red Car" impression in your retail store in order to increase your sales. Perception is everything. If you can give the impression that your products are must-have products, people will feel like they must-have them!

 

If you can give the impression that your store is THE coolest place to be, THE best pool supply store in town, THE only reasonable choice for pool owners, it will become THE place to be. 

 

So...how do you do that? Well, you need to pay attention to the aspects of your store or business that make impressions on people. 

 

There used to be a department store in my town that I HATED going to. It had the best prices, and a huge variety of stuff that I wanted, but I HATED going there. Why? Because it was dark, and it didn't look pretty, and it just made me think of old people. I didn't like it. 

 

Then there was a new Walmart built...which was actually more expensive, believe it or not, but it was bright and open and I felt like it was sunny inside. Even though I have no reason to believe one was cleaner than the other, I certainly FELT like the Walmart was cleaner. 

 

So, I will argue that lighting is a big factor in making a good first impression. You are a family store, right? Make it colorful and bright and summery! 

 

There are other things that contribute to first impressions as well: 

  • employees - what are they wearing? do they look happy? do they look helpful? do they look hungover?
  • product displays: they don't have to be fancy, but they should be fun, and attracting and colorful and IN YOUR FACE! Get your family to help create them...you are a family store, so BE a family store!
  • set up - is everything crammed and stuffed full, or easily accessible? It is always great to make sure you have product on your shelves, but when you have too much of any one thing, not only do you start creating clutter, but you also give the impression that, for whatever reason, that product isn't selling. 
  • smell - smell is a very important part of an impression. You are a pool store, it is OK to smell a bit like chlorine. It reminds people of swimming, and gets them excited to jump in a pool! Too much is not good, but a waft of light-chlorine perfume will put your customers in the right mind-set. Your sense of smell is one of the quickest memory triggers, after all.
  • warmth - your store should be welcoming in all ways...including in temperature. If it is smoking hot outside, make people feel like they just jumped into a nice cool pool when they walk through your doors. If it is a grey day, warm up the store and set up a few water stations where they can run their fingers through the water, enjoying the sensation of warm air, cool water
So, that is Tip #2 - make sure you make a GREAT impression on your customers by giving them an environment that they PERCEIVE to be a place worth spending their money.

 

Tomorrow, I will share with you my #1 tip for selling more: :: The title is SECRET, because it is SO good, you're just going to have to wait to read it::

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What you are about to read is very important. It may be basic, but it is very important. In my younger days I spent a great deal of time merchandising for various retail stores, and I have come up with what I believe to be the TOP 3 WAYS TO SELL MORE WITHOUT SPENDING A DIME ON MARKETING. 

 

It will take up too much space (and too much of your time) to include them all in one blog, so I am going to do something a bit unorthodox: I am going to post 1 tip today, 1 tomorrow, and one the next day. I hope you enjoy!

 

Onto today's tip:

 

#3: Make It Easy to Buy Something NEW, 

and Harder to Buy Something NEEDED

 

I want to add a caveat to this tip: you never want to make anything HARD to buy. 

 

What I mean by making something needed harder to buy is this: if someone comes into your store to buy something they NEED, if they have to search for it a bit, it gives your staff and shelves more time to showcase other items. If they see what they want immediately, they will buy it and leave. If they have to look around a bit, they might find something else to add to their basket, thus allowing you to sell more.

 

If you make it really easy to buy something new, something they have never bought before, you will be getting more business out of each of your clients. 

 

Here is a merchandising secret: buyers are more likely to buy something when it is at their eye level than when it is at their feet. The next time you are at a grocery store, test my theory on yourself.

 

So, to put this tip into action at your store you just need to do a bit of reorganizing. Walk around and make a note of all the products that pool owners are going to NEED to buy. Where are they in your store? Front and center? They shouldn't be! Your customers will walk in and walk out with ONLY what they NEED! In order to sell more, you need to entice them to buy things they WANT that are in addition to the things that they NEED. 

 

While you are making note of the need-to-buy products, make a note of some of your slower selling products. Where are they? Are they on the bottom shelves? If you want to sell more of them without having to spend a bunch of money marketing them, move them up to the top of the shelf. 

 

I would suggest that you will benefit from placing the need-to-buy products further back in your store, or on the bottom of your shelving units. You know they are going to sell because people NEED them. These items don't need priority placement. 

 

That will leave top-shelf and front-of-store space available for your shoppers to be attracted to new products, or products that are new to them. Place the adorable and benefit-packed Ecosavr on a bottom shelf at the back of your store and few people are going to see it. Put it up front at eye level and it will start selling faster than cotton candy at a fair.

 

Careful merchandising will help you sell more products to each of your customers - making the most of the business that walks through your door - without costing you a single extra penny in marketing or sales costs. 

 

Tomorrow, I will share with you my #2 tip for selling more: Red Car Syndrome - Coming to a Store Near You!

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Do you ever read famous quotes? Some people just have a knack for saying things in a way that make sense and speak directly to you.

 

One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Socrates:

 

The greatest way to live with honor in this worldis to be who you pretend to be.

 

Isn't that fantastic?

 

I love it. I try my hardest to consider that quote whenever I am faced with a decision about my actions that I don't instantly know the answer to. I think to myself...would I want people to think that I act this way? If the answer is no, than why would I ever act that way!?

 

On the other hand, if I am trying to create a reputation for myself, I really should live up to my claims.This needs to apply to more than just my personal life. I try to conduct my business the very same way. Considering I do the marketing for our Liquid Pool Covers, I am VERY conscious of the claims that we make. I assure you, if we advertise it, it is true. We are what we pretend to be, so to speak.

 

Can you say the same for all the other products you sell? If you were to go through your inventory and look up all the claims that the various product labels makes, would you find support and evidence?

 

I hope so. Socrates was a pretty smart guy.

 

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this idea. How important is it to you that a product lives up to the writing on the bottle? Do you do any due diligence to ensure that what you see is really what you get? Do your customers ever ask questions? How do you ensure that you are running your business in an honorable manner?

 

I look forward to reading your feedback!

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Have you ever found yourself doing something you don't want to be doing? Or perhaps something you think / know you shouldn't be doing?

 

I'm not talking about robbing a bank, here. I'm talking about singing along to a song you don't like. Or laughing at a movie that makes you cringe. Or eating a burger so greasy you can imagine your heart valves clogging even as you chew it. 

 

I have a very tight group of friends. We meet every Wednesday night to share some great food, wine and a lot of great stories. 6 out of 8 of us are school teachers. I am in the minority. As you can probably imagine, a lot of our stories tend revolve around the crazy things kids do.

 

Last week a topic of conversation was Rihanna's new song. It is not even appropriate to share the title with you, but you may have heard it. One of my friends was saying how devastating it is to hear teenage girls singing that song in the hallways. It is really not a song I would like my nieces to be listening to. But this morning, on my way to work, it played on the radio. Before I realized it I was singing along to lyrics I won't repeat. I hate that.

 

There is one part of the song that I will share with you: "I may be bad, but I'm perfectly good at it." Well, there is obviously a lot of truth to that sentence. She is so good that her music will get people to sing along against their better judgement. 

 

As a marketer and salesperson, I see similar sentiments all over the market place. For some, it is more important to make a product sell, than to make a product GOOD. Who cares if its bad, as long as it is perfectly good at selling, right? Well, not in my world!

 

You may find yourself singing along to Lady Gaga, or watching the 14th SAW movie, or eating the triple-decker with bacon, extra cheese and an egg on top, but I am sure you don't want to find yourself selling products that are good at making claims but bad at backing them up. 

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According to my sources, today is National Nutty Fudge Day. Have you celebrated yet!?

 

Why, you ask? Why would anyone care to celebrate National Nutty Fudge Day? Well, aside from the license to eat as much fudge as you can stomach, a really great reason to celebrate might be to MAKE A WHOLE LOT OF SALES! 

 

If you received a flyer in the mail advertising the "GRAND CELEBRATION of National Nutty Fudge Day," to be held at the Yard Care store a few blocks away where there would be season start-up specials and *gasp* FREE FUDGE between 12 - 1 PM, would you try to organize your schedule so that you could take a lunch break between 12 - 1 PM? I would! And I don't even really like fudge.

 

How much do you think it would cost them to bring in enough fudge to give small samples for an hour? A couple hundred dollars at the most? Would that be worth the traffic increase and great press for the store? Heck Yeah!

 

I bet if they called a radio station and told them about the free fudge the radio would be more than happy to report on site, which would bring in even more traffic and create even more buzz. That is a lot of potential excitement for a small fudge investment. 

 

Now, you may be thinking "Why are you getting me pumped up about something that it is too late to take advantage of!?" Well, is it really too late? 

 

Do you have Twitter? Do you have an employee with a vehicle and a charge account? Do you have a phone? What about a Facebook account? If you were to send out 1 Tweet an hour from now until 4 PM advertising a really exciting event involving chocolate on location, I bet you would have a few people keeping an eye on your Twitter account. From 4 PM until 5 PM, broadcast FREE FUDGE for 1 hour ONLY! 

 

Have that vehicle endowed staff member drive out to a fudge shop or two to pick up a bunch of Fudge. Make sure you tell the fudge shop about your fun-day event and try to get a deal on the fudge in return for putting up a few flyers of theirs around the Fudge-Station. Also, leave some business cards at the Fudge Shop so that they can tell people about your soon-to-be-happening event. 

 

Give the radio station a call and tell them about it. Even if it is too short notice to send out a whole crew, there is a good chance they will be willing to talk about it on the air. Publicize it on Facebook, create a marker-on-posterboard sign and have someone walk around the block with it. Give a few of your favorite clients a call and ask them to spread the news. 

 

It may not bring in the traffic that a well planned event would, but I bet it would get noticed! Give it a try and let me know how it goes. 

 

Alternatively, did you know that next Thursday is the anniversary of the FIRST EVER Frog Jumping contest? I bet you could have some fun with that. Perhaps partner with a local pet store? Have a great special on your critter skimmers and other frog friendly products? You have a whole week to plan something. 

 

There are so many reasons that you can plan and execute an exciting event that will make your store THE place to be, buy and have fun!  

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When the Best in the World Gets Bested

If I was visiting your store trying to sell you on our line of liquid pool covers and I said, "We've been manufacturing them for 20 years," would you care? No; that's a platitude.  

 

What if I said, "We're very professional, and we'll got the extra mile for you." Would you sign on the dotted line, or roll your eyes and think "Platitude!"

 

If I added, "We think of our customers as family, and we know that our liquid pool covers will provide you with everything you want from a liquid pool cover" you would probably scream in my face "GET OUT OF MY STORE AND TAKE YOUR PLATITUDES WITH YOU!"

 

All of those statements are entirely true, but they just don't really matter. There are more important things that you would want to know about. 

 

I read a joke today about 3 violin makers in Italy. They were all located on the same block. One day, the first violin store put up a sign in their window that claimed they made the best violins in all of ITALY. The second pool store didn't care for the challenge, so they put up a sign that told interested violinists that they made the best violins in the whole WORLD. Well, the owner of the third violin store read these signs and shook his head. He decided to put up a sign that read "We make the best violins on the block." 

 

Sometimes the world is too big of a space for regular people to care about all the time. A pool owner is much more concerned about their pool than they are about the rest of the pools in the world. Rather than making grand claims that don't mean much to the individual, give your customers a GOOD REASON to continue shopping with you and potential clients a detailed account of how you are going to help them. 

 

Instead of saying, "We've been manufacturing liquid pool covers for 20 years," I would be better off telling you that "BECAUSE we've been manufacturing liquid pool covers for so long, we have taken the time to properly test the products so you can rest assured that the products you are selling are safe, effective and proven to be quality."

 

Rather than promising our professionalism and the extra mile, I should tell you that we offer a variety of training materials and literature to help you understand and promote our products, and we offer co-op marketing opportunities to help you build up market share in your area.

 

I might add that our liquid pool covers are known to save up to 50% of overnight heat loss, between 10-40% of energy costs on heated swimming pools and approximately half the water normally lost to evaporation.

 

When you are talking to a customer or planning a marketing campaign, skip the platitudes and get down to facts. Most people don't have time to waste wondering what you mean when you try to be sly; they would rather simply find a straight-talking competitor who will answer their questions directly.

 

Finding platitudes in marketing is a hobby of mine (admittedly geeky and lame hobby) and I will often amuse myself by coming up with more powerful messages to replace them. What platitudes have you seen lately? Do you suffer from the inability to rephrase a platitude? If you have need help or would like to offer help with platitudes, leave a comment below. I'm sure we could all use some creative interpretations and suggestions to get the creative juices flowing. 

 

The season is about to pick up, and it is time you BESTED the so-called "best!" 

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Do you read Pool & Spa Marketing? It is a trade magazine based in Canada, and it really has some fantastic articles. I find that, for a trade magazine, they really focus on good writing and strong, informative articles. Each issue is huge - and packed with some very readable content. 

 

For instance, their April Issue has an article titled "Competing With the Masses - New Ways to Differentiate Specialty Retail Stores." You probably want to read it:

 

--> http://www.kenilworth.com/publications/psm/de/201104/52.html <--

 

I know you are probably concerned with competing with big box stores; it is a common apprehension, especially in the pool and spa industry. The first thing you have to realize is that you are NOT going to be the right solution to every potential client in your area. Some are going to be price-hunters, some already have preferred retailers, some will shop online and others will stop in wherever it is convenient for them when they happen to be out shopping. Those shoppers are NOT your target customers. 


You want customers who are going to come back to you, time and time again, whether or not you have the lowest price, are a bit out of their way, or are a one-stop-shopping center. You want customers who are going to be loyal to you and who are going to respect your professional opinion.

 

You have to earn those customers. You have to attract those customers. You have to stay in touch and create relationships with those customers. If you don't, someone down the road will be.

 

How can you gain your ideal customer? By setting yourself apart from you competition. If you focus your categories, you can capitalize on your marketing dollars and product expenses. For example, there are many spa stores out there that deal exclusively with spas and spa products. They are going to miss out on the pool market, but they are going to be able to very closely target and focus on the spa market. What do you do BEST? What categories bring in your highest revenues? Focus your categories and target your market appropriately.

 

It is also a great idea to try to bring in some unique or specialty products that cannot be found in big box stores. This will give you an exclusivity factor that will bring traffic to you. Commodities are often bread and butter for many stores, but unique products are what create a reputation. Everyone sells chlorine; not everyone sells Ecosavr. Keep in mind as well that commodities are the products that are going to be the most price competitive, so if you can find something unique you will have more control over the pricing.

 

Another way to set yourself apart from box stores or retail chains is to offer one-on-one client services and educational opportunities. If your customers feel like they learn something new, or walk away more informed and better taken care of when they leave your store, of course they are going to be returning! Many stores are branching out and including pool service as an option to help bridge the gap left by the economic slump; similarly, many pool service companies are beginning to offer some retail capacity to their routes as well. Most customers will be willing to pay a small premium to you IF they feel that you have earned it in the quality of the service you provide.

 

Most importantly, if you remember your customers when they come in, you will have a leg up against the nameless competitor's high-turnover. People are social, as a general rule. Even if you aren't "friends" with your clients, if you can share stories, gossip a bit and make their shopping experience a bit more personal, they will want to shop from you more often. (If for no other reason than they would be embarrassed to tell you they bought cheap chlorine from Costco and need you to help re-balance their pool water because of it!)

 

There are many ways to set yourself and your store apart. Having a recognizable personality will help you compete and make life more interesting.

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Every now and then I am faced with a horribly frustrating situation where it seems that there is no acceptable solution. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, I either find that the person on the other end of whatever conundrum may be happening will react in one of two ways: 

  1. DEMAND compensation for their trouble or, 
  2. be much more understanding than I would have ever thought possible. 

There doesn't seem to be a middle road in extenuating circumstances; its either outrage or empathy. As a supplier, I am always willing to accept outrage (the customer is ALWAYS right), though it is a wonderful, amazing treat when they are understanding. 

 

Just the other day, I was sideswiped with the most unacceptable conditions by a shipping company. The situation was horrendous, and my customer was the one who was going to pay for their behavior. Obviously, this had me in a bit of a tizzy. My accounting department, shipping department and I were frantically rushing all day to try to find a solution that would save my client from tripling the work load they should have when accepting a shipment. 

 

All to no avail. The shipping company had their way, and instead of delivering to the doorstep of the business, as they were contracted to do, they left the shipment approximately 25 miles from the required point of delivery. It was not a small shipment, either. 

 

My client could have chewed me out, yelled and screamed at me, and threatened to never do business with us again. I was prepared for it; I saw the situation as completely unacceptable, so why shouldn't he?

 

Instead, he very calmly accepted the reality of the situation and made plans to truck the shipment to the delivery point himself. He actually apologized to me for having to spend so much time trying to find a solution, and thanked me for my help! He completely understood the headaches that sometime come with large shipments, and empathized with my position. 

 

I cannot even begin to tell you how amazingly thankful I am for his understanding. It takes such a BIG person to allow for "human" error, and he certainly made an allowance. Moreover, he was put in a sticky situation himself - the product was for a client of his, whom he now had to explain the situation to and make amends with.

 

The story gets even more impressive. 

 

In a small attempt to make a frustrating situation a tiny bit better, I offered a credit to my client to put towards this order. If there was anything I could do to lessen the inconvenience, I wanted to try! When he heard about the credit, this was his reply:

 

"I really appreciate the product credit. Although, I would never expect something like that I will gladly accept it. I would like to keep it in my account if I could, instead of crediting my current orders. I may have a client at some point which needs a bit of convincing. It would be nice to say, "Let me take care of this for you." & know I won't have to pay to handle it."

 

In terms of customer service, I think this is a story of one company going above and beyond in their capacity for forgiveness, understanding, and client support. Not onlywas he able to accept a horrid situation and move forward, but he also kept in mind potential future customers and was more willing to help them than himself! 

 

That is why, today I want to issue a very public, very big thank you to Wes Burdine,The Pool Guy. Many of you already know him, or are associated with him here on the Pool Genius Network and various other social media outlets. I consider myself very lucky indeed to have the opportunity to work with him.

 

How would you have reacted to this situation? With as much grace as Wes? I wanted to share this story as a reminder that going the extra mile for your customers will pay off; I have no doubt that The Pool Guy's continued success is in great part due to his impeccable reputation for quality and service.

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I like to keep up on industry events and information, so I am on all sorts of mailing lists from trade magazines, industry blogs and other such sources. I am constantly reading.

 

Today I read an article that has me VERY concerned. I received the always anticipated Pool & Spa News Insider report, and the first topic of discussion was titled "Retailers Confront Industry Challenges." Well, of course I clicked away, got my coffee ready and brought out the reading glasses. 

 

I was devastated to hear the "challenges" concerning Retailers right now are manufacturer related! You can read the article by visiting

 

http://www.poolspanews.com/2011/032/032n_retailers.html 

 

According the the folks interviewed, these are the main points frustrating pool suppliers right now: 

  • fewer marketing materials, and what does go out is of lesser value 
  • earlier early buys
  • increased free freight minimums
  • higher general freight costs
  • reduced inventory and longer lead times
As I was reading, I found myself shaking my head and commiserating with the Retailers. You should be frustrated by this! I don't rightly know how to cure this problem with manufacturers as a whole, but I KNOW there are plenty of "us" out there who sincerely want to be able to provide you with everything you need to increase sales, rather than suffer a plateau or decline. 

I know Flexible Solutions has a lot to offer our Dealers, so if you are considering offering a liquid pool cover this season, you can message me with inquiries about our "perks." We do our best to fight against the challenges I read about. 
I honestly sympathize with Retailers who have struggled with unreliable manufacturers in the past. I know that there are some companies out there who are not able to, or unwilling to, provide the best support. But there are also many, many others who understand how important our Retailers are to our success, and will do whatever they can to help you succeed. 
This is not the place for me to get too far into details about what we offer, but I would love to hear about your favorite manufacturers, and how they support you. The more insight and advice "we" manufacturers receive, the better we can fulfill your requirements. Please share some positive feedback so counterbalance the somewhat disenchanting view put forth in the article.
 

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