My Marketing Advice for Pool Builders in 2024…

Here it is another new year, and another round-up of my recommendations for promoting your swimming pool business this year.

One of my personal goals this year is to streamline operations, which is why I’m streamlining my recommendations. Rather than regurgitate my old sermons from the past, I’ll just give you a link to what I said last year and the year before. That way we can jump right into the new and unique considerations for 2024.

My advice for 2023: “Get Clear, Nimble and Sharp.” This meant:

My “Smart Marketing Recommendations for 2022” reiterated the basic marketing necessities for pool builders:

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me share my unique presentiments for 2024.

Firstly, I’m seeing a bit of a balance shift between “Internet leads” and referrals. Historically (for like the last 18 years) I’ve observed that most good pool builders get about 40% of their new leads from the Internet, and about 40% of their leads from referrals. (The remaining 20% is a mishmash of yard signs, truck signage, partnerships, etc.)

What I’m seeing now, especially across the sunbelt in the US, is Google searches for “swimming pool builder” have fallen off a cliff. Partly because many homeowners who might have bought a pool this year already bought it in a panic during the pandemic. Even more importantly, the interest rates and the economic uncertainty have scared a lot of potential pool buyers over to the sidelines.

If most of your business comes from Internet leads, then you’ve probably been feeling this pinch all along. This trend seems especially stark in the larger metropolitan areas, where you have lots of pool builders fighting over a dwindling supply of leads. Not a very pretty situation.

While Google searches are down, it seems NEW PERMITS in most of these cities have NOT fallen off a cliff like you might expect.

My observation is that there is a stratum of society that (1) has the financial resources to purchase a beautiful backyard dream without financing, and (2) they aren’t likely to go search Google for a builder. They will, instead, reach out to their similarly wealthy friends, and get recommendations from them instead.

If you are one of those rare builders who gets 80% of their business from referrals, then you’re probably asking “What slowdown? I’m as busy as ever!” You are fortunate to reach that societal stratum of pool buyers which remains invisible to builders who rely on Internet searches.

Bottom line: If your Internet search leads have reduced to a trickle, you might want to put more emphasis on nurturing referrals.

Let me offer some quick tips on how to do that:

  1. Pay extra attention to the homeowner’s “experience” of working with you. Make sure everyone on your team views every client as a dear friend, rather than just a customer.
  2. Communicate with them regularly to make sure they remain happy throughout the entire process, despite all the typical challenges and setbacks that beset most outdoor construction projects.
  3. Try the “FatTowel” / “Thank you meeting” strategy I’ve encouraged for years.
  4. Go one step further, and sponsor a “Pool Party” for those ideal clients who have friends you would like to meet. Offer $500 to $1000 in food catering, in return for letting you hang out and meet everyone. (It’s also a perfect opportunity to get some great video footage, by the way.)
  5. Continue to communicate with them long after the project is completed. (My personal favorite here is the automated “Happy Birthday to Your Swimming Pool!” e-mail we are now sending to all our client’s clients.)

You may have noticed I did not suggest “Start a referral program!” If you currently have one, I’m not suggesting you shut it off. I am however suggesting (1) most wealthy homeowners are not motivated by your promise of $500 for the next $200,000 referral they give you, and (2) you would be much wiser to invest your time and dollars in the five strategies mentioned above instead.

My second recommendation for 2024 may feel and sound somewhat counterintuitive…

..and most certainly it will annoy all the digital marketing agencies out there. But I seriously think you should consider ramping DOWN your digital marketing efforts.

I’m not saying pull the plug; I’m just saying you may be tempted to throw more and more money at it, in a desperate search for those dwindling leads. I suggest you put your sales people on a restricted diet of two or three new leads per week, and let them work the Dickens out of those handful of leads.

Let me ask you – have you ever noticed that the more leads you give your sales reps, the worst their closing ratios are? Maybe not all the time, and maybe not everyone, but I’ve certainly noticed that when you have plenty of leads to choose from, you start getting picky, and don’t put as much effort into the leads that are a bit more challenging.

No surprise there; It’s only natural to work the best leads first. That’s why I suggest you restrict that lead flow, so that EVERY lead becomes crucially important to the salesperson’s success.

This will also give your salespeople more time to focus on nurturing relationships with their existing and past clients, as well as other potential partners, such as home builders, architects, etcetera. After all, I just said you should be focusing more on referrals, right? That’s how you get more referrals, by focusing on relationships.

Now let me wrap up with my third and final presentiment for 2024: Artificial Intelligence.

Yes, it’s on everyone’s mind (or should be). But let me splash a little dose of reality on this situation, so that it doesn’t overwhelm you, and so you don’t get misled by the Chicken Littles who are overreacting to AI, just like they did when social media first emerged.

Reality #1: It will affect virtually everything we know and do.

Reality #2: It will NOT affect everything we know and do TODAY. (It’s too early.)

Reality #3: It has the potential to IMPROVE the way we do things. But in the vast majority of cases (in our industry anyways), it will NOT REPLACE the people who do things. It will just make them more efficient.

Reality #4: You will be wise to keep an eye on it. (Or pay attention to people like me who are keeping an eye on it for you.)

Reality #5: The general understanding of the capabilities of AI will be dramatically different one year from today. 2024 is the year we more fully recognize the massive breadth of potential capabilities of AI, but widespread implementation will occur closer to 2025.

So there you go, my three key presentiments for 2024:

  1. The leads are there, but harder to find. Focus more on referrals.
  2. It’s probably time to put your salespeople on a stricter diet and nutrition plan (for leads).
  3. Pay attention to AI, but don’t feel like you need to implement it today. For now, just leave it in the hands of the corporate experts and Marketing Gurus who are still researching and experimenting with it.

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