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Pool&SpaIndustry APR 2012 SPN




was talking with a friend of mine who is a general builder. After mentioning that I coach a number of swimming pool companies he remarked: “There is no money in building pools, only in maintaining them.” This made me smile, as I know the statement is not true in many ways. For those of you specialising in pool construction and maintenance this is cause for celebration. Perhaps good profit is only available when you are able to apply years of knowledge, skill and experience into building pools (or perhaps my friend is a numbskull!). Pool building is what marketers call a niche; a defined market that you can grow a share of. However, unfortunately yours isn’t the only company building pools so how do you go about separating yourself from each other? Oh and before you say it’s the service you provide, let me assure you everyone says that.

It may seem at odds with how you think business works, but one of the super fast ways to build a business can be actually to focus on defining and dominating a smaller market than you currently target, rather than trying to be all things to all customers. I recently read an article profiling a German dishwasher manufacturer. Having grown the business to around five million Euros, it became stuck. They served four markets – hotels, hospitals, restaurants and large domestic properties. They decided to exit from all markets except the hotel industry, where the high reliability of their machines was particularly suited. Within five years they increased their turnover by 300% and are now the undisputed global leader in their chosen market. So what is your market focus? What part of the swimming pool market could you dominate? Here are four areas where you might find or create your own unique niche: • PRODUCT – Perhaps you could specialise in a certain pool type: indoor or outdoor, liner or concrete or even focusing on certain types of filtration or heating systems. Developing your business to the point where it becomes the ‘de-facto’ standard and the ‘builder of choice’ for potential customers. Your pools may be

the most environmentally friendly, cheapest to run, or best for certain uses (swimming vs. kids’ parties?).

• CUSTOMER – You may focus on a particular type of customer. Have you ever written out a description of who your ideal customer is and then targeted them? For pool companies there are the obvious main customer types – end users, or main contractors. However it can go deeper than that, to a certain type of contract or pool user (could you be the footballers’ pool builder of choice?). Another obvious way of defining a segment of customers might be by geography. For example, you only build and service pools within a certain radius.

• PRICE – Most business owners I meet aspire to a reputation for being one of the premium providers in their market. Why? It may be perfectly legitimate to establish and promote yourself as the best value provider of pools, particularly if you are able to reduce build costs so you can still support a good margin.

• SERVICE – I have yet to meet a business owner who describes his customer service as ‘average’. Service is always cited as the reason customers keep coming back to them and yet in reality it’s a load of bull! The reason I am able to form such an opinion is that no one seems to be able to tell me specificallywhat they do that is so amazing and differentfrom any competitors.

By the way, if you want to benchmark your customer service and sales abilities against the new best practice standard here’s the latest bit of homework I get my clients to try – walk into an Apple store and ask a random question about a product.

I will leave you with a short story from ‘The Purple Cow’ by Seth Godin.

A Frenchman inherited a small family bakery when his parents died. He could have carried on running it as it was and earned a comfortable income. However he became obsessed with making authentic French bread. He stopped


F DAVE GAMMON ( 01256 345526 :

selling many products, even the famous baguette. As his obsession deepened the quality of his products attracted attention and he now supplies top restaurants and hotels in Paris and also has a significant exporting business. His turnover from the humble bakery is ten million Euros. If you can do that with something as ‘ordinary’ as bread, imagine what you could do with swimming pools!

Watch out for some great new business training programmes for SPATA members, coming soon. spn

The fastest way to grow your business is often to focus on less, says Dave Gammon, who is now advising a number of companies in the swimming pool and hot tub industry

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