Reach Out to New Industries, Grow Our Market Share

VanceIn my last blog post, we looked at the importance of reaching out to organizations with interests common to the pool and spa industry. My point was that as an industry, we should seek organizational partners who would benefit from promoting the experiential aspects of pool and spa ownership. 

In that discussion, I focused solely on landscape architects as a prime example of a professional group that shares an interest in spreading positive messages about the appeal of recreational spaces that feature water. 

This time around, I’d like to expand the discussion with a sort of brainstorming session aimed at identifying other industries we could (and should) be courting with positive messages about exterior aquatic design and entertainment. As you’ll see, with just a small dose of imaginative thinking, that list of professions and industries is surprisingly widespread. 

Before I go down my list, I’ll qualify my argument with the caveat that how exactly our industry would partner with these others professions would vary depending on a variety of factors. Ahead of figuring out specific media strategies, however, we must first identify those industries with an eye toward our shared interest. With that qualifier in mind, here’s my list: 

The Hotel, Vacation and Travel Industries: For as long as I can remember, the vacation/hospitality industry has turned to the presence of luxurious swimming pools as a primary selling and marketing tool. Just look at the brochures, websites and ads selling vacations to resort destinations — they almost always open with images of swimming pools. 

There’s a good reason for this consistent promotion of the pool/spa experience: Vacationers love to be in and around the water. Here we see a prime example of how aquatic fun defines the leisure-time experience. 

I’d also add airline travel to this category of potential outreach targets. Consider how many people take vacations just so they can have uninterrupted time in a beautiful aquatic environment. Our industry literally fills seats on airplanes, shouldn’t both industries be promoting that obvious fact? 

Outdoor Kitchens and Dining: The desire for outdoor cooking and dining is one of the big factors driving consumer purchasing decisions. Talk to just about any pool builder or landscape architect these days and they will tell you a majority of their projects include some form of an outdoor kitchen. That being the case, shouldn’t our trade associations be reaching out to the outdoor kitchen industry? I certainly think so. 

The Barbecue Industry: Obviously closely related to outdoor kitchens, the barbecue industry has seen a dizzying groundswell of consumer interest and activity in recent years. Sure, barbecuing and poolside recreation can exist independent of each other, but in essence, aren’t they both part of the exterior entertainment experience? Maybe it’s time we join the barbecue craze with promotions that link pools and spas to the joy and art of cooking on a gas or charcoal barbecue.

The Swimwear Industry: I’ve never understood the disconnect between aquatic apparel and the pool and spa industry. The stylish panache of swimwear is almost literally a hand-in-glove fit with the appeal of aquatic fun. 

You can make the same argument for cross-promotion with the suntan lotion and beach towel industries. Like swimsuits, lotion and towels are inseparable from pools and spas. 

The Outdoor Furniture Industry: I give organizers of the International Pool Spa & Patio show kudos for including “patios” in the mix. Still, there’s more than can be done to fuel cross-promotion between manufacturers and retailers of outdoor furnishings and pools and spas.

Pool Toys and Inflatables: If you haven’t checked out this category of products lately, definitely make a point to do so. The level of creativity and inventiveness of toys and floatation has blossomed in recent years, creating a spectrum of products that all enhance the pool experience. From glow-in-the-dark, battery-powered squids to giant luxury rafts with coolers and slides, this industry segment is all about imagination and fun.

Landscape Features: Related to our potential collaboration with landscape architects, we should consider reaching out to landscape-related industries, including outdoor lighting, ponds and streams, fountains, fire features, gardens and plantings, exterior sound and video systems, statuary and architectural features, decorative concrete and hardscape products.  

Upscale Homebuilders and Architects: Not unlike the vacation industry, one of the defining characteristics of the custom home industry is the presence of beautiful backyard aquatic spaces. To see this relationship in action, simply take a look at or other resources focused on the custom residential market. Pools and spas are a huge part of the draw in many projects. 

The Home Renovations Market: Prior to the economic collapse of 2008, the pool and spa industry experienced explosive activity due to increased home equity fueling the home renovation market. One thing we know about economics is that trends run in cycles. As the housing market improves, we will inevitably see a resurgence in home improvements. Our industry should do everything it can to promote the value-added qualities of pools and spas when considering ways to enhance the value of a residential property. 

"The Alcohol Lifestyle": This one may be a bit politically incorrect, but to that I say, so what? The fact is, the consumption of alcohol is often associated with the outdoor lifestyle. Yes, swimming, diving, water skiing, or lounging in a spa while under the influence does encompass inherent risks. That doesn’t change the fact that when it comes to a party by the pool, consumption of an inebriating libation is an integral part of the scene. 

Why not form and promote messages that advocate the responsible consumption of drink as a way to enjoy the outdoor experience? 

The Health, Fitness and Wellness Industries: I’m the first one to point out that the vast majority of homeowners do not purchase pools and spas for the health benefits. Still, market research shows that somewhere around one in ten pool and spa buyers are interested in the profound health benefits of aquatic exercise and immersion in hot water. 

Even at that fractional level, ten percent represents a whole bunch of people. So let’s not forget that pools and spas do, in point of scientific fact, provide some of the most effective means of dealing with common physical ailments and according to some studies, can even turn back the clock on the effects of aging. 

"Going Green": This is a tough one for the pool and spa industry simply because our products consume considerable amounts of energy, chemicals and materials. Still, we’ve also seen a wide proliferation of energy-saving products. For example, pump manufacturers have recently earned the Energy Star designation, which has been a huge marketing tool for other types of appliances. Add to that the presence of solar heating, solar voltaic power, heat pumps, geo-thermal heating and chemically efficient technologies, all of which have given our industry tangible reasons to make the case that pools and spas can have a favorable energy usage profile. 

I offer this list strictly as food for thought. As mentioned above, each of these industries will require a promotional strategy tailored for the given market and consumer priorities. It’s my contention, however, that until we actively engage these industries with well thought-out promotional opportunities, we’ll be stuck with a limited set of marketing messages that all too often will be heard only by those within the confines of our own industry and few others. 

There’s never been a better time to allow our imaginations guide our actions! 

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