Congratulations! You’re halfway through the 2022 season, which means you’re probably loaded to capacity with multiple projects you hope to wrap up before the end of this year. In fact, in what is likely your third year in a row of near-record demand and construction activity, you’ve probably got more unfinished projects in construction at one time than ever before.
And that, unfortunately, is the rub.
A lot of builders are telling me that “wrapping up projects” is now one of their greatest challenges. Projects are typically taking two to three times longer than usual, thanks to the ongoing labor challenges, materials delays, and other permit and supply chain issues.
Of course, you warned your new clients upfront when they signed the contract that there would be unavoidable delays and challenges. But that doesn’t sway their expectant anxiety as they wait for the completion of their project. I mean, let’s be honest — even if you could do it in half the time, that still wouldn’t be fast enough for them.
So what are these homeowners doing with all this extra time, as they’re anxiously waiting for their project to complete? They’re micro-analyzing you.
Small issues, actions or decisions that might have slipped by unnoticed during a speedy, two-month build are suddenly prickly and annoying, and gnawing at their gut as they find themselves dragging into month seven of their project.
So now you’re getting more phone calls, complaints, and special requests for you and your team to follow up on, in an effort to keep these people happy.
And of course, with all of these special requests, your warranty and construction costs are going up. And your profitability, in a record-revenue year, might very well be going down. And taking your online reputation down with it. So what are we to do?
Well, we can’t speed up delivery of backordered parts or materials, so that won’t work. And if there was a way to complete the construction process sooner, you’d already be doing it. So we’ve got to find a different solution.
I suggest the next best thing to do is try to make this longer, more frustrating process less annoying for the homeowner. And that starts with communication.
When a homeowner doesn’t hear from a contractor for several weeks, and/ or doesn’t see anything happening in their backyard, that’s when they start to get antsy. So let’s keep them distracted. Let’s not give them so much quiet time to overanalyze things.
Let’s over-communicate as much as necessary to assure them and convince them we are 100% on top of everything. Despite these excruciating delays, we really do have the situation in hand. (And we don’t need their help reminding us about every little delay.)
One way to do this is with a simple “How are we doing?” email that goes out automatically at the end of every week. This worked great a few years ago, when pool construction typically took only a few months. But now that homeowners are sometimes experiencing delays of four to six weeks where nothing is happening, that friendly little weekly reminder might actually be pouring salt into the wound.
A more sophisticated approach, and still at least partially automated, would be to craft a series of ongoing educational messages to drip onto the homeowner throughout the construction process. I think this would be surprisingly easy for most pool builders, because:
1. You understand the pool construction process intimately, and admit it, you could talk about it for hours.
2. By contrast, they don’t have a clue about the construction process. So anything you can share with them is new and most likely highly interesting to them, since you’re talking about what’s going to happen in their very own backyard.
You may already have a “Construction Guide” or “Here’s What to Expect During Pool Construction” eBook that you give your homeowners when they first sign a contract. (A very smart idea, by the way, even if not everyone reads it.) That’s exactly the kind of educational information you could trickle out to your homeowners on a week-to-week basis, as they transition from one phase to the next.
Even if they read the eBook already, it’s now been several months, and it’s probably not fresh on their minds. They probably don’t remember the details of stages six, seven, eight etc., five months after they first read the eBook.
The information in your email would not only be more timely, but more interesting as well, because now they know exactly what you’re talking about. You’re describing what’s happening right there in their own backyard.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you should write a custom email to every single homeowner every week, to tell them exactly what’s happening in their own backyard. That would be nice, but it would also be a full-time job. I’m suggesting instead that a generic explanation of what happens before, during and after each step would be immensely valuable.
For example, for everyone who just completed the gunite process, they would get a nice, easy-to-read email that tells them everything they need to know, such as:
- “We’ve just completed the gunite stage...”
- “The next 30 days are crucial in the life of all new gunite…”
- “Here’s what you need to do to maximize the life of your new gunite pool…”
- “You probably won’t see much of us for at least the next three weeks…”
I would continue these messages every week, even when nothing is happening. For example, in the case of “post-gunite” above, I would probably follow up with further weekly emails such as:
- “Well, it’s been two weeks since we first applied your gunite...”
- “Well, it’s been three weeks since we first applied your gunite. At this point, the shell is around 75% cured...”
- “Okay, it’s been four weeks since we applied your gunite. That means...”
I don’t know about you, but if I received timely, helpful emails from my pool contractor (or any long-term contractor, for that matter) every week, I would feel a lot more confident in their capabilities, sense of ownership and attention to my project.
Even if I haven’t seen anyone in a month, if they’ve still been communicating with me, I know they haven’t forgotten about me.
Brett Lloyd Abbott is the founder and CEO of Pool Builder Marketing LLC (www.PoolBuilderMarketing.com), a marketing consulting agency that works exclusively with swimming pool builders, pool service companies and high-end landscape professionals throughout the world. He is a frequent keynote speaker and leader of workshops and seminars.
This article first appeared in the July 2022 issue of AQUA Magazine — the top resource for retailers, builders and service pros in the pool and spa industry. Subscriptions to the print magazine are free to all industry professionals. Click here to subscribe.