The Whole Experience

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Homeowners don't purchase swimming pools or hot tubs. Certainly those are the items listed on the invoice when customers decide to add an outdoor aquatics component to their houses. But the equipment isn’t really what they’re buying.

No, they shell out the significant investment for a new pool or hot tub — or to upgrade what they might already have in place — to improve their personal experience at home. Whatever specific materials they pay for, what they want is a respite from their work and daily worries. They’re buying an experience.

And with increasing frequency, customers are seeking to make that experience broader than just the aquatic vessel. More than a pool and hot tub, people want a full backyard experience.

“Everything revolves around that backyard experience,” notes Rod Sterling, founder and owner of Sterling Advisory Group, which concentrates on the pool and hot tub industry. “Whether it’s an aboveground pool, a vinyl pool or a pool that approaches the lifestyle of the rich and famous, everybody can have a backyard experience that’s commensurate with their pocketbook. The customer can put together a backyard experience that fits their budget and fits their home.”

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And customers looking for ease and efficiency are likely to seek help from the pool and hot tub professionals to help flesh out the details of that larger backyard experience, potentially asking them to weigh in on additions that are outside of the business’s immediate area of expertise. Outdoor kitchens, elaborate landscaping and distinctive lighting displays are all likely to be in the mix.

Incorporating a whole other set of consumer items into a business model can be a challenge, but it’s also tempting for pool and hot tub businesses to step forward and claim that extra money sitting there on the table.

For pool and hot tub businesses looking to expand into the larger backyard experience, there are a few simple strategies to follow.


Going further into the backyard experience shouldn’t be a lark or a casual sideline. This isn’t an impulse item to loop over a hook near the register. Clients seeking to completely make over their backyard space are going to be expecting that every facet of the large finished project is handled with attentive care. Everything offered under the umbrella of the backyard experience should meet the same standards that are applied to the core business. Just as a poorly designed or installed pool will reflect negatively on the business, a subpar grilling station or landscaping element will do the same. Only expand into the area if there’s the motivation and wherewithal to do it right.


It’s already well understood that customer service is a key focus area for the pool and hot tub industry. From retail employees to the service personnel that make regular visits to client homes, everyone in the business should have a strong understanding of the full array of solutions being offered. And they should be properly trained to present those varied offerings to the customer, providing at least a basic walkthrough of how their backyard can be upgraded beyond the pool or hot tub. Customers are seeking guidance. Make sure everyone is equipped to give it.


No matter the levels of commitment and ambition at play, a business isn’t likely to develop the capabilities to serve absolutely every need of the customer in the backyard space. There are simply going to be limits to what the available personnel can effectively achieve. That’s where smart partnerships come into play. Even if some part of the plan — like, for example, an elaborate landscaping design — is beyond the grasp of the business, there are undoubtedly others in the area that can execute it perfectly. The challenge is to collaborate with those external sources wisely. The PHTA Builder’s Manual provides useful tips for finding and working with subcontractors and other outside partners.

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Expanded offerings for the consumer don’t necessitate giving up on what a business does best. Broadening the scope needs to happen in conjunction with continued strengthening of the core business. Providing expert pool and hot tub solutions is what brought the customer through the door in the first place. Looking beyond the borders of the pool needn’t be a diversion. Instead, it can be an added value.

The customer is excited about all the possibilities they’re starting to see for their backyard. The opportunity is to make those possibilities seem even greater.

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