For years now, I’ve kept a list of industries that I personally believe should be allied with the pool and spa industry, but currently are not. It’s an old bedraggled list because frankly, the pool and spa industry has always remained relatively isolated, and progress in terms of professional outreach has been either painfully slow or non- existent.
Yes, there is what I would characterize as limited outreach to a small handful of industries including landscape architects, patio furniture and the barbecue and grill industry, but for the most part, the pool and spa industry has stayed within its self- imposed boundaries. In my view, that habitual isolationism is one of the big factors that holds it back from expanding.
Right now, of course, the economy is robust and there’s more than enough business to keep industry dealers, distributors and manufacturers humming right along, so thoughts of how to expand opportunities are easily pushed aside in the day-to-day rush. Still, long-term expansion of the market is crucial in securing future abundance and security.
BEYOND THE OBVIOUS
I’ve known a number of pool and spa professionals, especially builders, who have benefited by crossing industry lines into the realm of landscape architects — arguably the most compatible outside profession. I’ve attended events such as the American Society of Landscape Architects annual national conventions and conferences by the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and seen firsthand how people from the pool industry who take the time to attend light up with ideas simply by being exposed to a different product palette. And I’ve witnessed the demand for water-related information on the part of landscape architects and designers.
There’s an obvious set of connections that can be made with the world of landscape architects — and to some extent it has happened — but both industries stand to benefit from further cross-pollination in education on the association and manufacturer level, as well as two-way referrals on the dealer level.
But there are so many other industries we should be courting, too, each for a different set of good reasons. My list also includes architects, pond and stream professionals, decorative fountain specialists, outdoor living suppliers, interior designers, outdoor and architectural lighting designers, horticulturists, decorative concrete installers, hotel and hospitality professionals, home builders and developers, waterpark developers and the health and wellness industry.
In some cases, such as landscape architects, architects, developers and home builders, inter-industry alliances can and do lead directly to pool and spa projects and back and forth referrals. In others, such as outdoor living, decorative concrete and landscape lighting, the industry can access a broader palette of goods and services, as well as possible referrals.
In all cases, there’s an opportunity to identify shared interest and educate professionals in those industries how strategic alliances with the pool and spa industry will help them to better meet their clients’ needs, and vice versa.
HOW TO GROW
For years, if not decades, there have been impassioned calls for greater promotion of the benefits of pool and spa ownership to consumers. That widespread desire is seemingly always doused by the cold reality that our industry lacks the financial resources to mount national promotional campaigns seen in other industries such as RVs and boating.
Given that limitation, it seems far more feasible to expand our industry’s horizons by way of professional affiliation. The people I’ve known who have steered their efforts in those directions almost uniformly say it’s worth it to do things like attend trade shows outside the industry and ultimately establish working relationships with strategic partners.
That’s why I believe reaching out to other categories of professionals should become an ingrained, if not habitual activity for industry members on the dealer level, as well as on the association level. Yes, it takes time and effort, and small doses of creative projection to imagine how and why such alliances are worth pursuing. More than anything, outreach requires first acknowledging that the limits of the status quo are not acceptable over the long run.
Ultimately, the old adage is true that we don’t know what we’re missing until we try. When it comes to forging strategic alliances, ignorance may be comfortable, but it is not blissful.