With fewer people venturing out in public, more people are expecting convenient shopping experiences at home. At the same time, more are willing to invest in a backyard space than ever before. As a result, the hot tub industry has some adjustments to make to adapt to this changing market and keep up with demand.
The high demand, along with low supply from manufacturers, has caused a gap in inventory for many retailers. It becomes more important to sell remotely then, especially pre-selling incoming inventory if there isn’t much to show on the sales floor.
This guide will help dealers navigate the art and science of selling both hot tubs and swim spas remotely.
SHORT TERM VS. LONG TERM MARKETING
After researching dozens of brands, manufacturers and retailers, some common themes emerge in the style of advertising that hot tub brands have used in the past. The “status quo” is to hammer people with sales messages such as:
“Buy now! Sale ends soon. Save $4,000 on a hot tub!”
“Financing deal! Apply now before deal ends.”
There is nothing wrong with this approach, especially because dealers want to attract people ready to buy a hot tub right now. However, all of the competition is gunning for these eager buyers.
This drives ad cost up, and the market becomes a feeding frenzy as everyone tries to shout louder than everyone else for the attention of the hot tub shopper. And this strategy also relies on a feast or famine mentality: Either you make the sale now, or it walks away forever.
Instead, a long-term strategy can bring sales both now and later to avoid slower months in revenue.
There is a whole underserved portion of the market that likes the idea of owning a hot tub, but they aren’t that far along in the buying process yet to the point of shopping around for prices and financing options. They still have unanswered questions, are not sure about logistics and need help selecting the right tub for them.
While there will always be peaks and valleys in sales throughout the year, the method in this article will help bring in sales more consistently and create an asset that grows in value over time. This method isn’t based on forcing sales. Rather, it’s about guiding the prospect through the buying process and making it easy and fun for them. (This article is based on selling hot tubs and swim spas, but the same principles can easily be applied to aboveground and inground pools.)
CIRCULATE, FILTER AND HEAT UP PROSPECTS
The basic metaphor for selling hot tubs and swim spas online is a circulation system: pump, filter and heater. When water circulates properly, everything flows better, and you don’t need to spend as much time “babysitting” the system.
Imagine if you had a hot tub that could not circulate. What if you had to add water constantly and heat it up as it comes into the system? It would become an unstoppable water-draining, energy-sucking machine.
When marketing and sales processes are based entirely on bringing in new leads and selling them on the spot, this is exactly what happens: There is no room for circulation. In reality, the lowest hanging fruit comes from people who have been circulating in your system for a while and have warmed up to you and what your business can do for them.
THE PUMP: HOT TUB AND SWIM SPA LEAD GENERATION
The pump brings water into the system. These are your fresh leads coming in from various ad platforms. The most common ad platforms are Facebook and Google — but YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and others have also performed well. Without constant lead generation, your pool of prospects becomes stagnant.
It’s important to get the lowest cost per lead and build a pool of prospects to sell to over and over again. Ads that are constantly trying to get people to “buy now” aren’t working as well in today’s climate, especially when dealers are running low on inventory. Instead, attract buyers earlier on in the buying process and help them. This can happen in several ways, but it all comes back to a compelling offer that people need to act on to get started.
The first effective strategy is using content that’s going to get people interested in the buying process for hot tubs. People who have never owned a hot tub before typically have a lot of questions, so it’s about answering the very fi rst questions they might have. Here’s a good start in addressing these questions:
Pricing guide — The hot tubs I sell in my business are anywhere from $7,000 to $15,000 or more. Most buyers don’t know what a quality hot tub costs, so that gap in knowledge is going to be a problem later on if we don’t address it early in the process and educate people.
Outline the different levels of hot tubs and what people will typically get at different price points. This is valuable knowledge to the average consumer, and they’ll be happy to exchange their name and email for it. And once you have them on an email list, you can send them valuable content over and over until your company is a trusted resource for them. When they are ready to buy, you’re going to be the one they think of first.
Buying guide — In a similar vein, we’ve seen good results with a buying guide. A consumer-friendly guide is not all about you, your hot tubs, and why homeowners should buy a hot tub from your business. Instead, it’s more about coming up with helpful content that’s going to help them through the buying process — things like electrical setup, where they can put a hot tub safely, what it costs to run a hot tub, etc. These are all big question marks in their minds. This guide could just be a simple PDF you can send to people once they give you their email.
Gift card — What has worked better than anything else we’ve tried at our store is a gift card. In our showroom, we have it built into our pricing that we can knock $500 off our price and still have good margins because we raised the initial sticker price.
Thus, we offer a $500 gift card toward any new hot tub. You can always put terms and conditions on it — like if they are doing a low interest rate financing plan it doesn’t apply, or if they live three hours away it doesn’t apply, or if they want to use it for a pre-owned hot tub.
While there are conditions for claiming the gift card, it’s important that there is no expiration date. The point is that if someone is thinking about buying a hot tub and they see a gift card up for grabs, they’ll want to jump on that even if they aren’t buying right now. You can send it as a PDF, and it’s a powerful way to get as many leads as you can handle.
The lead generation pump is for getting people into your world and into your system, not necessarily making the sale right away. It’s about identifying who is interested in buying a hot tub and nurturing that relationship. In time, some of these relationships will grow into purchases.
THE FILTER: SORTING, NURTURING AND FOLLOWING UP WITH HOT TUB PROSPECTS
The filter in our circulation system identifies who is ready to have a conversation right now about hot tubs or swim spas, and it removes the people who have no intention of buying. It helps dealers handle incoming leads efficiently without having to spend an hour with each one in person only to find out they aren’t going to buy.
RELATED: Hiring Hot Tub Salespeople
Now, most sales people intuitively know that the more they talk to customers about hot tubs or swim spas, the more sales they make. Where they go wrong is when they attempt to circumvent conversations by setting up heavy automation. This takes the human element out of the sale. Trying to get a brochure in someone’s hands as a replacement for actually talking to them is not nearly as effective as starting a dialogue.
Interaction is the key, and technology can be used to start conversations rather than as a way to bypass them. In fact, starting conversations has been the highest ROI activity in our business to date, bar none.
Most prospects have similar questions and responses, so having answers ready to go that are based on a template, but customized to each individual situation goes a long way in building a relationship with potential customers through conversation without spending too much time.
Here’s an example of the conversational approach to selling, as opposed to just pitching someone. This is a conversation between myself and a prospect that resulted in an easy sale.
THE CONVERSATIONAL WAY
Ben – Hey Ian, I just saw you were interested in hot tubs from us. Have you ever owned a hot tub before?
Ian – Yes, I have owned two. One in Edmonton and one in Winnipeg.
Ben – That’s awesome. Sounds like you know your way around a hot tub, then. Were you looking at upgrading?
Ian – No. I moved to a new place, so I am considering a new tub. I was already looking at new and used, so a lot will depend on price.
Ben – OK I hear you. Would you say that you’re looking for the absolute cheapest tub out there? If so, that’s definitely not us.
Ian – Not necessarily the cheapest. I have been checking Wayfair and they have some sales going on. I’m looking for the best deal, just the Scotsman in me! I do like some of your features, especially Canadian made and insulated for our weather.
Ben – I hear you. I’m part Scottish so I can relate, haha. Wayfair certainly has some great deals, that’s for sure. Very tempting!
I’m not an expert on their product, but we definitely have some customers who got a “deal.” Part of the problem is there’s not a lot of after sales support. Where do you get parts? What’s the warranty like and who actually services it?
A lot of Saturdays we have folks come in with totally foreign parts that don’t fit anything standard so they are either out of luck, pay a ton to get parts or they have to rig up something frankensteined together.
So not going to beat up on anybody, but there are a few perks to buying from a local retailer
We’d love a chance to earn your business if you had some time to stop by. We have some pretty good 2019 models we’re clearing out. We even have some less than some of the ones I’ve seen on Wayfair.
Did you have a chance to check out the brochure yet?
Ian – What are your hours on Saturday?
Ben – We’re open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.!
Ian – I will see you Saturday morning, close to opening time!
This is just one example of the conversational approach where a lot of the selling is done by email. Then, it’s simply a matter of locking in the right tub and sealing the deal.
THE HEATER: WARMING UP AND CLOSING HOT TUB/SWIM SPA BUYERS
The heater is what warms people up and makes them far easier to close than trying to pitch to someone completely cold.
Wouldn’t it be great if people walked in the door already educated about your product, knowing which tubs they like and the approximate prices? That’s exactly what we’re working toward here. There are two ways to use our heater in the circulation system to warm people up.
Ready to have a conversation:
The first is for people who are ready to engage in a conversation. For anyone ready to engage in a conversation, you can guide them towards the hot tubs that are going to be the best fit.
Typically the first questions I’ll ask a new lead, often by email, are: “Have you ever owned a hot tub before?” and “Do you know how many seats you’d like, or not sure yet?”
This gets the ball rolling and asks the prospect to participate in the process. They don’t get to sit back and let you pitch them. From there, we’ll usually move on to: “If you could help me out with a couple details, I can figure out what we have that would be a good fit and get you some accurate pricing.
- Were you looking to get one soon? (We have some special deals on a couple right now if so!)
- Is jet power or a therapeutic massage important to you?
- Were you thinking of paying cash/ credit card or doing a payment plan? We can usually either get you a great interest rate or a cash discount.”
Once they answer those questions, it’s very easy to figure out which two or three hot tubs makes sense for them.
By the end of this process you know exactly how to sell them effectively, and they know everything they need to know about the tubs that are right for their specific situation. Then all you have to do is either invite them to a phone call where you look at the brochure together, do a video chat where you show them the right tubs, or invite them in for a quick appointment in the store.
This can happen by phone, by video chat or in person. It almost doesn’t matter as long as the prospect feels comfortable, and you are leading them through the process. You’ve already bypassed a lot of the process, and now it just becomes a matter of confirming tub selection and closing the sale.
Aren't ready to have a conversation:
The second method is for people who aren’t ready to have a conversation yet. This is the longer-term strategy that keeps prospects warm until they are ready to have a conversation. This happens using valuable content sent to these colder prospects over time, slowly warming them up.
After signing up for dozens of email lists from other retailers, the common things I found were that most retailers are still focused on treating emails like a flyer stuffed into a mailbox.
Helping people through the buying process is not necessarily about shouting the deals you’ve got (although, having these offers sprinkled in is always great to spur action from people ready to talk now). It’s more about educating them on how to shop smarter for a hot tub, which of course, will lead them back to you.
Some examples of valuable content answer the following questions:
- What does a quality hot tub cost?
- What is the electrical setup like on a hot tub?
- How do I maintain a hot tub?
- Where is the best place to put a hot tub?
- What is a good warranty on a hot tub?
And so on.
You can see that not only do these topics educate the prospect, they also set the buying criteria that positions your product in a way that’s superior to all the others.
I have these already templated out and sent automatically to prospects once they join our email list, and I’ve helped my marketing agency clients do the same in their businesses.
Again, once prospects are ready to have a conversation, they should already know, like and trust you, so closing the deal is simple and easy. That way you are not only capturing the “now” buyers like all of the competition, but you are also claiming a portion of the “later” buyers by establishing yourself as a local authority early on in the buying process.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Once you’ve got the basics down, the possibilities are nearly endless to test and refine the process.
You can try different offers to build your list, create new valuable content and see what people respond to, find innovative new lead sources and ad platforms your competitors aren’t using, and even set up retargeting ads that follow people around the web once they’ve viewed your website or opened your emails.
The world was already trending towards a more virtual buying experience. Recent events have only compounded the process. By using this “pump, filter, heater” strategy consistently over time, you’ll never have to look for buyers again.
Ben Poggemiller is the co-owner of Urban Life Pools & Hot Tubs in Steinbach, Manitoba. He also owns a marketing agency, Hungry Fox Marketing, that helps other hot tub/swim spa retailers improve their sales & marketing processes to make sales easier and more profitable. You can learn more at www.hottubleads.com.