Simple Backyard Automation for All Your Clients

Simple Backyard Automation for All Your Clients

Photo courtesy Reeder Landscape, Texas

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Home automation systems are evolving rapidly, and many pool and spa professionals are still learning how to use these technologies. Despite the complexity, homeowners are evidently prepared to embrace outdoor home, pool and spa automation products.

This presents both a significant opportunity and challenge for outdoor living designers and pool professionals. Effectively selling backyard automation products requires professionals to understand how to introduce these solutions to clients, demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of available pool, spa, and landscape automation systems that align with client’s needs, desires, abilities, and budgets, without solely relying on facts and figures.

Targeting Your Audience

Backyard automation is a rapidly growing market, following the trajectory of HVAC, home security, home entertainment, and lighting automation systems within the home. If homeowners harbour no resistance or objection to technology, backyard automation will seamlessly integrate into their lifestyle. In fact, there is no need to target a specific age bracket for selling purposes, as anyone can express interest in connected automation features. Younger Gen Xers, millennials, and even baby boomers who are into gadgets seek these devices to have more control over the homes. The prominence of smart thermostats, security systems, and lighting features online and in big-box stores has significantly contributed to heightened awareness.

“I would say that at least 90% of our customers expect us to talk to them about an automation system for their backyard,” says Lily Reeder, co-owner of Reeder Outdoor Living and Pools in Amarillo, Texas. “Therefore, we always include an automation system in the original estimate, we don’t think twice about it.”

Reeder explains that homeowners desire synchronization for various elements, encompassing landscaping, exterior and pool lights, fire bowls, hot tub and pool temperatures, and control over pool and hot tub water chemistry, all manageable through their mobile devices. Automation simplifies the maintenance of the homeowner’s backyard resort.

“Busy parents put their kids to bed and want to simply look at their phone to check that everything has been turned off or make sure everything is working properly without having to manually go outdoors and check,” says Reeder. “And today, you don’t have to be a Kardashian to be able to afford home automation.”

Simple Introductions

Many pool professionals find the most effective approach to introduce backyard automation is to initiate a conversation with customers, assessing their existing knowledge about these products and the associated benefits before delving into the finer details of their capabilities post-installation.

The selling points of backyard automation are evident: It enables remote control over various aspects of the outdoor living space, providing alerts and updates in case of malfunctions, along with a detailed analysis of multiple systems.

“For our market, we have found that simple backyard automation systems are the best for our clients. Not only are they intuitive to operate, but they have enough of what the homeowner wants,” says Reeder. “There are other automation systems that we have used, but they often are too robust, harder for most homeowners to operate, have more features than our customers want and can be incredibly expensive, making outdoor automation out of their price range.”

Control system interfaces have evolved to be more user-friendly, even as their capabilities continue to expand. The key is to maximize the automation system’s potential without overwhelming clients. Listening to clients is crucial to avoid overwhelming them. A feature the installer deems to be amazing may be too complex for what the client wants to accomplish. By understanding the client’s routine and usage preferences, professionals often discover they offer just what the client needs at the time. Discussions about additional features or functionality can occur once clients are comfortable with their backyard automation system.

Today, savvy professionals opt for systems that minimize the need for tech support.

“We chose the automation system we offer clients because it is simple and sleek, and there is no need for tech support,” says Reeder. “Other systems are almost too robust, so much so that they are actually too complicated to use — and you need a tech support team to figure them out — we no longer offer those systems.”

With a simple automation system, there is no need for tech support, making the product easier to sell, install, and operate. Clients experience no headaches or extra phone calls. While many customers are technologically savvy, most will admit to a lack of understanding regarding control and automation systems. These homeowners rely on their trusted outdoor living/pool and hot tub experts to help them comprehend and recommend optimal solutions.

The trend toward smart homes with advanced technology has accelerated, fuelled by increased time spent at home. The work-from-home trend has significantly boosted the demand for home networking, entertainment, and environmental control, just as the industry has seen the exponential growth in crafting outdoor living spaces for at-home-backyard resorts. Automation is everywhere, but it can be expensive. Identifying and offering a simple, entry-level system is essential for these clients. Many pool professionals introduce automation at different phases of a backyard living project. There is no need to implement everything from the beginning; these automation systems can be added later, especially with proper planning by the installer/homeowner.

Lower Operating Costs With Automation

Automation not only simplifies chores associated with pool and hot tub ownership but also brings cost-saving benefits. Timers for outdoor and pool lights effectively lower electricity charges, as does regulating pool and spa water temperatures. Further, automation in pool and hot tub water chemistry dosing and control prevents over-dosing or imbalance, eliminating the need for homeowners having to purchase and use more chemicals, ultimately minimizing expenses.

“In fact, with plaster pools, keeping the pool water chemistry in balance is particularly important,” says Reeder. “As all pool professionals know, out-of-balance water chemistry in a plaster pool can turn into a very costly problem and repair.”

Automation systems can help avoid the problems that can quickly increase the operating costs of a pool.

“We also tie in irrigation and outdoor lighting into the control panel allowing the homeowner to control all of these systems from one spot and truly control operational costs of having a beautiful outdoor living space,” says Reeder.

Additionally, automation systems can be adjusted seasonally.

“In the summer months, most of our customers have us do weekly service and maintenance, but in the off-season, they tend to move to monthly service calls. So, the automation system helps keep everything in working order between service visits,” says Reeder.

Service professionals still have tasks to complete. They maintain their service schedule to ensure all systems are operating correctly, while the automation system takes care of pool maintenance between visits.

Automation systems also offer valuable data. Service professionals can identify issues such as an imbalance in pH or if a light is not working. Being able to discuss issues with customers, rather than a generic inquiry — such as “How is everything in your backyard?”— provides a significant competitive advantage for service companies.

“Offering simple automation to our customers has been a big game changer for our company and is part of the reason our company has grown so quickly and successfully,” says Reeder. “It [automation] helps us stand out from our competitors.”

Excitement and Satisfaction

Offering automation to clients enhances the excitement and satisfaction of their backyard investment. These systems not only simplify the maintenance of pools and hot tubs but also facilitate the operation of other components, even remotely and after hours. Automation contributes to heightened backyard excitement through features like colourful lights, fire bowls, and more.

“Our clients love using coloured lights to make backyard birthdays more exciting to enhance the theme of a party, wedding, baby shower, or using red and green light displays during the winter holidays or other themed parties,” says Reeder. “Kids love the fun-coloured lights. And the lights make the backyard feel new all the time.

“At our own home, we invite our employees over to experience everything we sell and install for our clients,” says Reeder. “This helps our employees understand the importance of what we do for our customers.”

Now is the time for pool and hot tub professionals to consider offering customers backyard automation. They should ensure a comprehensive understanding of the available options, allowing them to offer technology that suits both their team and customers. The off-season is ideal for conducting research and determining which types of automation systems to offer clients in 2024.

About the author: 

Arthur Schutzberg — Joining the pool industry in 2021, Arthur has quickly ingratiated himself as an emerging young voice in the industry. Arthur Schutzberg is the Head of CCEI USA, based in Inglewood, Calif., where he oversees all sales and operations of the business. Arthur was recently awarded as a recipient PoolPro Magazine's honorees for the 30 Under Forty for 2023 and serves as member of the PHTA membership committee, and is a proud member of IPSSA.