Spring is here and the season is beginning. What are you doing to jump-start your business? Are you thinking to yourself, “What can I do to generate more revenue?” Wherever you’re coming from, there are some opportunities for you to get your business growing again.
The economy is picking up, albeit slowly, and there seems to be a buzz in the market. This is a great time to work on positioning your company in the forefront? Think about it—from a weather point of view, this winter season has been spectacular. It seems like every part of the country received plenty of rain, snow or a combination of both.
One of the best things to come out of all the snow and rain is the chance for the water to percolate through the soil and recharge our ground water. Some of these aquifers have had a negative charge for quite some time.
Now, with all that precipitation, do we really need to concern ourselves with the amount of water we use to irrigate our landscapes? For anyone who is monitoring water usage, the answer is a resounding “yes,” and for a number of reasons —the best reason is that we still need to conserve water, and can also help our clients and potential clients save substantial amounts on their water bill each month.
How did we get into this position in the first place?
When the United States was first discovered, there was an abundance of water. Since our forefathers first landed on these shores, our population has grown many times over. In the 1940s, there were approximately 150 million people living in the U.S. In the early 60s, we grew to more than 200 million. Although we did not discover any new sources for water, there was still plenty to go around. Today, our population is well over 310 million, and we’re still using water from the same sources. It’s no wonder we’re depleting our reserves at a rapid rate. In fact, we’re using water so quickly; predictions are that unless we conserve, we’re going to face water rationing.
You’ve probably heard that landscapes and grass areas around a home use more than 50 to 60 percent of the water used within in the home. These figures are coming from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as the various water purveyors who have had studies done. When we first received these reports, a warning flag should have gone up. Instead, we ignored it and continued to go about doing business the way we’ve always done it. Now, we have another opportunity.
Enter 2010, and the ‘green revolution’ is catching on like wildfire.
Who would have thought it would be moving as rapidly as it is? Sustainable landscapes, environmentally compliant, eco-friendly, low carbon footprint, and eco-green are today’s new buzzwords. What’s even more interesting is that it’s catching on with consumers, and they will be driving this movement.
So, how can we in the green industry comply? More importantly, how can we take advantage of this opportunity and enhance our business while ‘going green?’ I guess the adage, “There’s green (dollars) in going green,” is coming to pass.
One of the first areas we should look is the irrigation system. Retrofit your clients’ sprinkler heads. If many agencies are touting the fact that landscaping and turf areas are using too much water, we have an opportunity to respond to it, in a positive way. Show your clients that they can save money on their water bill and also comply with the water purveyors, and help the environment, as well. You can make this a win-win-win situation.
The sunbelt states, as well as the West Coast, have experienced tremendous growth over the past ten years, Even though they’ve faced drought conditions from time to time, the sheer growth of the population has been drawing down water quicker than anyone anticipated. So there is a very strong reason why we need to conserve. However, contractors in the Midwest and Northeast also have a compelling reason to offer retrofitting services: the cost of energy.
Many irrigation systems that were installed in the last twenty years have inefficient equipment. The sprinkler heads don’t water as uniformly and effectively as the products on the market today. Homeowners have to overwater some areas in order to keep everything green.
In addition, when the equipment is old, it begins to fail. Many of your customers would prefer not to have the worries of regular service visits to keep an aging system going. The typical life of a sprinkler head is often less than ten years.
So, for efficiency and reliability, retrofits make sense.
Retrofitting is an easy service for you to offer your clients because the labor steps involved are simple. The sprinkler heads are already installed in the ground. We are going to assume, and this is a key word— assume—that the sprinkler heads have been installed correctly, with the proper head spacing. Sometimes, new nozzles can even correct for bad spacing and coverage problems.
Simply understanding the product is not enough. You have to sell your customer on the benefits of making a change. That’s where a mini-marketing plan is essential for your retrofit efforts.
“We should take a page out of the heating and air conditioning business. Or even the car business,” says Jeff Carowitz, a consultant with StrategicForce Marketing. “If you’re going to buy a car, the car salesperson not only will tell you about the RPMs, or how many horsepower the engine has, he will also tell you about the new body style, the leather seats, the automatic seat adjustments, etc. The sales person will also make sure you get a brochure before you leave, so you have the facts and figures at hand.”
“A heating and air conditioning technician knows the decision to purchase a replacement unit is an important one that you will want to ponder. A good contractor will bring with him a ‘tip sheet’ that explains real data on the benefits of the change to the homeowner. The serviceman doesn’t want to leave to chance that you will remember everything he said, so he will then leave you the ‘tip sheet’ to show to your spouse,” continues Carowitz.
When you go to see your client, you should remember that you can help them. One of the first questions I would ask is if they are interested in saving money on their water bill. A bonus for your client would also be that they are being eco-friendly . . . and don’t sell that one short.
For those contractors who winterize irrigation systems, now that spring is coming and you’re ready to get those systems ready for the season, you have the perfect opportunity to discuss with your client some options they might want to hear about. Leaving your “tip sheet” even when the homeowner is not around can get them thinking about saving water in the hot summer months.
When calling on your client, you should offer two options. Chances are, you will certainly be able to sell them one. I don’t think you even have to do any selling. All you really have to do is explain the benefits. Remember that air conditioning guy, or that car sales person? They pointed out the benefits. You need to do the same.
“I would recommend offering two options to the homeowner on sprinkler head upgrades,” says Carowitz, “I would tell them that we can improve their existing irrigation system by changing out the nozzles and replacing them with low-precipitation rate rotary nozzles or a Precision Spray nozzle. These nozzles have improved uniformity that will save about 20 to 30 percent on their water bill.”
Carowitz continues, “I would also offer them the opportunity to change out the entire sprinkler bodies at the same time, replacing them with spray head bodies that have pressure regulators and check valves already installed in them. Often, the existing heads are nearing the end of their useful life, so this adds reliability and additional water savings with the new features.”
It is also important that you acknowledge to the client the advantage they have; although this is a one-time charge, they will reap the benefits of lower energy bills for years to come.
So many contractors just run something by the homeowner, but the homeowner doesn’t really understand the benefits. By explaining the benefits and leaving the “tip sheet,” you stand a much better chance of getting the job. The homeowner might think, “You know, I’ve lived here all this while and intend to go on living here. Maybe this investment does make sense.”
You’ve got to remember that the price of water will only continue to rise. In Seattle, the highest tiered rate is now at $11. In Houston, water rates increased by five percent last year and will increase another seven percent this year. That’s a whopping 12 percent in a two-year period.
As water becomes more expensive, it’s easy to explain to your client that, although there’ll be an upfront cost by retrofitting, the savings will be substantial for years to come. In addition, they can feel that they’re doing their part by being environmentally conscious.
There is a big opportunity for us out there. We need to remember that we’re in a new era, and marketing and education will play a major role. Develop a sales presentation and a “tip sheet.” By telling potential customers about the benefits, we can get their attention. It’s one thing to know the products, but you need to learn how to sell the benefits.
Just think of it . . . what a powerful message you can send to your client. More importantly, everybody wins.
Photo courtesy: Hunter Industries