Nov. 23 2010 12:00 AM

You’ve read about it, heard it on the radio, and even seen your competitors take a stab at it . . . waterscapes. It’s hot and it’s here to stay, according to everything you’ve heard. In your eyes, however, it equals a big old headache. You have friends who’ve had slime-infested concrete ponds and you’re in no hurry to sell that lifestyle to your trusting and loyal customers.

When was the last time you took a look at ponds . . . a really good look?

Well, ponds have come a long way since the early ’90s and concrete versions are almost unheard of these days. That’s right . . . you may want to step into this new and exciting decade and take another look at ponds.

Why are they so popular?

The bottom line is that water features encompass a category that can’t be ignored—there’s just too much opportunity out there. What should be explained from the beginning is that ponds come in all shapes and sizes. You may have a customer here and there who wants a large pond, but most consumers are into the smaller, backyard pond. It lures people in because it still allows for the green grasses and beautiful gardens, while adding the a spect of water.

The display pond

It’s important to remember that consumers don’t really know how good a pond can look without seeing one. Perhaps their neighbor has one that looks great and they’d like one of their own. Or maybe their neighbor has a pond, and they think it looks good, but from the photos, you know that a better one can be built. How do you educate people about the wonders of water gardening and how great a pond really can look? A display pond is the answer!

What could be better than a water feature, inviting customers to relax and enjoy it? How about a waterscape filled with aquatic plants, stocked with koi, surrounded by ornamental grasses, perennials, and even a bench for people to sit on and stay for a while? Having a display pond will not only sell your waterscape category, but will also keep customers coming back to see how you’ve planted it this year.

What makes your garden center stand out? If you have to think twice before answering that question, your competition is winning.

Customer service might be the reason people keep coming back, but a creative water feature will make the sale.

If you already have waterscapes in your menu of services that you offer and don’t have a display, think about installing one. You and your employees will be so much more educated on the subject of ponds if you have one to take care of yourselves. You’re the expert if your display pond looks great!

Don’t have a retail location? No problem. You can offer to install a water feature at a local business in town—like a gas station, restaurant, or shopping center. Just be sure to post signage with your contact information.

Getting the sale

When it comes to selling ponds, it’s easy to say that the product sells itself, but is that really true? If you have a display pond, it is. Customers are visual. That’s why end caps have to be perfect and large displays have to be catchy. You may want to consider hosting a Build-A- Pond Day seminar. Grab a few staff members; sign up some customers, and build a pond together either at your location or at a local venue with high traffic. Once they’re bitten with the water gardening bug and they put their heart and soul into this pond, they’ll be ready for one of their own. The end result is a display pond either at your location or a high profile location, for you to show other customers. It’s a win-win situation.

Want to sell other products?

Water features are the only form of landscaping that sells future work. It’s the truth. Customers may come in to buy a pond kit, but they won’t leave with just a kit. And if they do, you can rest assured they’ll be back for more. A pond isn’t complete without plants to surround it and float in it, without koi to visit and feed everyday, without a patio to view the pond from, and of course, without patio furniture to sit on. The options go on and on, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a category that has that type of effect on the rest of your garden center sales.

Now those are all things that could very easily be tracked by your computer system, but what can’t be tracked is the happiness that your customer receives, knowing that you were a part of the transformation of their property. You have, in essence, improved their whole lifestyle. Before the pond, they never left work problems at the office but now; they check them at the door in favor of a relaxing night alongside the pond. The kids wouldn’t be caught dead hanging out with mom and dad, and while that still might be true, they don’t fight it when you suggest dinner out by the pond. Even the dog is happier, with a constant source of water and a quick place to cool off on hot days. Your garden center or landscape company started all that and you can’t ignore the fact that happy customers make better customers.

Customers that spend more time in their backyards want to beautify them. It’s not enough to have a patio set. Now they want Adirondack chairs seated in front of the waterfall, so they can get up close and personal with their pond. You can see now why water features are so popular in the hectic society we live in today. It’s a break from the everyday, right in your own backyard.

Jump in!

So whether you’ve been considering adding water gardening to your product mix or you’ve already taken the plunge, remember that this niche will continue to grow for years to come. The market is far from being saturated, so opportunities lie around every corner for those willing to sign on with water gardening. Everyone wants a pond; they just don’t know it yet. Help them find their perfect pond in your store.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jennifer Yuri is a marketing coordinator for Aquascape.