{AQUA} Selling You: How to Build Customer Relationships in the Connection Economy

Smiling Pool Guy webMarketing guru Seth Godin refers to it as the connection economy – a new reality that is forcing business owners to make the switch from being “order takers” to trusted authorities.

As Godin says in a recent blog post, “the traveling salesman, the carnival barker and the old-time businessman can hit and run. Make the sale, cut your costs, move on.” [i]

In that old-school “transactional selling” model, there’s no relationship past the immediate purchase. Maybe they remember you and call you back next season, or maybe they call the guys down the road. It makes no difference to them; your business is just one of many and the bottom line is generally price or availability.

While transactional selling may be working for your company now, it doesn’t leave the door open for long-term growth in an industry like ours. Instead of growing your business, you spend a hefty chunk of your time and efforts regaining customers you already thought you had, and struggling to stand out in a big pool of competitors.

What would it mean to your business if customers sought you out, instead of the other way around? What if people called you because they heard about you from a friend or saw your post on Facebook?

In my own experience as owner of Legendary Escapes, it changes everything.

We used spend a lot of time on our outbound marketing, sending postcards, flyers, advertising. We started building an online presence around 2007, connecting with customers, friends and prospects and building great relationships with folks online. We based it on a friendly “Pool Guy” character, and started publishing content with the theme of “Ask the Pool Guy.”

We focused creating useful and fun content, like how-to videos, informative blog posts, photos of our favorite projects – all aimed at helping pool owners get more out of their backyards. By establishing a fun and professional presence in our blog, Facebook page and video channel, we started to make the switch from transactional selling to relationship selling.

This kind of outreach makes all the difference in our sales process. Research proves that social media (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and the like) and user reviews are the two fastest growing consumer sources for influencing purchase decisions, [ii] so having a solid presence online gives us a huge boost.

By the time customer calls us, they feel like they know me already from my online presence, they know my work and how I go about the job. So the hard part of the sale – building trust – is already done by the time I sit down with them face to face.

The giant bald-headed caricature of me as The Pool Guy splashed across the side of the company vans doesn’t hurt either. And it’s a blast when I meet a new customer and they give me a big handshake, a slap on the back and say “Hey, Pool Guy!” like they’ve known me for years.

In any field, you’ve got to find a way to make yourself stand out. You can have the best service, the best products, but if nobody can tell you apart from the other guys, what’s the point?

If you aren’t building an authoritative presence online, where customers and prospects can find you, connect with you and begin to build a relationship with you, you are stuck in a transactional economy where price becomes the determining factor and brand loyalty is nonexistent.
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Al Curtis is the designer and builder for Legendary Escapes Pools. He has pioneered the hybrid vinyl liner/gunite swimming pool, and is known for his unique and innovative custom designs. Also known online as @askthepoolguy, he blogs, does video, training, and events for the pool loving public and fellow industry professionals. He can be found online at www.AskthePoolGuy.com.

i Godin, Seth (2014). “Thinking lifetime (don’t break the chain).” Accessed April 11, 2014 from www.sethgodin.typepad.com

ii Nielsen/inPowered MediaLab Study, Dec 2013.

(Published in AQUA Magazine July 2014)

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