Teach then Sell

Water dealers find success for their businesses in a variety of ways. Many use unique marketing techniques and others spend a lot of time and effort going through the process to become a Certified Water Specialist—all of which are valuable and proven ways to get ahead of the competition. Phil Rhodes Jr., operations manager of Futuramic’s Clean Water Center in Omaha, Neb., has found another way to get ahead of the curve—educating the customer.

“We really focus on educating the customer about water and the products,” said Rhodes. “We teach the customers what actually goes on inside a water softener, how they work and what they can do for them.”

This educational philosophy, Rhodes thinks, is different than initially selling the benefits and costs of the products. “We try to educate [the customer] as to why it is important that they have a water softener and then what the difference between the systems are,” he said.

The majority of Rhodes’ sales are from referrals and second- and third-generation customers—the children and grandchildren of his customers. Rhodes has found that his customer loyalty is strong, and he believes the education service he provides to his customers has a lot to do with that.

Bringing it Home

Participation in local home and builders shows has also proved to be beneficial for Rhodes’ business in recent years. According to Rhodes, home shows offer a variety of home products for attendees, with water treatment equipment being a large part of that. Futuramic is among the four to six other water dealers on average that will participate in such shows.

“The spring and fall home shows are usually our big [marketing] push for the year,” said Rhodes. “We do real well competitively marketing to customers that shop around at the show and selling not only at the show but also setting up leads to follow up on after the show.”

Home shows give Rhodes the opportunity to showcase his products to customers who normally wouldn’t be exposed to his business. This spring, Futuramic will be participating in five local home shows. These shows range anywhere from three to five days in duration. The cost to exhibit in shows such as these usually runs between $700 and $1,000 for exhibit space.

At the bigger shows, 50,000 to 60,000 people on average will attend. Rhodes said he will talk to anywhere from 25 to 100 people a day at his booth. “We usually will get about10 minutes to a half hour of face time with a customer to really talk about what we do,” Rhodes said. “It’s nice, personal one-on-one time that we use to educate the customer and we are able to build some confidence and trust in that time.”

Rhodes is able to sell equipment at these shows, but what is most valuable to him are the leads he is able to generate and pursue in the following months, most of which develop into customers.

By participating in home shows, interacting with customers and educating them on the importance of water treatment and the need for equipment, Rhodes has been able to find success for his business. He has found that it is more important to have customers who understand water treatment rather than to have customers who are simply aware of cost savings.

Stephanie Harris is managing editor for Water Quality Products. Harris can be reached at 847.391.1007 or by e-mail at sharris@sgcmail.com.

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