About the author: Dale Filhaber is president of Dataman Group. Filhaber can be reached at [email protected].


Generating leads is among the greatest challenges facing water quality dealers. Many dealers excel at installing water softeners, but are not familiar with marketing principles that can help them obtain new clients; others feel they have exhausted all possible leads in their area. For these dealers and more, Dale Filhaber, president of Dataman Group, has written Lead Generation for Water Quality Dealers, a book that offers advice on how to create new business. Filhaber discussed the book, marketing and more with WQP Associate Editor Michael Meyer.

Michael Meyer: Please tell me about your new book.

Dale Filhaber: My new book, Lead Generation for Water Quality Dealers, will give dealers the tools they need to keep quality leads flowing into their pipelines on a continuous basis. The book examines the top water filtration buyer markets and how dealers can best reach them.

Dealers also need to focus on their branding and the importance of developing a recognizable brand. The 2017 Water Quality Assn. (WQA) [consumer opinion] study indicates that almost half of respondents believe a brand-name product is very or somewhat important. Not every dealership has the brand recognition that Culligan enjoys, which means that other dealerships have to work harder to get their names to be household words in their own markets. That means dealers need to focus their attention on the lead generation programs that give them visibility and brand recognition, including direct mail, digital and the personal touch.

Meyer: How would you suggest water quality dealers generate leads?

Filhaber: First, every dealership needs to make sure it has a “destination website” that enables it to educate and excite prospects and generate leads for its salespeople. Dealers need to structure their marketing efforts to direct people to their websites so they can collect their data—or better yet, convince them to call their dealerships right away.

I am a big proponent of direct mail. Dealers across the country have been successful with direct mail campaigns for years. It’s been the backbone of a dealership’s lead generation program.

Home shows, networking in small groups like parent/teacher associations and chambers of commerce, and going door to door are also great ways to collect consumer lead information and enhance the dealership’s brand recognition.

WQA members can also take advantage of the lead program on the new WQA website, which offers consumers a place to find water treatment providers and certified professionals.

Meyer: How can you emphasize quality over quantity in lead generation?

Filhaber: In direct mail, for example, there is every-door direct mail (EDDM). Everyone is not a dealer’s prospect. By fine-tuning the targeting strategy, dealers can mail to less than half the quantity of the EDDM program, reaching homeowners age 25 to 44 with children under 18 (the group the WQA pinpoints as the top buyers) and maximizing their marketing spend. And dealers with smaller budgets can do a smaller mailing focused on families with younger children. The key thing, though, is to market and get the dealership’s name into the public arena.

Meyer: What type of marketing tends to work best in the water quality industry?

Filhaber: The most responsive marketing channel is direct mail. It is the only medium that is guaranteed to get into a prospect’s home. Even though direct mail has been the anchor for many dealers’ lead generation programs for many years, we are seeing a resurgence of popularity amongst both marketers and consumers across the board. For 2017, we are seeing new sizes, shapes and textures, including the use of virtual QR codes that take readers for a ride and new inks that beg for people to pour water on the mailer to see the message. Dealers who are creative and use a compelling offer will get a strong response from their direct mail campaigns.

We are also seeing new blending of marketing channels, such as combining direct mail with Facebook advertising, using print to direct consumers to the website, and using similar photos with TV and direct mail. Using multiple channels increases brand recognition. Bottom line, this will expand the number of leads coming into the dealership.