What dealers are doing to market, raise awareness of swim spas
By Angela Wakefield
Few people buy a swim spa on a whim. Therefore, getting swim spas and their benefits and features in front of people to raise awareness is critical to being successful in the segment. When choosing how to promote swim spas, Sara Charles, co-owner of Maximum Comfort Pool and Spa in Vail, Colorado, says research that helps dealers know their market and customers is key. Due to living in a small, mountain community with geographical constraints, swim spas aren’t the biggest seller for Maximum Comfort, but they still sell a handful of Endless Fitness Systems per year through some creative marketing tactics.
“We bring in groups of people for parties at the store and let them test the swim spa out together,” Charles says. Charles invites homeowners, civic and social groups and local organizations to these parties, and often has people already swimming in the spas when the groups arrive. Charles says this helps attendees feel more comfortable with the idea of getting into the water, because people are often shy when it comes to wearing swimsuits at an event.
“We want them to come into our showroom and actually get in the unit,” she says. “They’re pretty surprised once they try it with what a complete full body workout the Endless Fitness System provides. Most thought working out in the Endless would be easy and did not realize how challenging you can make your workout by increasing the current.”
Wet testing is also available any time at Maximum Comfort. “Customers can make an appointment and come in before we open, after we close, on a weekend or on Sunday when we are not open; whatever works for them,” Charles says.
The company uses a wellness-focused approach to reach its local customer base effectively. “We have quite an active community, so people’s lives revolve around their sports and activities,” Charles says. “This is a great product for staying in shape or if you’re getting older. Aqua therapy is so powerful for people’s bodies.” Charles has used Facebook, Instagram and blog posts on the company’s website to distribute information about swim spas and their health benefits, including relieving joint stress, increased mobility and effective exercise. Using these tools to highlight why customers might want one has brought several buyers into the store, she says.
“When someone googles swim spas, spend the money to be No. 1 or 2 in the search [results]…in the Austin market, SEO is the best bang for our buck.”
owner, Big Star Backyards
Ted Dellas, owner of LeisureTime Warehouse in Wickliffe, Ohio, finds that doing things to get swim spas seen as a backyard, functional piece of equipment in all climates and weather is worthwhile. He has success with promoting swim spas as year-round products — a pool in the summer and a hot tub in the winter — to his market in Ohio. Customers find the dual capability attractive because the weather changes so wildly throughout the year.
Dellas tries to reach out to a completely new base of customers with any marketing efforts. “You don’t want to market to your current customers or database,” he says. “They either own a hot tub or a swimming pool already, so you have to get your products exposed to other people.” He feels the swim spa industry is grossly underexposed as a whole in his area. “There are a lot of people who see them for the first time when they walk into [our] store or one of their neighbors gets one,” he says.
Jim Power, owner of Big Star Backyards in Austin, Texas, says the swim spa segment is fairly new when compared to the industry as a whole. He’s aware of national ad campaigns set to launch this year from some of the bigger swim spa manufacturers, which he says will help people become more familiar with swim spas in the near future and start researching them more online.
Big Star Backyards relies heavily on SEO and keywords to push its website to the top recommendations on search engines, Power says. “When someone Googles swim spas, spend the money to be No. 1 or 2 in the search [results],” he says. “We’ve used everything from print publications to newspapers to television to periodicals. In the Austin market, SEO is the best bang for our buck.”
Tom Gervais, owner of Carefree Spas in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has seen a big increase in awareness and sales in the industry in the past five years, and says most of his new swim spa shoppers come from online marketing, search engines and his website. “You want to get leads to your website and have the ability to capture their name, address, phone number and email,” Gervais says. “We mainly use Google Adwords, and we have a dedicated website just for our swim spas.”
The dedicated site, Swim Spas of Albuquerque, only features swim spa products. This targeted approach directs the customer back to the company using a sales funnel for gathering personal information when a customer requests a brochure. Gervais says the most important part of any online information gathering approach, however, is personally reaching out to potential customers who visit the site. “Call them,” he says. “Invite them for a wet test. Encourage them to come in.”
Gervais also recommends having swim spas on the floor that are functioning at all times. It’s not the norm, but occasionally someone will walk in the door and within 10 minutes be swimming in a spa. “We always have at least three [swim spas] going in various sizes,” he says. “You want the customer to know you’re in the business of selling swim spas even if they came in to check out hot tubs, and you’ve got to give people a reason to buy once they are in the store. We include a full face mask with the purchase of our swim spas [to swim better, straighter], and we teach them how to swim properly in it [by demonstrating how to keep their legs up]. It makes all the difference.”
Gervais says it’s a long process of building a relationship with a customer over time as you assess their needs, which can lead to many more sales as they tell their friends. One of Gervais’ best marketing tactics is keeping a list of people who’ve purchased a swim spa from him in the past and having new customers call them for feedback. “Those people are the biggest cheerleaders,” Gervais says.
When it comes to marketing swim spas, online marketing is leading the charge in larger markets, but creativity and social connection seem to be winning in smaller communities. So if you’re struggling to get those swim spas off the floor, take some time to reassess your approach.