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Hello, Burnout

Stressors, marketing to-do lists pile up on small hot tub businesses

A recent survey from Blind — an online community where all types of professionals worldwide anonymously share advice, feedback and information — determined 83% of marketing and communications workers are burned out. The survey polled nearly 7,000 professionals nationwide, and some of the top reasons for burnout included lack of work/life balance, unmanageable workloads and job security.

Marketing and communications employees in the hot tub industry are no exception to this finding, including those who also wear the hat of owner or manager.

Brandon Schmidt, director of digital strategy at YDOP Internet Marketing, believes the busyness, stressors and concerns facing a business owner have doubled or tripled during the pandemic. “For someone who is often pulled in a ton of directions, issues about workplace safety, following guidelines and managing shortages have only compounded the opportunities for distraction,” Schmidt says. “When the tasks are piling up, along with the heavy demand, some business owners put less focused attention on marketing themselves.”

He notes that high demand and employee shortages also contribute to owners and marketers being strapped with additional responsibilities. “In addition to regular marketing tasks, a marketer may also be handling customer service, setting schedules or actually out on the job site,” Schmidt says. “There are just not enough hours in a day to get everything done when you are busy like that.”

Ben Poggemiller, co-owner of Urban Life Pools and Hot Tubs in Manitoba, Canada, and a marketing expert at Hot Tub Leads, thinks a contributing factor is a constantly changing environment. “Demand is higher than ever, but supply keeps changing, so dealers can’t really advertise something they don’t have,” Poggemiller says.

Poggemiller also points out that dealers have to be careful with what is being communicated to customers because they can end up feeling misled. “Marketing people are having to continually shift their focus to what’s available at any given time,” he says. “If a marketing person is also responsible for managing social media posts, comments and messages, the incoming inquiries can be overwhelming, too.”

Poggemiller, who does most of the marketing for his own pool and hot tub store, empathizes with others who have responsibilities that range across departments. “The owner of a business has to wear many hats,” he says. “Sales, marketing, making sure the store is well stocked, making sure staff are following store policies and handling customer service issues — if the owner doesn’t have dedicated staff for all those things, marketing can get pushed to the backburner.”

Pam Vinje, president and CEO of Small Screen Producer, a digital media marketing company, also believes a factor leading to burnout is keeping up with inventory. “[It’s] hard to market without product,” she says. “It’s a constant revolving door right now.”

Whether an owner is also wearing the marketing hat, or a worker’s sole focus is marketing and communications, Vinje believes both are burned out, and the only way she can see burnout not occurring is to outsource. Her company employs 10 people with areas of marketing expertise instead of tasking one person with it all. “It’s impossible to be excellent at everything and knowledgeable of how to apply all the changes,” Vinje says. “I don’t know how small businesses with just the owner or a dedicated employee managing all [marketing] can do it well. Most need to outsource at least some of these tasks.”

In addition to outsourcing, Vinje suggests retailers find ways to automate as much as possible by implementing interactive website tools, subscription service renewals, and automated sales funnels through email and text messages.

“Content development is ever evolving,” she says. “If you do not use your drone, or at least your mobile phone footage to create videos, you are falling farther and farther behind. What is expected now is lots of sexy and fun backyard living content.”

Poggemiller also advises retailers to take an automated approach and recommends using fresh ads that are universally applicable and don’t require frequent updating. “Having a good website and some working ads out there reduces a lot of that pressure because they are always there in the background,” he says.

Schmidt believes spa retailers can avoid marketing burnout in their businesses by first making a plan of action. “What goals do you want to accomplish? What campaigns do you want to launch? What tasks have you neglected that need to get done ASAP?” Schmidt asks. “Once you have these down and listed by priority, create a plan of when you will accomplish each.”

Schmidt says retailers in an inspirational rut should look at what others are doing. Evaluating other campaigns and strategies, browsing magazines, viewing ads on social media and reading flyers that come in the mail can all serve as sources of inspiration.

“Over the last 18 months, I have been amazed at how determined, resilient business owners have pivoted and adapted their businesses to survive,” Schmidt says. He also recommends getting an outside perspective to help evaluate weak spots.

“Sometimes we are too close to the situation to see what needs to change,” he says. “A fresh set of eyes — whether from another business owner, an industry associate from another state, or a marketing agency — can do wonders in unlocking ideas and finding new perspectives on the problems you are struggling with.”