Swim Fitness

Joe stone’s low-overhead, simplified philosophy for selling swim spas keeps business booming

WHEN THE FOLKS AT MASTER SPAS convinced Joe Stone to jump back into the hot tub industry, he knew the times called for a new type of business plan. Stone developed a model he hopes will keep him afloat no matter the economic climate.

“It’s a model where I have the smallest overhead conceivably possible,” Stone says. Not only that, he says, but “it’s a major emphasis on swim spas with a very minor emphasis on hot tubs.”

Stone’s business is a low-volume, high-dollar, long-buying cycle, low-overhead venture — which means he must build long-term, meaningful connections with his customers.

“You have to be prepared to maintain a relationship for a long time,” Stone says. “The gestation period for a swim spa customer can be a couple of months to a year. And most dealers don’t want to spend that much time working with somebody to get a deal.”

Stone has come up with several ways to foster and manage those relationships, but first he has to find his prospects.

“My single largest expenditure is marketing and promotion,” Stone says. “You have to communicate to the world. We have something they need and then you have to create a sense of urgency.”

With the new economy, a skittish public and a whole new world of online selling and marketing possibilities, Stone says there isn’t a script for retailers to follow anymore, so he’s made a new one. He has recently punched up the company’s website with high-resolution images of swim spa installations.

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“If people can visualize what they’re thinking about, the decision to do it becomes very easy,” Stone says.

The backend of the website is getting an upgrade too, with Infusionsoft software and technology that Stone says is the best investment he’s made in his business. The software is comprehensive, Stone says, and the other programs he’s used — including Salesforce and Constant Contact — have only pieces of the full capabilities of Infusionsoft.

“It is a technology that automates 90 percent of my communications,” Stone says, adding that Infusionsoft does the job of two marketing people, continuing his philosophy of low overhead. “If I can get someone to my website, it automatically takes over. It’s deeply imbedded through Google’s technology. It’s not a Google product, but it’s so key to understand how much Google knows about you and me. They know where we go, when we go, what we’re looking at and what we’re interested

in. That technology is free to the world; you just have to tap into it. When you incorporate a third party like Infusionsoft and build a relationship-management soft-ware around the science Google has already developed — man, it’s powerful.”

Stone is experimenting with new things, but it wasn’t the technology that got him back into the business.

“The biggest surprise is to see the facial expression and the real benefits some people experience when they get in the water,” Stone says. “It’s the greatest reward I could’ve dreamed, and I didn’t see it coming.”

With the way the market is today, it can’t just be business as usual. The fact is, the good old days just don’t exist anymore, and the way customers purchase is different. Swim Fitness has adapted to these changes and understands what it takes to succeed in today’s demanding market. Their customer-first attitude really sets them apart from other retailers, and that’s huge when making these major purchases.

Kevin Richards, national sales manager, Master Spas