I've been involved with the CAC program since it's inception and I'd like to give a very brief history of why it was created. It's actually very simple; we created it as a way to deal with incoming phone calls by consumers that were contacting us to build their pond. We quickly realized that we couldn't deal with projects from around the country efficiently and we couldn't just randomly give out leads for potential projects to just anyone. We all know that a well designed, built and maintained water feature will create a demand for more water features if it's done properly.
Our challenge was clear; we needed a way to provide a quality contractor to the new client. Ponds done right and customers served right. In the early days it was a simple phone call to some of our friends around the country; we gave leads away to contractors that we had met during one of our many seminar tours, it was simple and it worked!
This quickly evolved into an online process in which anyone had access to the list of Certified Aquascape Contractors by simply entering a zip code. Contractors looking for friends they met during Pondemonium, curious consumers searching for help, competitors looking for our top installers, you name it! The information was free for the taking and we had tons of activity! The problem was that we had no way of tracking the information or controlling who was getting it.
Serious customers got the names and contact information for contractors that they wanted. Contractors were happy that the phones were ringing but didn't know where the leads were coming from. Was it from their website, the last home show, or the CAC locator?
To this day I have CACs telling me that they've never received a lead from us! Really? I wish I could go back through the 10 years of website activity to determine how many leads were generated and projects built but neither we, nor you have that information. Hence the change.
Last year we decided to improve the CAC program and the locator was part of the renovation. We had an internal battle in regards to the locator. Do we want lots of traffic you don't know where it's coming from or quality traffic we both could track? We chose less traffic but higher quality that's track-able. So what does this mean to both of us?
Potential customers now need to enter their personal contact information in order to get access to the top 3 certified contractors in their area (this hoop will certainly minimize tire kickers or unfortunately those potential clients who don't want to enter their contact info for fear of being spammed). Can you see this? An email is then sent to both the contractor and to us after the necessary information is entered. We know exactly what's happening and have feedback processes built in place for follow up. So why am I explaining this?
A week ago Jason Turpin had a post about a lead he received from us which turned into a project, he stated it was one of the only leads he's ever received from us (we have heard this many, many times before). It seemed strange to me because I happen to see every lead that comes from the locator and I've seen his name more than a couple times. We checked and he was off a little. He has received 32 leads! That's thirty two after we increased the pre-qualifying process. Imagine how many calls Turpin Landscape got in the previous ten years he didn't know about before we raised the bar?
Greg and I happened to be driving to visit The Incredible Dr. Pol when Jason’s post came across. As you can imagine Greg had a little heat over yet another post like this. Steve Shinholser happened to call in the middle of this "discussion" so we included him in our conversation. Steve said, "The CAC program is not about leads, it's about the education, the peer discussions, sharing best practices, learning about the latest installation processes, new products, etc. Leads are just the icing on the cake."
Thank you Steve! He's 100% right! We know this but we still regularly hear from CACs not understanding how many leads they truly are receiving. Honestly, that hurts. We invest a lot into this program. It's the first program in the industry. We consider it by far the best program in the industry. The goal of the program is first and foremost to help our customers succeed. When you succeed we succeed, it's a very simple relationship. But sometimes people don't really realize all the benefits they are getting.
Case in point. We asked Steve, a man known to be well on top of things in his business, how many leads he thought he received from us since last year? He was hesitant and said probably 20 but maybe even 30 ... tops! Greg bet him a steak dinner he was at least double that number. I texted Linda during the discussion for an update on Steve's leads and she responded. In just over the last year Steve has received 72! Someone owes someone a steak dinner! If Steve, a top notch businessman who's on top of everything (or maybe most things apparently), doesn't know how many leads he's received then it's safe to say that others don't either.
I'm not writing this to disprove Jason, Steve or anybody else, I'm actually concerned! Is there a problem? Are you not getting the leads? Are you too busy and missed the email? Where is the breakdown? My concern is for the customer, if they're interested enough to fill out their contact information online nonetheless so they can be contacted by a Certified Aquascape Contractor, it means that it's a qualified lead! Yes?
We cannot afford a breakdown in the communication process! A breakdown reflects on us all. The consumer’s experience needs to be efficient, positive and fast from start to finish. Agreed? Good business practices and protocols are key for success but we unfortunately get wrapped up in the day-to-day business and things slip by us. I know this because it happens to me too. Greg asked me to write this more than two weeks ago and guess what …
Here's a list of the CACs that have received the most leads in the past year. You can easily check for yourself how many leads you've received by searching for emails sent to you from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Company Name Leads Received
Gem Ponds Inc. 238
Aqua Landscapes 215
Artistic Design Garden Ponds 210
French's Waterscapes 113
Ponds Inc. of Illinois 112
Skyline Ponds 105
California Aqua Pros 101
Earth Energy Landscaping and Premier Ponds 94
Jackson Pond Management Inc 83
Oh, I almost forgot. Greg and I were visiting Dr. Pol to discuss a CAC-only build later this year that will be filmed as an Aquascape Pond Squad episode. Dr. Pol is one of the top ranked reality shows on all of cable TV. In fact, he just received an award the day before our meeting. Why do we want to build for him? To increase consumer awareness, which increases web searches and ultimately incoming leads for you. But if we can only create the awareness but the follow-up doesn't happen, our efforts are muted. That's frustrating for us all.
As I said earlier, your success is our success. We are always looking for ways to promote water features.