At Pondeminium in Pennsylvania last week I talked with a CAC who said "Every time I go into my Distributor's location the branch manager tries to get me to switch away from Aquascape and to buy "Brand X." To say this makes me less than pleased would be an understatement. If you understand why this gets my goat (to put it mildly) you would not just get me, but you would get all Aquascape stands for.
At the end of the month I will once again travel to the second largest event in our industry. The Water Garden Expo is sponsored by a Distributor of ours, Pond Liner in Oklahoma. I wish everyone could see, experience, and feel what the rest of the water garden industry will be presenting there. Last year I brought Steve Shinholser with me. As someone who is an influencer in this Tribe, I wanted him to gain a perspective "growing up" with only Aquascape hadn't afforded him. He told me it was "a real eye opener" for him. I truly wish everyone's eyes could be opened to what my eyes have seen over the now 24 years I've been living, eating and breathing the water feature game. Maybe then they would understand my passion and convictions for preaching what we do!
Here's what I see from my view; 95 of the top 100 pond builders (in terms of volume) are Certified Aquascape Contractors. This statistic, hands down, is the most effective way to summarize what differentiates Aquascape from the rest. As business owners who pay the bills by selling our goods and services, could there possibly be a better gauge to track success than sales? It's why we rank our Top Frogs every year at Pondemonium. And it's why we then put those selling the most on a pedestal and put a big spotlight on them for the world (and all our competitors) to see. You can spin it all you want, and our competitors sure do, but that stat of 95 of the top 100 pond builders being CACs says it all.
I don't expect you to just take my word for it though. It's why I've always encouraged our Tribe to attend our industry events. I truly want you to see what I see! It's why I asked Steve to go to Oklahoma and formulate his own conclusion. Oklahoma is where basically every single manufacturer and the customers they are courting will gather to see the "latest and greatest in pond products." Not business blueprints like you get by being a CAC and with Aquascape, but rather PRODUCTS! When you attend these events what you will hear from sales people is "buy our stuff." I will be there too, and I certainly want you to buy what I'm selling. This year what I'm selling in my Keynote speech is "The How's and Why's to Succeeding with Content Marketing and Creation." What I won't be talking about is how we developed the first skimmer in the pond market. Nor will I be discussing how we created the first waterfall filters out of cattle troughs over thirty years ago now.
Am I proud of our contributions (product wise) to this industry? Damn straight! Do I ever talk about why my widget is better than the next guy's? Rarely! What I do talk about though is the next guy. Last year it was Steve Shinholser and this year it will more likely than not be a new number one. Here's what gets me, and I mean what really, really gets me! Could you name a single number one customer from a single manufacturer in this entire industry?! I can't and I really wish I could, so I too could go after them the way every single competitor targets our Top 40 and even Top 100 customers! I got nobody. There's not a single customer of a single competitor who I'm targeting to earn their business.
If you're wondering why I don't target those 5 other top installers who aren't using our products it's because it's futile. They don't use any single system. They are their systems, which change with each unique project and customer. How they succeed at all is a testament to their unquestionable passion for what they do and their maniacal work ethic in doing it. The question everyone should ask themselves is, would I rather be on the number one team with hundreds of others dedicated to improving themselves and helping the group, or an individual navigating this pond world experimenting on my own?
When I asked my customer how he replied to his branch manager who's always trying to get him to switch to another product line, here was his response: "I tell him, you don't get it 'Joe'. I buy Aquascape products because their entire business is set up to help me succeed."
Aquascape does not exist to sell products. Product sales are a score card though. But our first goal as a business has and will always be to help our customer succeed at building, selling and retailing water features. I've learned that by focusing on our customers' success; the product sales will come. That's at least how Aquascape became the No 1 supplier in this industry. 95 of the Top 100 Water Feature Installers know that. You're welcome too, to join me in Oklahoma so you can see for yourself (http://www.wgexpo.com/class-schedule). The other 5 guys will be there too.