1) Wikipedia describes The Internet of Things (IoT) as the network of physical objects or "things" embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity, which enables these objects to collect and exchange data. Wah? How does this apply to pools and spas you may ask? Sutro is the first product I've seen that actually delivers this capability. At this time, the device, which goes in the pool alerts the service tech or homeowner that the pool needs some chemicals on their mobile device as a text alert. I imagine in the future, it will allow you to turn up or down the speed of your pump and be a portal into a pool supply distributor or store. Think this is years away? Check it out at mysutro.com. Follow developments in this area as there will be more.
2) Think meditation and yoga. For visual merchandisers creating Outdoor Living showrooms, the Pantone colors of the year are a very soft blush pink and a light blue. The vibe is peaceful outdoor sanctuary with arabesque structures and mandala motifs like the one found in the image below. Natural woven fabrics and Indian/Moroccan themes are trending. Spice, neutrals and indigo blue are still popular.
The best way to arrange products is by lifestyle, meaning don't have a candle department, have an area that shows the lifestyle. Big sellers in this space will be outdoor art pieces - UV protected paintings and prints are available now. All kinds of wall art are hot and climbing gardens and pots of succulents will be trending. Of course, the sound of trickling water is a must and I highly recommend an Advantage Pump be driving that water feature!
3) El nino is predicted to dump lots of water nationwide and that means dirty pools & spas overflowing ponds and dead pool motors. Why do the motors die? Usually it is because it is attached to a timer, the homeowner forgets to unplug it, the motor gets underwater, the timer comes on and shorts it out. And no, that is technically not covered under warranty. What does this mean to someone running a pool maintenance company? You are going to need more replacement motors than usual, so be sure to have some on hand. And make sure you have all your equipment ready to go to clean the pools - Portable Vacuum Systems are the very best way to save time and money while removing even fine particles from the pool and sparing the main filter. Companies like, Leslie's Commercial Division, Brock Enterprises and Doheny Commercial all resell the Advantage Port-a-vac http://www.advantageman.com/category_s/61.htm.
4) Make sure you build enough margin into your contracts to handle the following increased costs next year;
- Forbes says we should anticipate a 35% surge in health insurance premiums. If your company is covering this, check it out.
- Minimum wage laws are set to change in many states. Take this into account
5) Solar will continue to gain traction in the water filtration industry as new products enter the market and consumers continue adopt the carbon neutral lifestyle. Induced by tax credits and the some very slick sales operations, solar panels are being installed on roofs nationwide. There are a number of products out there and if you are installing pool or pond products, you should be carrying items that will run on solar and/or wind power. Advantage has a unique inverter (converts solar DC power to AC power) that produces 750 watts (other sizes can be ordered) and runs our low amp pond pump the ESS6400 on just 3 panels - it draws from the grid when there isn't enough sun. It even runs on wind generated power.
6) Automation will become even more commonplace. If you are running pool routes and not automating the payments from your customers, consider doing so. If necessary, give your customers a reason to agree to it, like a free week or a special cleaning. You won't believe how much time this will save you and your route will be more valuable should you ever want to sell it. Automating marketing campaigns with tools like mail chimp and constant contact are easy. Start to get as much of your office processes online and as automated as possible.
7) Social media is growing and growing in importance for businesses. Timing is everything. You might have set up a Facebook page, got a few followers and kind of let it languish. We did that. It just didn't seem to have any business utility. That situation has changed. Google's new algorithm weights your social media presence as part of the SEO calculation. And between Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook, people are now spending an average of 2 hours a day on these platforms. You can now sell (click and buy) products on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest (via eBay) and Facebook. I posted a blog about some simple tools you can use to get going a few weeks ago. Get links to your social media on your emails and start to familiarize yourself with how it works. If you aren't already generating leads and sales using these tools, you are doing something wrong. Now is the time to really focus on getting your business executing best practices for social media marketing.
8) Mobile is still growing and has surpassed desktop. Make sure your sites are not only optimized for mobile but consider making a stripped down, flat, simple version of your site to be used on these devices. Google will punish you if you don't have at least a responsive design and make certain you can be found. And not only in listings but on Digital Assistants like Siri and Cortana. Also, it isn't crazy to make sure people can find you if they misspell your name. Users are looking everywhere, optimally you are ready for a customer that searches and finds you in his phone in the morning, checks you out your video from his desktop at work and requests a service call from his iPad in the evening.
We had a banner year in 2015 as far as increased sales. The first in a long, long time. We're determined to continue on this trajectory and hope you'll join us. Our mantra for 2016 is "Profit". An experienced veteran once told me "Revenue is vanity. Profit is what matters." Isn't that the truth. Let the force be with us.
CEO, Advantage Manufacturing.
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