By Troy Leezy
How will your company leverage this year’s Smart Irrigation Month to grow sales and increase customer satisfaction? With July right around the corner, now is the time to develop a plan to participate in this important public awareness event.
First launched in 2005, Smart Irrigation Month was developed to focus the general public’s attention on the wide variety of products and practices that can make irrigation systems more efficient. Because many consumers take an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” approach to many aspects of home and landscape maintenance, industry leaders realized that a focused, collective effort would be an effective way to boost knowledge and awareness of the importance of water conservation in the landscape.
The month of July was selected for Smart Irrigation Month because it is typically one of the highest water use months of the year. By tying the consumer awareness campaign to a period of high water use, it reaches consumers at exactly the time of year when their minds are on high water bills and the challenges of properly watering a landscape.
“Professionals can take a proactive approach with their customers by engaging them when they’re most likely to be interested in improving how they water,” said Dave Magner, sales and business development manager at Rain Bird Corporation and chair of the Irrigation Association’s Smart Irrigation Month Committee. “By joining in the Smart Irrigation Month effort, firms instantly boost their credibility when communicating water savings messages.”
Smart Irrigation Month has been effective in reaching consumers for two reasons. First, increased awareness of sustainability has engaged the public in looking for simple, easy changes they can make to their lifestyles to conserve precious resources. Second, rising water rates and increased water restrictions are causing consumers to pay more attention to their outdoor watering habits.
Stand out from the crowd
Challenged by a tough economy and a market crowded with look-alike competitors, many forward-thinking contractors have embraced Smart Irrigation Month as a means to market themselves as dedicated to their customers and in an attempt to stand out from less-sophisticated rivals. It is an approach that has helped companies like Del Conte’s Landscaping capture new business and grow customer referrals. “Smart Irrigation Month has been so positive for our company because it gives us a means to demonstrate our expertise,” said company president Tom Del Conte.
Educate the public about wise choices
Initiatives like National Fire Prevention Month bring together manufacturers, installers and retailers to remind consumers about fire safety, educate on tips and techniques and drive sales of equipment such as fire extinguishers in order to help homeowners be prepared for fire emergencies.
Similarly, Smart Irrigation Month is an industrywide campaign that includes companies that make efficient irrigation products, professionals who design and install efficient systems, and firms that maintain and upgrade existing installations.
At Aqua-Flo Supply, homeowners were introduced to the latest products and tips for water conservation at a series of “Smart Irrigation Saturdays” educational events held at the company’s stores throughout Southern California. The public was invited to attend workshops and demonstrations at each event that introduced them to proper scheduling, high-efficiency products, and how to remedy common irrigation water wasters. “These events helped us give customers a place to get questions answered and to learn about easy ways to improve their systems,” said Ryan Monroe, Chief Financial Officer at Aqua-Flo. “We saw an immediate increase in sales of smart watering products.”
Demonstrate Smart watering schedules
Only a small percentage of existing irrigation systems have the latest technology in self-adjusting controls that manage the system dynamically based on weather or soil moisture conditions. Typical systems rely on timer-based controls that are seldom reset in order to compensate for changing weather.
A good way to illustrate the need for regularly adjusting the controller schedule is a complimentary recommended settings sheet that lists run times based on the time of year. This sheet, which includes the contractor’s logo and contact information, is printed on cardstock and can be hung near the control timer. For those who are hands-on with their systems, the reference sheet becomes a monthly resource that helps users adjust their timer to achieve greater efficiency. For the customers who want hands-off convenience of a truly automatic system, the contractor can use the reference sheet to explain how a self-adjusting Smart controller will make the water-saving adjustments automatically and more frequently. A simple piece of paper can lead to more satisfied customers and additional sales.
Offer Smart system check-ups
Smart contractors are offering their existing customers complimentary Smart Irrigation Month check-ups during their regular site visits. These evaluations allow the technician to assign a pass/fail score to the system for appropriate water-saving technologies and adjustments. For example, the technician might check whether the system has a rain sensor, if the run times on the controller are being adjusted routinely based on weather conditions and if the sprinkler heads are providing uniform coverage.
The observations are recorded onto a form which includes a space for the technician to write a prescription for resolving the issues revealed by the pass/fail scores. The form allows the technician and the client to have a step-by-step discussion on what needs to be done to make the irrigation system more water efficient, and leads to immediate commitments to purchase new products and services.
Smart resources to help you get started on your plan
The Irrigation Association has compiled an extensive resource center to help professionals promote Smart Irrigation Month. Download newsletter articles, logos, invoice stuffers, news release templates and dozens of other promotional materials at www.smartirrigationmonth.org
Four new videos featuring firms who have successfully used Smart Irrigation Month as part of their customer education and marketing efforts have been posted to YouTube on the Smart Irrigation Month channel, www.YouTube.com/SmartIrrigationMonth. Join them in growing your sales, promoting efficient water practices, products and services, and increasing customer satisfaction in July.
Troy Leezy is marketing manager at Hunter Industries.
Ways to Participate in Smart Irrigation Month That Will Grow Your Sales
Educate: Include tip sheets with your invoices and articles in your company newsletter.
Hold events: Bring together customers for workshops or seminars where you can demonstrate new innovations.
Door hangers: Ask your lawn care technicians to leave messages at the doors of houses that are over-watering or that have irrigation problems.
Watering Schedules: Print recommended watering schedules for customers. Show how these can be achieved more easily with a self-adjusting controller.
Check-ups and tune-ups: Offer complimentary pass/fail system check-ups to customers to identify opportunities to reduce water waste.
Raise awareness: Help bring awareness to your customers through company website features, social media posts, monthly statement stuffers or direct-mail postcards.