If you asked the car industry how many vehicles they had sold in 2014, would you expect them to reply, ‘No idea’? Well, we all work in an industry that is surprisingly short on facts and figures about itself. That can’t be helpful, can it?
I’ve worked in the wet leisure industry for over 30 years, and I suppose that my feelings about this lack of solid, industry wide information have evolved over that time.
When I started working alongside my father, David, building pools, it didn’t seem to matter so much. All the information we needed was in front of us. We knew how many pools we had built, how many spas and how many saunas.
But that was back in the 70’s. The company’s books were literally, books. Accountants used ‘adding machines’ and delivery drivers used maps.
Here we are now in the digital age, the information age, the computer age and it would seem reasonable to suppose that one of the things we had much more of was information; but do we?
If John builds 6 pools and Peter builds 10 pools, how many pools are there in the country?
No one knows how many pools are built in the UK every year. No one knows how many swimming pools there actually are in the UK.
So how do we know the size of the potential service market? How do we know how many pools could be improved by retrofit products? How does any company know how it’s performing compared to the rest of the industry?
In theory, you could count the number of main drains that are bought and installed in a year; but not all pools are built with just one. In theory the water board should know how many pools there are in the UK, but they won’t tell anyone.
Perhaps they think that knowledge is power? Perhaps it is.
Certainly other industries are better at gathering and sharing information about the market that they operate in than we are and after a few decades in this business, I came to the conclusion that we should follow suit.
We sink or swim together.
Knowledge about trends in the market, what sorts of products and services our customers are looking for and even the size of the market in different sectors and areas can help us all make better business decisions. They can help us supply the products and services that are of most value to our customers and generate most profit for us.
And I do mean, for all of us. The healthier our industry is, the healthier all our businesses are.
So four years ago, Golden Coast started something called The Wet Leisure Industry Survey. With the help of the BSPF, we invite everyone in the industry to fill in an on-line or postal survey form. All the responses are anonymous. It probably takes no more than about 10 minutes.
Over the course of those four years, we have started to build up a clear and accurate picture of our industry.
- A wet summer does us more harm than a cool summer.
- Energy saving products represent one of the biggest growth areas in the market.
- We are starting to see strong growth coming back to the mid-price sector of the market.
- Servicing and maintaining installations is becoming a more and more important area of our industry.
These aren’t feelings or hunches or guesses. These are facts and we have the figures to back them up. And you have them too, because we analyse all the responses and write them up in the Wet Leisure Industry Survey Report that we make freely available to everyone.
‘Marketing Your Wet Leisure Business for Growth & Profit’
That was the title of a couple of presentations that Golden Coast made at SPATEX this year and we made a lot of references to the Wet Leisure Survey Report as well as sharing advice and insights on how best to use digital, social and traditional marketing.
The presentations seemed popular and were well attended but I was surprised by one of the most common questions I was asked at the end of each talk. “Why are you giving away your secrets?”
I think that question prompted me to write this article. We wouldn’t keep the ‘secret’ of how to install a pool cover or service a filter to ourselves. Surely if we had any advice on how to sell one, we’d share that as well.
30 years on.
The world has changed a great deal since the 70’s. It has become a smaller place. We are all more connected, more dependent on each other.
Perhaps this industry began as a collection of small, independent firms doing their own thing and minding their own business, but that seems to me to be an old fashioned way of looking at things.
The car industry, to return to that analogy, responds as a whole to changes in customer demands and market trends. We need to share the facts and figures that describe our own industry so that we can do the same.
Knowledge is power, and knowledge that encompasses the whole industry can surely be used by all of us as a force to help drive each and every wet leisure business to greater success.