We at AQUA are excited to introduce Al Curtis as our newest contributor. Does the name sound familiar? Curtis is the man behind "Ask the Pool Guy," a site with blogs posts and videos about the art of building pools. In his first piece for AQUA, Curtis explains how he found his niche and grew it into a successful enterprise.
I remember the moment like it was yesterday.
I was just leaving Home Depot with a random sack of fittings for a job, when I spotted a man hanging around my well-worn company van. A little suspicious of this stranger, my first thought was, “Oh great, what is this guy up to?”
As I picked up my pace, puffed out my chest and donned my best “ready for anything” face, the man saw me coming, broke into a big grin and said “Hey, Pool Guy, I’ve got a question to ask ya!”
That’s when I knew there would be no trouble; I was being sought out for my industry expertise. What a great realization and a fun confirmation that our niche marketing concept was truly working.
In this mammoth of an industry that captures $51 billion a year, defining your own niche can be a real challenge.
In my experience, the first step is to decide what you want your niche to be and what you hope to accomplish with your marketing. At Legendary Escapes, we had two major goals: 1) To our company apart as boutique custom pool company; and 2) To create a human voice with a solid presence in our industry and position ourselves as experts in pool construction and service.
We came up with these goals after noticing there wasn’t any one person speaking as a resource for the industry: from pool builder to manufacturers and homeowners. There wasn’t a “go-to guy” for these kinds of questions.
Our CMO Sandi Maki was the brains behind the actual marketing plan to build our niche. We started to build a persona — “Ask the Pool Guy” — who was a source of information for manufacturers, suppliers, other pool builders and customers. We began posting informational videos on YouTube, blogging weekly, and engaging in social media in all kinds of pool and outdoor lifestyle discussions.
We started going to local national pool conventions, filming videos and on-the-spot Q&A sessions and talking to everyone we could meet in the industry. We had “Ask the Pool Guy” images plastered over everything, and I do mean everything: trucks, vans, pens, T-shirts, puzzles, coffee mugs, towels, blankets, boxer shorts, the crew’s work gear, M&M candies and, of course, all over social media.
I didn’t have an end game at these events. I just went to talk to people, share our ideas, give them a chance to talk about their business and share our passion for ours.
Before we knew it, the “Ask the Pool Guy” persona became a real presence both online and in real time, with people recognizing me and the crew as if they knew us. Because really, with our heavy social media and live network presence, they did, in many ways, know us already.
With this new found “celebrity,” we were able to build Legendary Escapes into the boutique business we knew it should be: A company manned by a small crew of dedicated and talented people who are passionate about what we create and deliver. The more we engaged, the more our reputation grew, and we are now in the fantastic position of being able to pick and choose the projects we take on each year.
We have the outrageous fortune to be able to work with people who understand our passion and feel the same. If our heartfelt approach to the craft doesn’t make sense to someone, they’re probably not our kind of customer. And that’s okay! There are other pool companies that can meet their needs.
If I had to give you just one piece of advice, it’s this: Just keep showing up. At industry events, at local networking events, on social media — show up to learn, connect, grow your knowledge base and increase your influence. Don’t look for a specific return on investment for this time. It’s not about how much you sell at a particular event or how many business cards you collect. It’s about all the folks you meet, the knowledge you offer and engaging with the influential people in your industry.
It’s in these things that your niche comes to life.