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How To Compete With The Internet

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Maybe we shouldn’t…

Maybe those Mother Fathers should compete with us

Somewhere along the way, when these e-commerce powerhouses first came about, they managed to convince us that we would need to compete with them to maintain market share. So we did, and in doing that, we fell right into their trap. The Internet giants had tricked Mom & Pop companies into not being Mom & Pop companies anymore. They lured us into a head to head battle on their playing field, and we found ourselves in the unfamiliar and potentially unprofitable territory, in an attempt to compete with internet pricing ?

Compete with internet pricing Photo Credit: Dave Tisch Tischhauser

Who are they to think they can hold us at gunpoint with a price gun?

Competing on price is a war we can’t win. Their path of destruction already includes retail goliaths such as Toys R Us and K-mart. Others that are fighting to keep their heads above water include: Sears, Macy’s, JC Penny’s, Nordstrom’s, and the list goes on and on. If these mega-retailers are getting their asses kicked by Amazon Prime, how is a pool service company or a pool store going to survive?

“How to” Compete With The Internet

I have seen dozens of “How to” articles covering everything from suggesting that we refuse to install, to adding an “Amazon Tax” on equipment. Others have suggested offering same-day delivery and focusing on quality, and we should focus on quality, but with online companies now offering pool service and equipment installation, is that going to be enough? It is a huge problem and a heated subject for pool service companies when their customers can find items on the internet at better prices than they can get from distribution.

Feeling Froggy? ? Go ahead, Leap!

If we intend to hold our own, we are going to have to make e-commerce fight our fight. We need to offer something that the internet cannot, no matter how hard they try. We need to kick it old school and compete Mom & Pop style. I’m not talking about merely focussing on customer service, I’m kinda hoping that we are already doing that. I’m talking about that old school turn of the century general store experience that made a consumer feel as if they were your only customer in every interaction. Not just customer service but Personal Customer Service. This is how we win.

compete with Internet Pool Stores that have no overhead costs

There is research available that supports this. A study conducted by pwc-consumer-intelligence shows that 86% of consumers are willing to spend more on a product if it is accompanied by excellent customer experience. Yes, I said experience. This goes beyond customer service. We are starting to see that we are on the cusp of a turn back to a desire for Personal Service over a low price, and it looks as though this trend is gaining momentum.

Similar Story: Afraid to Raise Your Price for Pool Service? ?

People don’t want to do business with a company, they want to do business with a person, so be a person. Heck, I’ve even been considering taking a step from the realtors and adding a picture to my business cards. I know a bunch of y’all just said “ef that!” in your heads, or maybe out loud, but times are changing, and folks would rather see a face than a logo.


I know that the guy that services my ac unit is married with two daughters and a son because they use a family picture for their Christmas cards. Post a picture every now and then of your kid up to bat, or with the fish, they just reeled in. Join local “Word of Mouth” groups on social media and post about when you have a great customer experience (Also find the “search this group” prompt in the left sidebar and type in the words “Swimming Pool” to see how many questions you can answer and offer your contact info to help.)

Are you Sterile?

Don’t create a sterile web presence. You should have your name on your website. Don’t limit a picture of yourself to the “About me” tab alone. Add a photo that welcomes someone to the page they just pulled up. The same holds true with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Pools are not all you do, post pictures of things people can relate to. Think of your customer base. Mirror your market. Stay away from stock photos, use your own. Post things that state you can do things the internet cannot!

If you meet with a Manufacturer’s Rep Poolside, Let people know that you do that ? Rudy Stankowitz (Me) and Tom Perugini (BioLab rep)

Know your customer as you would know a friend. Learn your customer’s names, if you have a ton, learn as many as you can, and greet them by name and like your happy to see them. Ask how their son did in that curling tournament they told you he’d be in. Did you buy the boat you were talking about? People like to talk about themselves, and what people talk about are things that are important to them. Shut the F**k Up & Listen‼ If you listen to what they are saying, they will tell you exactly what they want to purchase and the essential things in their lives that you should ask them about at your next interaction. Obviously, use some common sense here. Asking someone how their colonoscopy went ?‍♂️ just because they mentioned it to you is one where you may just want to pass.

Are you patronizing me?

If they’re doing business with you, you should be doing business with them. Does your customer own a local business? When you need whatever product or service it is that they offer, you should be securing that from them. This scores buku points in building loyalty. If you just thought in your head “yeah, but my customer charges more than other stores.” – please go back to the top of the article and read your way down again. ?

Internet Companies can be many things, but they cannot be you.


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Rudy Stankowitz is a 30-year veteran of the swimming pool industry and President/CEO of Aquatic Facility Training & Consultants