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The secret to selling water management

September 4, 2014 -  By

Liquid Technologies uses everything from drones to detailed irrigation audits to sell its water management services.

Chris Husband

Chris Husband

Chris Husband wanted a new toy. And not just any toy—a drone. His friend had used a drone to film his Southern California fishing adventures, and this spring the video caught Husband’s attention at just the right time.

Husband, co-owner and president of Glendale, Ariz.-based Liquid Technologies, wanted to produce a marketing video to impress a potential client for his irrigation business. The man was the president of a homeowners association (HOA). He also happened to own a visual marketing firm.

So Husband bought a drone and dazzled the HOA president with something he could appreciate: a marketing video featuring drone-captured aerial footage of the community.

Husband shot the video Memorial Day. By mid-July, about seven weeks later, Liquid Technologies secured a 12-month management agreement with the HOA and was installing controllers on the property.

Husband and his Liquid Technologies partner, Co-owner Tom Foley, now use the drone video to pitch the concept of wise water management to landscape contractors, commercial clients and high-end property owners. In Arizona, where water resources are scarce, water conservation is crucial. Nonetheless, getting clients to understand the importance of water management isn’t easy and requires a strategic and innovative marketing approach.

Husband and Foley continue to build Liquid Technologies’ client base, and the burgeoning company, founded in 2012, turned its first profit in 2013 on revenue of about $300,000, Husband says.

Why sell water management?

Husband first realized the need for efficient irrigation practices as a water management specialist for Horizon Distributors’ West Coast region, where he worked with landscape contractors on developing water conservation programs.

“I saw a void there because it seemed (contractors’) primary focus was mow, blow and go,” says Husband, who worked at Horizon for 16 years. “There wasn’t an emphasis on water management.”

The opportunity to fill this market need prompted Husband and Foley to join forces. Foley’s maintenance firm, which he helmed for 17 years, was among Husband’s Horizon clients. When Foley sold his business in October 2011, he approached Husband about collaborating on a water management business.

The longtime associates saw a gap between property owners’ water management needs and the services landscape contractors were willing or able to provide. “Landscape contractors didn’t know how to sell a project; they didn’t know how to sell a return-on-investment package,” Husband says. “They didn’t know how to analyze the historical water usage or how much money they could save the customer by doing specific capital improvements to a project.”

Initially, Foley and Husband planned to sell and install controllers. But it wasn’t long before the firm evolved into an irrigation consulting and management business. About 50 percent of Liquid Technologies’ business involves working with landscape contractors in one way or another. Some hire Husband and Foley as consultants; others subcontract the actual water conservation work to Liquid Technologies.

The rest of the company’s business involves working directly with commercial property owners or, to a lesser degree, high-end residential clients who have higher-than-average irrigation needs.

How to sell it

Liquid Technologies invested $900 into a drone and camera to create a marketing video.

Liquid Technologies invested $900 into
a drone and camera
to create a marketing video. Photo: Liquid Technologies.

One of the most important aspects of their sales strategy is an irrigation audit. The audit begins with a water efficiency assessment. Liquid Technologies places receptacles, known as “catch cans,” throughout an irrigation zone. The cans collect water while the irrigation system is running, revealing disparities in water distribution.

The company then displays the data in a worksheet that includes critical irrigation information, such as sprinkler type, zone and gallons per minute. A color-coded section displays the efficiency rate of each sprinkler type.

The Liquid Technologies team also walks the entire property to check for missing or faulty system parts and compiles the information collected into a comprehensive irrigation site report. A map of the system and irrigation controller charts are included as well, empowering landscape contractors to manage the system more effectively.

Another important piece of the marketing puzzle is a water budget that displays potential savings for clients. In determining the water budget, the company factors in moisture loss, irrigation system efficiency, square footage of the property and plant types.

Creative marketing wins

Husband focuses his marketing efforts on larger commercial clients such as HOAs. When it comes to water management services, commercial properties have a stronger return on investment than residential properties, he says. “If you’re not spending at least $1,000 a month on water, you can’t afford me,” Husband says. “There is no return on it. I’d rather work with a landscaper who is managing 100 of those homes.”

When Husband sells his service to landscape contractors, he stresses the benefits of increased customer retention. In Arizona, where low-bid contractors are winning many of the maintenance jobs, water conservation services can help contractors differentiate themselves from competitors and further satisfy existing clients, Husband says.

Husband adds contractors and other industry professionals should consider more creative approaches to selling their services. The drone and camera Husband used in his pitch to the housing association cost him approximately $900. It’s been a wise and comparatively small investment. Already the video has reaped Liquid Technologies two new clients. Before the drone, Liquid Technologies spent about $20,000 on traditional advertising with little return, Husband says.

His advice to others looking to improve their marketing strategy: “Don’t be scared. Try something new.”

“The historical way of marketing hasn’t seemed to work for me,” he adds. “I’m trying to stand out and do something different.”

Katz is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.

About the Author:

Katz is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.

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