By Karen R. Smith
Ranting and raving
Here in Tucson, where it seems like the powers that be have neither repaired nor built a road since the Eisenhower administration, yet in the ensuing years they gave out a lot of building permits: we’re nearing a million happy citizens. Suddenly, the politicians noticed that the entire road network (such as it is) is crumbling. With much fanfare touting that discovery, they began to work on our roadways—all of them at once. Getting from point A to point B is virtually impossible; my own commute is seven whole miles; it now takes 45 minutes. You do the math.
I bring this up here as a sterling example of the much-discussed infrastructure decay plaguing America. If the water system hereabouts is in the same shape as the roadways (and I am sure it is; after all, the same crackerjack administration is responsible for both) we have significant problems on the horizon. Those problems represent a wealth of opportunities to the residential water treatment professional!
The rise of bottled water consumption can, in part, be laid at the failure of this industry to successfully advertise its wares and abilities to the majority of consumers. Today, the choice is simple: continue to hide your light under the proverbial bushel basket or get out there and acquaint folks with what you do and how you do it.
My own simple straw poll—taken at a local park on a lovely fall afternoon—indicated that few people had any notion at all that they could be getting ‘bottled water quality’ at their very own kitchen sink. Everyone I chatted with regularly consumed bottled water; each of those bottled water customers noted that the water here in Tucson doesn’t taste very good (hence the fact that they buy bottled water rather than drink from the tap). Each of those individuals was surprised when I explained that by installing a water softener and an RO system in my house, we have purified water that tastes wonderful. They were even more surprised when I explained that it made our clothes brighter in the laundry and our showers better for our skin.
If a magazine editor can visit a park on a sunny day and talk about water treatment, so can you. Our local chamber of commerce has regular opportunities for members to tell other members about their business; scout troops need sponsors for just about every activity; the senior centers welcome speakers; PTA meetings and gatherings of other community groups need speakers. Get out there!
It seems the reason for the relative ignorance hereabouts is migration. Despite the slow down in the national homebuilding market, boomers are continuing to retire (about 3,000 turn 60 each and every day, I’m told) and many choose to do that in the sunny southwest. Housing prices are reasonable in comparison to other sunny places (notably southern California). The City of Phoenix reports that 2,000 new residents settle in the Valley of the Sun each and every week. Many—if not most!—of those new Phoenicians have never seen a water softener or an RO unit. They come from places where the tap water was acceptable ‘as is’. If you are not telling them about your products, who is? Don’t count on the folks at the home builder’s design center to adequately represent what you and your technologies can offer the buyer. At best, they can offer your brochures to the prospective homeowner, but obviously cannot answer the questions that will arise. If your products are being offered by contractors and builders in your area, your people should be part of the selection/design center process. Who better to guide them to the right choice for their needs?
Of course, I’m focusing here on the southwest…but the same applies for different reasons elsewhere in the country. Whether lead problems in Washington DC, tannins in Florida, rust in NYC or iron in Georgia—your products solve problems ranging from the simple to the complex. But you have to get out there and acquaint people with the possibilities. While you may not have the advertising budget of the folks in the bottled water industry, you have local opportunities and a community presence—two things money cannot buy. Take advantage of that and get the word out!
I’ll be doing exactly that on behalf of California water treatment dealers in the months ahead. As the new President of the Pacific Water Quality Association, I plan to constantly keep the consumer media aware of and informed about this industry. Both in terms of the health of family members and in the sense of sustainable choices and good citizenship, water softeners make good sense—and great water!