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Offering Irrigation to the End Consumer through Partnerships

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When it comes to curb appeal, most homeowners who pay even the slightest attention to detail know that a lush, green lawn and well-planned landscape make a big impact. In fact, an attractive landscape ranks as one of the top features that homebuyers consider when they’re in the market for a new property.

Yet, homeowners or building contractors seeking landscape design-build firms that can also handle irrigation work will likely end up disappointed – most just don’t offer irrigation services. Their other option is to hire an independent irrigation specialist for their project’s needs, but finding one that works well with other companies presents its own challenges in regards to coordinating design plans and establishing other project and business logistics.

With a market challenge comes an opportunity, however, and savvy landscape business owners should recognize this as exactly that. By working with the right outside irrigation specialist and structuring their business accordingly, they can dominate their market, deliver a more complete experience to their customers, and grow their businesses significantly through incremental sales.

Most Landscape Firms Aren’t Set Up for Irrigation Work

Many business owners in the design-build space tend to shy away from irrigation work, and understandably so. Irrigation is a highly specialized profession that involves particular skillsets, niche tools, and water science expertise.

Most owners spend their time and energy building a dedicated team of in-house workers capable of designing and installing hardscapes and plantings. Invariably, as their hardscape businesses grow, the projects they are hired to create become more intricate, incorporating a wider variety of outdoor living features. Fire, water, light, shade structures…you name it. Often on the fly, owners are faced with the decision of whether to tackle the extra work in-house, find a subcontractor to work with, or tell the end consumer that they won’t be able to handle all aspects of their project.

For elements critically integrated into hardscapes, such as inground pools, many landscape contractors are fully aware that the work is outside of their scope and have formed long-standing partnerships with pool builders in their service areas. Whether or not they subcontract out the pool specialist to offer the end consumer a seamless experience varies amongst businesses and geographical areas. For features like landscape lighting, it’s becoming commonplace for owners to educate their staff and handle the installation of outdoor lighting in-house.

But what about irrigation systems?

How landscape contractors handle the growing residential demand for irrigation remains largely undetermined. Customers are often unaware that proper irrigation is critical to the longevity of their property, and are prime targets for educative selling. Those that are aware stand to be overwhelmed by the many different types of irrigation systems out there. Resourceful companies can help eliminate this confusion by bundling irrigation work into their landscape design/build offerings.

Why Partner with an Irrigation Specialist?

Outsourcing is the most sensible way for landscape contractors to manage growing consumer demand for irrigation systems. This is especially true for those contractors who, year after year, are increasing the average size of the project they typically sell. Testing the waters with a strategic partnership first allows business owners to remain focused on core competencies while also addressing the overall needs of the end consumer. After all, being recognized by potential customers as the landscaping company that delivers a seamless, single-point-of-contact experience for large scale outdoor living projects is certainly not a bad thing.

But it’s even better than that. The benefits to the homeowner – and, in turn, the landscape contractor – don’t stop at installation.

Plantings and lawn areas are substantial portions of large-scale landscaping projects and keeping those softscape elements alive and healthy after installation is a huge undertaking. Ask any landscaper how hard it is to get customers to water the plants and turf they install, and they will probably have a very fresh story about just such a customer situation. Let’s face it: The modern homeowner is too busy to go outside and water anything, let alone hundreds of new shrubs, perennials, and trees.

Poor maintenance habits generate numerous repeat job site visits, frustrate customers, cause warranty issues, and waste hours of customer service time. All of which can effectively be eliminated by suggesting a proper irrigation system during the sales process. Today’s nearly automatic systems offer the consumer priceless peace of mind at a line item cost that is incrementally small compared to that of the overall project.

Strategic outsourcing allows landscape contractors to avoid the would be extensive training for their in-house teams, while still affording them the opportunity to offer the service to their end customers. With the right partnership, businesses can focus on their strengths while leaving the design, installation, and maintenance of the deep root watering systems to the experts.

Finding the Right Specialist

Just as irrigation work, in and of itself, is highly specialized, irrigation technicians work in very specific segments of the industry, from agricultural to residential and commercial properties. In order to establish the proper partnership, business owners will want to look for the most relevant business in their service area. Contractors should inform the specialist of the nature of their business up front to ensure it’s the right fit.

The irrigation partner of choice should employ technicians that are certified by a WaterSense labeled program. WaterSense®, a voluntary partnership sponsored by the Environmental Protection, is designed to help consumers and businesses save water and reduce energy costs. Products that have been WaterSense labeled are certified to use 20 percent less water while working just as well as comparable products. This is incredibly important for the health of our environment, and also resonates with the savvy, eco-friendly end consumer that makes up the demographic likely to purchase large-scale landscaping projects.

Healthier Landscapes, More Satisfied Customers, and an Increased Bottom Line

Irrigation systems hold a critical place in large-scale landscape projects. Based on the growing demand for low maintenance and energy-efficient homes both inside and out, forward-thinking business owners have a tremendous opportunity to satisfy their customers. Armed with the right strategic partnership, design-build contractors can boost incremental sales on their way to creating happier customers.

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