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    Credit: PHOTO BY MEGAN PARKS

    Debra Pulliam

People often ask me how Pulliam Pools has survived for 96 years, and I always give the same answer.

The key to our business for nearly a century is a detailed marketing plan, including a networking strategy, which we track and modify. Networking is such a key component of our success that we carefully cultivate it and train our employees to embrace our plan.

The point of networking is to have your company’s name come up whenever a contact, their family, neighbor or business associate mentions that they may want a new pool, renovation, related product or pool service.

Pulliam’s networking crosses a number of different areas.

For starters, we’re heavily involved in local Chamber of Commerce activities. As chairman of the board for the Weatherford (Texas) Chamber, I was able to lead monthly breakfast meetings, attend multiple events, and participate in board meetings with top members of the community. By the end of my six-year term, I had sold more than 70 pools from my networking at these events.

There’s also BNI, a business networking group that has been instrumental in training me on how to improve my company’s brand with a 60-second “Marketing Minute.” Through my one-year involvement with the group, I made multiple contacts and sold three pools, three renovations, and a great deal of retail and service-related work.

Whenever I have a doctor’s appointment, I carry a brochure with me. As soon as the doctor comes in the room, I say, “Before we begin, are you in the market for a swimming pool or backyard beautification? If so, I am about to do business with you, so would you consider doing business with me?” I have sold three pools to three different doctors. One was about to sign a contract with a competitor that evening. He agreed with my question, and gave me three hours to design and price a pool based on a sketch he provided. He loved what we came up with and Pulliam got the job, which also led to referrals to his physician friends.

We produce an annual Pulliam Pools Magazine that is direct mailed to targeted zip codes. We print 3,000 more than we mail so we can strategically place them at every chamber event, function and business meeting, in homes with new owners, and any other place we can think of. My hair dresser is in an exclusive property that leases to personal businesses, such as those that offer massage and facials. Each one has a magazine rack outside their door. Every time I have an appointment, I come early, put some of my magazines in those racks and mix them in with the others. Not only can people see the projects we do, but they can hold on to the magazines and dream. The leads and sales from those magazines are astounding — it’s not uncommon for customers to come to our showroom with a magazine they received two or three years ago.

Networking is about never being afraid to ask for business. It is also about listening to others and what they have to offer. When a group of professionals assemble, everyone has the same objective — make contacts and expand your business. It is equally important that you respect others’ needs and goals. When you give business to others, they reciprocate.

And by the way, here is my marketing minute: “Hi, I am Debra Smith, president of Pulliam Pools in Fort Worth, Texas. Pulliam is America’s oldest pool builder and we have been recognized as a Top 50 pool builder in the nation by Pool & Spa News magazine for the past 12 years. We can transform your backyard to a place where your family loves being together. My ideal customer is a family who wants to provide a place where the kids can bring their friends to play, where people can be active together, and where the backyard is a usable location. Pulliam Pools would be honored to build your outdoor stay-ca-tion destination!”