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High Performance Lighting
06-10-2007, 11:09 AM
There has been more than one post that I've read where someone has said that they demo with generic off brand fixtures but offer a quality brand name product to install with their system. I don't understand this logic. If I'm looking at a demo and a serious buyer then I want to see the actual fixture/effect I'm going to get. In my mind I'm going to be thinking this guy wants me to buy his fixtures yet he's too cheap to invest in them. I'm all for using low cost ways of doing things that won't get detected and work and last but for God's sake man invest in your business!!!!:confused:

extlights
06-10-2007, 12:28 PM
Good point and I think this thread could bring up some interesting discussions. Everyone who starts a business has a vision on where they think or want the business to go. Some might want to keep it a one or two man operation, others might want to have multiple employees..etc. Like Mike said, and I totally agree, you have to invest into your business.

We still do demos, and will probably continue to do so for awhile. We have about 3k invested in our demo kit. We use the same fixtures in our kit that we would install at the clients home. We also bring new fixtures in the box so the customer can see what exactly they will look like when first installed due to the fact that the demo fixtures (copper fixtures) already have the patina. This way the customers can see how the look of these fixtures will change after they've been weathered.

High Performance Lighting
06-10-2007, 03:43 PM
We still do demos, and will probably continue to do so for awhile. We have about 3k invested in our demo kit. We use the same fixtures in our kit that we would install at the clients home. We also bring new fixtures in the box so the customer can see what exactly they will look like when first installed due to the fact that the demo fixtures (copper fixtures) already have the patina. This way the customers can see how the look of these fixtures will change after they've been weathered.
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Excellent , professionalism at it's highest level.

Pro-Scapes
06-10-2007, 05:21 PM
I know your reffering to me on this. I do plan to change all my demo fixtures over to "real" fixtures. So far my demo fixtures have served well and it also gives me an oppurtunity to show clients the difference in grade altho it may not be the right way to do it. Our pathlighting for demos consits of a few different ones. Some Cast and some Kichler popular ones so we can show clients hands on some of the options in pathlighting.

I guess I should go ahead and order some Kichler bullets for my demo kit. I DO carry Cast and Kichler bullets and some other fixtures to show clients on sales calls. I also carry so called "top of the line" fixtures installed by reputable landscapers in my area that have failed within 2 years to show the clients.

When I purchased the Dabmar lights for my demo kit we were invested in other things. I needed a demo kit in a pinch and this fit my budget. All of us do not have 6 figure operating budgets. Come to think of it every job save 1 that I have demoed has sold. Not one prospect has ever said anything about my demo lights. If im not mistaken its actually the same spots used in the cast demo kit ?

High Performance Lighting
06-10-2007, 05:30 PM
We dont all have 6 figure operating budgets
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A demo kit of fixtures used on projects costs in the 6 figures these days? Good thing I don't do demo's then. ;)

Pro-Scapes
06-10-2007, 05:44 PM
We dont all have 6 figure operating budgets
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A demo kit of fixtures used on projects costs in the 6 figures these days? Good thing I don't do demo's then. ;)

no but it just wasnt in our budget at the time. My situation is also completly different that anyone else I know. We just found it more important to spend our budget on other things at the time. We have slowly added to our demo kit and we will eventually replace the bullets. I am going to try and close my next 3 projects without mentioning a demo. They are coming off a refferal and all have existing lighting systems that leave much to be desired.

klkanders
06-10-2007, 06:56 PM
Good post!
I agree with showing what you will be selling. Too many options thrown at a customer may confuse them. I do understand Billy that you were pushing the effect and not the fixture ...your intentions were good. I have yet to do a demo...I have no "kit". If someone wanted me to do one I would but all I have heard so far after explaining the system, giving prices and answering questions is......."Go ahead and do what you think is best I'm sure we will like it".

David Gretzmier
06-10-2007, 08:06 PM
My demo kit includes the lights we use, but I'm Curious- how many lights do you guys demo, or a better question- how many effects do you guys demo?

I've only done a few, as I'm still kinda new at this, but I basically have a few spots and a path, and I show what different bulbs do on a plant, wall, and trees, maybe climb a ladder and show a moonlight, and show the throw of a path for a walkway to get a feel for the spacing the homeowner wants.

If I see something neat I'll accent it, but I am only trying to be there an hour and a half tops. once I plug in the transformer and run the wire, I really only want to do a few lights. give them a taste, and If that don't do it, then they aint my client.

What do you guys carry and how many fixtures/effects do you show at the demo?

BPC
06-10-2007, 08:48 PM
I have seen a couple different versions of a demo kit out here. One guy I know has about 10-12 well lights he sets out for up lighting and thats it.
While others have a full lighting kit that has it all. The last kit I put together had 10 bullet lights and 6 path lights of different styles and sizes, all of it Cast since that is my primary manufacturer.
I keep catalogs and product sheets for other manufacturers to show customers when we go over the final designs.

TXNSLighting
06-10-2007, 09:40 PM
My demo kit consists of 12 wells, 2 different paths a bullet and a spot. all unique. i want to order a few more from kichler, and some from fx. anything to help the sell.

Lite4
06-10-2007, 10:32 PM
My demo kit consists of 5 kichler bullets and 5 kichler path lights. 1- 300 watt kichler transformer and 2 of the new kichler quick connect hubs for quick set up and break down after. I made custom weights for the 1/2" nipples on the spot and path lights to anchor them down while still allowing me to move them about freely without dealing with a stake or disturbing the homeowners bark or gravel. I use simple butt splices at the lights that set up and come down in a snap. I also made a custom stand for the transformer. I keep 2-100' runs of 10 and 12 guage as well as,50' and 25' runs of 12/2. I have 10- 25' leads with the kichler quick connect for the hub on one end and a butt connector on the other. I also keep a container with bulbs, t-3s and mr-16s with spreads from 12-60 in voltages from 20-35 watts. Thats about it. I put it all in a water tight rolling hard case I can just throw in the back of my truck and go.

Mike M
06-11-2007, 01:05 AM
If I'm looking at a demo and a serious buyer then I want to see the actual fixture/effect I'm going to get.

I offer demo's to show the effects. When I did that the other night, I pointed out my really nice-looking brass fixtures, and said, I won't sell these, they're really nice, but I'll only sell fixtures with a decent warranty and architectural spec's. Then I left them with two catalogs to look at many choices of finishes, path lights, specialty lights.

The guy came to my house to see my own install, and I showed him exactly what I could put in at his house. It was cool, I was able to pop the lid off a hub and show him my connections, I showed him my transformers and explained multi-taps, and we looked at my specialty lights, etc. I showed him my new fancy spade from Gempler's.

I'm doing his install this week. This was the guy that only wanted to hire me to dig his trench.

I agree that we need to show them what a good fixture is, but this guy and his wife were wowed by seeing their own property lit up at night. Besides, most people don't know what a good fixture looks like, but they all understand the warranties.

I think you're right about the fixtures, though. I could at least have something like one Cast bullet for putting in their hands.

I'm still trying to save for a Nikon. I'm getting a logo at the moment. Just spent 300 joining the Chamber. Need my logo on my truck. List goes on.
18 year old daughter needs gas in her tank. Wife drinks all my beer. :cry:

Mike

extlights
06-11-2007, 01:37 AM
We carry a 900w multi-tap transformer on a cart, 13 well lights, 10 pathlights, 8 bullets, 4 deck lights, and an underwater light. We also carry a couple of specialty fixtures, so we bring close to 40 fixtures to each demo. Our entire system is wired up with outlets. The fixtures have plugs on the end of them and simply plug right into the outlets on our wire. It's a very quick and effective way for us to set up and take down the kit. In the summer it doesn't get dark until late, so we make sure that we don't keep the customer out too late because of a long set up time.

I don't like bringing manufacturers catalogs with us. I want to sell them on us and what we can do for them. There are so many different styles of fixtures out there that a customer could take forever figuring out which style they want. On top of that, it could just plain confuse them. We do use top quality products and make sure the customer knows this, but we're not there to sell decorative fixtures...we sell the professional design, effect, proper installation and most importantly....us.

Pro-Scapes
06-11-2007, 08:53 AM
If people want specialty decorative fixtures the price climbs... quickly. We had one client take 2 weeks to pick out paths. They researched all the manufactures well . I special ordered some... They didnt care for them in person... They were happy to pay the 25% restock... pain in the butt... They are happy now tho and it landed me 2 installs last summer.

Mike M
06-11-2007, 09:29 AM
If people want specialty decorative fixtures the price climbs... quickly. We had one client take 2 weeks to pick out paths.

You guys make good points. It's starting to become apparent that the specialty fixtures are not as efficiently produced nor bulk-priced, and as far as I'm concerned, I don't need to pay the mark-up for custom-colored special finishes either, unless it's what the customer wants.

Why intoduce them to all those choices and profit-eating factors? I'll keep the catalogs at home, where I can use fixtures to solve problems and maximize the potentials of my designs.

Guys, I know I bring up a lot of stuff for having little experience, but I just want to start off strong and right. The more I think about it, the more I want to be using the best methods and materials with long warranties, and I want to put my name on everything. I can't afford my name etched on fixtures like big G, but that's awesome, and I'm thinking about getting a small brass tag with my logo. This could be attached to demo fixtures, on my equipment bag, and on the transformers, etc.

I'm getting ahead of myself, but these ideas could be in my medium-term business plan. For now, I need to do the best work I can and build on referrals.

Mike

extlights
06-11-2007, 11:25 AM
We had real nice weatherproof stickers made up years ago with our name, address and phone number on them and we place them on the outside of the transformer. That's the extent of our name displayed anywhere on the lighting components. I think about how Mike G. does business with his own fixtures, and it has given me some ideas when it comes to branding. While I posted before that I wasn't sold on having fixtures made for us, it's not something that is out of the question in the near future. It's worked well for HPL, and obviously he's done a good job at branding himself out in SoCal.

What we're working on now is doing a new way of business. Eliminating the bad rap that contractors get, and giving our potential customers that piece of mind of knowing that we are the company for them. We're going to spend the money and change all of our flyers, website, cards...etc. Now don't get me wrong...our current customers are very loyal to us and will continue to be. This is for future business. The same principles will still apply to our existing clients, we are just going to market ourselves in a different way than every other lighting company around here.

Like I said earlier in this thread, everyone has an idea and vision on where they want their oun business to climb too. Mike G. does all the work himself and is very successful by doing this. We have a few employees that work for us and this has worked well for us...granted one of the owners are always out working at the site as well to make sure the project is installed to our standards. We would still like to grow further though and will invest the time and money to do so.

David Gretzmier
06-12-2007, 01:28 AM
I have to echo that vision of my own fixtures, but for a different reason- on more an more bids I do for Christmas lights and Landscape lights, potential clients know what stuff costs us. it's erie. I had a customer today quote me on how much I spend on wire, he knew it almost to the penny per foot.

I have a temporary advantage in the Christmas lights, as I get those out of state and you have to pay to purchase from this one distributor, and my stuff is pretty unique. but for how long?

ALOT of folks are internet savvy, and wealthy people more so. I've had two people this year print off a color picture of the fixture I was proposing to use, at a price pretty close to what I was paying. INTERNET !!

As soon as it makes any kind of economic sense, I am getting a my own set of heavy fixtures that they can't find on the internet or ebay. I figure I have a few years to learn what features I like or dislike, and I can perfect the line after that.

High Performance Lighting
06-12-2007, 02:07 AM
I have to echo that vision of my own fixtures, but for a different reason- on more an more bids I do for Christmas lights and Landscape lights, potential clients know what stuff costs us. it's erie. I had a customer today quote me on how much I spend on wire, he knew it almost to the penny per foot.

I have a temporary advantage in the Christmas lights, as I get those out of state and you have to pay to purchase from this one distributor, and my stuff is pretty unique. but for how long?

ALOT of folks are internet savvy, and wealthy people more so. I've had two people this year print off a color picture of the fixture I was proposing to use, at a price pretty close to what I was paying. INTERNET !!

As soon as it makes any kind of economic sense, I am getting a my own set of heavy fixtures that they can't find on the internet or ebay. I figure I have a few years to learn what features I like or dislike, and I can perfect the line after that.


Finest thing since sliced bread. If your manufacturer or distributor won't look out for you and protect your margins then you must take action and do it yourself. that's what I did and there is no looking back.:dancing:

Mike M
06-12-2007, 09:07 AM
If your manufacturer or distributor won't look out for you and protect your margins then you must take action and do it yourself. that's what I did and there is no looking back.:dancing:

That's not just professionalism, that's good business. One thing from my perspective on design/build in outdoor lighting--I am dumbfounded by how much the manufacturers and distributors cut into the profit margin.

FOLD already realized this and offered us off-name, imported, well-made brass fixtures, at a big discount, they got their own wire, and they sell those Pentech transformers. Just a few problems: I want to use UL and warranties as selling points, and I need spec's for architectural review boards.

I can see equating some profit loss to "insurance" for warranties. And I don't mind giving a distributor a piece of my profit margin, as long as I get service with good technical advice, and some market news and business gossip.

However, the profit margin is a significant issue. When I hear someone tell me how much they grossed, it freaks me out when I hear what their net was. That's why many landscapers have their own nursery as soon as they are big enough. And I'm certainly not going to buy lighting supplies from local irrigation companies that special-order everything, and they don't know squat about lighting.

I predict it's a matter of time before one manufacturer decides to let us buy direct. This is the age of the Internet, and it's the best way for American companies to compete with Chinese products.

If I want Vista to powder-coat my client's favorite color on a set of fixtures, why should I have to go to an irrigation distributor, tell them what I want, and wait for UPS to send it to them, and then have to drive over to pick it up. That's not a service, that's extra work, and I'm paying extra for it.

If Cast has nailed the product line to a simple selection with spider-splices (awesome business model), then there is no benefit to giving a cut to a "skilled" distributer. The product is practically pre-determined and I have no questions for the dude at the counter. And since I have no local Cast dealer, add to that the shipping of all that bronze and wire to my house--redundancy, and more money for UPS.

Mike G is a CEO. Not only does he get a wider profit margin for each sale/installation, he buys a fixture that meets his exact spec's, and he has some awesome branding with his name it. Talk about a fixture/demo that says a lot to the customer (I'd hate to be his competition).

While I'm on the subject, I think manufacturers are making a mistake by thinking all irrigation guys are and will be lighting guys. Irrigation is a science done by planning with predictable formulas, and manufacturers now offer free custom design for systems via Internet (see toro). Irrigation is a specialized, technical craft. Lighting is an artistic medium. The technical end is only one part of that medium.

Okay, sorry, I got way too much time on my hands and a good coffee buzz.

Mike M

steveparrott
06-15-2007, 02:05 PM
A few notes about the topics here:

The reason CAST doesn't put CAST lights in ther demo kits is because the kit would be too heavy and expensive - over 200 lbs and over double the cost.

I don't believe manufacturers should sell direct to contractors - ever. In other posts we've talked about the value that good distributors bring to the table. In addition, it's an unfair competitive advantage for some contractors to get the distributor's price. I want the 2-person lighting company to be able to compete with the 50-person company - that's one of the beauties of the landscape lighting business.

steveparrott
06-15-2007, 02:14 PM
Another note. The reason why irrigation supply houses have dominated landscape lighting distribution is because of the maturity of the irrigation industry. Of all green industry supply centers, the irrigation guys have done the best job in providing quality distribution centers aimed primarily at the green industry professional. Commercial nurseries are second, they are fast becoming major suppliers of landscape lighting.

Irrigation installers have taken to lighting big time because the irrigation industry has plateaued. It's become harder and harder for irrigation guys to maintain good profit margins so they turn to lighting.

Mike M
06-15-2007, 09:30 PM
Absolutely.

I just went nuts because the only transformer one local irrigation distributor had was not a multi-tap, and another major irrigation distributor in the area, advertizing lighting, had no transformers in stock.

Also, another distributor, an international B2B and retail lighting store, with landscape lights displayed on the floor, and with a shopping area/warehouse for contractors, is only selling wire by the foot. As indicated in a post of mine, they wanted 1.96 a foot for #10! They also told me all transformers would have to be special ordered. The quotes for those were over-priced, also.

Anyway, I am now happy with my current long distance distributor. They specialize in lighting and have lots in stock, etc. I normally like dealing in person, and looking at a product before I pay for it. However, technology changes things and I have to adapt. I'll use my computer to see what they have in stock, I'll google the fixture for images and spec's, and I'll use my phone to place orders.

Thanks,

Mike