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View Full Version : A shift is happening before us


The Lighting Geek
10-24-2010, 09:22 PM
We could talk about the differences between halogen and LED forever.

When I started looking into LED, I first was concerned with a warranty and also the 'look' of the light it produces. I must say that I have made subtle changes in the way I light my subjects due the differences in 'brushes'. I am 100% LED these days unless asked to do halogen, and some still want it. But as time goes by I am realizing where the industry is going. I believe we will stop using halogen as a reference, ie: 20 watt equivalent. We should all know, but sometime in the future we will NEED to understand lumen, foot-candle, foot lamberts, etc. to better know what we are using.

There is a huge shift taking place, where as lighting specialists, we are going to be less concerned with the technical methods you use to connect wire, figure out voltage drop, and more concerned with the subtleties of light it self. Let's face it, no one likes the fact that LED and it's voltage management makes the worst technician equal to you, on a technical level. The gardener will be able to do the same job as we do for half the price. You will no longer be able to use the crutch of voltage drop to differentiate yourself and sell jobs, it is about to become extinct. They have LED fixtures in Home Depot right now, and they will get better at making a cheap fixtures.

We need to focus on the artistry of what we do to sell jobs, whether it be halogen or LED. When we can understand our 'brushes' and 'paint palette' better, we will produce better portraits. Hone your craft, it is what I have been doing for 25 years. I cannot read enough, talk enough, listen enough about landscape lighting. Challenge yourselves daily on improving your 'craft'. I know many of us do already, but we also get lazy and comfortable and quit looking around to better ourselves.

I use my camera to sell work. It points out the flaws perfectly for my clients to see by accentuating them. I am on a mission to better my photography, and hence my lighting.

I take fixtures I would not normally use and challenge myself 'what if this were the only fixture, how would I light this job?' I have learned many tricks this way. Nate Mullen once showed me a job where the entire job was done with Starbursts, because he wanted see how it would work. I never forgot that.

The point is, never never settle. Learn the technical aspects of light. It is fun. Sell the artistry you create, talk about your end result, the magic. Change before you have to. In the end it won't matter what you are using for fixtures.

Ok, I am done with my mental dump LOL

RLI Electric
10-24-2010, 10:32 PM
Tommy
Outstanding post

GreenLight
10-25-2010, 12:28 AM
I presented almost this exact same notion at a vista seminar this summer. I didn't get into the ins and outs of the painting with light topic, but basically simply asked is LED landscape lighting ultimately going to be the beast that makes this a race to the bottom. There is no denying that LED is the market of the future and in many places it's the here and now. Like you said, it will definitely lead to a huge surge in homeowner projects and lets face it, it will also hurt the "specialist" that does sub work for landscape companies and the like. Not many landscaping companies will dodge the simplicity of LED the way they do complications of halogen. One home run from a 300 watt trans that powers 30 lights on a daisy chain with plenty of room to spare vs. 6-8 home runs from a 900 watt trans that powers 30 lights with some fairly sophisticated wiring techniques when you are overseeing a 3-4 man crew installing it. Is halogen rocket science? No , but it certainly requires a level of knowledge that can't be acquired in one hour. Im honestly not sure that same argument can be made about LED (talking strictly on the technical side here, not artistic).

I to agree that soon prices will dramatically drop on LED products, especially with the LED lamp market on the rise.

emby
10-25-2010, 04:08 PM
Tommy,

Excellent perspective my friend.

Ken

tadpole
10-25-2010, 04:44 PM
Wonderful!! Excellently stated, Tommy. It is this philosophy that separates the Craftsmen from the contractors. And I am sure that it is more than partly responsible for your success. This philosophy is applicable to any trade and should be adhered to a lot more than it presently is.

Prolightscaper
10-25-2010, 10:58 PM
I respectfully disagree. LED's will have minimal effect on landscape lighting only businesses.

The landscaper and electrician will continue to get the lion's share of the jobs.

Maybe there will be more DIYers but who cares you don't want that business.

The dedicated specialist will still get her share as landscapers in general do not go back for service or repair. This is where the pro can start a relationship and get the new system when the first system goes in the tank because it was installed wrong and the parts were cheap from lack of budget put aside along with the landscape job.

As long as gardeners exist their will always be a market for repair and maintenance will always be needed LED or not.

The same issue that exists today will exist if and when LED's become the norm.

the issue will be how will the dedicated service provider get the project before the landscaper?

Most projects you will not get because the public is uneducated and don't know you exist and the landscaper will give such a sweet deal that the owner will think you are not needed.

Sophisticated high end homeowners who value your expertise and with marketing and good sales techniques that is the only way you can differentiate yourself now and in the future.

So nothing will really change. landscapers and electricians (not all) will screw up just like now because they have no passion for the art just the money.

But make no mistake they will continue to take most of the jobs because they are better positioned to and that is something you must work on real hard if you want to succeed as a stand only landscape lighting co.

David Gretzmier
10-25-2010, 11:52 PM
I agree that LED is the future and we should build a bridge and get over it. But 95% of my Landscape light clients are not going to install fixtures that now come with LED bulbs. perhaps more lawn care guys and landscapers will enter the light field and they will now do it for them. but top 5% income homeowners are not going to wake up one day and discover they now love to dig, whether LED is here or not.

while we may argue the technical merits of connections, that is the number one reason I believe that my landscape lighting market share will continue to grow whether LED or not. For the last 15 years, I continue to fail to have competition that can even get a simple connection right. forget about all the other stuff too. I can't find anyone that can even get basic uplighting on a house right.

If this LED "shift" adds more lawncare, landscapers and electricians and homeowners, I hope these new folks to the field will at least spend 5 minutes doing some research on how to use a grease nut, ace, or lighting shrink.
I doubt that, so now I will be discovering and replacing ruined LED fixtures with black corroded copper wire instead of halogen.

maybe they will spend an hour reading the basics of how to uplight. or moonlight. or safety lighting, or whatever. Since it seems that no one in my 500k population area in my 2 county area has bothered to do so in the past 15 years, I cannot imagine them starting now because LED fixtures are now on the shelves.

Prolightscaper
10-26-2010, 12:02 AM
I agree that LED is the future and we should build a bridge and get over it. But 95% of my Landscape light clients are not going to install fixtures that now come with LED bulbs. perhaps more lawn care guys and landscapers will enter the light field and they will now do it for them. but top 5% income homeowners are not going to wake up one day and discover they now love to dig, whether LED is here or not.

while we may argue the technical merits of connections, that is the number one reason I believe that my landscape lighting market share will continue to grow whether LED or not. For the last 15 years, I continue to fail to have competition that can even get a simple connection right. forget about all the other stuff too. I can't find anyone that can even get basic uplighting on a house right.

If this LED "shift" adds more lawncare, landscapers and electricians and homeowners, I hope these new folks to the field will at least spend 5 minutes doing some research on how to use a grease nut, ace, or lighting shrink.
I doubt that, so now I will be discovering and replacing ruined LED fixtures with black corroded copper wire instead of halogen.

maybe they will spend an hour reading the basics of how to uplight. or moonlight. or safety lighting, or whatever. Since it seems that no one in my 500k population area in my 2 county area has bothered to do so in the past 15 years, I cannot imagine them starting now because LED fixtures are now on the shelves.

There are alot of lazy uncaring and unsafe installers out there and most come from the landscape industry.:nono:

Most will not take the time to make a proper splice or pay the price to purchase one. Electrical tape and red wire nuts are good enough for them.

This has always been a good and a bad thing. Good because they make for alot of repair/replace work. bad because they leave alot of scorched earth behind themselves and make the public skeptical of the industry.

When all you've been exposed to is junk how can you know any better.

Hasn't changed in all the yrs I've been practicing and I don't expect it ever will.

Too many forces at play that I'd rather not bring up in order not to create anymore controversy.

steveparrott
10-27-2010, 08:19 PM
I agree with the gist of this thread that the changing lighting technology will not disempower the skilled lighting designer. There will still be a dozen ways to light a tree, a dozen ways to light a deck, a dozen ways to light a water feature, a dozen ways to light a house.

The homeowner may still want LED's but who is qualified to select wattages, beam spreads, and fixture placement? Who is qualified to create a lighting design that achieves cohesion, perspective, balance, and symmetry? Who is qualified to set moods that are romantic, dramatic, or subtle? Who is the artist that expresses his or her creative vision to create an experience appropriate to the scene?

DIY'ers will always be there, but so will lighting artisans. We must elevate our own stature, communicate our passion, share our vision - lighting can still be the work that makes our lives meaningful.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
10-27-2010, 11:37 PM
To Tommy and Steve... Both excellent commentaries and concepts there Guys! Well Stated.

The talented lighting designer will never go out of style or be usurped by any shift in technology or even techniques. I have been saying this for years. If you are out there selling "stuff" then you need to take a serious look at your business plan. Don't sell the steak, sell the sizzle. Just like a Chef de Cuisine, the clients can get quality meat from any number of sources, its how the meal is prepared that makes the experience special, and why so many people will spend hundreds of dollars for a fine dining experience.

Also, in regards to separating yourself from the crowd AND making money in this business there is another "rule" that I often talk about. "If you want to make more money then use better quality (and thus more expensive) products." Most of us still work on a markup/margin basis on product. I would much rather make 15% on a $200 fixture than I would on a $60 fixture. Adopting the use of better quality, spec. grade products separates you from the competition, and from any online retailers (they do not sell spec. grade anything) and it provides the clients with longer lasting, more maintenance free systems. Doing so makes your service more remarkable as the clients will comment that their lighting systems are trouble free.

Prolightscaper
10-28-2010, 12:19 AM
Got this in my e-mail today.

Dealing With The Bottom Feeders
by Mike Crow

I deal with a niche market of home inspectors . One of most frequent questions I get is how to deal with low priced competitors. In fact I received this question so much, I felt we needed to answer it and sooner rather than later. If you know the answer to this, it may help keep you from having to compete on price and losing business to those that do.

I also know that this is something that everyone has to deal with in their industry. People trying to say they are selling the same thing you are - even though it is a watered down version and they don't tell folks what it doesn't include - they try to compare themselves to you. I have this happen even as a coach for my niche - almost all cases it is someone that has studied under me and then decided they want to be me - however they don't put even a tenth of the effort I do into helping my members.

So consider this... The market place is always being subjected to a flow of new competitors and worse competitors that at some point decide the only way to compete is on price. Let's see if we can show you a better way, because there is one.

I remember sitting in a meeting with a group of inspectors and all of them were asked to name a company that they thought would be a good model to follow. I was shocked when I heard companies like Southwest and Wal-Mart. Don't get me wrong these are great companies and I use both of them from time to time. I simply don't want to build my business on the same model they built theirs on.

Why? - because both are what you would call low price leaders. Now this can be an effective strategy if you want to use it - but be careful because there is always someone that thinks they can do it cheaper. If you stop and think about it both Southwest and Wal-Mart replaced a competitor that thought they could compete on price. I suspect at some point if they don't adjust or be real careful they will likely be replaced as well.

One of the many companies that I model my business after is more like Walt Disney World. If you know me this probably doesn't surprise you. These companies continue to bring new ideas into the market and price is rarely the main focus - In fact most of the time when you hear an advertisement for Walt Disney World they are talking about the attractions, the dreams, the celebrations, and the memories. You need to do the same thing with your business and you need to make sure the market place knows about it.

The main way to do this is to make sure that you and the bottom feeders don't look the same or worse, they look better than you. How do you do this? You pay attention to what I call USPs (Unique Selling Positions). The problem with inspectors is that they all advertise (when they advertise at all) that they offer a good quality inspection, they really care, they offer a thorough inspection, they take really good care of the buyer, they work for the buyer and not the seller and so on and so forth.

Here is the test. Line 100 inspectors up and play "Who Gets The Business". If you asked every inspector that delivered a good inspection to step forward then unless you have a poor inadequate soul they are all going to step forward. The same happens when the question is asked - please step forward if you have my best interest at heart.

You see, without realizing what they have done every one of these inspectors has positioned themself as a commodity. Commodities are sold on price. So when the buyer can't see any difference between you and your competitors they start asking the price question and of course someone in the 100 is more than happy to fill that position.

Why? Well either because they don't know any better, or they are desperate, or like some of my friends at the meeting, they are modeling their business after Wal-Mart and they truly believe this is the best way to run a business. They are hoping when 100 inspectors are lined up against the wall the buyer will ask "will the cheapest please step forward" and it will be them.

This hurts me to even see someone think this way. Now because the buyers don't know any different it is up to us to help them see the difference. We need to show them that there is a difference. So let's play the "Who Gets The Business" game with a new set of questions. I am going to apply this from an inspector point of view - you need to do the same for your industry.

* Do you deliver the report at the time of the inspection? - now only 75 out of the 100 step forward
* Do you do a computerized report, with a one-page summary page? - now we are down to 50
* Do you offer color digital photos with your report? - now we are down to 40
* Do you offer a guarantee on your findings? - now we are down to 20 inspection companies
* What question or series of questions would you have them ask from here that leads them to just you?

I think you get the idea. You need to direct the buyer to points of interest that of course are important to them and even more importantly, completely differentiate you from your competition. The more these points are of interest to the buyers, then the more you can charge.

Now be careful with this - because unless you plan on staying a small operation, you need to make sure you do not focus the questions on what you bring to the table.

I see inspectors make this mistake all the time. They say things like. I am code certified, I have 20 years experience, I am a master plumber, I am a past home builder. All of these can be useful at first however when you try to bring on a second inspector you have just created a problem. Will your second inspector be code certified, have 20 years experience, be a master plumber, and was a past home builder? - not likely.

As you create your company's Unique Selling Positions - make sure it is based on what you bring to the table as a company - something that everyone you hire can bring to the table as easily as you or the third inspector or tenth inspector. If you read the questions that I used above, you will realize that every inspector that I hire can offer these services.

So when a potential home buyer calls you and asks about your price - you might want to say "That is a great question - may I ask you a couple of questions to calculate that for you?" In the process of asking the questions you will want to make sure that they know what makes you different from everyone else that they may be considering - help them to understand that price may be one of the least of their concerns. Ask questions like - How soon do you want the report? Would you like to have color digital photos with the report? Would it help you to know that we absolutely guarantee your satisfaction with our inspection?

One of the things that I teach our coaching members when talking to a client on the phone is to make sure the home buyer knows what makes them different. We try to help make sure they have at least 4 things that makes them different than most of their competition and one thing that completely separates them from the competition. When you can do this you work in a competition free zone and this allows you to charge a lot more than so called bottom feeders.

Hope this helps - don't let price be what makes you different and don't let your competitors set your price. Give your clients something no one else does and charge what you want.

RLI Electric
10-28-2010, 08:54 AM
Thanks for the article Proscaper. Anyone ever read Purple Cow by Seth Godin? Pretty good book. I think it needs to be mentioned that it is sometimes good to be reminded that you have to differentiate. Let's be honest with ourselves, the people that tend to read forums like this are for the most part industry leaders, correct? I ask electricians at the supply house, "Did you read this?" Or,"Did you ever hear of (whatever online forum)" and they look at me like they have 3 heads. So I agree with the article and find something that makes you stand out from the rest. I think the forums are great for learning new ideas or solutions to problems and that is what I think they started for. Some of the mudslinging that goes on here and other forums for that matter is a shame. Lets use this forum for the tool that it actually is to help us define and build our skills better. I personally love to talk shop with anyone just about anytime and I am sure that the majority of you do as well. I have no secrets and would be willing to share any knowledge I have. The more we learn, the easier it is to differentiate ourselves from the trunk slammers and individuals that think jamming a light under a tree is landscape lighting. Just my opinion. And the offer stands about the shop talk. Feel free to pm or call me anytime. My phone number is right on my website. I love this trade (lighting industry) and would enjoy talking about it anytime.

nikster78
10-28-2010, 03:38 PM
IMO it all comes down to passion. If you love what you do, strive to offer the best no matter what the cost. Its not about bang for the buck! Its about doing what you love.

emby
10-28-2010, 07:41 PM
IMO it all comes down to passion. If you love what you do, strive to offer the best no matter what the cost. Its not about bang for the buck! Its about doing what you love.

I could not have said this any better. The passion is over powering sometimes but I absolutely love it !! It is what drives you to be Remarkable. (Seth)

:)

David Gretzmier
10-29-2010, 01:50 AM
while I love what I do, I have 5 folks-4 children and a wife that depend on my income for them to live. They are the love of my life, not my job. So I need enough bang for my buck to not worry about money.