March 15, 2008

Customers conduct successful marketing program

By Allan Dennis

When you arrive at 53 Brock Street in Acton, Ont., there is nothing to indicate it is home to one of the province’s most respected irrigation companies.

Aquality Irrigation and Illumination is owned and operated by John Lamberink. “I have always marketed my business through word of mouth,” says John. He explains that when customers call, he knows they found out about Aquality through three methods: referrals by former customers, his listing on as a member of LO (he’s been receiving an increasing number from here), or the international irrigation association (which John says is highly unlikely). “My customers are the biggest advocates for me,” says John.

John Lamberink has conducted his business from his home for the past 11 years. During his busy season, he employs up to six people. From the time he is able to put a shovel into the ground, John says he is focused primarily on his business. It doesn’t take long, while speaking with John, to see that he is a strong family man towards his wife and two children. He balances this with his great dedication towards making his business a success. He also volunteers in his community. Just prior to his interview with Horticulture Review, John had returned from 10 days of helping to build a school in Mexico with members of his church group. John took advantage of his slow winter period, to go off and help less-fortunate people. “It was an incredible growing experience,” said John.

He notes that he has to be sensitive to the possibility of burning out his employees, because he is so focused on his business. “I’m careful not to work them too many hours. Sometimes you get so focused, you can forget about that.”

John prides himself on his honesty. It’s that quality, along with his professionalism and competence, that has produced a steady growth for his company. “I pride myself on creating a reputation for honesty. I maintain that philosophy, despite the fact that at times customers may not always like my answers. But in the end, they know they are receiving valid information from me.”

Smart water systems

Over the past three or four years, John has seen steady growth in what are known as smart water control systems. Smart irrigation controllers automatically adjust watering schedules based upon weather conditions and plant requirements. “It’s a lot more work for the installer,” says John. “You really must pay attention to the landscape environment (soil structure, slopes and micro climates) and what plants are within the irrigation system, and understanding the watering requirements for them to survive.”

John explains that despite the extra costs, many customers will go for smart systems, once they see the potential for long term savings. “At times it’s not just water savings, but the fact that the plants will not be over-watered or under-watered when the system is properly used,” says John.

Being a keen gardener before he entered the irrigation business, allows John to understand the importance of plants within the system. “Many people in the irrigation business forget that plants are the recipients of the water. I have always believed that it’s the irrigation person’s responsibility to make the landscaper look good.”

He has had this theory proven by the people within the industry he has met through his involvement with Landscape Ontario. Presently volunteering on the Irrigation Commodity Group, John represents it on the newly-formed Environmental Stewardship Committee.

Environment and business

He explains that he understands some of the concerns of environmental people towards irrigation practices. John says there is business reality, as well. “If we, the business people, can’t sell the concept to our clients, then we won’t be around long to promote the new environmental way.” He says that he explains the benefits of the new smart water systems to customers, but if they want a standard system, then he must follow their wishes. “You won’t be in business long if you don’t follow your customers’ wishes.” He notes that surprisingly many of his customers are requesting the new systems, despite the extra installation charges and the ongoing maintenance costs.  

Asked why he volunteers at LO, John says, “I get more out of it than the committees I serve on. The contacts and networking that I have experienced since serving at LO are so very beneficial to me. I have learned so much.” Currently working on completing his CLP, John says it’s all about personal growth. “I learned long ago that you should always work to improve yourself.”

It’s easy to see that John Lamberink lives that philosophy on a day to day basis.

The only traditional marketing tool used by John Lamberink to promote his business is found on the side of his trailer.
John Lamberink is a familiar face serving Landscape Ontario’s Irrigation Commodity Group. He is also a member of the newly formed Environmental Stewardship Committee.
John Lamberink believes in serving his community. He is shown here (on far left) on a recent trip with his church group to Mexico where they helped build a school for the local children.