Whats Your Market?

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So, lets say youre ready for a race where the starting gun never fires? Or, what if youre in training for a track meet, you show up for the event and find the race is actually in cross-country skiing?

The fly-on-the-wall perspective afforded me in my role as an independent sales representative allows me to observe scores of interactions between manufacturers, dealers, members of the press, and association members. Lately, some of my observations have included comments like, Well, that doesnt apply to our market, and Thats not important to our market. Being curious and willing to sometimes stir the pot, I find myself responding with the questions, To which market are you referring? Are you referring to the market that we think we are involved with and know now, or are you referring to a market that we dont know as much about, but is coming into our space more quickly than anticipated? In other words, are the decisions that we are making today destined to come to fruition in a market thats going to be very different? And, will the policies and products that were earning our living on now, even exist in a year or two or five?

The market trend deemed as convergence, is now more appropriately defined as collision; in it, were clearly gaining not only new products and market participants, but new cultures as well. Within these other market cultures appear decision trees, distribution channel decisions, and processes foreign to our traditional market space.

Moreover, some of those other culturesdeciding that our market space is appealing to themare large enough to consider the market that we know now (for those of us already here) as a mere speed bump on their way through. To illustrate this point, yet again recently I was made aware of a national conference (already held) that indicated plans for the custom integration market. Were you in attendance? I know I wasnt.

While some may see this as a doom-and-gloom scenario, it has all of the ear-markings of being one of the best of times in our industry. However, one important distinction is necessary: We have only written the first chapter of the market identified with the creation of CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association) in 1989. While the birth of CEDIA coincided with the creation of electronic custom integration and design as a very legitimate channel, we cannot consider ourselves as having yet arrived. In a very real sense, the current custom design and installation community finds itself seated at a much larger table; partly, of its own doing and success, and partly due to the number of new market participants.

The bottom line is that with consistent successes come other interested parties wanting to know how they can join in, too. While the upside is remarkable, the stakes are just as compelling. In the months ahead, this column will explore some of the market possibilities, while remaining confident that our inherent nimbleness and wit will prove very effective in balancing the effects of large budgets and bureaucracies accompanying other markets and trades. Here we go...are you ready?

Andrew Ard is a CEDIA board member and chairman of IPRO in Dallas, Texas.

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