It’s easy to get caught up in the frustration of “the price match” or online shopper who’s attempting to pick your knowledgeable brain. To add insult to injury, there is continued talk of mass-market automation, with even CEDIA posting an article last month asking our industry, “Are Mass-Market Home Automations Systems a Threat?”
By now, we’ve heard all the chatter. Lowe’s, Verizon FiOS, and the cable companies are promising easy automation. Does this mean the extinction of the custom integrator?
Heck No! And I’ll tell you why…
History: Look at kitchen and bath establishments. They didn’t go under when Lowes and Home Depot moved in. Have some clients decided to replace their own cabinets? Absolutely. Are there still people out there who want to bring in a kitchen expert? You bet your bottom dollar.
This is because a kitchen and/or bath designer isn’t selling a product. They’re selling the room. They’re selling a way of life. You will be a happier human being with granite countertops and a Sub-Zero fridge. Their concentration is not on each part but the concept as a whole. Not everyone will use a designer, but as history has shown, they still exist. Want your tile to match the floor? You contact a professional. We need to think more along these lines in our industry.
Technology is a Full-Time Job: Sure you can Google the latest and greatest flat panels all day long. You can even make a bit of a hobby out of it. But internet searches and consumer reports won’t tell you how to make it all work together seamlessly. No YouTube video can really teach you how to program a macro properly. Could a person get a system set up? Sure. Would a custom integrator make it better? Yep.
In this industry it isn’t what we learn when we start, it’s what we learn as we go along. It is always changing. (This is why associations like CEDIA are so important. One must keep up!) No do-it-yourselfer can compete with that. Then there is always the launch of new products—things you won’t find online. We bring these products in, use them, play with them, and sell the ones that work best.
I bet if you ask any great integrator, they will tell you that they have a basement or warehouse full of products that didn’t make it. It is part of the game. If you want to survive, then you must keep up.
Experience: How much combined experience does your team have? 50 years? More? I bet it’s a bit diversified too (residential, commercial, pro AV). Hiring an AV firm affords you a team of experts. Our company meets every week to make sure we’re offering the right solutions to each client. We know what works together and what doesn’t. (Ever run into Samsungs digital handshake issue?)
Want your cable remote to control that brand new soundbar? Remodeling your room and wish the equipment could leave the space? Wish you could throw that great Pandora station to your in-ceiling speakers? Desire an app that would control all your devices anywhere in the home? This is why one hires an AV professional—a custom integrator.
We are not product pushers, but we can find the perfect product for the client. We are the kitchen and bath establishments of the new millennium. Not every person needs one, or desires one, but there are many people out there that want the job done right. There are many who crave a simple solution and want to know how it works (I bet Lowes won’t come over to train you on your new automation system, and good luck calling Verizon). Our clients take solace knowing that we are just a phone call away when they have a question or new need. AV systems are an ongoing relationship and you should be in a relationship with someone you can talk to.
Repeat after me: there will be no extinction for custom integrators. Stop focusing so much on specs, tech, and screen size and start selling a way of life to continue to survive and thrive today and tomorrow and down the road.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is project manager/designer for Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.