Never Stop Learning and Changing

As I mature and begin to realize I do not know everything (I know, some of you don’t believe that I could ever think that way!), I have begun to revisit some of the beliefs I have had in the past about marketing and, in some cases, vendors.

What really opened my eyes to rethinking certain aspects of the business was getting involved on some Crestron Facebook groups. After a friend who is a Control4 dealer told me about all of the great people he has “met” and how helpful everyone is on the Control4 Facebook groups, I decided to check out the Crestron Professionals group. I was surprised that so many people I know and respect in the Crestron ecosystem were already active, helping others and asking questions. People like Rich Fregrosa, who is one of the best Crestron programmers I know. After joining the group and spending some time lurking, I became more and more actively involved. Then something surprising happened – I was generating business from the group. Dealers from around the country would have a client moving to New York or getting an apartment there for business and would ask if there was a dealer in NYC who could work with their client. Several times others would recommend The Source, and we would land some pretty great filler work ($20k-50k jobs) and even some much larger jobs in the $100k range. These are opportunities we never would have gotten had I not been active on the Crestron Professionals group.

Also by Todd Anthony Puma: Jarvis, Take Over My Service Department

I’ve also revisited some of my vendor relationships. I have long been a believer in striking a balance between focusing on core vendors but keeping options open because “you never know” what might happen in the future – companies go out of business, stop carrying lines critical to your business, or relationships sour. For a long time I pooh-poohed SnapAV. I saw them as just another Monoprice. I never took the time to really understand their business. A few years ago a close friend encouraged me to at least take a meeting with their area sales rep. I started to slowly incorporate Snap product into our product mix – things like HDMI cables, connectors, Cat6 inserts, etc.

Over time, our mix has grown. I am now a huge believer in the OvrC ecosystem. We have had great success with Araknis networking gear (and are having fewer issues with sell-in since the price point is more digestible), Wattbox IP power products, and Luma cameras. Having all these products under one remote-management roof has been fantastic. As OvrC evolves, I hope to get even more utility. OvrC Pro, with client facing interfaces for rebooting devices and managing network access for kids makes selling service contracts even easier and more valuable to the client. While I’m at it, here are some of my top wish-list items for OvrC:

  1. Longer Windows for Scheduling: There is no need to reboot a network or cable box every week. We should be able to schedule reboots on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. Limiting it to one week actually hurts – sometimes rebooting a device causes an issue, and having to do it every week, across hundreds of clients, is risky. We are starting to use scheduled reboots less and less because the window is not flexible enough.
  2. OvrC Alert Flexibility: I understand that OvrC alerts used to be triggered after a device was offline for an hour or more. Now that window is 10 minutes. I can’t tell you how many false alarms I get because of ISP glitches or other minor, unimportant issues. Very often I get an alert that a device or devices fell offline only to get an alert that it is back online minutes later. It is kind of like the boy who cried wolf – there are so many false positives that I am beginning to ignore the alerts. Dealers should be able to set alert windows client site by client site. Some sites just have spottier ISP performance, so we should be able to tweak alert intervals as necessary.

Don’t get me wrong – OvrC is a GREAT service and we are moving towards it more and more as our go-to remote management service. It could just use some tweaks.

Related: Lutron’s RA2 Select Now Available on OvrC Platform

In terms of marketing, our historical focus was exclusively on personal relationships with architects and designers. I avoided all end-user marketing and saw it as something that didn’t fit with our business model. However, friends have had remarkable success buying lists of new home buyers and sending direct mail to them; utilizing Facebook advertising; investing in Google AdWords; and printing multi-page, full-color brochures, that I decided to take the plunge. While we have been active on social media in the past, I have assigned someone in the business to be exclusively responsible for posting to our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages on a regular basis and have started to see increased success. Additionally, Google AdWords has been bringing in more calls, and those calls are starting to turn into warm leads, with even a few already converting to closed sales.

Do not let the natural human instinct of “this is the way we have always done it” stop you from re-evaluating your business practices – be it marketing, purchasing, programming, job and employee scheduling, or project management. There are always opportunities to do things better and become more efficient or more profitable. Do not stop learning and changing, because your competition won’t stop either.

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