In a time of craziness and uncontrollable changes, the integration industry is looking to the associations, groups, and manufacturers for help. And no matter how much assistance they provide, it always comes down to the good old saying, “What have you done for me lately?” I find myself in the same situation and attitude of many of you, and I am writing this not as a CEDIA Board Member (which I am), but as a CEDIA member, just like many of you. Nearing the end of 2020 (thank God), CEDIA has announced the Propel affinity program that — at least for myself — answers, “What have you done for me lately?”
So what is the Propel affinity program? Propel is the brainchild of CEDIA SVP member success and sales Giles Sutton, and the latest initiative by CEDIA to be different and provide impact for CEDIA members throughout the buying chain from manufacturer to Integrator.
In its press release, CEDIA states, “CEDIA Propel is an affinity program designed to connect members to new brands and products in emerging categories. CEDIA’s integrator members will receive preferential pricing and product training across all brands enrolled in Propel. The Propel program will enable current CEDIA manufacturer members to drive adoption of their most innovative products and services, while also attracting new brands to the CI channel. Propel is open to all manufacturer members, existing and new, providing a whole new platform to connect and engage with CEDIA Integrators.”
This is the first-ever initiative by CEDIA that will actually have immediate impact to a CEDIA member’s bottom line. “Since we rolled out our CEDIASTRONG campaign, which we launched in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve been interacting with our integrator members at a whole new level,” says Sutton. “A recent survey found that 47 percent of our members are seeking new products and services to add to their portfolios to bolster revenue potential, but more than 50 percent were struggling to make those connections and negotiate new deals. We prioritized creating a business affinity program that will connect manufacturer members, as well as new brands, with our CEDIA integrator members, aiming to raise the tide across the industry as a whole. When Propel is coupled with CEDIA’s vast education and workforce development initiatives, we see significant economic opportunities that can impact the entire channel.”
So you may be thinking, “This sounds like a buying group?” I asked myself the same question. But there is a big difference. Whereas a buying group is an assembly of paying member companies that leverage overall buying power to reduce the cost of goods and services to its paying and “approved” members, affinity programs are business partnerships in which a company offers special rates or services to association members in an effort to increase revenue for all organizations in the value chain. While a buying group is all about “group buying power,” an affinity group is all about leveraging the relationships of an association to grow the business of all participating from top to bottom with some “special sauce.” I’ll get to that special sauce shortly.
Big, Different, and New
Who are the launch partners and why is the mix important? Think “Big, Different, New.”
Big: Amazon & Ring. Need I say more? By working with with two big names in connected technology, everyone can grow. “How,” you ask? The exposure and public-visible partnership between our companies and CEDIA itself with two of the biggest consumer-recognized names is a huge game changer. This gives our companies visibility and a sense of “consumer trust” with large established brands. But that’s just a starting point. These are products that our clients are asking for — and, in some cases, demand and cannot be swayed. But up until now there was little-to-no margin for this to look attractive to us.
Yes, you heard that right — there will actually be margin now, and technically you don’t have to change anything if you are a CEDIA member. If you are about to say Amazon doesn’t pay attention to us or care, I beg to differ. You may have not been paying attention. Amazon launched a “Pro Program” for the integration industry (the Propel Program is better) and Ring recently released its “Professional Installer Program.” If you get a chance, check out the Ring program — it has actual training and certification that goes through the tech and install of every single Ring product. (I know because I took it!) The cool thing is you actually get client referrals from this program, as well. I got my first one five days after completing the program. Check out the Ring program at ringpartnerprogram.com.
I want to personally thank Ring GM, installed services, Andrew Vloyanetes for always supporting the CEDIA community and for nudging me to really look into the Ring program. Do Amazon and Ring care about us? I absolutely answer, “Yes!” And you all know why: We know how to make technology work!
“Our vision is to make Alexa-enabled smart homes accessible to anyone,” says Scott Harrington, director of device sales at Amazon. “For professionals that serve customers that prefer a whole-home solution, we want to ensure that they have access to support and training to help them find success. We are excited to work with integrators who are new to, or already using, our devices as part of their solution for creating smart homes and building their business. CEDIA Propel is our next step in supporting the channel.”
Different: Bryte. Bryte is a manufacturer of what they call (and I believe) is a “Restorative Bed.” This has got to be the smartest bed I’ve ever seen; it’s packed with tech. But is CEDIA saying you can sell beds now? I asked the same question, as one of the reasons I left a certain buying group a decade ago is because they started pushing beds and washers and dryers on me. Yuck!
What CEDIA is offering through Bryte is a rewarding referral program. Make a recommendation, and if they buy you get a “cut.” But that’s only one of the reasons I label this one as different. The bigger reason is wellness. Let’s face it, even a lot of our own beds suck. We spend up to a third of our day in bed. We all understand this, but what we understand even better is how to spec, install, and recommend technologies that improve life. We all know wellness is our next frontier, but very few have figured out how to monetize it. Here’s a first step for you, courtesy of CEDIA.
“Restorative sleep is a force-multiplier for our health and wellness,” says Ely Tsern, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO, Bryte. “By maximizing our restorative sleep, our bodies create immunity, fight infection, heal from injury or exercise, and nourish our emotions and mental acuity. So, as we all witness an increase in consumer demand for smart wellness solutions, we are delighted to offer the Restorative Bed to CEDIA integrator members as the centerpiece of their wellness portfolios.”
If you want to check out the huge amount of tech in this bed, go to https://www.bryte.com/how-it-works.
New: Immersive Gym. We’ve all created amazing spaces, theaters, media rooms, and even the occasional outdoor oasis. We’ve talked about our dreams of creating VR/AR rooms. We’ve even designed and installed sports simulators for golf, football, soccer, and more. But what have we done in the gym? Connected a data cable or Wi-Fi to a Peloton? What if we could combine all the things we do and dream of into the gym experience? That’s where Immersive Gym steps in. They combine the best of today’s trends in fitness and wellness into an end product that is uniquely aligned with our key proficiencies.
You are going to have to check this out for yourself at https://www.immersivegymco.com/ to really understand how this experience is perfectly suited for what we CEDIA Integrators do, but believe me, I am personally excited about this one!
“Our aim with Immersive Gym was to turn an uninspiring home gym or studio from one of the least-used rooms in the house to one of the most-used rooms,” says Charles Pearce, founder of Immersive Gym. “By connecting unique ultra-wide content to hardware such as rowing machines, treadmills, and bikes, users can train fully immersed in their favorite environment, taking them beyond the home to anywhere in the world.
“Immersive Gym works with leading digital fitness apps as well, allowing users to optimize the indoor workouts they already love. When the workout is complete, the system can transform the space into a gaming room or simulation room, offering integrators a tremendous opportunity to add unique and interactive AV experiences to any project. We are excited to be a launch brand of Propel and to be able to bring our innovative home wellness product to the CEDIA community.”
What about that “special sauce” I was talking about? You see who the initial brands are, and, yes, there are more coming, but these brands are bringing more than just “preferential pricing” to the table. Each Propel Manufacturer or Service Partner will be offering training and guidance specific to the CEDIA community. This was not only offered enthusiastically by the first wave of partners, but it is also a requirement to be a Propel Partner.
Now I know what you’re saying: “This all sounds great, but it seems like a lot of work to get started.” This is another big difference from the other programs out there. One of my early thoughts about this program, which I have said more than once, is that this is a program I can participate in to make more margin and get cool new products without putting in much work or changing a single thing on the business side. I’ll give an example of the Amazon/Ring portion, as I’m sure that is the one you are assuming is the most difficult to get started in. It’s a two-step process!
- Step 1: CEDIA members opt into Propel from their account on the CEDIA website.
- Step 2: Fill in an opt-in form, which includes signing up for and obtaining an Amazon Business ID.
At that point CEDIA notifies Amazon of those who have opted in (automated process), and Amazon will enable their account for the Propel discount (also an automated process). Once done, CEDIA will send a confirmation email to the member letting them know their account has been set up with the discount.
Can you imagine if everything was that easy? Compare that to everything else you sign up for. And you don’t have to change a single thing in your day-to-day operations, sales, or management. If you are a CEDIA member, you just opt-in!
Participation in the Propel program is open to all CEDIA members. Companies interested in learning how to participate in the program should reach out to the CEDIA membership team at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 800-669-5329. Visit the CEDIA website to register at www.cedia.propel.com.
There you have it. A program that benefits CEDIA members from top to bottom. Propel is an innovative program that was created so that we can all be more successful and continue on in our businesses from 2021 and beyond. According to CEDIA: “The roster of brands participating in Propel will grow over time, with the focus on positioning new and innovative products for the custom integration marketplace, and driving adoption with compelling incentives.”
Note: Comments or opinions in this article unless otherwise noted are my own and are not direct comments, opinions, or statements of the CEDIA Board of Directors or the CEDIA Association and any Affiliates.