The topic of consumer-oriented smart home products making their way into the professional channel is one of hot debate. Some home tech pros see any conversation to this effect as a distraction from the high-end, custom work we should be focused on. While others–I’d venture to guess most–are resigned to the fact that DIY products are here to stay, so we may as well figure out how to leverage them. To that end, if you are a maker of a DIY product, there’s ample opportunity for partnerships here. But if you’re looking for sustainable success with a professional channel, then there a few key things you should understand.
Slow Down and Get it Right
Getting a new product to market requires striking a tricky balance. Spend too much time tweaking and someone will beat you to the punch. But ship too soon and you just might end up with a tech-support nightmare on your hands. It’s one thing if you are bearing the brunt of a half-baked product on your own, but it’s quite another if you’re asking home tech pros to shoulder the load for you.
If you are a maker of a DIY product, there’s ample opportunity for partnerships with home tech pros.
We’ve been down that road too many times, and it’s made us into a leery bunch. If we deploy a product that’s not actually ready for primetime, then it reflects badly on our entire brand. Often this can lead a client to question not only the product that’s failing, but the very integrity of the entire system we’ve sold them. When we’re talking about systems that can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars or more, that’s a really big problem. So when it comes to establishing a professional channel, make sure your QC is on point.
It’s All About Support
In an industry that’s becoming increasingly focused on how to monetize service, it should be clear to anyone targeting this channel that quality support is the name of the game. From basic usability questions, to full system failures, as your partner we are going field the critical first call from your end user. Not only will our friendly voice reflect positively on your brand, but we’re going to resolve the vast majority of these support requests before you ever have to pick up a phone or answer an email.
In return, we’ll simply ask for priority service when we do need help. Don’t make us wait in the general queue. Instead, give us a direct line to someone who’s been specifically trained on how to deal with our channel. Set clear and accommodating terms when it comes to returns and repairs. And don’t be stingy with the advanced replacements. When products fail, every day counts, and asking us to ship units back for repair is a surefire way to burn goodwill with both the end user and your professional partners.
Listen to Feature Requests
If you’re a startup, then you are likely fighting a constant battle for resources. As such, prioritizing feature requests and allocating resources to work on them is surely a continual challenge. So it’s worth considering that feature requests coming from a professional installer might be looked at in a slightly different light. These requests most likely represent the aggregate of feedback from numerous end users combined with decades of experience working inside the home. Not every feature request that comes from the professional channel is going to be practical or feasible. But, it’s worth considering the source, and perhaps lending a bit more weight to those actionable requests that come from a professional partner.
While not all home technology professionals will readily embrace DIY products, the combination of low cost and functionality are making them increasingly difficult to ignore. Consumer-focused companies understand this better than anyone. Even though more and more clients are beginning to ask for these products by name, home tech pros will only endorse products that they truly believe in. If more of these DIY companies can follow the steps above, then there can be real synergy here. So to DIY companies, the message should be clear: meet us in the middle and let’s go make it happen together.