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Diversify with DIY

Typically thought of as the enemy to CI, DIY products can help attract new business.

Curt Hayes, president and CFO, Capitol

It’s contrary to custom market beliefs to suggest that installation specialists expand their product selection to include a substantial number of DIY options. How will it benefit their business to embrace a category that by all rights is designed to give customers an opportunity to go it alone and bypass the services of a qualified installer?

It makes sense, or so it seems. A consumer who is experienced with home tech and comfortable tinkering with electronics may in fact be perfectly satisfied with a security or whole-house AV system that doesn’t require a professional’s involvement.

Look beyond the surface, however, and it becomes clear that CI pros not only have much to benefit from embracing DIY products, but are likely to get left behind if they ignore the profitable opportunities created by the rapid growth and acceptance of products that introduce whole-house control to the mass market.

When faced with a reticent prospect, forward-thinking pros introduce less-intimidating products as alternatives.

Related: Simple, Smart Solutions

Think about it: A customer who enjoys home theater, but is leery of investing in a multiroom AV system with independent streams, is the perfect candidate for an over-the-counter solution that at the very least will introduce the concept of multiroom audio to the household. Once it is part of a homeowner’s lifestyle, it becomes a much easier task to sell the concept of an upgrade to a more robust and satisfying professionally installed system.

Home security, in particular, affords any number of pathways to building the bottom line. Brands like Ring and Nest are now well-known among most homeowners who understand the importance of a networked system that is remotely monitored by both the end-user and a third party such as an experienced custom pro. However, when faced with even the most basic DIY models, people are often intimidated by the installation process or are open to having an installer handle the process at a price that is palatable for the homeowner and satisfying for the pro.

Ring’s security system is a popular DIY product with consumers.

The numbers don’t lie. According to 2018 Residential Security Dealer Survey published by Parks Associates and Security Sales & Integration in November 2018, sales of DIY new security installations accounted for 17 percent of security specialists’ sales in 2017, but jumped to 40 percent in 2018. That number is expected to be even higher this year.

The reason most often cited for carrying DIY products is simple: customers want them. For the dealer, however, it can be a more complicated question.

Our customers often cite their very real fears about a DIY product being a gateway of sorts to a wide range of owner-installed solutions that will render the specialist useless. It’s a fair concern, but one that I personally don’t share. To me, the bigger and more relevant concern is whether a potential new client will forego a specialist’s business and simply order the product online.

Related: The GAFA Takeover

There is no doubting the value of working with an expert, even if the only real expertise offered is a healthy dose of hand-holding while clients make the best selections for the job at hand. It’s impossible to overestimate the value of establishing a bond with end users who rely on pros with the background and experience in home tech, and a positive, customer-is-always-right sales approach to building business.

Though DIY in nature, they are still intimidating to a large number of home owners who will invest in having professionally installed products such as home surveillance cameras, thermostats, and connected entertainment systems. Professionals are in the perfect position to make the original sale, oversee installation, and provide service as well as recommendations for system updates throughout the year.

Then there is the matter of the home network: the backbone of all connected systems in both CI and DIY. It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of a robust network. Numerous products under the roof use the home network. The opportunities for custom pros to examine, evaluate, and ultimately upgrade a local network are prevalent — especially in large homes with myriad devices clamoring for their share of bandwidth.

The sale and installation of a relatively inexpensive DIY item may lead to a customer — and steady revenue stream for life. All it takes is a little creativity and understanding of how best to satisfy each customer’s home tech needs.


As president and CFO of Capitol, Curt Hayes is well-equipped to discuss the dollars and sense of the custom installation and consumer electronics markets. With over 30 years at Capitol under his belt, Hayes helped the company expand from a fledgling small business to a market leader with a deep catalog that never stops growing.