In the custom integration industry, one of the most valuable things manufacturers and suppliers do is provide product training and product roadmap information to help integrators learn about the latest innovative solutions and prepare to deploy them. While this industry practice has traditionally targeted CI owners and salespeople, some product makers and distributors have begun increasing outreach to project managers (PMs) who often play an even bigger role in determining which products and brands their firm carries and specifies.
At a recent event designed for PMs, my colleagues and I saw firsthand how valuable it is to establish deeper relationships with different members of CI companies and to discuss the ongoing issues facing technicians or end users.
Sales and Innovation Begin With Education
Among leading providers of CI products and services, the drive to increase integrator adoption and purchases largely comes down to product innovation and what level of customer support is offered. Both initiatives require consistent information sharing to ensure trust and faith in the brands and products, with the added benefit of turning buyer/seller relationships into something much closer to a partnership.
The renewed focus on courting and informing PMs can benefit all types and sizes of CI firms by providing insight into product research and development, quality assurance, and how the manufacturer integrates user feedback through software updates or hardware enhancements. These communications or events can provide peace of mind for PMs that their suppliers are listening to their concerns and pursuing technologies and capabilities that are in high demand.
Education, specifically, is not one-size-fits-all, and requires a personalized approach to meet project managers and CI firms wherever they are. For that reason, we take a multi-faceted approach to education, from hosting in-person events in our Local Partner Stores to sharing resources online and even setting up dedicated training sessions to help our Partners familiarize themselves with the latest solutions and products they can offer their customers.
Live Feedback Is Invaluable
At our recent event hosted for PMs, we took the time to chat with each guest and get a better understanding of their business, their goals, and their current challenges. By exposing some of our top Partner integration firms’ PMs to our internal processes, including a trip to our quality assurance and reliability labs, the visitors gained confidence that we are focused on the future and are making wise investments in solution improvements for both new and existing products.
As many CI owners and industry veterans can attest to, there is also a lot to be gained when decision makers are given an opportunity to engage directly with their counterparts from other firms in a non-competitive environment. Touching on topics as diverse as client expectations, ongoing projects, or product successes and difficulties, providing these professionals the opportunity to discuss their current needs and concerns helps them gain greater mastery of the industry’s trajectory and plan for the future.
Our event also showed our Partner PMs our dedication toward enhancements to end-user experiences, while their input allowed us to gain a better understanding of which CI services and functions are receiving the most interest from end users right now.
Relevance Requires Attention to Detail
The worst thing that can happen to a CI brand’s reputation or fortunes is to become irrelevant through lack of innovation or inability to solve customer problems. More than simply releasing new product versions or adding piecemeal capabilities, this requires deep thinking about what customers want now and what they are going to want one year, three years, or even five years in the future.
If manufacturers try to operate in a vacuum using only industry trends or their own predictions about external technological advances, they can miss vital opportunities to secure leadership positions through unique developments or specific enhancements that would increase sales. PMs have some of the most valuable insight in this regard, from those who manage individual projects to those responsible for production builder relationships that may involve dozens or hundreds of installations each year.
As customer expectations continue to evolve and installations become increasingly more complex, sophisticated, and personalized, it’s critical that manufacturers and PMs work together closely to ensure they’re presenting the best possible options and solutions to customers in an efficient and effective way,
It takes cooperation between manufacturers and CI firms to achieve a more partner-like relationship, and the simple act of increasing communications and transparency can be a boon for both entities. When a PM is shown that a supplier is investing in machinery and staffing that directly benefits product quality and experiences, they leave understanding that their business is valued, and that their input has a real-world effect on their own ability to satisfy client needs.