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How Custom Integrators Can Improve in 2013

I quit making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago.

I quit making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. If there is one area where I would definitely like to improve, however, I would focus on being less judgmental of others. But before the year really gets under way, please allow me one last binge as I offer some suggestions for how custom integrators can improve in 2013.

I’ve contacted a lot of CIs over the past two months, and I’m buoyed by the optimism of industry veterans who still envision opportunities in the channel despite the many threats they face from mass-market products and eroding profit margins from once-exclusive technology categories. But there are also whispers from industry friends who are truly worried about how they will continue to make a living in this business. They’re as confused as the next guy about what products they should be selling and how they can restructure their businesses to make enough money to survive.

The ever-evolving consumer electronics business will always present challenges to those who make their living putting integrated systems together. But, where this industry continues to provide value is by taking the guesswork away from confused clients. Folks with disposable income and a lack of patience would like the intuitive design of the iPad but aren’t quite clear about how to use it to control the various elements of their home, such as lighting, window shades, and HVAC, house-wide music systems, and their TVs.

How many people do you know that still have multiple sources feeding their big fancy LEDbacklit LCD TV, a collection of remotes sitting on their coffee table, and an iPad? I know it’s the biggest cliché in the business, but the easiest CI job (programming a remote) is still a major challenge for most consumers. And how many times have you seen that same 60-inch TV displaying a classic, like The Godfather, with the hyper-real video resolution of a telenovella from the Spanish channel? It’s called “the soap opera effect,” and you’re probably the only person within a 50-mile radius of your office who knows how to fix it.

The biggest challenge for our industry is either selling products that can’t be bought at retail or charging the right design or consulting fee to properly reflect the value of its services. It’s easy for me to say that selling service contracts is the key to survival, but the reality is that product margin will always make the world go around for successful integrators.

Last month, we focused on what integrators are doing to improve their businesses in 2013. This month we’ve asked CIs what products they’re selling to compete with mass-market threats. Let us know what works for your business, and I promise not to judge you.