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Securing Your Place

The custom AV installation business is a hot market to be in. While our small installation companies may never make it to the NASDAQ, it seems like everybody wants to jump into this business.

Most AV retailers now have installation departments. Best Buy added Magnolia and recently acquired a successful CI company called AudioVisions (presumably as a model to expand their installation department). While Circuit City is cutting back in some areas, they apparently see profits to be made in our market and are rolling out their own national install department called FireDog.

Huge companies like HP, Honeywell, Intel, and others have had their sights set on dominating the home electronics market. Microsoft continues to focus on homes with its Media Center and home networking products. With IP-based products now the norm, we should continue to see interest grow from these big players.

Every year more security companies, electricians, telephone, and CATV installers jump into AV installation. The ease of entry into our market pretty much guarantees a steady flow of start-up companies.

For those of us already in this business, this type of growth is a seemingly endless barrage of new competition. For our established companies to have long-term success, we need to fortify our place in the market to hold off this attacking army of wannabes. In this type of competitive environment you will not succeed by accidentyou need specific plans. How can you strengthen your position and continue to grow?

Your Companys Image and Identity
What sets you apart from the competition? How are you unique? Work on carefully constructing one sentence that best sums up who you are. This should be a quote that none of your competitors could also say about themselves. For example: Axcess AV is the leading high-end home theater installation company in South Plains and winner of the Crestron Elite award. Put it out there on the table why you are better than upstart competitors who cannot perform at your level.

Your Target Clients
If you are an established company, you probably are targeting complete installations for high-dollar clients. To reach these clients, you need to sell high-end name brand products that they know and respect. You must maintain high-end dealerships to hold your position year after year. Match your products and price points to exactly fit your target clients. Entry-level companies generally cannot acquire these products.

Your Technical Ability
While new companies can spring up virtually overnight, they cannot challenge the mastery of experience and technical skills that you have developed. Almost any new company can run some wire and pop in some speakers and volume controls. What sets you apart is your ability to create system solutions with user-friendly touchscreen controllers, dedicated home theaters with integrated lighting, etc.

Simplicity in Operation
Any installer can leave five remotes on the coffee table in a home theater. That is not a professional installation. If you want referrals, your finished system needs one super simple remote that is intuitive and does it all. If one button turns on the DVD, the TV, the surround processor, and then sets all the equipment on the right input, you are bound to make the customer and the wife (the real customer) happy. If the control system is too complicated for the casual client to use, that negates other positive aspects of your installation.

Superior AV Performance
Newbies may know wires, computers, and electronics, but it is the quality of the end users listening and viewing experience that its all about. To hold your place in the market, always deliver finished systems that help your clients connect emotionally to the media they are experiencing. Music and film tell stories. Without emotional impact from great speakers and great images, these art forms lose their appeal. Building a system may be about wires and gadgets, but living in a home with a great system should be about turning up the music and feeling something touch you emotionally.

Lasting Relationships
After five or 10 years in this business, you develop lasting relationships with your clients. Your long list of happy clients are your best testimony to your expertise and workmanship. Bend over backwards to maintain 100-percent satisfied clients. There is no replacement for that record of commitment to success.

No matter who comes along to challenge you, your companys future is bright if you are a true professional who brings the best experience to your clients.

Rich Riehl ([email protected]) is a Los Angeles-based consultant to the CI business and creator of BidMagicAV.