The DaVinci Group has been thinking outside the box when it comes to forming partnerships to distribute its high-end audio products. We reached out to the company’s president, Jeff Francisco, to get some insight into these unconventional practices of building dealer relationships and maintaining customer satisfaction.
Jeff Francisco, president, The DaVinci Group
Having firmly established your brand and developed a fully formed audio product line, how would you now describe your value proposition to dealers when they’re comparing your products to competitors?
Our value proposition to our dealers is not based solely on the fact that we make a better product; it’s based on the fact that we are a better all-around partner. Are our products better? Sure. Thanks to our collective decades of experience in the custom integration channel, we build solid products that deliver real innovation, not gimmicks. We balance technical innovation with practical reliability–a critically important attribute to integrators.
But we didn’t stop there. So that our dealer partners can feel confident installing The DaVinci Group products, we offer them the industry’s best-in-class warranty program. And then we created a support program for our support program: augmenting a superlative warranty policy with our innovative WarrantyPLUS uninstall reimbursement program. Innovation is not just for technology; it’s for creative new program concepts as well.
Just launched at CEDIA, the IWLCR-66 (above left) is an in-wall loudspeaker with back box designed for high-performance home theater use. The NFC-83A (middle), a top-of-the-line in-ceiling speaker. The Vanguard Dynamics Sub-10 (above right) is the company’s first product in the category.
And finally, at The DaVinci Group, we don’t just talk the talk; we truly walk the walk. We limit our distribution to only the finest local integrators around the country, which is good for us. But by limiting the number of outlets selling our products, we protect the dealers’ local business as well, leaving them free to sell our line with maximum profitability.
Most of our competitors are planning to sell their products to thousands of installers and trunk-slammers around the country. The DaVinci Group products won’t be sold by more than 700 dealers total. And we’ve put that number in writing to our dealers.
Couple this distribution philosophy with an ironclad No- Internet-Sales policy and you have a different kind of supplier who believes in truly supporting those dealers who support us.
Explain your focus on dealers becoming shareholders in the brand. How does that work exactly? Are you still offering “shares,” or is that closed now?
When your goal is to be a better partner, rather than just to ship as many boxes as possible, you rethink every aspect of the relationship with the dealer to find creative new ways to add value to the partnership. Our shareholder program is a way to show our dealers that we wanted a deeper relationship with them, something more significant that a simple buyer/seller association. And one in which they could see even more benefit from their participation in our mutual success than just within their local businesses.
After several brainstorming sessions, we came up the idea of a shareholder program. It actually is a very simple program. There is a set buy-in from the dealer. For his buy-in, we ship him products in an amount of comparable value. With this simple transaction, he is now part of the shareholder program.
Shareholders gain several added benefits, such as free shipping on their orders, free demo products, shareholder-only super specials, and more. The program has been extremely successful and most of our shareholders feel a greater sense of engagement and influence, as we constantly poll them on potential program and policy ideas. It truly creates a special bond.
However, having said that, there is a finite number of slots open in the program. Thanks to the popularity of our shareholder program, we are very close to reaching that limit.
After-sale service policies or lack thereof can be a major sticking point between dealers and their manufacturer partners. What about your WarrantyPLUS program seems to resonate with dealers?
That’s easy! One of the more frustrating elements of the job of an integrator is that when a product fails during the warranty period, he has to roll a truck back to the client’s home to uninstall the defective part, and then ship that part back to the manufacturer who–typically–then ships a replacement part (after receiving the defective unit). Then the installer has to–gasp–again roll a truck back to the client’s home to complete the swap by reinstalling the new part.
The typical manufacturer believes their only responsibility is to provide a replacement part. But with each truck roll, the integrator’s profit on that job begins to disappear.
The DaVinci Group is not the typical manufacturer. Let me replay that scenario, with the only change being that the installer has installed one of our products in that client’s home. The integrator notifies us that one of our products has failed. We immediately ship him an advance replacement. He rolls the truck with the new part on board, his tech uninstalls the bad part, installs the new part, and leaves the client–now a happy camper.
We then process a credit to the integrator’s account for an uninstall fee, to help defray the cost of that truck roll.
This is what resonates with integrators: they instantly see that we “get” their problem.
What are your goals for your dealer base, both in North America and internationally? Do you feel that you’re well covered, geographically, or are you looking to enhance your coverage in any way?
We have hit all of our initial targets set prior to our launch and are quite pleased with where we are at presently. However, we are still in growth mode and there is still plenty of room for new dealers in our network. We have been pursuing integrators organically, focusing on making sure we can execute on our support, and working with our partners to maximize our relationship.
Coming out of CEDIA, what are some of the newest features and/or services that the company is offering?
We are very excited about having launched a whole new product category for us: a new high-performance, in-wall/in-ceiling, back-boxmounted home theater solution. We call it our Signature Series and it is part of our Encompass Home Theater line of products.
The Signature Series is another example of our deeper collaboration with our dealers, who have been asking us for this type of solution for some time now. While they have been totally happy with our multi-zone distributed audio solutions, dealers told us they wanted us to kick it up a notch with a dedicated line of high-performance theater-optimized solutions. That is exactly what our Signature Series is designed to do.
Also, we recently expanded our product offerings with a new powerhouse subwoofer product called the Vanguard Dynamics Sub-10. This is our first product in a category that we believe will grow to become a very significant one for us.
So looking forward, we are quite excited to continue to build our line, and our dealer partnerships, both domestically and globally.