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Trade In and Up

As an industry trade journalist I’m always on the lookout for business and technology trends. Typically three or more occurrences of something, will pique my interest and inspire me to start poking around for more information.

In the current business climate, the first major development that I noticed was an increase in the number of distributor and manufacturer road shows. This logical investment by companies to interact more directly with their dealers was then followed, more recently, by another trend: trade up/trade out programs for older gear.

The first three companies to announce these programs were Niveus Media, Meridian Audio, and Runco. Their plans, they all said, were designed as incentives for dealers to reach out to existing clients for new business. Everyone has been talking about mining past-client lists for upgrades, and these programs are a great way to do just that.

Niveus Media’s program enables existing clients to trade in any Niveus Media Server to redeem a credit toward the purchase of a new, 2009 model, without having to pay full price.

For its plan, Meridian Audio is offering a fixed-value trade-up price for selected 500 Series, G Series, and 800 Series disc players and surround sound controllers against the purchase of a new, higher specification model.

And, according to its worldwide VP of sales, Bob Hana, Runco’s trade-up program was motivated by his team’s desire to reconnect with dealers after his company got back on its feet following the lengthy acquisition process by Planar.

In a recent conversation, Hana reminded me that step one of fundamental selling during tough times is to reach back to past customers, especially because so many new technologies have been introduced recently. “A lot of things have changed in the last six months to a year in this industry,” he said. “You’ve got every excuse in the world to upgrade. There’s the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, 1080p video, and Blu-ray.”

“Runco is creating a sales opportunity where there otherwise might not have been one,” said Gramophone’s Josh Shobe about the program. “Right now, that kind of support is invaluable.”

Runco is also offering dealers an opportunity to trade out their showroom gear, so clients who do come through the door are seeing the best that is available.

The question for me with all of this trading up and trading out is: what happens to the old gear? Hana had a reasonable, and plausible, explanation for Runco’s program. If it’s an older “legacy” product like the company’s VX-3, then the company would actually like some of those returned for engineering staff training purposes.

In other instances, Hana said, Runco will look to refurbish trade-in products for donating to charities, schools, local houses of worship, or even a dealer’s particularly good sales person.

Any mention of Runco wouldn’t be complete without acknowledgement of the company’s decision to skip CEDIA EXPO this year. Hana pointed out that the timing just wasn’t right for the company last fall when it was still getting its footing back, and CEDIA asked for a booth commitment. Instead, the company chose to use some of that marketing money to fund the dealer programs just described. It won’t be the same without them at the front of the show floor this year, but difficult times are forcing many marketing folks to find creative ways to get through it the crunch.