Todays custom installation landscape contains a complete range of businesses. At one end we have one-man operations working out of home offices and at the other end established firms successfully doing $10 million of business with a hundred employees. Most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle of this turf.
Before starting up my installation business in Aspen, I researched the competition. I opened the Yellow Pages and found four small retail stores selling audio and video. Some mentioned custom installation. I could tell immediately from the lines of gear and the ad presentations to whom these stores would appeal.
Then I began searching the custom installer listings. Many of these were not display ads, but only one or two lines with the company name and minimal information. I was surprised that the most prosperous custom company in town had only one line. A few had small display ads and mentioned custom install and some product lines.
I visited each of the stores discreetly to check out their showrooms, their capabilities, and their presentations. I also checked local newspapers and magazines and spoke with builders and architects to find out more about the custom install companies.
Once I knew the lay of the land, I began planning how my new company could best fit the needs of the market. It was very apparent that the clients I wanted to work with in Aspen expected first-class systems, experienced professionals, and red-carpet customer service. Now I could focus on how to create a company to deliver with that type of confidence and class.
Every company has a unique image and identity. Large companies spend millions of dollars to retain ad agents and other creative specialists to create the right image.
What is your company image? How do you use it to attract the right customers? First, how classy is your company logo? Do your business cards and brochures make the right impression? Is your logo on your office and/or storefront signage? Is it on your trucks and employee shirts and hats? How cool is your website and your advertising?
If you are selling to tract homebuilders, you need a certain image. If you are selling A/V systems for billionaires yachts, you need a completely different image.
Many high-end A/V companies have elaborate showrooms with complete treatments by interior decorators that make a big impression. Everything in the office showroom is designed to sell you on their elite experience. This high-end image marketing goes beyond the actual A/V equipment that is being purchased. They wine and dine their customers with style and this type of customer will pay extra for this type of treatment.
If you are a custom installation company, you may not need a showroom. However, a first-class showroom can be a big step to reaching the best clients.
When I walk into a retail store, I expect to see and tryout every speaker, CD player, surround processor etc. But a custom install showroom should be exactly the opposite. Forget showing all the parts and pieces; do not demo everything you sell. Instead, design two complete systems that you want to sell to your clients. Give them a medium-priced system and a high-priced system so that you can clearly demonstrate system solutions.
Your image also depends on the image of the products you sell. If you sell Mark Levinson and Wilson Audio speakers, you benefit from the image and reputation that they have already brought to the marketplace. You will need that image to sell equipment that is very expensive.
Every time you talk to or meet with a client, you are expressing the image of your company. Our companies are full of techies, and we can benefit greatly from getting outside creative marketing that helps us design the image that will work for us. Carefully design your image and use it as a key selling point in your market.