Brand Yourself or Die

Our Marketing Message Must be Repetitive and In Our Clients Faces
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Why are we so bad at marketing ourselves as an industry? Ask anyone on the street what they think about whole-home audio distribution or systems integration, and they will simply offer you a blank stare. Why the stare? They dont know anything about us.

One of our top goals on the CEDIA board of directors is to build our industry as a brand. We spend hundreds of thousands of membership dollars a year doing this, and we are making progress. The fact that our recent appearance on Designing Spaces was viewed by 90-million households is great, but to really market ourselves and our industry, we need to be repetitive and constantly in our clients faces.

Sure, there are a few companies who are working their tails off by running advertisements and promoting the concept of home theater, but beyond that, theres not much going on at the dealer level. As a manufacturer, we are constantly reminded that the brand that dealers are selling to the public is each specific company. We hear, Nobody really wants to talk product names; the customer is buying my company. We believe in that concept, but unfortunately very few of the dealers in this industry are letting the public know who they are or how to buy the stuff that we are creating. If you are the brand, then it is time to get moving with your branding and advertising, get off the sales floor, out of the attic, or out from behind the rack and start thinking about how to build a legacy brand that is you and our industry as a whole.

My company spends tens of millions of dollars helping dealers just like you to grow your business with dealer councils or by putting you in touch with architects and builders. Lately, we have been asking dealers what has been working for them and decided to share some fantastic ideas and to encourage you to begin pushing for awareness in your market.

Consumers need to know what you do, how to find you, and how to refer you to others. Otherwise you will run the risk of going out of business as the economy continues to be a challenge and as additional competition enters your market. Here are a few of our favorites dealer suggestions:

Cable TV Advertising: Engage in long-term contracts and negotiate great pricing. Pick your channels so that you target specific demographics.

Radio Advertising: Create effective ads that are targeted demographically. Work with your local radio station to contract for a long-running, fairly inexpensive advertising campaign.

Truck Wraps: Your trucks are your most visible asset and so should be your number-one advertising tool. Make your vehicles noticeable and give customers all of the information they need to contact you.

Websites: Engage in search engine optimization (SEO), choose between an online brochure and an aggressively searchable site. Get online so people can find your business on Google.

Industry Visibility and Leverage: Volunteer for your professional association and build your reputation so that you obtain referrals from industry resources.

A Formalized Referral Process: Everyone in your company should formally collect potential customers, give them incentives, make it a part of your culture. If you believe that you are in a referral-based business, then get serious about it.

Public Relations: Create and submit regular press releases about your company or about technology so that you become the expert in your market.

Showroom Presentation: Make sure your showroom is astounding. Customers buy you first, then the technology, so make sure that they experience a professional company when they walk into your facility.

An 800 Number: Contract with a phone service for research on effectiveness, different numbers for tracking the effectiveness of advertisements, truck wraps, and promotions. Keep a log of which 800 numbers are being called so you know which efforts are effective.

Associate Events: Host ASID, realtors, and architect meetings in your facility. These groups hold monthly meetings and need a proper location. They would love to be in your shop, to see what you do and to tell their customers about the products and services you offer.

Literature: All of your brochures should be consistent, beautiful, and effective. Focus on being consistent, brand building, and customizable.

Videos: Create a company demo and make it available for distribution to customers. Give these out like you would a brochure.

Door Hangers: Its the easiest way to canvas a neighborhood. Just create a good one and hire a high school kid to hang them in your target neighborhoods.

System Birthday Cards: Send a handwritten birthday card to the system at the one-year anniversary of its installation. Wish it a happy birthday and suggest upgrades or a system tune-up.

Phone Banks: Pull together a few of your best people, create a script, supervise them, and start calling your past clients. When you have contacted all of them, buy a demographic list and call them. Call business presidents and senior VPs. Get on the phone!

Business Affiliations: Partner with local car dealers, realtors, caterers, and other high-end purveyors to provide complementary services.

Open House Events: Host these in your facilities or at your clients homes, have parties, have fun, and get people interested in what you do.

Charitable Events: Host, sponsor, and participate in these, if you have a facility that is appropriate. Invite these groups into your company and let them experience your products and services.

System Birthing: Provide a walk through, free DVD, popcorn, candy, wine, promo gear, thank you cards, gift certificates (iTunes, restaurant, ball games, movies, Netflix) to your customer upon project completion. Make a big deal out of handing over the keys for the systems that you design for people.

Demo Homes: Create an off-the-hook showroom or high-end demo home, limit the access, make it a special event to be able to get into this home, and create the perfect event home.

Gift Certificate for One Hour of Free Labor: Create a gift certificate and hand them out everywhere. Make them transferable, use humor, and take the amount right off the final bill.

iPod-ready Home Signs: Work with the local builder to create these signs and help the builder market/sell the house. They will welcome the help in selling those homes that they are sitting on currently.

Cooperative Showrooms: Bring in other resources to help build a fantastic showroom. Engage a furniture store, plant company, rug seller, lighting house, and others to build a showplace that you can all be proud of.

Architect/Builders Facility Sharing: Create a killer conference room and let them use it for client meetings.

As a manufacturer that leads one of the largest companies in this industry I can tell you that becoming a brand doesnt happen overnight. It is a long and calculated route to get to the point of people knowing who you are and what you do. Each of us has a tremendous opportunity to market ourselves more effectively, and these ideas are just the beginning.

I wish each dealer in this industry tremendous success and want to help you continue you to grow, evolve, and succeed. If you dont choose to actively engage and market your company, it becomes very obvious that your life span will be shortened in this business. The strong will always survive, and the strong do the things that the weak find hard or just plain dont do.

Jeremy Burkhardt (jburkhardt@speakercraft.com) is president of SpeakerCraft, and audio products manufacturer in Riverside, California.

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