My former college roommate built a basement home theater with a spray-on projection screen surface, an impressive value-priced projector, and a media server that he’d never want the FBI to know about. My neighbor who loves technology has been scouring the web for a projection screen to match his off-the-shelf, consumer-grade projector.
These are isolated examples of the growing trend toward the increase in DIY home integration projects that threaten the relevance and livelihood of custom integrators.
During last month’s Azione buying group conference in St. Louis this same topic came up during a panel discussion. Meridian’s John Buchanan compared the maturity of our industry to the evolution of the auto dealer that now focuses on a single brand and satisfying the customer, rather than selling volume. DPI’s George Walter acknowledged that while projector brands are facing cheaper competition, the key is tailoring a solution to each customer, rather than focusing on selling one product versus another.
Integrator David Daniels, from Xssentials, also pointed out that the next generation is more interested in content than the touch and feel of gear. He encouraged members to gain access to this young demographic via their parents– still your customers–hiring them in summer jobs to educate them about higher quality AV performance.
It’s an idea echoed by RS contributor John Sciacca who admitted to having squandered some of these opportunities in the past. “I can’t tell you how many times some young person has walked into our showroom asking if we install car stereo or has needed something simple like a cable for an iPod,” he wrote in his March 19 blog. “What if instead of saying we don’t do car stereo, or just handing him a cable, I had taken the time to sweep them into our high-end theater and spent five minutes giving them a demo they’ll likely never forget? Or sat them in front of a pair of really nice speakers and opened their minds as to how great [insert name of hip band here] can sound on a real stereo?”
The Azione conference discussion turned back to the opinion that our industry’s handson understanding of ever-changing home technologies can’t be matched by a DIYer who lacks the same depth of experience and training. Of course there are always going to be those that have to go it alone, but these folks don’t have to take over the market entirely. RS contributor Heather Sidorowicz referred to kitchen and bath establishments to make the case for the longevity of custom integration.
“They didn’t go under when Lowes and Home Depot moved in,” she wrote in her blog on April 11. “This is because a kitchen and/or bath designer isn’t selling a product. They’re selling the room. They’re selling a way of life.”
DIYers may mimic the look of a professionally designed and integrated AV system, but they will never replace the depth of experience, training, and passion of the custom integration professional that chose this business as a career.