Eating Your Vegetables

Blending Strategy with Tactics at Azione Fall Conference in Austin
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Blending Strategy with Tactics at Azione Fall Conference in Austin

Buying group meetings are safe zones for custom integrators to share best practices and business challenges, mostly without the fear of giving any trade secrets away to immediate competitors. The insights gained from targeted, small-group meetings on industry trends, as well as one-on-one meetings with vendor partners, generally makes for a productive two and a half days away from the office. But industry events like these can also take on the form of a “scared-straight” intervention as they present the threats and untapped opportunities ahead for this industry.

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Azione's 2017 Fall Conference

This year’s Azione Unlimited fall meeting in Austin was another upbeat affair, featuring insightful short-form dealer success presentations, a panel discussion on finding and retaining employees, and a networking GoGame scavenger hunt that placed individuals from diverse companies and backgrounds together to complete challenges on the streets of Austin. But there were moments in the short time that I was there that made me feel a kid at the dinner table, being forced to eat his vegetables.

This is not a criticism of Azione; it’s just the way of the world (and especially our business) these days. With so much change happening so fast, there’s a lot of uncertainty about how to plan for the future of consumer electronics. From Google Home’s Mark Spates evangelizing about the opportunities surrounding voice control, an overwhelming “9000 Hours” presentation about rapid technology changes from BDX’s Tim Costello, and even a highly caffeinated lesson about the threat of cyber attacks putting your company out business (message: “buy cyber insurance”), my head was left spinning as I headed back to the Austin airport.

On the more inspiring side, Dennis Hickman of The Soho Shop showcased his company’s Smart Care offering, which was created after many years of trial and error looking for a lucrative aging-in-place technology business opportunity for smart home professionals. Owner Bryan Jefferson developed the platform through a partnership with Verizon, and will soon offer it to interested integrator partners across the country.

The conference also featured more group-specific initiatives to assist time-strapped dealer members with essential business tools. For instance, the group’s new in-house marketing director Laura Koster showed an early version of a predesigned magazine/brochure for dealers to customize with their own cover, logo, lead story, and photos in print and digital form.

The group is also working with OneFirefly to create vendor-specific custom landing pages for dealers, with the goal of attracting potential client traffic via Facebook ads, pay-per-click ads, and SEO-optimized blog posts.

These are only a few examples of the many tactics offered by Azione in a world that requires a solid strategy to prepare for changing technology, fickle tastes, and shifts in demographics. Azione did a great job of blending both strategy with tactics in Austin, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one left a little freaked out by the strategic challenges that we all face today.