Late last year, Atlona hired industry veteran Garth Lobban to serve as its new senior marketing manager. Upon his arrival, Lobban set a priority list that focused on product launch strategies and improving web resources, as well branding, sales programs, lead generation, and improving processes to raise dealer satisfaction. Wanting to learn more, we reached out to Lobban to get to know more about him personally and his plans for the company.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What brought you to this business?
Garth Lobban, senior marketing manager, Atlona I got into the industry while in college as a rental and staging tech with McCune Audio Visual, which was followed by positions with other rental firms. It was while working on the rental side of the business that I learned the value of well-built products. Rental gear gets used (and abused) on a daily basis with little time for maintenance. Reliability is paramount. And I see a direct parallel with installers whose livelihoods depend on products that work the first time and need no maintenance. I got into the manufacturing side with Sennheiser, where as a market development rep I worked with our sales teams supporting integrators’ needs. I learned the importance of consultative sales– finding out what worked well for the customer’s need–not just selling them the product of the month or quarter. That led me into marketing roles, first at Sennheiser and then at Extron, where for 11 years I worked closely with product management, managing product launches, defining messaging, and supporting the sales team.
What about outside of work? Tell us more about yourself (family, hobbies, etc.)
My wife and I have two daughters, and as the girls have grown up I’ve moved away from being a soccer dad (coaching and officiating) and returned to my childhood love of bicycling. I’m an avid–some say rabid–cyclist; in 2014, I notched nearly 4,000 miles and completed four centuries. Being out on the road is a bit like hitting the stress relief reset button. It allows me to be at my best every day. I also enjoy speech making and impromptu speaking. I joined Toastmasters to gain experience and ended up winning top prize in Toastmasters’ regional level competition. Too bad they don‘t have a national competition… (Yes, I am competitive.)
When you joined Atlona, what were some things that you observed about the company and its brands that got you excited about working there?
Introducing a single component to address an array of AV switching and processing needs often encountered in boardrooms, classrooms, and other presentation settings, Atlona added the Model AT-UHDCLSO- 612, its most advanced 4K-capable, HDBaseT switcher for systems which need to accept multiple digital and analog inputs as selectable sources for displays located as far as 230 feet away. There were two things that attracted me to Atlona: First, their reputation has been growing. As the product mix has changed over the past few years, they’ve been making a name for themselves. And it just seemed to me that the elements are in place here to really be a distinctive player in the market. Also, as in any entrepreneurial organization, the drive and passion of the founders has to translate into energy that flows down the chain of command. The more I got to know the company co-founders, Ilya Khayn and Michael Khain, I was convinced their passion and energy would continue to drive the company forward.
In what ways do you expect to use your previous career experience to make a mark in your new role at Atlona?
Offering AV integrators the industry’s first 4K-capable device for testing and resolving HDMI signal pass problems between sources and displays in the field, Atlona introduced the AT-UHD-SYNC, a palm-sized, USB-powered 4K HDMI Emulator and Tester. Initially, I’m focusing on helping our marketing team create better tools for our integrator and distribution partners during product launches. These are behind-the-scenes changes that will result in our customers being kept better informed about our new products. Part of this effort includes changes to our website and our partner portal, which has already begun. These changes are designed to make Atlona products easier to identify, specify, and sell. This will be supplemented by an ambitious sales and promotional program to ensure more people know about Atlona. We’re very committed to increasing awareness of the Atlona brand. Because our customers have a high level of technical understanding, I want to bolster our messaging with key technical information that will make their buying decision more comfortable. And I think my background will lend itself to doing that successfully. This includes not only having customers contact our sales partners when they are ready to buy, but also encouraging them to experience our Atlona Academy when they want to know more about our products and the technology behind them.
How do you balance your approach to the different markets that Atlona addresses (specifically residential vs. commercial integration)?
I think we’ve seen the lines between commercial and residential integration become blurred. While the sources and destinations may be different at the extremes–we don’t commonly see video conferencing in homes or gaming consoles in the corporate space–we do see a lot of common ground in the need for solutions that move signals from one place to another without any loss in quality. For example, we see set-top boxes, Blu-ray players, flat screens, and projectors in both types of installations. And in both we see the need for switching products that may or may not operate within a control system. So what we see in both markets is the need to provide flexible I/O options and deliver long-term reliability, regardless of the signal types and resolutions that may exist or come along after. Installers and integrators serving both markets want to know that the products they’ve installed will keep working for their customers, and that the manufacturer will stand behind them. That’s the reason we offer a 10-year warranty.
Atlona’s an active exhibitor at ISE in Amsterdam this month. What sort of product announcements does the company have slated for the show?
ISE will be a watershed event for Atlona, as we will conduct the largest new product launch in the company’s 12-year history. It will include more than a dozen products for residential and commercial applications, including new series of 4K/UHD extenders, switchers and matrixes, and Atlona’s first residential components designed to support HDCP 2.2 content protection. I don’t want to let the cat of out the bag completely until the show, but customers can expect to see more of the kind of products Atlona has built its reputation on–smartly-featured integrated solutions, unfettered third-party control compatibility, ultra-reliable performance, and great value. One important addition to the Atlona line that I can share with you is that there will be components we think system designers and integrators will appreciate that have the capability to route 4K/UHD video, audio, control, power, and Ethernet over a single category cable.