Every year there is a consistent flow of new companies jumping into the custom installation business. Unfortunately, most make the same initial mistakes.
If your business is going to succeed in this competitive market, it is essential that you learn to target more profitable sales. You must identify the highest level of buyer with which your companyhas the skill and resources to work. Don’t be content that you are busy... you can spend all your efforts installing systems that do not pay you enough to survive. You must deliberately focus your sales and marketing efforts on reaching the cream of the crop buyers in your market.
Here are five levels of competency in residential AV installation contractors:
- Prewire only
- Basic AV installation of TV’s, speakers, and volume controls
- Midlevel AV with smart remotes, basic keypad or touchscreen control systems
- Advanced AV control systems including home theater, lighting, automation, HVAC, and more
- High-end AV with advanced control, adding home theater design, furniture, and acoustics.
Wherever your company is positioned on this list now, I recommend that you work to move up the ladder to more successful and profitable installations. I believe your choice of control systems is a key decision as to how your position you company. Most other competencies and capabilities are defined by your control system.
Most CEDIA companies install mid-level or advanced control systems. There are two ways that they can move up the ladder. Selling higher-end audio and video is a clear and profitable choice. If you have ever sold a $20,000 pair of speakers with the amplifiers and accessories that go with it, then you understand the extra profits you can make.
If you want to reach the highest level of sales, then you must sell more than AV gear. The best home theaters include design, special furniture, and acoustic design and treatment. While these skills may seem to be beyond your current experience, there are a few ways to step up to this level.
Several companies offer complete modular home theaters that you can spec and sell. Dealers simply provide them with the dimensions of a room “shell” on their project, and they can create a complete theater that is shipped to the job site for modular assembly. By working closely with these companies, you can sell all of the furniture, finish, and accessories needed for a great theater without becoming an architect or decorator. Rich Riehl (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Los Angeles-based consultant to the CI business and creator of BidMagic.
Have you been in “home theaters” that are really a big great room with 30-inch ceilings, lots of glass windows, and marble floors? What a disappointing experience. Most residential contractors do not have expertise in acoustic design and construction. Knowing how to install AV gear without understanding room acoustics can ruin the entire listening and viewing experience.
The study of room design and acoustic response is a complex subject that you cannot master in a short class at CEDIA. However, understanding the basics of desirable room dimensions, wall construction, building materials, and techniques for sound isolation, bass and reverberation control may begin in classes like this. These are essential skills to create the best media rooms and home theaters. When the right client comes along, your fundamental knowledge of room acoustics will help you choose an acoustical engineer subcontracter who can assist with computer modeling, room analysis, and more.
Adding design, furnishings, and acoustical treatments will result in much better home theaters and set you apart from your competitors.