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EI Creates ‘Farm Club’ for Custom Channel

Exceptional Innovation's CEO Seale Moorer dispels rumors concerning the company's new Best Buy for Business distribution plan.

Columbus, OH–Exceptional Innovations’ CEO sent a letter last week to his custom channel dealers clarifying his company’s new distribution plan featuring Best Buy’s commercial installation division, Best Buy for Business. In his letter, Seale Moorer explained that EI’s new bundled solution, called ConnectedLife.Home, is not a retail product and is not envisioned as a “DIY” solution. Instead, he said, the package should be viewed as “farm club” of consumers that may eventually turn toward the CEDIA channel for more services.

“ConnectedLife.Home is the next step in helping consumers down the Life|ware path with a very limited, ‘no new wires,’ pre-packaged solution designed to introduce them to the experience of the digital lifestyle,” Moorer wrote in the letter. “Rather than leverage the unique customization services you provide to your clients, ConnectedLife.Home consists of a Media Center PC and basic Life|ware configuration of a small number of wireless light switches, IP security cameras, and a thermostat. While this is a revolutionary starting point, it provides up sell opportunities to CEDIA installers for whole-house audio, security integration, and all of the evolved entertainment and control capabilities in the professional version of Life|ware.”

EI envisions the $15,000 ConnectedLife.Home package as a way to significantly increase the middle market’s understanding of home automation and digital media systems. “By giving the mainstream consumer a taste of the potential of a digital entertainment and home automation solution, we are in effect creating a ‘farm club’ of consumers that are complementary to the CEDIA channel and ultimately feed new clients to Life|ware dealers,” Moorer added.

The starter kit consists of an HP Z560 Media Center, an XBox 360, 10 Insteon light switches, two Insteon keypads, an RCS thermostat, two Panasonic IP cameras, and a home networking kit. It has all of the wires and cables to go with it. The only changes that can be made to this kit involve additions to the system, not product changes. That’s the point where a custom installer would need to become involved. Life|ware dealers will receive leads from ConnectedLife.Home customers who have requested information about upgrading and enhancing the capabilities of their systems. Or, if they prefer, them may opt out of the program altogether.

All ConnectedLife.Home customers also receive one year of EI’s Life|support 24-hour customer service program and are part of the Life|ware family from the moment their systems are installed. They will be introduced to Life|ware via the consumer section of EI’s web site. And, through browsing, they may learn the additional capabilities of Life|ware as well as the higher level of integration and control that the CEDIA dealer base can provide.

In a separate interview with Residential Systems, EI’s VP of marketing, Mike Seamons, emphasized his company had always planned to add a middle market package to its line. He said that despite the ominous theories circulating throughout the bloggosphere, EI by no means is “giving up” on the custom channel, because they aren’t “growing fast enough.”

“This has been the strategy from the very beginning,” he explained. “I think everyone has always seen us as being very aggressive and taking massive swings at the market to get people to understand what we are and how we can help them. We wouldn’t have a 50-point product for custom installers to create businesses around if we didn’t believe that they were an important part of the whole market.”

To further clarify, Seamons said that EI established it custom-channel partners first, so that consumers would have an upgrade path beyond the middle-market package they would eventually introduce through Best Buy for Business. “We could have done this [Best Buy deal] a year ago,” Seamons added, “but we needed the people in step and trained so when somebody buys a ConnectedLife.Home package and they want to do more than the package allows, they would have somebody to call. We started with custom installers because they are the people who can create special and unique systems for all of these farm club customers as they grow. Without them we wouldn’t be able to deliver that to all of the people we are marketing to in the mid-market.”

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