Manufacturers: Help Me Help You!

You all know the drill: the manufacturer’s rep comes around to have The Talk (which is only slightly less awkward than “the talk” your dad tried to have with you). Invariably, it goes something like this: “Hey, I’ve been looking over your numbers for the year and, oh boy. Well, to be honest, they’re down quite a bit
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You all know the drill: the manufacturer’s rep comes around to have The Talk (which is only slightly less awkward than “the talk” your dad tried to have with you). Invariably, it goes something like this:

“Hey, I’ve been looking over your numbers for the year and, oh boy. Well, to be honest, they’re down quite a bit. Actually to here (pointing to a number on a spreadsheet that is barely hovering above the bottom of a page.)

“Now we’d really like to see you more up here” (pointing to a fictional spot near the top of the page that could either by the GDP of a European country or the answer to some Hawking-esque theoretical equation).

You are forced to just stand there going, “Um-hmm, yeah, business has been slow. You know, we’re in a downturn, and we’re just doing our best to hang on and send you all the business we can. Blah, blah, blah.”

Then, in a great magnanimous display of teamwork, the rep offers, “You know, I really don’t want to look at signing on any new accounts. I don’t. So, what can we do to help your business?”

If you own a CI firm, you’ve lived this. And if you enjoy these little repartees, then you probably also love the rush of getting a Brazilian wax or that special, left arm tingle at the outset of a massive heart attack. For most of us, these talks just suck, and aren’t really productive in the least. And while many companies make the rounds and say they want to help, not many of them actually do anything about it. Just because you want us to sell more doesn’t mean that is going to just magically happen. Want to know how you can help my numbers? Make a better product. Make it available only to me (ie limited distribution and no online). And then offer my customer a killer incentive to buy it.

I had a great experience with Runco recently that hit all of these points. Now, I’ll admit that the brand went through some Bruce Banner-like growing pains following the Planar acquisition. I even walked out of one early press event saying, “You know, I’m not even sure this industry needs Runco anymore.” (I can be ugly. Just ask US Air.) But then I saw the Q, their new LED powered projector. This was one of the few press demonstrations that literally elicited gasps of amazement from the press corps. We (I’m an honorary member) are a hardened bunch -- the type of group that tosses back handfuls of Junior Mints and makes jokes while watching The Human Centipede. Then when they told us the totally non-Runco price, I was giddy. This was a piece that was imminently sellable. So they hit two of my three criteria: a great product with well-controlled distribution.

Then my rep, Nick Scudero from Creative Marketing, came around. Nick went through the spiel about business being slow, etc. but then he hit me with a real offer. An offer I could take to customers. If a customer wanted to upgrade their existing projector (even a non-Runco) to a Q, Runco would take $1,500 off MY cost, and then ask me to match that, giving the customer $3,000 off the retail. How many customers would respond favorably to a phone call of, “You know that outdated, essentially worthless piñata-of-a-projector hanging from your ceiling? I’ll give you $3,000 for it if you trade up to the projector you know you really want.” It’s good for Runco, it’s good for me, and it’s good for the customer. It’s a merry-go-round of goodness and we all get to sit on the cool horse!

This is a real-world way that a manufacturer can help you. Think of other ways that our industry could use this. What if receiver manufacturers offered something for an old, out-dated model to upgrade to one of their higher-end pieces? Instead of being a use-until-breaks purchase, you could incentivize them to stay technologically current. Manufacturers could also use trade-ins as a way to step customers up to higher-end Blu-ray players that have more profit than a McDonald’s value meal. Or they could bring that relatively new flat-panel in for something even thinner and 3D.

Manufacturers, we all want our numbers to be better. We’re all looking for ways to sell and install more of your boxes. Maybe Runco has figured out a way for us to actually do it.

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