by John Sciacca
Dealer summits, events, and road shows are nothing new; many manufacturers travel the country, setting up regional shop to tout their latest wares and have some face time with dealers. Since 2008, Control4 has been has been putting its own spin on this concept, and I had the opportunity to attend this year’s event called “THE Tour,” during its San Francisco/Fremont, CA, stop, May 26-27.
John Sciacca is greeted at the dealer registration desk at this year’s Control4 “THE Tour” stop in the San Francisco/Fremont, CA, area, May 26-27.
Control4 kicked-off the 15-stop event in March at EHX, and for those that either weren’t able to attend or have been on the fence about signing up, I thought I would share my takeaways from the event. Attendees are offered a choice of three classes: two Tech Boot Camps, The Essentials ($99) and Advanced Masters ($119), and Grow Your Business with Control4 ($119). Dealers wanting to take a combination of classes can stay for both days and enjoy a packaged price of $169. Additionally, tour attendees are given an promo to earn a free intercom license, a $399. Plus, there’s lunch both days and a hosted cocktail event.
On day one, I attended the Grow Your Business class which offered a ton of great suggestions for not only being successful with Control4, but in the custom install business in general. The class was led by Randy Newkirk, Control4’s director of channel marketing, who described himself as the “voice of the custom installation channel within the company.” Newkirk has a background of working in the custom installation industry for 27 years, was a Control4 dealer in 2006, and attended the Dealer Tour himself in 2007, meaning that he brings a lot of “been there, done that” credibility to the table.
Day 1’s Grow Your Business class, which was led by Randy Newkirk, Control4’s director of channel marketing, offered suggestions for not only being successful with Control4, but in the custom install business in general.
Newkirk welcomed the class with, “If you’re sitting here today, you’ve been through some tough times. The economy has been especially tough on the custom installation business.” He then pointed out that the new competition for installers is often not other installers but rather outside items competing for discretionary spending: the kitchen granite countertop, high-end appliances, new flooring, etc.
He pointed out the non-static, versatile nature of the Control4 system; that it was designed to grow and change as technology and a customer’s needs change, and that it should be presented to clients in this matter. For instance, the iPad didn’t exist when Control4 was launched, and now it is fully supported and integrated into any Control4 system. Also suggested was finding a customer’s interest or “hot button” – be that lighting, HVAC, security, energy management, A/V control – and then focusing on that. Instead of possibly overwhelming budget-conscious clients with a full-blown system at once, dealers can install a “Trojan Horse” system that is in place ready to grow and expand to support new wants, desires, and budgets.
Time was spent going over various marketing and promotional opportunities such as Control4’s Dealer Direct program that helps dealers market to existing clients. “Rare is the custom installation company that has a dedicated marketing department or a consistent marketing focus,” Newkirk stated. “You can’t afford not to try Dealer Direct.”
Of course, one of the best opportunities at any training is the chance to network and pick the brains of other colleagues in the field. Usually this is done over breaks or after class, but Control4 really encouraged and pushed this collective idea of sharing by scheduled group break-out discussions. This allowed dealers to share things that were working for them and possibly learn something new to try within their own company.
Control4 encouraged the idea of collaboration by scheduling group break-out discussions that allowed dealers to share things that were working for them and possibly learn something new to try within their own company.
Some of my favorite ideas from the group discussions were:
• Giving away a free iPad to customers that spend a certain dollar amount or sign up for certain services
• Giving a free year of Rhapsody subscription
• Giving a free year of 4Sight remote access
• Having the “personal testimony” of staff owning systems in their own home, become the “technology evangelist or concierge” for your clients, and
• Installing Control4 systems into homes of referring builders.
During break times, dealers were encouraged to visit with some of Control4’s partners that were in attendance. Here dealers were given opportunity to explore new products, see how they interact with Control4 systems via certified drivers, and discuss any integration issues. Partners included Atlona, Avocation, Black & Decker, Blackwire Designs, Fusion Research, Honeywell, LiteTouch, Lutron, Mechoshade, Somfy, Sony, and Yale.
During break times, dealers were encouraged to visit with some of Control4’s partners that were in attendance. Partners included Atlona, Avocation, Black & Decker, Blackwire Designs, Fusion Research, Honeywell, LiteTouch, Lutron, Mechoshade, Somfy, Sony, and Yale.
I attended the Advanced Masters training on the second day. Led by Ben Mahoney, this class is for installers that have done recent Control4 installs with medium to extensive experience designing and programming Control4 systems. (The Essentials class is geared toward new or rusty installers, who have limited experience installing systems.) This class spent a lot of time discussing the upcoming release of OS2.1 and some of the new updates and fixes that should be “released really, really soon.”
Also covered were some system design tips and using the System Performance Calculator to determine ahead of time if the system design is going to work or if it is going to be slow and balky; helping dealers head off problems in the design phase prior to the install phase. Mahoney also demonstrated MetaGeek’s WiSpy wireless network analyzer. “One of the best investments you can make is a WiFi tester. Don’t underestimate the value of being able to know what is going on in the wireless network,” he said.
The final part of the day involved extensive programming tips and tricks and “how to” programming walkthroughs. At the end of the day the class was given the opportunity to get specific help on any programming issues or to offer programming suggestions f discoveries and workarounds.
Mark Buzzard, co-owner at Liberty Bell Alarm & Home Theater in Sacramento, CA, attended THE Tour with several of his employees. Buzzard shared, “I enjoyed the roundtable discussions and sharing time. At the vendor partner showcase I was impressed by some of the new product offerings and I was able to develop a solid relationship with Kevin Luther from Blackwire Designs. His support and knowledge of Control4 systems integration is invaluable. I also really enjoyed networking with Shanan Carney and Ty Nilsson from Control4’s marketing team. They are doing exciting new things for dealers and doing a great job with refreshing marketing campaigns and programs.”
While THE Tour is almost halfway over, there are still opportunities to sign-up. You can find a list of Tour cities and dates here.