Mariano Rivera is considered by some to be the greatest relief pitcher–or “closer”–the game of baseball has ever known.
As a closer, Rivera’s job is pretty simple: he comes in at the very end of the game–usually in the 9th inning, sometimes with just a single out or even a single pitch remaining–throws a couple of brilliant pitches, gets the big out and ends the game a hero. The closer isn’t concerned with all of the drama that happened in innings 1-8, and often isn’t called in if the team is losing. The closer is about winning and is brought in once things are pretty much locked-down.
His job is to make sure that things don’t slip away.
In short, closers get things done. (They also get coffee, but that's another story...) Think about how we can relate this to Black Friday and custom installation.
The Big Box and internet stores have spent millions of advertising dollars to attract buyers to come in and purchase products that in many cases are sold at or below cost. Their goal, of course, is to lure people in with the promise of incredible deals—“60-inch LED under $700!”; “40-inch LCD under $180!”—and then while shoppers are milling around, dazed by the crowds and swept up in the dopamine rush of shopping euphoria, get them to purchase other, higher priced, non-sale items to help offset the crazy deals sold at a loss.
But, many shoppers are getting too savvy for this ploy, targeting stores with SEAL Team 6-like efficiency as they stake out the key deals, charge in and buy that—and ONLY that—super-sale item before leaving and heading off to the next take-down.
As a custom installation industry, we can’t even begin to compete with this business model. First, we could never out-advertise these guys. They can drop on a single ad what we gross in an entire year. And any message that we tried to put out would be like a gnat rubbing its wings at a Who concert. Second, selling stuff under cost doesn’t work for us. That's a volume game and we could never generate the kinds of sales numbers needed to ever make up for selling TVs at $100 (or more) under our cost.
In a race to zero, price-all-that-matters game, we will lose. Every time.
But, the good news is, we don’t need to compete with them on that battlefield.
In fact, let the Amazon’s and the Best Buy’s and the Costco’s and the Wal-Mart’s battle it out Hunger Games style for the title of selling the most TVs for the least amount of money! We should be standing on the sidelines cheering.
And to be perfectly honest, the majority of these *really* aren’t the clients that we want in the first place. In fact, these are often exactly the types of clients that we DON’T want. The ones that aren’t interested in buying the performance oriented gear that we sell, and are primarily interested in finding the lowest priced set available. Often, these are the buyers that come in, query you about specs and features for a bit, look to get a real-live demo, and then once educated, run off to find the model you just recommended on the Internet at the lowest price. So, really, Black Friday is doing us a favor by culling them from our stores.
But, after they’ve made the purchase is when we can position ourselves to hopefully get the call out of the proverbial bullpen to come in and truly “close” the sale. Because closers don't care about what happened before they came on the field; closers come out and get things done.
Because once they get these new sets home, a lot of these people are still going to need help hooking it up. Or a wall-mount. And some cabling. And some installation labor. And maybe a smart remote to make it all work.
So, really, Black Friday presents us with a yearly opportunity to deal with near optimum, perfectly evolved custom installation customers: those who already spent other people’s time researching and finding the perfect, no-margin TV we would likely never have sold anyhow, but who still need installation and (possibly) everything else (ie: the best/most profitable parts of actually selling a TV).
And after you come in and make the set look perfect on the wall, hide all of the wiring, and integrate it with all of their other gear – “Oh, you don’t have a Blu-ray? Well, you really want one if you want to enjoy your new TV to its fullest. I happen to have one on the van. Would you like me to install it for you right now?”–which experience do you think they are going to remember in the future? The miserable line they had to wait in at midnight, pushing and shoving for the chance to eventually deal with someone who basically said, “Here’s your box"? Or the professional that showed up on time, knew exactly what he was doing, and came in and made it actually work?
Black Friday is a numbers game, but not the numbers that the other guys are interested in. The numbers that our industry should be most interested in accumulating is satisfied customers. Because those are the ones that tell friends and family and continue coming back for more.
Many of those sets just ordered are now starting to arrive at people's homes. It's closing time...
John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.