I love springtime. Not only is the weather getting nicer, but it is a great opportunity to sell some outdoor AV gear. Even better for me, during the winter months most of my work is in Manhattan, with a two-plus hour commute each way, expensive bridges and tolls, lots of gas, $40 parking, and difficult building regulations to work with. In the spring, my work shifts closer to home in NJ where my clients have yards and decks to deck out with great gear. Don’t get me wrong, I still have to go into the city as many clients have roof decks or terraces, plus the indoor work, but having more jobs closer to home is great.
Since I have such a strong incentive to land more outdoor work, I wanted to share some tips I’ve learned along the way.
1. Use conduit. While direct burial wire is great, protect yourself and your client’s investment by burying conduit to add another layer of protection. Not only that, but if there is enough room left in the conduit, you may be able to use it in the future for additional wire runs once the client realizes how great it is to have outdoor music and video.
2. Specify a robust pre-wire. Just as with new construction or home renovations, make sure you run enough wire to cover future needs or expansion. The client wants just two speakers out by the pool? Spec in and run wire for two to four more speakers around the pool, as well as some throughout the yard and for a subwoofer. While the yard is being torn up is the time to do it. Once you’re there, run as much of the wire as you can while your team is on-site
3. Rock speakers are passé. For quite a while rock speakers were the only option for the yard. Landscape architects are sick of them and probably cringe every time you mention them. Look for more elegant, invisible, unique solutions.
a. Try out speakers that look like landscape lighting, like the SonArray from Sonance or the AIR from Crestron.
b. We love Madison Fielding’s planter speakers. They sound amazing and actually serve as a planter as well, so are completely inconspicuous.
c. Stealth Acoustics makes a completely sealed speaker. You can send them photography of the area where the speaker will be placed, and they can recreate that photography on the face of the speaker, so that it blends in with the foliage.
d. Never forget well-placed and inconspicuous under-eaves speakers. You can get them from many brands. We are partial to Paradigm and Crestron.
4. Know the terminology. Some speakers are marketed as weatherproof and can withstand all of the elements — wind, rain, snow, bugs, salt, etc. Others are ‘extreme moisture’ or similar and are better suited to areas where there is some risk of humidity or light moisture but not outdoors. I’ve seen people ask for in-ceiling speakers outdoors in the roof over the deck. Don’t do it. The speakers aren’t made for that application. They are made for bathrooms and similar locations.
5. Sell the video. Many clients and therefore integrators shy away from outdoor TV because of the cost. But TVs are coming down in price. If your client can’t afford it today–similar to No. 2 above–at least pre-wire for it, so you have the option in the future.
6. As with any other products, keep a few samples in the truck, so you can show them to clients on the consult. A rock speaker, planter, or lighting speaker sample can go a long way to making the sale.
Outdoor AV is not only a great business and a lot of fun (its much better to be working outside after a long winter cooped up on construction sites), but it gets clients really excited, and there is not a lot of DIY product out there–they need our expertise. Show the client what is possible, and you will reap the rewards.
+Todd Anthony Pumais president of The Source Home Theater Installation in New York City.