Taking it Outside - ResidentialSystems.com

Taking it Outside

When it comes to backyard entertaining, outdoor AV generally remains the exception rather than the rule.
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With Springtime Around the Corner, It’s Time to Sell Those Outdoor Projects Again

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Speakercraft’s Boom Tomb outdoor subwoofer has been appropriately named because the majority of the enclosure is buried underground with only a small, hooded port exposed above the surface.

When it comes to backyard entertaining, outdoor AV generally remains the exception rather than the rule. Climate may be the biggest factor, but awareness of the possibilities available from clever video display and loudspeaker manufacturers and their integration partners is also an issue. Even Alan Rottner from outdoor speaker maker Stereostone admits that he lived in his current house for 12 years before finally installing his brand in his yard.

It’s worth noting that AV manufacturers are taking outdoor AV very seriously. Pointing to that is the fact that there are not one but two brands of weatherproof TV, not to mention loudspeaker brands bringing new outdoor products to market, including Speakercraft’s Boom Tomb, Russound’s Acclaim 5 Series OutBack speaker, PSB’s new CS1000 Universal/Outdoor Speaker, and many others.

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Pantel’s national accounts manager Ryan Moodley has found that a lot of customers who buy its weatherproof TV don’t even know its name at first.

Filling Out the Line
Last fall Dana Innovations, parent company of Sonance, iPort, and TRUFIG, entered into an agreement with AmbiSonic Systems, manufacturer of high-end outdoor audio systems, to become the exclusive partner to handle worldwide sales, marketing, and order fulfillment for that unique line of outdoor speakers. The company then rebuilt and brought the AmbiSonic Systems product line under the umbrella of its Sonance brand and its new Landscape Series.

Sonance director of marketing Simon Wehr explained that while his company was happy with its partnership, it wanted to bring the Ambisonic designs up to its full potential. “With that in mind,” Wehr explained, “Todd Ryan, our product development engineer, worked with AmbiSonic and made changes in materials and design, such as incorporating the power transformer without compromising the volume of the product.”

Other changes included material alterations to help the speakers withstand sand, salt, and sea without risking peeling or corrosion.

An additional selling feature for the Sonance Landscape Series is that the LS47SAT and LS67SAT speakers are true two-way speakers with no separate tweeter. The enclosure of the LS10SUB is a PVC composite material intended for scenarios where it’s impossible to bury the sub. “That way,” Wehr said, “if you have to hide the LS10SUB behind a hedge there’s no risk of the enclosure resonating.”

Lastly, Sonance offers dealers amplifiers that are optimized for the Landscape Series. ”We are selling the Crown amps with the system,” Wehr said. “But they are not standard; they come loaded with about 30 custom EQ presets that are optimized for the Sonance Landscape Series.”

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Sometimes a wireless speaker like the Soundcast Outcast will be an easier sell outdoors.

All of these changes add up to a major commitment by Sonance to serve the AV dealer who wants to bring highperformance outdoor AV to his clients. In fact, Dana Innovations CEO Ari Supran went so far as to call outdoor installations a “high-growth” segment for the custom installation industry. Seen in that light, the backyard remains a final frontier for custom installation and a potential profit center that shouldn’t be forgotten. So the question for integrators is how best to pitch the advantages of outdoor entertainment to clients in a way that’s going to get them to open their wallets.

Fighting the Sun
Pantel’s national accounts manager Ryan Moodley has found that a lot of customers who buy its weatherproof TV product don’t even know its name at first. “Because our product is so expensive they go to our custom installer and say, ‘We would like a TV for the outdoors,’” Moodey said. “It is kind of a niche business and there’s not a lot of brands. So an integrator specifies a Pantel TV, and the price is buried somewhere in the overall cost of the job. It’s one of those products that clients love; they’re just better off not knowing what it costs.”

So what makes a TV weatherproof, beyond the obvious? As Pantel’s Moodley explained, “When our owner began he wanted to make a premiere product that could survive weather conditions, including direct sunlight.” Central to that is having a fully readable display in full light, with no isotropic blackout.

Technology is a big factor, although it’s more important to dealers than their clients, Moodley believes. “When you get into end users they don’t know a lot of what we’re talking about; like RS232 front and back IR, etc.,” he said, also noting that Pantel has added technology to enable dealers to connect its TV via Cat-5 or through a balun system, as well as controlling it from a mobile device. “Now with newer phones and smart phones people are controlling our TVs from their phones,” he explained.

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Dana Innovations has rebuilt and brought the AmbiSonic Systems product line under the umbrella of its Sonance brand, within its new Landscape Series.

We Have a Rock for That
Stereostone’s Rottner suggests that dealers should get clients to consider where they do their entertaining. If they entertain even partially outdoors, background music is always nice. Although he’s admittedly biased, Rottner prefers “rock” speakers to “under-eves” options outdoors.

“The under-the-eves speakers are ‘in your face,’ if on the patio and, typically, facing toward your neighbors,” Rottner explained. “The rock speakers are usually facing toward the home and are heard and not readily seen. The music flows toward the listener and is not immediately on top of them.”

Additionally, Rottner pointed out that many yards that have pools are set up for outdoor entertainment. Though the pool may not be used all the time, completing the atmosphere with sound and music keeps the area full of life.

The bottom line to Rottner is that most people who entertain outdoors have other elements, a pool, yard, and other things going on, and that if you walk into a back yard and it’s void of any other entertainment, then it should at least have audio.

“Most people don’t like to just study the trees” he joked. Whether it’s a fountain, bird feeders to attract songbirds, or optimally (to dealers, anyway) an audio system, sound is a critical sense to increase client’s enjoyment of their outdoors. “In the same way that a BBQ stimulates the sense of smell, music enhances your backyard,” Rottner said.

The Puppy Dog Close
To successfully pitch outdoor audio zone, SpeakerCraft’s Canadian sales manager David McCoy tells his dealers to try a variation of the Puppy Dog Close: let the client’s try it and fall in love with it.

“Salesmen should carry around some extra gear, and run some extra leads off their car stereo,” McCoy said. “While on a site survey, plunk the gear on the lawn and fire it up.”

It’s a tactic that he’s seen used successfully even in markets like Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, where even summer is an iffy proposition. McCoy stresses that dealers have to paint a compelling emotional picture of just how much fun the client will have in their backyard when accompanied by the soundtrack to their life. And the subwoofers... “Always talk about subwoofers,” McCoy counseled, “Especially in a big backyard having a subwoofer adds that extra bit of bass extension. You don’t want to entertain your neighbors, but that reinforcement is important.”

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Sunbrite’s Pat Caminiti suggests that dealers can use her company’s outdoor video display as a “foot in the door” to their existing customer base to explain how they can expand the audio/video system to their outdoor living space.

Focusing on the Opposite Sex
Art Powers Sr. from Madison Fielding is very succinct when he details his company’s focus on marketing its lines of planter and decorative outdoor speakers.

“We’re going for the female market,” he stated. It makes sense, because female clients dominate the demographic of people who appreciate great sound but don’t want to ever see a single speaker or piece of electronics in plain view inside (or outside) their house, ever.

According to Powers, a big part of the appeal of Madison Fielding’s planter speakers is that they serve a dual purpose. “They hold a real, live plant,” he pointed out. Available in terra cotta or wood, they contain a water reservoir and a downward firing speaker section. The wood series is made of Maine white cedar, a renewable resource, and Powers mentions that as a vendor they are able to custom build to spec, if a dealer’s clients have specific needs.

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Stereostone’s Alan Rottner suggests that dealers should get clients to consider where they do their entertaining. If they entertain even partially outdoors, background music is always nice.

Painting a Picture
Jason Zidle, director of product marketing and development for Erikson Consumer, which distributes Soundcast in Canada, thinks that the outdoor installation sales pitch should focus on how much the client will enjoy such as system, by painting the picture for them, explaining the cosmetic appeal, or more importantly show how these products will blend in with the surroundings.

First, however, Zidle suggests that dealers actually introduce the concept to a client who simply may not know the option existed. “It always amazes me when I say ‘outdoor speaker’ and people look at me like I said we just discovered alien life,” he said. Further, Zidle commented, some salespeople have a harder time selling the outdoor portion of an integrated home. “The great outdoors should be treated like any room in the house,” he stated. “In other words, it’s a great place to make a good sale.”

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According to Art Powers, a big part of the appeal of Madison Fielding’s planter speakers is that hold a live plant as well as providing audio.

In Zidle’s experience, the concept is usually bought into quickly, as long as salespeople don’t turn the client off by making the system seem too complicated.

Pat Caminiti, from SunBriteTV, stated that the benefit of an all-weather outdoor TV is that it is a relatively new and unique concept, one that homeowners may not even know they exist. In her view, the SunBriteTV product line gives the dealer a number of opportunities to expand their business. For instances, when traditional speakers can’t be installed as easily a piece like the Soundcast Outcast does the job perfectly; simply take it outside and enjoy, wirelessly, he said.

Caminiti further suggests that dealers can take SunBriteTV as a “foot in the door” to their existing customer base to explain how they can expand the homeowner’s audio/video system to their outdoor living space. As she explained, “Not only can they get a great sale, but while they are there, they can perform an audit of the homeowner’s indoor system and possibly make some upgrades there, as well.

Lee Distad (www.leedistad.com) is an Edmonton, Alberta-based custom channel business consultant.

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