Catching Up With: Chris Bundy, Director of Marketing, Atlona Technologies : The Service Trifecta
The Three-Pronged Strategy That’s WorkingFebruary 2012 By Interview By CR Staff
CustomRetailer: When we spoke last year, your market goal was to become a one-stop shop/connectivity solutions company for all the solutions integrators need. Also, at that time, you said about 40 percent of your sales were to the CEDIA-type residential channel with retail sales accounting for just over 20 percent and the balance of business in commercial equipment, some for the government. Are those percentages about the same now?
Chris Bundy: Every one of those markets has grown significantly. The mix is still pretty much the same, but they are all functioning at a much higher level. The CEDIA residential installation market, for us, has steadily been growing. But we also have seen a lot of growth recently within the retail sales realm, particularly in tier one and two retailers, since we developed a group of retail products.
The biggest changes are that we've hired an additional 30 people since 2010, and have now broken our products out into three lines with three separate business models. We're also doing more advertising and are capitalizing on a number of under-utilized technologies. HDBaseT connectivity technology has been a big plus for us—we're promoting new versions of products. There have been extenders and matrix switchers around forever, but the ones that take advantage of the technology and allow it to be more flexible in custom integration designs really have pushed us ahead of a lot of our competitors with our resellers. We're a one-stop shop for those integrators, so they don't have to go to five different companies to get one job done.
CR: Update our readership on the types of products you will soon introduce that build upon prior introductions, and that answer specific needs for the custom integrator.
Bundy: As mentioned, we've changed the names of the lines, to make them more appropriate. We have the Home line that's for end-users and is very consumer electronics-oriented. The next is our Professional line – things you really need a professional to install. It ranges from there up to products for those really heavy, industrial-level government projects, which comprise our Commercial line.
Whether for residential installers or digital signage integrators, a lot of the tools they need are really the same. We did the segmentation based on a series of surveys; from the results, we realized that regardless of what vertical market integrators are approaching, they want to know that the same product that they just used in a residential install to fix that one HDMI issue will still work in their nightclub install, or in the digital signage project they're about to start.
CR: Update us on your dealer-support programs for the custom integrator, and on how you are working to develop products and packages that will enable them to make more margin, and get in and out of a job quickly, with fewer unnecessary post-installation truck rolls.
Bundy: We have taken the Professional line beyond the name-changing hierarchy, and introduced several products within it. We want to help those integrators be as professional as they can be. So we introduced two new programs. The Atlona Advantage program is our promise that's more than a warranty—for any project, we'll provide pre- and post-sale support as well as on-site support. It's a type of hand-holding that is typically not done by larger companies.
The other is the Atlona Academy program, where we educate installers on best practices on any new technologies we're working with, whether it's HDMI regional training, bringing in HDBaseT people to talk at our International Summit or educating on the consumer-based formats like DLNA.
We also hope eventually to do a certain amount of certification to help higher-level integrators to better use our equipment and have fewer return rates based on not knowing what product to use.
Part of the Advantage program is to make sure dealers make more profit. Our latest "big win" was the kit we have to diagnose and repair all sorts of HDMI issues within 10 minutes—to get integrators in and out. We thought about that product and why it was so well received, and it was because it really does save integrators time, money and lots of head-scratching hours. Since then, we've thought about what we can do with all our products to help them similarly.
Additionally all of our silk-screening on our products is being changed so that eventually there will be QR codes built into the back of every single one of our Professional and Commercial line products. The code, when scanned with a cell phone, will bring up a cell phone-formatted quick install guide as well as a full manual, if requested. We've tested it, and it saves tons of support calls or running back to the office to find out this or that. It will take some time to cycle this in, but we hope by the end of Q2 2012 to have most of the products updated with it.
That same methodology has prompted us to change our website, which should also be available by that time. It will be a double-facing website. If you're a consumer, you'll click on a button and see the normal things you'd see on a consumer site.
But we also realized that none of our competitors was showing use-case examples for their integrators. So we're putting up a type of product configurator designed to help people get in and find the right product for them. With a company as prolific as us, it's hard to put forth a concise list of, say, the 50 products that do HDMI conversions. On the integrator-facing side of the site, there will be a wealth of education mixed with product information. No one cares what model numbers are—they care about function and economical value.
CR: Are there any other areas of your business you'd care to comment on, as we move further into 2012? Are there new products you're developing?
Bundy: We have launched a whole group of HDBaseT products on the pro side. On the consumer side, we're developing devices for tablets, and developing several devices to act as consumer-true cable replacements, allowing the consumer to integrate into their smart home without having to revamp anything their integrator has done.
We're realizing that the two aren't mutually exclusive. Three different products coming out in our Home line are based on our LinkCast wireless series of products, whether DLNA or a true cable replacement. We also have our LinkConnect, which is our new series of cables. We've decided we want to pull down our cable pricing across the board while still giving the same quality that we have always provided. That meant that we had to simplify the line, meaning that we don't have a dozen different HDMI cables but only four.
In Q2 and Q3 of 2012, there will be a bunch of new surprises in the pro and commercial realms. One thing I can talk about at this stage is that we are developing our first-ever matrix modulator, which will be designed to take multiple HDMI inputs in and modulate them over a single coax, so that instead of having a bunch of HDMI connections going to the TV, you have one coax and can see any device you want to on a channel. That's a very exciting product for anyone who's crossing over from the residential to the light-commercial realm. It allows them to do projects for houses, for hospitality and for bar and nightclub A/V applications—things that have never been accessible before for less than around $30,000. It will really open up things for them. CR