Azione Unlimited Dialed In On Results, Adds Lighting Resource, Marketing Initiative, Vital Partnerships
There were a lot of exciting narratives floating around the Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill Hotel during the spring meeting for Azione Unlimited. Selling more premium audio, nailing the marketing presence, becoming a turnkey lighting solution, courting consumer-facing stalwarts, and investing in the voice control paradigm all punctuated the fact that Azione President Richard Glikes still sees Azione as "a buying group, first and foremost."
"All I'm trying to do is protect," Glikes said. "These dealers can do more business, even in good times. All I want to do is give them more opportunity."
That opportunity is stressed in marketing, as Azione doubles, or rather triples down, on investing in dealers to make a change right now. Glikes has started budget that will match a dealers investment into marketing campaigns, including Facebook, One Firefly, and print brochure efforts. A pilot program with eight dealers over three months with a $10,000 budget generated over 200 client leads, all from Azione's own budget. But the kicker lies in the fact that vendors will also invest, giving the dealer a huge incentive to get the process started.
"We have a certain amount of revenue that we pull out and at a certain point the smartest thing we can do is simply reinvest in the dealer," Glikes said. "The one-third, one-third, one-third is exactly like matching funds except usually matching funds didn't have an entire group doing it. And the thing is that vendors are actually delighted to invest if you can show the ROI. And we are confident we can move that dial."
Sparking Intrest in the Lighting Business
Finally, Glikes has emphasized that the industry is turning to lighting as the next uncharted territory, although it's probably more accurate to say that many dealers are at different stages. Joined by Boston-based lighting designer Wolfers and the newly acquired System 7, Glikes is offering a turnkey solution to the vetting, purchasing, delivery, and installation of lighting.
In a talk with dealers, president of System7 Gerry Lynch brought a few main talking points to the table:
- Wolfers lighting fixture sales have soared past $700,000 in 2017 alone
- Clearly the "single largest and frictionless" attachment sale
- Moves dealers to an earlier and more important part of the equation
- Controls discussion to be more central, not just AV-centric
And Lynch is right. Selling lighting solutions not only fleshes out the dealer's profile but forces the budget conversation to happen earlier. In a lighting panel featuring Tim Lucci of Peter Zimmerman Architects, he noted that a typical A/V budget when spec'ing a premium house build is around "one or two dollars per square foot if there is one at all."
It's a dishearting comment that only further solidifies Glikes involvement with Wolfers as well as recently formed partnerships with Coastal Source, Element Tech, Lighten Green, and Lumastream. It's further punctuated by the fact that, despite the general consensus around labor, lighting is a rare opportunity to pass labor along to an electrician and still keep the majority of the profits. Glikes sees lighting as being so successful that it's only a matter of time until more business' has a master electrician on staff.
"We have no choice. This is like shades. People used to ask me 'We're going to sell shades? No way,'" Glikes said. "Now you ask these dealers and 25 percent of their business is shades. Lighting fixtures are very profitable... We have no choice."
Lucci also notes that pretty much every dealer in the room had a chance to be the lighting designer if there wasn't one already on the job, which happens often. That is because that responsibility will get pushed around from designer to architect to contractor as nobody is comfortable with the process.
"The client is asking us to figure this out now," Glike said. "That gets us a higher position at the table. They ask dealers to be the lighting guy because I'm already the technology guy. They are deferring to dealers now. When you're in a higher position, when you're sitting in that room with five other eight other people and the homeowners there and they're builders, that's a very good thing."
Partnership with Google, Sonos Empowers Unique Growth
With this effort, it's clear that Glikes is not panicked over a potential economy swing. In fact, he sees the high-note of the industry as an opportunity to grow his group's profits exponentially. That is probably why the consumer-facing sweetheart Google Home, and whole home audio pioneer Sonos have recently joined the group. And that's not to discredit the addition of Atlona, James Loudspeaker, Audioquest, or Lyngdorf Audio, it's just to note that the group wants to wrap their arms around every side of the industry.
"If we're a leading edge and if we're supposed to put in the latest technology, wouldn't it be nice to be partners with the people who are pioneering it? Wouldn't it be nice to be their partners?" Glikes said. "That's the key point. When vendors are the members, it gives them a deeper meaning of success. It gives them an inside look at the industry and nobody else can provide that."
And Sonos agrees. Looking at their history, they have always run parallel with the CI industry. There have been a lot of moments where they wanted to enter, but the timing was not perfect or the manpower was lacking. Sonos' Head of US Sales and Installed Solutions Andrew Vloyanetes explained at the conference that his three pillars to success involve trust, advocacy, and credibility.
With that mantra in mind, joining Azione became a no-brainer. And they have already seen a payoff in the short two months with the group. Their goal was to avoid the "me-too" type of dealer and having a group that is both financially potent and agile gives Sonos a wide breadth of feedback as they navigate the shifting industry.
"We feel that the first one for us to take a step into, Azione was really the right fit," Vloyanetes said. "It was consumable, it's easy to get our arms around it because we don't have a ton of people resources dedicated to this. Being able to have something that's consumable and able to profile the dealers is important to us too. We really want candid, varied feedback."
Odds and Ends
It wouldn't be an Azione meeting without a few Hulk Shaped awards.
- Azione Dealer Business Doublers in 2017
- ABE Networks – Avi Benaim
- Advanced Integrated Systems – Benny Walbidge & Blaine Christensen
- BCAV – Bob Melnik
- Connect Consulting – Jonathan Phillips & Dan Kuronya
- Hermary’s – Clarence Hermary & Paul Foley
- Interior Technologies – Kirk Attoian
- SoundWaves – Joe DeMarco
- Tune Street – Luke Germain
- Azione Vendor Doubler
- “Big Kahuna” – Most business with Azione vendors in 2017
- Spectra Audio Design Group, Michael Goodrich
- Dealers’ Choice – Vendor of the Year
- Dana Innovations