How can the custom industry provide the perception of value to the monied client who is spending less than before on custom integration, and who searches the web as ardently for bargains as his less-wealthy consumer counterpart does?
That was one of the centerpiece issues in a series of topics bandied about by a collection of integrators, vendors and technology pundits who serve the custom industry, at the “Building a Business with Lifestyle Technology” panel during CE Week’s Lifestyle Technology Summit June 24 in New York City.
The discussion was moderated by Maureen Jenson, CustomRetailer and E-Gear editor in chief, and included: John Dahl, senior fellow and director of eduation, THX; Theo Kalomirakis, principal, TK Theaters, TK Living and the Kalomirakis Collection; Peter Lyngdorf, founder, Steinway Lyngdorf; Dean Miller, president and CEO, Lenbrook; Michael Curtin, principal, Audio Command Systems; and Noah Kaplan, president, Leon Speakers.
“Times are tough for everyone in the integration world,” observed Curtin, adding that his decision to broaden the product category offerings within the grouping of system solutions his firm offers has made a difference in his bottom line. He cited a project that began as a $950,000 ticket and ballooned to $2 million with the addition of power conditioning, shading and drapery control solutions and even a multi-room scenting system that integrates with the home’s HVAC gear. He also suggested that the custom industry, which in its heyday developed the habit of chasing after “the next job,” had best amend that behavior and pay more attention to existing clients. “That’s the way to get the next job” nowadays, he said.
Kalomirakis agreed, saying, “We need to strengthen our bonds with our current clients. The more satisfied they are, they more likely they will introduce us to their neighbors.” Additionally, his firm has responded to the economy’s challenges by making more of an effort to partner with designers instead of trying to sidestep their efforts. “Our emphasis now is not, ‘We can do it better than you,’ but rather, ‘We can help you do it better.’ We want to educate them so we don’t lose our part of the project, and work more closely with them so they are less likely to reject our choices.” He cited as an example the development by his subsidiary of a new collection of fabrics that accommodates both integrators’ needs and designers’ aesthetic needs. “We’re offering more elaborate speaker grilles to them as choices. These efforts allow designers to design rooms while making them more theater-friendly.”