Re-visioning: Part 6: Selling Lifestyle Solutions. Part I
In recent columns, I argued that home integration specialists should abandon the product and feature-centric approach to selling (which defined the old glory days of A/V retailing), and adopt a consumer-centric focus more in keeping with the realities of the services we now provide. To do this, we’ll need to address the confusion and even defensiveness that consumers often bring to the task of purchasing home entertainment and automation systems.
Let’s begin by looking at ways to help prospects reduce their defensiveness and confusion, so they can fully engage in the design consultation process, open-mindedly learn what’s available, and zero in on the solutions that make sense for their situation. The more you understand about them, their household, and their lifestyle needs, and the more they understand what home automation and integration can do for them, the more lifestyle problems they’ll want you to solve for them.
In subsequent columns we’ll look at ways to 1) help consumers understand the full scope of integration features that are now available, and 2) clarify specific needs relative to their home, household members, and lifestyle. These aids will help us design and engineer systems tailored to these specific needs.
More Choices Equals
It’s not surprising that consumers are confused. The home entertainment and automation segments have grown dramatically over the last decade—and now encompass such a diverse set of complex and ever-evolving technologies—that even we specialists struggle to keep up! The poor consumer trails far behind, still conditioned to make simple A-B comparisons in a retail (or maybe virtual retail) setting. He simply expects to choose some speakers, electronics, or TV that he likes, then drive home to install it all himself. Rarely does the consumer have the knowledge or interest to fully comprehend the complex service transaction that home integration entails—a detailed needs assessment, visual design consulting, equipment selection and engineering (involving many technical factors), plus wiring, installation, configuration, programming, and client instruction.
Consumers struggle with this complexity in part because they are uninformed, but also because misleading industry advertising makes it all sound so simple. Most of the information they get comes from marketing messages that focus on ease of use or the importance of particular feature(s) embodied in the product which the manufacturer is promoting. But as the home automation and integration segments have grown, the need for educating consumers has increased. And commercial advertising is not geared to provide general information to the public. Incidentally, the SyncMyHome.com website was created to do just that, and to provide technology integrators with the tools to explain what we do and to qualify clients from a lifestyle perspective.
So it’s business as usual. Manufacturers understandably continue to advocate for their own products and features in product-centric ways. And industry trade groups promote the industry in general ways, but fail to provide basic consumer information about the range of solutions available for home integration, or to explain in detail the value which is added by the guys in the trenches. That’s us! This leaves the heavy lifting to the home integrators—which is why we get the big bucks, especially over the last few years! Next Month we will dig deeper in Part II with “Educating and Reassuring Reluctant Clients.” •