Azione Unlimited 2017 Spring Conference Epitomizes Buying Group Growth
Five years have passed since Richard Glikes hosted his first conference and the buying groups 176 members have never felt stronger. Focused on a usual mix of one-on-ones, group sessions, and a handful of guest speakers, the Azione Unlimited Spring Conference also balanced a healthy combination of continuous learning opportunities and "a-ha" moments.
Marking just his second conference, Eric Crawford experienced many of these moments for himself. The founder and CEO of The Loop Technologies noted how strong the Fall conference in Las Vegas was, but realized that connecting with people and interacting with them on a more personal level yielded even greater results.
"I'm just enlightened," Crawford said. "I think a lot of times we can get sucked into our team and start focusing in on only that, but in my situation, almost everyone here is bigger than me. To come here and hang out with people making tens of millions in revenue and knocking it out of the park, it makes me realize that I need to stop capping myself."
"It's as big as I want it to go," he added. "It's a lot of looking at my vision and figuring out how I'm going to get there."
Azione's Virtual Showroom is Finally Here
One of the questions left unanswered after the 2016 Fall Conference was what to do with Tim Costello's virtual showrooms. The last we heard of it, Glikes had turned to his room of members and took an impromptu vote on whether or not they would be interested in following through.
Judging by the number of people who have shown interest, it's apparently become a big success within the group.
Costello, CEO of Builders Homesite Inc., is very familiar with creating a vision for homeowners to their exact preferences, something many integrators struggle to emulate without a pain point or two. Small companies with limited budgets want to show clients that they are the technology elitists and can now do so effortlessly with VR.
As Costello walked the group through a demo - that he prefaced as still a bit premature but otherwise polished - he made lasting impressions with how developed his project is. Mounted televisions switched sizes, outside lighting flashed different colors, and home theater projectors flipped between brands. The frictionless experience lets end users walk through a home while investigating various objects at their leisure using the power of VR.
Crawford notes that in Idaho, there is no regulation in his industry and believes that VR will be the way to recognize a professional consultation like himself and an inexperienced integrator.
"VR is going to be the differentiator to help show that they are the group that can put in wires and we are the systems integration consultants," Crawford said. "We're going to be able to say if you want some wires, go somewhere else, but if you want a partner with a plan for your home and to look at different options, that's what we are, and that's how we can present ourself."
Pricing runs in three tiers and offers more benefits as members buy-in to more expensive projects. Costello and his team even offer fully customizable packages that change everything from cabinet colors, custom furniture, and natural foliage to match a replica of the vision a homeowner would want. Customization includes specific branding of 70 different products, custom background music, inserting content to play on televisions, and even day/night scenes. Costello aims to add 30 more products shortly.
As the Project Manager and System Designer for Fusion Media Systems, Monika Hill understands that even if an Azione member is fully utilizing Costello's system, the industry they occupy demands a service like this.
"If we had to go out and do it by ourselves, we probably wouldn't have done it. It would be too expensive," said Hill. "However, because we did it as a buying group it really gave us the advantage to doing this on a bigger scale. It allows you to be stickier to customers. It makes it personal for them and helps visualize it. Half of the words we use makes no sense to them. They have no idea what we are saying. However, if you can show them and have them experience it, it's a huge connection with the client."
Tim Costello: "Are you wrapping your business in clamshell plastic?"
Costello's keynote asked the room of Azione members how they were presenting their company to a potential client. He compared some experiences to that of the Nest. Wrapped in a velvet box, guarded by a smooth opening magnetic cardboard box, the Nest became popular because of the sophisticated event it produced.
He then remarked that many companies might resemble a Honeywell wrapped in a clamshell plastic. He noted no dramatic difference between the actual guts of the two products, but how the experience as a whole varied entirely.
"There is a brand promise for how you feel through an experience," Costello said. "Think about your business. Are you wrapping your business in clamshell plastic because you just never thought about it?"
Costello's talk was, at first glance, pretty easy to digest. Lot's of facts and figures made it pretty clear that there is money to made in changing the way you think and act. Don't open a hotel, open the company that suggests where to stay and how to get there. Should you panic-buy a Jet.com like Walmart, despite it's long road to profit or should you think about what steps your business needs to accomplish to occupy more of a market, without even changing direction? What does your company look like to someone who has never heard of you?
These were the messages and questions he offered to Azione members, but his final message was clear. Your business has four points to success that include correctly marketing to emotions, clearly marking a net benefit, generating an urge to invest now, and creating a foundation of trust.
These different checkmarks resonated in completely various ways for members.
Crawford sees the benefit of approaching builders with a sense of urgency that explains "now is the right time to buy into his company" and wrapping that proposition correctly means big profits for his company, builders, and homeowners.
"We approach builders to try and sell these things all the time," Crawford explained. "We say 'Look you need to put these in these homes' and that helped me realize that builders aren't going to do it because builders don't want to do it right now. They see it as all this stuff that can be added after the fact so why should they even get involved."
OneVision Resources Showcases Amazon Alexa Tech Support
During a sneak peak at the Azione Unlimited conference on Tuesday, Joseph Kolchinsky let his 45-second teaser do all the talking.
OneVision Resources has given any consumer with an Amazon Alexa product an instant connection with 24/7 tech support and proactive technology monitoring. Alexa's "Tech Support" skill is an exclusive offering provided through the OneVision platform and puts homeowners within minutes of a technology specialist.
The video shows a woman walking into her house, giving context that she is having guests over that night. Frustratingly, a few devices aren't working and she chirps to Alexa "Can you tell tech support to give me a call?"
And that's it. No phone call, no numbers, no context, and, most importantly, no appointment scheduling. All homeowners provide is a home address, email, and phone number and a specialist can provide help. OneVision also utilizes Remote Systems Management to identify potential problems before even reaching out.
“When we launched our services in 2016, we revolutionized the smart-home experience by providing instant, high-quality 24/7 support at no extra cost to the client”, says Kolchinsky founder and CEO of OneVision. “By adding the Alexa Tech Support skill to our platform, we are delivering more meaningful and effective tech support that’s incredibly easy for consumers to access. Tech support is a critical component of today’s connected home and streamlining it is the first step in creating a lifelong relationship with clients."
Hill thinks that this innovation is just another great idea from a brilliant mind (and close friend) in the industry.
"It's a huge void in our industry and it is much needed," Hill said. "(Joey) has developed a model to follow that works and is easy to implement, especially for smaller companies that don't have that program in their company or can't afford to maintain it. I like that he responds to the ever-changing needs of both our clients and our industry. "
With the next conference scheduled in Austin for the Fall, Azione members have a lot to think about for their next visit. And between personal growths of companies and the group's ability to evolve and pick up new projects like VR showrooms, a lof of the members are feeling positive about their future in the industry.
"My favorite part is what I learn from other dealers, and it's a great forum for vetting out best practices and procedures," Hill said. "It makes us stronger as a group and it is also improving the industry. We are the cream of the crop. We are the best of the best. Other groups do a great job of that as well, but they can only go so far. By us sharing ideas and putting out those best practices within in our buying group, we are improving our industry as a whole."
Glikes ended the conference wrapped in a large Azione Unlimited banner during his fireside discussion of "actionables" with the remaining members.
"Did you share ideas?" he asked
A variation of agreement responded back.
"Did you make friends?"
"Yup," many said in unison.
"Did you develop partnerships?"
"And did you have fun?" he asked.
The crowd could only cheer for that answer.
Azione Award Winners
- Golden Goose - Q4 2016
- LG (Vendor)
- Biggest Growth 2016
- Kustom Home Entertainment (Dealer)
- Future Ready Solutions (Vendor)
- Business Quadrupler
- DC Home Systems (Dealer)
- Business Triplers
- Acoustic Vision (Dealer)
- Custom Audio (Dealer)
- Unlimited Integration (Dealer)
- Business Doublers
- Custom System Integration (Dealer)
- Easy Living with Technology (Dealer)
- Experience Technology (Dealer)
- The Integrated Home (Dealer)
- World Premiere (Dealer)
- Product of the Year
- Sony - 4K Home Theater Laser Projector (Vendor)
- Big Kahuna
- Electronic Environments (Vendor)
- Dealer's Choice
- Dana Innovations (Vendor)