One of the most challenging issues owners of AV/VTC integration firms face is keeping up with the plethora of new products and services showing up daily. A very exciting time, but, it can also be distressing. Not only are there a plethora of choices for customers to evaluate (which extends the sale cycle), but there has also been a dramatic decrease in the cost of the equipment. On one hand, lowering prices is great for the customer; on the other, it’s hard to make company revenue goals when the price of your products has dropped 50-65 percent. Is there anything positive about the recent industry trends? Absolutely! But owners of AV integration firms must first come to terms with the fact that what got you here won’t get you there.
So how do integration firms make money these days amidst all of the industry turmoil? One way is to embrace the new products and make them part of the company’s go to market strategy. In the last several years, the AV/VTC industry has begun benefitting from the release of a wide range of cloud-based services and products, especially in the education and corporate verticals. VTC products like Zoom are experiencing phenomenal growth along with capturing significant market share based primarily on selling software subscription licenses. Consider this: software is just one piece of the puzzle for customers. They still need cameras, displays, audio, etc. to fully equip the room which presents an opportunity for integrators to do zoom room integration. These days customers are installing a lot more zoom rooms than traditional conference rooms. That translates into a great way to scale the business. So what’s my advice for integrators? “RIDE THE WAVE!”
Another strategy that has worked for me is making the commitment to transition the company into a service-focused organization. This would include selling managed services, remote monitoring, maintenance, 24/7 support, etc. Suffice to say there is a lot of aging AV / VTC equipment out there that needs to be maintained (in lieu of refreshing/replacing it) and that presents a sales opportunity for the integrator. Although service revenue tends to be a little lower than project-based/installation revenue, the profit margins are generally much higher. Selling services is a whole new ballgame–hire a sales person who focuses on solely on services. Don’t forget to get creative in recruiting for this position by looking for people who have an entrepreneurial mindset, and have good organizational and communication skills; don’t worry about industry experience as that can be taught.
Years ago, AV/VTC technology was more of a luxury than a necessity. But today, it is a must-have solution in many verticals such as corporate, education and healthcare. Because of this, integrators need to consider now, more than ever, the user experience. Customers are demanding a user experiencefocused on simplicity and accommodation similar to what popular consumer technology, like smart phones and tablets, offers. When integrators can create a smooth user experience and, at the same time, offer to provide continual service, the integrator not only increases profits but also get a “stickier” relationship with the customer. In today’s hypercompetitive AV marketplace, getting closer to a customer by providing high quality support is a good thing.
Other additional support areas companies can develop for profitability include system and network design, end user and technician training, and content creation for digital signage customers. It seems to me that, with these aforementioned factors alone, making the decision to grow the company’s services business is a no brainer. Big revenue is nice, but big profits are even better!
Jay Myers is the founder/CEO of Interactive Solutions, Inc. (ISI), a Memphis-based firm that specializes in videoconferencing, distance learning, telemedicine, and audiovisual sales and support.