The Nine 2014: Kelly Perkins, The Cool Factor

The Nine: Kelly Perkins, The Cool Factor
Kelly Perkins

Name: Kelly Perkins

Certifications: CTS

Title: Marketing and Communications Manager

Company: AVI Systems

Location: Minneapolis, MN

Why You Need To Know Her: She translated an interest in computers and technology into a marketing role that had her terminating cables at trade shows as well as creating advertising creative. She raised the cool factor of AV marketing while at Vaddio, with a series of witty t-shirts and hilarious videos like “Vaddio Does Audio."

Now she’s working on the integrator side of marketing to help solve the elusive “selling services instead of products” question at AVI Systems. Upon her hiring, she was stunned that a company as large and successful as AVI Systems didn’t have a single marketing person across its 16 offices. Now she’s building a marketing department much as she did at Vaddio.

How did AVI Systems survive and thrive without marketing? “Their sales people are so direct sales driven it’s unbelievable,” Perkins said, adding that the relative lack of marketing among integrators leaves the field wide open for creative tactics. “I feel lucky in that respect, and I also feel good because we’re helping these businesses.”

Why You May Already Know Her: She is a founding board member and marketing director of Women in AV (WAVE), and she has enthusiastically helped to organize AV Tweetups. She’s also the co-host of AV Social on AV Nation radio, where she provides guidance on the importance of social media and how best to use it.

How She Started: Computer science didn’t quite click for Perkins, so she parlayed her interest in technology into a degree in graphic design and journalism. She then added web design and later a “Mini Masters in Marketing” distinction. After a bit of a false start in the printing industry and agency work, Perkins “literally answered a classified ad” for her Vaddio job. After meeting founders Rob Sheeley and Tom Mingo, she was convinced that the AV industry was more vibrant than printing.

Kelly Perkins

Perkins gets hands on.

“They were so cool and funny, and everything that I did at my previous job they needed someone to do,” she recalled.

Vaddio was a small start-up when Perkins joined, and she managed everything from product videos to trade show booth setup. “It was super hands-on,” she described. “When we first started, we would do trade shows, bring ten cameras, and every camera ran on Cat-5 or SDI cables. We terminated all the cables ourselves. That’s how I learned how to do a lot—just asking a million questions.”

What Happened Next: Vaddio quickly grew into a big company, and Perkins built a marketing department comprised of other bright talents like herself. “I kind of worked myself out of a job,” she joked. “I hired people and they were more than capable of doing what I was doing.”

Seeking a new challenge, she took on the role of Marketing and Communications Manager for AVI Systems.

What She Sees in Our Business: As a leader and contributor to so many industry groups, Perkins is definitely enjoying her involvement in the industry, which she labels as a fun business. “Technology is cool, audio and video is cool—it’s constantly changing,” she observed, pointing out the contrast to the comparatively stagnant printing industry where her career began.

Kelly Perkins holding CTS certification placard

Kelly is CTS certified, and uses her interest in technology to make AV more relatable.

How Can we Get More People Like Her: “AV is such a niche industry, and it boggles my mind, because people use AV every day. It’s amazing to me that there aren’t more young people in this industry.”

It’s time to figure out a way to market the AV industry as a cool place to work. Fortunately, in the age of social media and YouTube, there are more options for presenting your business with character. “If you have character and personality, people want to do business with you because they like you on an emotional level, not just on paper. Why go with one company versus another company, if they all say the same thing?”

What’s New: AV business owners are beginning to realize that they can have fun with marketing. “Pushing the boundaries and having fun gets you noticed. You have to have fun and get remembered.”

What Has to Change: The amount of work that goes into finding a customer, and then developing a solution and design, “and half the people don’t get paid on that, the process is unbelievable.”

Be Yourself: “I love to work hard and see results. I probably put in more time than I should, but at the same time it’s fun, and when it’s fun it’s not really work. That’s where I’ve been lucky enough to fall into this industry, with companies that are good and let me be creative and let me run with it, versus being micromanaged.”

Content Marketing: Read Kelly's article, How to Use Content Marketing to Fuel the AV Sales Funnel.

Get to know the rest of The Nine...

SCN's 2014 class of The Nine

SCN's 2014 class of The Nine
Kirsten Nelson is a freelance content producer who translates the expertise and passion of technologists into the vernacular of an audience curious about their creations. Nelson has written about audio and video technology in all its permutations for almost 20 years; she was the editor of SCN for 17 years. Her experience in the commercial AV and acoustics design and integration market has also led her to develop presentation programs and events for AVIXA and SCN, deliver keynote speeches, and moderate and participate in panel discussions. In addition to technology, she also writes about motorcycles—she is a MotoGP super fan.