An Educated Customer is a Good Thing

An Educated Customer is a Good Thing

At InfoComm 18 in June, there were more than 18,000 end users in attendance, and if the post-show chatter is any indication, this fact has quite a few people worried and upset.

Many believe that the rise of end-user attendance is a bad thing. They believe educating end users through AVIXA’s CTS training and allowing them to walk the floor and develop relationships with AV manufacturers is facilitating a trend of disintermediation. That these customers, once educated, are then empowered to circumvent the integrator altogether, spelling certain doom for the integration industry in the long run.

The assumption is that an educated customer is dangerous because they don’t need us anymore. The only problem with that assumption is that it’s wrong.

In today’s world, if your profit depends on the ignorance of your customer, you will soon be out of business. We live in the age of information, where everything you ever wanted to know is available by swiping the screen on the microcomputer that resides in your pocket. Does AVIXA make it easier to build knowledge with their structured coursework and first-class instruction? Of course. Would the end user be able to acquire that same knowledge without attending InfoComm? Most certainly.

For those in the industry still using the phrase, let me assure you, “The margin is not in the mystery.” You are not being hired as a mystical guru from parts unknown who harnesses the powers of air and electricity. You are not The Last Airbender.

According to a recent Gartner study, end users are 59 percent of the way through their buying cycles before they ever engage a company that provides that product or service directly. This means their research is nearly done before they speak with integrators or consultants—they are now looking for a company to fulfill the product or service that they have decided on. In other industries, large companies are scrambling to find ways to be part of that early conversation with customers through content marketing, and they are spending boatloads of money to do so. The AV industry doesn’t have to, because AVIXA is bringing them to us—we just have to take advantage of it.

Again, an educated end user isn’t a bad thing. They understand that AV is hard. That it can be tricky. They don’t look at a bid and think “Wow! That’s a lot of money to hang a TV on the wall.” Because they understand all the complexities each system may represent. Their education helps you build your value.

Yes, end users may bring some projects in house and use their own teams, but this doesn’t lock us out. The way in may just be slightly different. The door may be open to assist in large projects where they don’t have the skillsets yet to complete them, or enough staff to do so within their desired timelines. The door may be open to work for the end user directly as their in-house tech staff as well. The point is, it still takes hands to do the work, and whether your paycheck comes as a contractor to the company or as an employee of the company itself, the need for AV professionals hasn’t disappeared. It has just shifted.

End users are at InfoComm looking for education and trusted partners to help them achieve their goals. They see the show as a place where they can learn and network. Where they can build skills and relationships. Where they can find the know-how, products, and additional resources they need in order to continue to support the technology needs of their businesses.

They are already at the dance. Don’t stand on the wall with your arms crossed commiserating with your friends about how the person you wanted to dance with is out there on the floor with your biggest rival.

Having end users at InfoComm is an asset, not a liability. The question really becomes: How are you going to take advantage of it? Don’t just stand there; bust a move.

Get a Leg Up at InfoComm

InfoComm is no longer just a once-a-year product research trip with a couple cool parties. It is now a huge business development opportunity. Take advantage of it.

Consider getting space on the floor and building out a compelling example of the systems you build every day. With four out of every 10 people on the floor being end users, you’ll have a lot of potential clients to talk to.

If exhibiting isn’t in your budget, get on an industry panel or teach a class on the issues and problems that end users are facing when implementing technology. This type of exposure may be far better than having an actual presence on the floor. With 1,000-plus exhibitors, it can be hard to stand out. But if you are the person who taught the class that they paid for, guiding them through a problem that’s been plaguing them for the last year, I guarantee that you will be committed to memory. Let AVIXA help you position yourself as a subject matter expert to the very people you need to form relationships with.