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Overcoming the Margin-Centric Mindset

In response to the recent SCN article “Making Huddle Rooms Worthy of Your Time,” by Carolyn Heinze, I want to put an exclamation point on the conclusion that even low-margin transactions are important for developing long-term relationships. However, I also want to add that I am saddened that this reasoning is even necessary, and suggest that the article could have gone further on the issues behind this margin-centric mindset and an approach to help us overcome this kind of thinking.

AV technology doesn’t always solve valuable problems, but AV integrators can. The idea that a simple huddle room installation is not worthy of an integrator’s time flies in the face of the overarching trend in the applied communication technology industry that the focus is moving away from products (and their inherent qualities and limitations) toward customers, who determine whether the application of a product has any value. Any opportunity where the outcome can be defined in customer terms, and where and the implementation requires even a modicum of AV technology, should be customer-relationship feast for any aspiring AV integrator.

AV huddle rooms seem like the ideal case study for this trend: clients need simple meeting spaces with minimal display technology to (and this is important) improve employee productivity. This is a valuable problem. Who wouldn’t want to be at the center of this solution?

It bears saying that I did not merely suggest that the industry focus should progress from products to services. We need to move further. The focus on customers is the logical progression beyond service: products, to service, to customers.

Earlier this month I had the privilege to teach a workshop at Integrated Systems Europe. The seminar was “The New AV–How to Replace Products with Solutions,” in which I explained how to ideate a customer-focused response to any opportunity. The class worked a case project involving a municipal sports facility in need of some sort of scoreboard and digital signage solution. After exploring the background issues, assessing impact, and brainstorming solutions from the customer perspective—the team (this process of ideation has the added benefit of team-think) came up with a very non-AV pitch. To the article’s point, this better solution would have resulted in a significantly smaller AV footprint than the product-centric approach most companies would take. In other words, we moved from “How big of an LED wall can you afford?” to “Here’s an approach that will draw more attendees and pay for itself.”

Granted, challenging the status quo is my thing, but it should be everyone’s. The worst that could happen is the status quo wins. The best is that AV integrators find relevance in a world where AV dealers currently add nothing valuable to the supply chain.

Thanks for listening.

Tom Stimson, MBA, CTS is president of the Stimson Group, which helps companies figure out the next step towards improving business results.