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Examples Of Challenging A/V Trends And Solutions

What challenges and trends are affecting the AV industry?

Every industry has its own challenges to face and problems to solve, and the AV industry is no different. Though the AV field is experiencing an extended run of growth, the competition is as fierce as it’s ever been, so the most successful integrators are those that are most adaptable. This is particularly true when considering the changing demographics of the AV customer market. In some industries, if a business isn’t growing, it’s in trouble. That is likely true of much of the AV industry, as it is experiencing impressive growth overall. With new, more impactful AV technologies and a growing need for improved B2B communication, the AV industry is poised to reap continued growth for a while. Integrators, though, will only capture that growth if they are ready to confront the very real challenges that come with marketing and selling AV solutions. What do those challenges look like? Here are some of the most pressing challenges:

1. Integrators often don’t understand their clients – This is especially true of millennials, which remain an enigma to older companies accustomed to selling and marketing a certain way. Here’s the problem for those companies: Millennials don’t appreciate traditional marketing and selling methods. The younger generations are digital natives. They were practically born with a smartphone in their hand and were on the internet by the time they were cutting their teeth. Millennials know how to efficiently research products online and on their time, and they rely on this approach to make their purchasing decisions. Integrators using sales calls or demos aren’t going to connect with many millennials for a simple reason. Millennials don’t like interacting with sales personnel until they have done their own research and know what they want.

It’s not just a generational divide driving this lack of client understanding. Some integrators still rely on building out company profiles when establishing their sales strategy. The problem is, company profiles are only helpful if they are being used with outdated sales methods, like cold calling and direct mail campaigns.

Both of these issues can be solved by focusing on a single mission – understand who the client is and what they want from their AV sales and marketing teams. That means more work for the integrator, who now has to develop profiles of individual decision makers in a company. It also means creating content that appeals to younger decision makers. Creating useful, compelling content is what propels an integrator to thought-leader status, and millennials respond well to this form of marketing. Integrators that forecast their client’s needs and speak on their client’s level regarding solutions will be better positioned for success.

2. AV companies are having trouble setting themselves apart – This is a problem for businesses in every industry, and there’s no secret to solving it. The AV field, again, is extremely competitive, and most top integrators are offering products of comparable quality and utility. If an integrator relies on their product offerings to do the talking, they aren’t sending an interesting message.

Yes, potential clients want to know what features come with that switch. They want to know what resolutions that display can output. Decision makers can get that information easily enough, though. Once they have it, what drives their purchasing decisions? Who do they buy from? If an integrator can only speak about products and solutions, what makes them different from every other integrator?

The answer is nothing. Integrators must change their focus from product and feature listings and instead build out their company’s brand messaging. Effective brand messaging will reveal an integrator’s professionalism, versatility and eagerness to meet client needs. Compelling content and media are critical to this end, which means that marketing will have to focus on defining what the company means on a human level.

Of course, integrators still have to convince potential clients that AV solutions are right for their business. To do that, integrators should again think in terms of people, and not technology. Technical jargon isn’t going to get a lot of traction with most business leaders. What kinds of problems can AV solve? How can AV make life easier for the client’s employees? How can AV help a business appear more professional or knowledgeable? Those are the kind of questions that integrators have to answer.

3. There is a shortage of qualified people to work in the industry – Because the AV industry is experiencing sustained growth, and because it is becoming more and more competitive, there are fewer qualified people for integrators to hire. At least, that’s the problem for integrators that insist on doing things the old way. Yes, sales and marketing people need to understand AV technology well enough to talk about it, but they don’t need the kind of deep knowledge that installation and design professionals require.

Fortunately, there are plenty of talented salespeople and marketers outside of the AV industry that can learn enough about AV to do their job well. Integrators just need to give those talented people a chance instead of only looking within the industry for potential employees.

Many integrators also struggle with keeping their marketing and sales teams on the same page. To illustrate this, consider that only 22 percent of AV companies have formalized a service level agreement, or SLA, for their marketing and sales teams. In other words, more than 75 percent of the industry isn’t clear on what their marketing and sales people are promising clients. This lack of cohesion between teams is something that potential clients will notice.

Integrators position themselves as masters of AV communications, but so many integrators fail to tighten up communication between their own teams. Integrators don’t have to drag everyone into the same room to foster this communication, but it does make sense to have a strategy in place, developed from input on the marketing and sales side. Both teams should know what the other team needs, and what they want to focus on regarding the company’s branding and messaging. Integrators have to build this culture from the top down to make it work.

It’s an exciting time to be part of the AV industry, with its strong forecast and many opportunities for driven professionals. It’s also a challenging time to be a part of the industry, but as long as an integrator adapts with the times and reaches out to potential clients in a meaningful way, they will come out ahead.