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July 31, 2018

The Educated Customer and the AV Integrator

I attended the recent InfoComm show in June, meeting with many of our customers, partners, and prospects. A theme I heard from some in the industry was concern that the show had become a magnet for end customers. Some integrators were worried that customers were using the educational tracts to learn more about the industry, and the show overall to build direct relationships with AV manufacturers.

These companies seemed to be saying, “we can’t sell if the customer gets smart.” I was surprised and saddened that anyone would say that about their company. Frankly, any executive with that attitude is displaying a crippling lack of confidence in his or her company, and an admission that they aren’t bringing real value to the relationship.

This profound shift toward the educated consumer is nothing new. In fact, the only surprise is how long it’s taken for the change to affect the AV integrator. The power of the educated customer was powerfully illustrated in a landmark study published in 2013 by the Corporate Executive Board (now part of Gartner Research), and Google.

The study found that the average B2B consumer has completed 57 percent of the sales process before ever contacting a company rep. The process is more than half over before you even know you’re being evaluated! Our industry needs to take this to heart - consumers have taken control of the qualifying process. Moreover, it’s safe to assume this percentage number has gone up since this research was published.

The study also determined that the optimal time for a sales rep to get involved is at 37 percent of the journey. Decision-makers are likely to be located in different business functions within the company and have different challenges and expectations for the solution. CEB expanded on these points in a 2015 update:

“Not only are customers likely to be more than half the way through the purchase process when they speak to a supplier, but the point where the buying group at a customer company are most in conflict with one another – and where a skilled rep could help most in framing the problem and explaining the supplier’s solutions – is only 37% of the way through.”

Beyond the different digital signage offerings and 8k displays, it was great seeing many new applications and use of technology like room sensors and analytics systems that can augment the experience where we live, work and play. These new technologies and smart buildings, sensors and tracking opportunities create a new plethora of application and opportunities to enhance the customer experience.

I’ve spent over 25 years in the unified communications industry and have helped many companies adapt and prosper in the age of the educated consumer. Integrator companies that don’t understand the need for demand generation, branding and account-based marketing have good reason to fear the educated customer. My company does not. Since joining Electrosonic as Vice President of Marketing in January, I’ve been impressed by our unique technology master planning and reliable global delivery network.

Further, what leading companies in our space do goes well beyond merely integration. We’re brand storytellers. Technology is only one of four essential elements necessary to successfully deliver what I like to call the immersive experience – hence the title of this blog! Real success requires a solid understanding of the experience desired, the story that the customer company hopes to convey and the space available to serve as the canvas.

Companies who understand all the components of the immersive experience, and embrace the educated customer, will succeed in this competitive market. Those that don’t will stagnate and fail.

 

Morgan Rottinghaus

Morgan Rottinghaus, Vice President, Strategic Partners at Electrosonic, recognizes the critical role that partners play in delivering added value to clients. She writes about the importance of connecting complementary value-added services through partnerships as a way of accelerating innovation and maximizing the benefits of technology investments.