Industry Opinion: The ’˜M’ Word ’“ how do you market yourself as a home technologist?

Every day installers do outstanding work in some beautiful homes but for whatever reason – lack of time or knowhow, limited funding or not wanting to annoy a client – don’t always shout about it when it comes to marketing their skillset and their business. Whether digital (SEO, Google Ads, social media etc.), print, participating in events or something completely different, approaching marketing yourself as a CI to potential clientele can feel like a minefield, but obviously is essential for propelling your reputation and overall awareness of the value of using a ‘CEDIA’ member?

Custom installers and digital marketing agencies working in the residential space answer: “What tools and strategies have you personally applied as an installer, or someone working closely with the industry, that you have found successful?”

Joe Whitaker, founder & president of The Thoughtful Home:
Joe Whitaker, founder of The Thoughtful Home and CEDIA board member, headshot

Times have changed. Companies just can't just live on the old referral and builder pipeline any longer – it’s a recipe for disaster. Rule number one is to establish yourself as the ‘local expert’. You have to have something to talk about before you can start spreading the word so reach out to your current clients to get reviews and testimonials whilst offering them some small reward (e.g. a free OS update, a spare backup system remote – something that shows you value your clients time as much as they value yours). The key to putting info out about your company is to get others to start talking about your company! You do not want to sound like a techy braggart, but you do want those you have worked for and with to praise you and your company. Remember:  in our industry your biggest asset is always what you have already done, not what you say you can do – you are only worth the outcome of your last project.

It’s also essential to present something bigger than yourself – if you are a member of CEDIA use that to your advantage (and if you’re not a member join now!) As a member, start talking about and explaining what your association is, the value of the education, and the importance of the certification. It is all of our jobs to sell and market ourselves and our company. It is each one of our jobs to explain and describe who we are, what we do, and HOW WE LEARNED TO DO IT! It's a simple rule that has worked for our company and is pretty much universal. Here it goes: establish yourself and your company as the experts, explain where the expertise came from then add the expertise came from a globally recognised industry association. A client or potential client will only place value on what you verbally express as a value to yourself and your company.

Your overall strategy should be simple:

  •  Reach clients where they are most.
  •  Reach clients where they are open to ideas.
  •  Be visual – show them what can be done and how you do it.

Evaluate how your competitors market themselves. Then don't do that. Don't fall into the sea of ‘me too!’ – stand out!

Take pictures of everything and everywhere! We live in a very visual world today and photos and video are the king of demonstrating what we do. But don't only do professional photos – those onsite in-the-trenches phone pics are a goldmine. Use those photos on the spot while things are happening on all social media outlets and let clients visually share the experience with you. The old adage "you can show me better than you can tell me" is the key to success today.

Go smartly into social, but just having accounts isn’t enough. Potential clients just aren't that interested in Google results and looking at websites like they used to.  In today's age they find you on social, then if interested, may visit your website. You need to use all the important social formats as they were intended to be used. Great videos and good explanations on Facebook, short and direct statements on Twitter, and great photos on Instagram. To maximise this method look at services like HootSuite, TweetDeck, and an amazing one for our industry, ContentMX.

Pay for play social marketing is a must today and Facebook probably the best place to start. Using their marketing platform you can create the perfect targeted audience down to age and area and send ads, project photos and even sales directly to their news feeds. Face it, print, billboards, postcards, and traditional marketing just doesn't have the effect it used to and in an always available always on world you have to grab the potential clients’ attention where they consume the majority of their content. Let’s all be real, you are most likely reading this article from the same place you need to be marketing to your potential clients.

Geoff Meads, managing director of Presto AV:
geoff meads, managing director Presto AV, headshot

For those new to the realm of marketing the sheer number of possibilities can be pretty daunting. Of course there’s traditional methods such as print advertising, mailings, public relations activities etc., but digital marketing (websites, email, social media, SEO and search advertising) is very important too.

Of all the companies I speak to, too many use the ‘little of everything’ approach, investing a small amount of money on each of the available channels and generally only when they have a new activity such as a new product or event to promote. This leads to a messy impression of that company being formed in the minds of potential customers and a brand identity that’s unclear and confusing. If customers are unsure of what they’re buying they probably won't buy it!

What’s needed here is a three-stage approach:

1)            Establish a clear idea of your target market. Understand who the potential customers are, where they hang out, what their interests are, how much they might be willing to spend and how they make decisions. This is hard work but forms the essential foundation of any good marketing plan.

2)            Form a plan of activities using the channels and platforms your target market is most likely to respond. Then time your activities to coincide with the time your customers are most likely to make a positive spending decision.

3)            Analyse the results of each activity with an eye on ROI (Return On Investment). If something is bringing profitable business, do it again! If it had marginal success then tweak the content/timing/spend to try and improve results. If it failed, don’t do it again.

In essence it’s ‘Wash, Rinse & Repeat.

Damien Smith, sales executive at Custom Sight & Sound:
damien smith, sales executive at css, headshot

This is always a difficult subject as there are so many options available and different platforms to choose from. When I was in retail, it was always about the magazine adverts and e-shots in a bid to invite and draw customers through your doors. But in CI things are different; you want to show off your installations, maybe show off a product or a solution that you’ve recently used or even announce a project that you’ve won or completed.

For CSS, regular email newsletters and Instagram are currently the most useful and effective. Instagram is quick and easy to use and to post a great picture, only a few words (or hashtags) are needed to support the picture content, it is used by the audience we need to reach out to as well as admire and want to work with (architects, interior designers, etc.), and most importantly it’s free! Whilst we occasionally use other platforms, Instagram, e-newsletters and picking up the phone are the best solutions for us at the moment.

Ron Callis, founder of One Firefly:
Ron Callis, founder One Firefly headshot

More and more integrators are gaining a competitive advantage over their peers by capturing positive online reviews and thus improving their online presence. Why is this strategy so important to CI professionals in particular?  Let’s back up a bit and look at the path that potential customers take.

The fact is, most CI professionals in our industry are getting their work through referrals. Those referrals generally hear about your business from their neighbours, the builder or the architect. At this early stage, the prospect is unfamiliar with your work and what makes your company great and thus better than your competition so, they do what we all do at some point when we are starting to do our research; they go to the cloud! More specifically, they open Google on their phone or computer, and in many cases, simply search for your business.

There is good news and bad news here…

The good news? If your company has earned any reviews online from Google, Facebook, Yelp, Homeadvisor, Houzz, etc., the prospect will immediately notice these reviews on Page 1 of their search results. Now, the bad news; if your company has a lack of online reviews, prospects can be quickly turned off by perceiving your company as untrusted and potentially riskier to hire.

No matter how many online reviews your company currently has, you now have a tremendous opportunity to leverage new technologies that simplify and ease the process of garnering more positive online reviews. These platforms now allow your staff (think installers or even project managers) to invite their clients to leave an online review via a text message or email invitation.

So as soon as the happy client has a bright and shiny new system installed, your staff can now utilise this software to capture that review from the client on the spot. The best part of this scenario? The software now can also filter out any potentially negative reviews, so that they never make their way online. Additionally, many business owners are choosing to gamify the process of gathering positive reviews where their staff with the most posted reviews win recognition or even cash prizes.