The Myth of Three

Brand Loyalty and the Myth of Three

Tom CoffinsmartPRENEUR Blog Series

Freddie Mercury sang, “I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.” Shakespeare said: a jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one. So how do these phrases relate to your business?

Do you offer everything?

Do you carry virtually every control system? How many brands of speakers do you support? When your prospect comes to you looking for a solution for their home are you the expert or do you just sell them whatever brand they are asking for?

While it may be true that your prospect may have some knowledge about specific products, it is highly unlikely they have the knowledge and expertise that you do. Here is where CEDIA provides great strengths for you as an organization. They can provide great training and respect from your customers and peers as you receive accreditations from the different courses offered throughout the year. Wear this as a badge of honor and proof that you are the real deal. This can help you close the sale utilizing the products and services that you determine would suit the prospect’s needs and wants the best.

We’ve established that you are a professional and you have a certain level of expertise. Now let’s get back to how many choices are necessary. The major players in the systems integration industry are: Control4, Crestron, Elan, RTI, Savant, and URC. I have spoken with many integrators who carry ALL of these! Are you kidding? A business doing $500K to $2.5M supporting all of these brands? Why? The answer usually goes something like this: We have to have all these because that is what our customers want. This is a myth. This is lazy selling. Pick one, maybe two. And, if you pick two there needs to be a reason for that second one, ie: it has some major feature or capability that the other does not have. Most of these solutions have pretty much the same feature set.

What about speakers?

You can’t be loyal and get the best pricing by spreading your purchases across a bunch of speaker brands. In the early days of custom installation before the dawn of the current era, systems integration, my company believed in the myth of three. In those days we displayed in our in-wall speaker wall Niles, Sonance, and Paradigm. We used Sonance as the entry level product, Niles as the mid priced product, and Paradigm as the best sounding product. Now Niles and Sonance had pretty much a speaker at the same price points throughout their entire line. This was just silly on our part. 

My experience with the myth of three

We were doing about $60K with Sonance, $25K with Niles, and maybe $20K with Paradigm. Then I met Jeremy Burkhardt (CEO, Origin Acoustics). We met during CEDIA when they were launching Speakercraft. We discussed my Bronze, Silver, Gold concept. He showed me they had a solution in each category. We moved through our inventory and switched to a single speaker brand. Back in the day we were a $100K+ customer. We were important to the manufacturer and they were important to us. Now in reality Niles or Sonance could have provided the same solution. Here is where good salesmanship and good business understanding were key in getting us to switch. Now if Jeremy was able to convince an old-timer who has quite a bit of knowledge and experience to use just one brand, shouldn’t you feel confident that you can convince your prospects that your recommendations are coming from many years of experience? The myth of three is false, don’t believe in myths.

What does Shakespeare know about Systems Integration?

Now let’s revisit that Shakespeare quote: a jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one. When I hear this I think of systems integration. Are you the TV guy? I used to have a builder that called me that. It drove me crazy. We offered 13 different disciplines: Access Control, Life Safety, Information Infrastructure, Communication Management, Distributed Audio, Distributed Video, Video Surveillance, Home Theater, Lighting Control, Lighting Fixtures, Climate Control, Systems Integration (Home Automation-Control), Utilities Management. We called what we offered Scalable Convergence. We serviced three market segments, homes between $250-$700K, $750 – $2M, and $2.5M+. We utilized the same brands in these market segments with limited feature sets based upon a percentage of the home. When we provided a proposal it was a complete solution that told a story of how their home would operate.

Today, this should be the norm. The industry has training in every discipline. Learn these different solutions and offer them. The commonality vs. the too many choices context is that these should all work together and be managed by one system and one systems integrator. This is the future and it is here today. Grab it. Refine your story of why you.

A Recipe For Success

In summation your business can offer lots of solutions utilizing very few brands. This will help you and your team be better experts and more focused. It will provide you with better turns on your inventory. It will provide you better discounts on your purchases by buying more from less manufacturers. You will be more important to the brands you support. Brand loyalty with a wide selection of solutions in your tool kit is a recipe for success.

Go forth and prosper…

About the Author

Tom Coffin

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Tom Coffin is CEO/President/Co-Founder of Simply Reliable. He has owned and operated companies in retail, security, Audio/Video, Systems Integration, and Home Automation product manufacturing sector.