13 Invaluable Marketing Tips
SpeakerCraft dealers, execs share tips during intimate gathering.
It's a wonder that one of the industry's most successful loudspeaker companies hardly sells any product.
Instead, SpeakerCraft thrives by selling itself as a company, and ensuring that its 1,000-or-so dealers run successful enterprises.
The sales naturally follow.
"SpeakerCraft continues to educate dealers in all pertinent areas of running a business," said CEO Jeremy Burkhardt during a recent gathering of the "President's Circle," a group of loyal SpeakerCraft dealers.
During the three-day event, held near the company's Riverside, Calif. headquarters, about one dozen dealers sat through sessions regarding sales, management, operations and related business topics, presented, in part, by SpeakerCraft vice president of sales, Steve Hayes, a former integrator.
Aside from the few products sprinkled around the room, you would hardly know that SpeakerCraft was in the business of selling audio gear. There was hardly a mention of the stuff.
Hayes' sole sales pitch amounted to this: SpeakerCraft is committed to helping you succeed in your business; all we ask is that you return the favor.
As part of a marketing exercise, Hayes and Burkhardt rattled off dozens of ideas culled from their own experiences (Burkhardt himself started as an integrator) and quantitative research.
At the same time, attendees shared additional marketing tips.
The following are some of the hints shared at the SpeakerCraft affair:
Hayes used to compensate installers $25 for each sale they brought to the company.
The flat fee is far simpler than traditional compensation schemes and also encourages associates to sell smaller items that can add up over time.
Ask For Referrals
"Almost everyone in the industry says they're in the referral business," Hayes says, "but there are mechanical things you have to do to get the process going."
That means, he says, that a company still must implement traditional marketing and advertising campaigns, regardless of how important referrals may be.
"Most folks don't advertise, and then they lament that no one knows who they are," Hayes says.
The referral business begins immediately upon the completion of a job. If the customer is happy, Burkhardt suggests, ask for leads right away.
Here's one possible script: "We may seem like we're a bigger company, but we're actually small. Would you mind giving me the name of three of your friends?"
He also recommends asking for letters of recommendation.
Later, be sure to reward customers for their referrals with, for example, NetFlix subscriptions or iTunes gift certificates.
Get Involved in the Industry
With thousands of integrators vying for business, "How do you rise above the noise?" Hayes asks.
Getting involved with industry magazines and associations can help boost your profile. "We tracked about half of our business from referrals that came from Electronic House [magazine] or associations," Hayes says.
He and former partner Ken Smith both were active in CEDIA and engaged with the industry's top trade and consumer magazines.
Being a willing resource for these entities provides exposure that feeds on itself, generating new leads throughout the trade and consumer establishments.
Charge For Partner Training
Many integrators offer training for allied trades, such as homebuilders and architects.
It's a great way to bring these potential customers into the fold. Several dealers go an extra step, providing CEU credits for the training. This is yet another incentive, effective in luring more traffic.
David Wogsland of Enhanced Home Systems, Eden Prairie, Minn., has another tip for getting partners to attend training sessions in his showroom: Make them pay.
"When we charged nothing, no one came," he says. "When we charged $75, everyone came."
Find Future Partners
If you're in it for the long haul, why not recruit partners while they're still in school?
Ron Schwartz of Audio Video One, Winston-Salem, N.C. finds future partners through technical schools. Every new class at a nearby interior design school, for example, is guided through his showroom.
"We cultivate them before they become interior designers," he says.
Track Calls With an 800 Number
Use 800 numbers to advertise your business — not because they save toll charges for your customers, but because they help you track leads.
A toll-free number can cost as little as $9 per month. Use a unique number, for example, on each of several van wraps. Log calls from each number to determine the most effective design.
Hayes warns dealers that the alphanumerics on cellphones don't always match those of land phones. "So, don't spell something with your 800 numbers," he says.
Keep Your Showroom Clean
It's one of those obvious chores that nevertheless get swept under the rug, so to speak: Keeping your showrooms neat, clean and in good working order.
"So many showrooms have dust on their speakers, old products and demos that don't work," Hayes says. He suggests having someone with the specific job of taking care of such basics.
Remember those old task wheels pinned to the refrigerator? You never outgrow them.
Make a wheel with every employee's name on it to ensure that someone is responsible any given day for upkeep. Otherwise, he says, "Maybe hire a cleaning service."
Selling Door-to-Door Works
"We've done surveys and found that in-wall speakers can be sold door-to-door," Burkhardt says.
He explains that door hangers can be effective marketing tools for prewired homes. "Or set up a boiler room," he recommends.
"If you need a hook, give them a free pair of speakers."
Have an Interactive Demo
You put all of that energy into your installation. So, make sure you flaunt your expertise during the final walkthrough by fidgeting with some of the elements.
For example, have the customer sit in the sweet spot as you adjust tweeters on the speakers. Ask, "Which sounds better?"
"Sometimes, little things made a big impact, like getting up on a ladder and adjusting the speakers," says Schwartz of Audio Video One."
Promote iPod Compatibility
There's no denying the appeal of iPods these days. Let prospects know what you can do with their mini music machines.
For its dealers, SpeakerCraft offers yard signs touting, "iPod Ready Home." Patrick Rosengarten of AVNC takes his advertising on the road, with wrapped vans that proclaim, "iPod Everywhere."
Make sure to check with Apple for rules regarding the use of its trademark.
Reach Out to New Faces
Wining and dining the principals of architecture, building and interior design firms is so passé.
Schwartz from Audio Video One thinks about the other important players in any allied organization.
Every Thursday, he tries to take someone "different" out to lunch — "not a builder, but maybe a superintendent or an office worker," he says.
Sell a Pitch with a Speaker
In his days as a dealer, Burkhardt used to send a single loudspeaker to builders as a "free gift."
His pitch? "Let me take you to dinner and I'll give you the other."
Serve Lunch in Your Showroom
How do you get a group of professionals from an affiliate company to spend quality time in your showroom? Feed ‘em.
Every so often, Wogsland of Enhanced Home Systems sends a limousine to pick up six people and bring them to the showroom for lunch.
"It's a quick hour and a half, and they get to see us, to know us," he says.