Differentiate With Technology Products

There are a few constants in life, such as death and taxes. Another one is that everything in business follows a cycle. Business is up and booming; business is down and less than robust. All of us are challenged, no matter what business we are a part of, to maintain continuity in our profitability and results. The design/build industry is no different and requires constant evaluation and change in some respects to maintain steady growth.

Recently I was meeting with one of my longtime design/build firm colleagues in regard to a new project that required home technology. The principals of the company indicated the market had shrunk and opportunities within their core business were lower than normal. They shared with me that their approach and response to this was to utilize some newer marketing techniques and perks to provide incentives for their prospective new clients.

Our discussion became more philosophical and strategic. The topic of differentiation was brought up as one of the potential vehicles to improve the percentage of contracted new business. We all agreed that ramping up marketing efforts and offering differentiated products was an idea with merit.

How timely! Naturally, since I was sitting there, the topic of technology surfaced. Everyone acknowledged that certain elements of home technology had become highly requested and in demand. I was asked what I felt made the most sense as the most likely options to offer as incentives. The following is a list of some of these technologies: flat panel television display; high-definition television; integrated system control (smart home product); computer networks; lighting control; home theater; distributed audio; and audio and video content management.

Each of the preceding product types offers affordable options for differentiation in residential construction projects. All of these products can be either comprehensive in nature or utilized as a building block component. Design/build companies can offer one or multiples of these items and actually incorporate the cost into the mortgage.

The combination of flat-panel displays, both LCD and plasma television, and high-definition television signals probably is the single most attractive differentiator being provided today. Affordable options are available for design/build firms to provide a media area or family room for a home theater experience as a standard. There is no question that flat panels and home theaters are vastly popular with the average consumer today.

Integrated control systems with lighting and HVAC control have come substantially down in price and are easy to install and set up. A number of new products utilizing standard computer operating platforms are available and scalable for open architecture and future options. These products are as much as 60 percent less expensive than some past options.

Content management, storage and access to music, movies and photos are available on powerful servers with huge storage capacities. These products allow the end user to store DVDs, favorite TV programs, CDs, MP3 music and digital photos on a single device with simple access.

No one wants the home Internet experience to be cumbersome and hard to operate. Thankfully, home networks are popular and surprisingly affordable to integrate. Your technology expert can guide you through this process and give you the ability to offer this as an option to your customers.

All of the technologies listed here can be provided by your residential electronic systems contractor partner. Call on them to visit with you and provide you with an overview of home technology options that will provide you with differentiators. This just might make the difference in closing a new customer.

Andy Willcox is past president and founding member of CEDIA. Willcox is actively involved with outreach programs that deliver CEDIA expertise and value to other trade associations. He has 15 years in the custom electronics industry and has taught courses at venues throughout the country. Willcox is president of ProLine Integrated Systems, a company with locations in Chicago and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. ProLine is involved in high-end audio/video, home theater and residential systems integration. Willcox can be reached at awillcox@prolineintegrated.com.