This is an important question in the AV industry, a sector not known for a full-hearted embrace of marketing. The fact is, most AV integrators historically have grown through boots-on-the-ground sales efforts and have relied to a great extent on referrals from satisfied clients.
All that’s still important, but the world has changed in a way that a surprisingly large number of AV integrators haven’t really come to terms with. When I’m talking to a prospective client, I find myself having to remind them that in the current era, the vast majority of THEIR prospective customers and clients will first interact with them digitally – by checking out their website, reading what someone else has written about them, watching a video, etc. (This is fact that has long been apparent, and COVID-19 only brought it further into relief.)
We all know, for a good company with a great product, it’s relatively easy to close a sale when you can actually get in front of a prospective customer and tell your story face-to-face. But these days, your audience is far likelier to vet you online before they take the time to have an actual conversation with you.
There are lots of ways to define marketing, but one definition is that it’s all the communication that speaks FOR you when you’re not there to personally make the case for your product or service.
Be quick about it.
The other thing to remember: Often you won’t have much time to connect to your audience. As a consumer yourself, you know how short your attention span is. Some statistics say that goldfish can focus on what’s in front of their face longer than we can. Which means you need to communicate QUICKLY.
So let’s talk about your website, the hub of your online presence. Two things are important here: Functionality and content. You need a site, for example, that loads quickly and completely every time – that simply performs as designed across the range of devices people will use to access it. And you need content that tells the most important part of your story quickly and compellingly.
You simply HAVE to invest in a good website. It doesn’t have to be deep, nor flush with cutting-edge features. It certainly doesn’t have to cost a lot to build. But it needs to be 100% on-target from a content perspective.
Now here we have to talk about brand.
Marketing folks love to talk about branding, but we all have a different way of expressing what it is and why it’s important. For our purposes I’ll just define brand as your business’ identity, or personality, and the overall promise it makes to your customers. Great brands communicate a lot of content, very quickly. They inform prospective customers that you’re smart and serious about what you do. They let others know that you’re going to be easy and satisfying to work with; that you’re reliable, consistent and friendly. A good brand communicates who you are and why people should care, and it does so quickly and memorably. This is ESSENTIAL in the online universe.
Effective branding does something else essential these days: it helps you achieve a reinforcing consistency across channels and platforms. Unified messaging is powerful messaging. It prevents your audience from being overwhelmed or confused. It communicates that you’ll bring the same level of coordination and strategic intent to meeting your customer’s needs as your bringing to your own business. So if you’re going to create a new website, make sure that your email templates and informational downloads are of a piece with it. If you’re going to make an argument on social media, make the same one on your home page callouts. When it comes to marketing, everything you do needs to complement everything you do.
To be consistent, however, requires some groundwork on your part.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a prospective client come to me saying, “I need a new website” without understanding that the site will only work for them if it builds on a solid brand foundation. The brand has to come first. You need to get your foundational story straight. Then you develop sales strategy, infrastructure, platforms, etc.
And let’s talk about sales for a second: Marketing lays the groundwork for effective sales. Historically, most integrators just hired salespeople and let them do their thing without any real marketing support. Some did great, but most under-performed. Good marketing informs and attracts the leads and prospects that your salespeople subsequently convert into customers.
So if you’re going to invest in marketing, MAKE SURE to wrap your sales force into the creation and implementation of your marketing strategy. Don’t just assume that you know what’ll work for them. Get their insights, win their buy-in. Your bottom line will be the better for it.
The big picture
Good marketing isn’t going to be sole determining factor for your success. You need a great product and service. You need capable people and a solid company culture. Buttoned-down processes and procedures are essential for profitability as well. And of course you need a strong strategic vision. But these days you can’t afford to be without any of these attributes. And the way the business landscape is developing in an age of technological transformation, marketing is only going to become more important to your ongoing success.