One of the most important things you can learn in business is to not put all of your eggs in one basket. This can range from having multiple suppliers for parts and equipment, establishing relationships with a wide range of industry leaders in your area, and even looking outside of traditional income sources for stable sources of revenue.
The housing market in the U.S. is currently in a boom time. But just 6 years ago we were in one of the worst recessions this country has ever seen. Right now many dealers are just struggling to keep up with the amount of work that is coming in. It hardly seems like the ideal time to start researching new potential markets, but if you find yourself (and your business) are beholden to the residential home theater and home automation market, it might be wise to start looking into other options should the good times come to an end.
Many of the indicators that were rearing their heads back in 2006 and 2007 are starting to appear again. Easy credit over the last few years has spurred an unsustainable amount of building in many of the same towns that experienced the worst downturns. Unfortunately, the housing market is generally the last to see these moves. Much of this is due to the long time frames involved in developing and building properties.
Alternative Income Streams
Many residential dealers and integrators got their start in the commercial side of the industry. Corporate conference rooms, meeting halls, and other spaces are always a great source of consistent revenue. They require regular maintenance and a schedule of upgrades to ensure that they have the latest technologies for presentations and events.
Another lesser known market is that of houses of worship. Churches have significant needs when it comes to audio and video systems. It is crucial that all of their members are able to clearly see and hear all that is going on during a service. The buildings themselves are often a significant challenge in this regard. While they are beautifully designed, churches can sometimes be a nightmare in terms of acoustics. Older churches in particular contain many different types of hard surfaces that can wreak havoc with an audio system. That’s not to say that these challenges can’t be overcome, they just require some creative engineering.
In terms of a learning curve, you will most likely want to hire a technician with some experience in this industry before attempting to tackle your first job. The equipment differences between residential and church systems are significant. Typically you will be dealing with professional audio equipment that most of your technicians will have never seen in dealing with home audio.
A Different Sales Approach
Selling in the houses of worship market can often present it’s own set of challenges as well. While a homeowner or a business typically has a single decision maker, a church will oftentimes rely upon a panel or committee to make purchasing decisions. Many times the decision will need to be put before a the congregation as a whole.
This means that you might be called upon to answer questions from those that have very little experience in the world of audio. Patience is the rule of the day in these sorts of meetings. Have your answers prepared ahead of time and give them as much time as they need to ensure that everyone finds out what they need to know. A few patrons can often cause a stink and delay the entire process if you’re not careful.
If you can clearly and succinctly address their concerns by laying out the benefits of the system you are proposing, and how it addresses their concerns, you will quickly allay their fears, allowing the process to move forward. Oftentimes the biggest difficulty in selling church sound systems is assuring the congregation and the leaders of the church that the installation will not negatively impact the look of the church. Just keep in mind that this is their sanctuary and many of them think of it as their home.
That being said, many of today’s technologies, such as lighting control, can help to enhance the beauty and energy efficiency of a church. This is another powerful selling point when attempting to close the deal.
Start Looking Now
Boom times are the most difficult to manage. The last thing most integrators need right now is to take on another market. But preparing for a housing downturn now can help you stabilize your income, and help you sleep better at night knowing that all of your eggs are NOT in one basket.