When it comes to AV products, I can’t think of a single instance where there is only one solution. While some products may have certain features or benefits that others don’t, there are almost always a few options for anything you are trying to get done.
With these choices come challenges for integrators. Technology is changing fast, and manufacturers are continually casting a wider net. Gone are the days where you could keep all of your partners happy while staying up to date with adequate product knowledge and hands-on training.
Integrators have had to become more decisive, picking products and services partners they can truly get behind to create the combination of great products and responsive service required for project success.
What criteria should integrators use when picking technology partners?
Having been through the ringer on this myself, I know how hard choosing can be. With many long-term industry relationships, I wanted to give business to a variety of manufacturers – but it wasn’t always possible. So I built a list of criteria for choosing, and this is what I came up with.
- Product Quality: This should never be ignored. There are always brands saying they make the same thing for less, but making sure product quality doesn’t suffer is key. A 3% to 5% price improvement means very little if it leads to multiple service calls, DOAs, or other issues throughout the project lifecycle.
- Service Response Time: Things happen. Products will go down even if you work with the highest-quality vendors. When s*it hits the fan, which partners are the fastest to respond, service, replace, or offer valuable alternatives? Much like the issue of quality, great service should never be underrated.
- Commitment to Training: As I mentioned above, technology is changing so fast that integrators need partners committed to training and education. The training they provide must be ongoing, and ideally not requiring lots of trips or offsite meetings. Project profitability depends upon keeping your teams in the field, not constantly being offsite for training. Look to manufacturers that have adopted on-demand training and modules or remote options.
- Price/Value: When you find vendors that meet your quality, service, and training expectations, looking at price becomes the right move. If the first three criteria are met, then which offers the greatest level of profitability?
- Innovation: I strongly believe that rapid change is the only constant. It’s important to keep in mind the manufacturers that are innovating and staying ahead of the times so you aren’t overly committed to partners still building products that your customers see little value in using.
- Partner Monetary Support: This is a nice to have, but has become less and less common over the past decade; however, when it comes to strong commitment levels to certain brands, it’s a tremendous benefit when manufacturer partners provide MDF or VIR funds to create extra profitability and/or help market technology solutions to your clients.
A strong commitment to the right partners can lead to better projects and improved bottom lines. What is your criteria for picking the right product and service partners for your business?
And while we’re talking about great products and manufacturers, have you checked out the winners of NSCA’s inaugural Excellence in Product Innovation awards back in February 2015? These manufacturers are building some of the very best products for integrators, and have rightfully been awarded this recognition. Congrats to all! Learn more about the winners and the awards program here. —Dan Newman, Cofounder of V3*Broadsuite
Image by: Stuart Miles