The Educated Customer: A Blessing or a Curse?

November 3, 2011

Q: I’ve heard from two customers this week commenting about very specific product information we haven’t even been informed of yet. What’s going on?

A: This, my friend, is the blessing and curse of the educated customer. I had a member call yesterday telling me that a music minister at a church asked if the DSP box he was proposing was AVB compatible. He walked out knowing he would eventually lose that job to a low bidder, or they would order what they could online.

Here’s the deal, we have many manufacturers very, very committed to selling through the integrator channel, yet they market, and now even do product training for the end-users. The goal was simply to build brand awareness, but has morphed into webinars, installation videos and regional events that invite end-users to be trained alongside the integrator.

Now, I’m old school, so this drives me nuts. I really do understand the brand awareness aspect of this and how that helps the integrator; I appreciate the commitment to exclusively sell through the integrator channel we represent. I’m just not a fan of using training as a marketing tool. Specifically, it’s the in-depth product training that I find troublesome.

The upside is an educated customer will appreciate quality and enhanced features often resulting in a bigger sale and a better system. The downside is the temptation to piece out the purchase and attempt to do the install themselves.

Most manufacturers and their sales reps do an excellent job of informing the dealers first of new product launches. Some will throw it back on our members, if for example they choose not to attend an event or training session. I believe that, most of the time when these conflicts occur, it’s because the manufacturers are anxious to bring a new product to market and use lists from end-user publications to convey the information.

The internet has not been a friend to integrators when it comes to pricing. When an educated buyer is compelled to buy a product online they generally will find a way.

Proving value…that’s your new challenge and goal. Nowadays we have to prove value on every proposal. In doing so your “smarts” needs to take precedence over your parts because in reality the parts are becoming more readily available via the internet.

Finally, if you have an end-user telling you they can install that system themselves… you have them call me and I can share with them dozens of reasons why they shouldn’t. Or better yet, ask them if their workers comp will cover a teacher, preacher, IT guy, security guard, music director, intern, student, etc. getting hurt doing work outside their normal occupational classification. The value we as contractors and integrators provide even extends beyond our parts and smarts. — CW

Click here to view Chuck’s video response!

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