How the A/V/L Industry Sees the Church Market

featured-how-trends“This church market — it’s kind of a thing now, eh?” This is how the A/V/L industry sees the church market.

Manufacturers and systems integrators are highlighting their House of Worship (H.O.W.) market products and installations more than ever before. The emphasis is directly correlated with the increase of sales into churches, which are starting to make a more significant impact on the bottom line for even the “big boys” of the audio, video and lighting industry.

In the last four months, the news stories on ravepubs.com about church products and church installations have had the lion’s share of the attention. From mid-July 2014 through mid-November 2014, 43 percent of all news stories on rAVe Pubs were focused on the house of worship market. Of those, 3.4 percent were about video products, 41.3 percent were about lighting, and 51.7 percent were about audio in churches.

Telling Church Stories
Free press is always a good thing, so it’s not surprising to see manufacturers and integrators taking advantage of the opportunity to share their success stories. While press releases are nice, success stories are even better. It’s interesting to note the increase in H.O.W. market case studies and installation highlights on major manufacturer websites, a clear sign that associating products with actual usage in churches helps to both showcase the product and demonstrate the usage opportunity for church buyers.

I looked at a random sampling of major manufacturers that sell consistently into the H.O.W. market and found, anecdotally, that they’re finally paying attention to this under-served market. I’ve been writing about this for some time: The Day the A/V/L Industry Changed, How Do You View the House of Worship Market?, House of Worship: A Billion Reasons to Enter This Market, and The Future of Selling to Churches.

What I Found On Randomly Chosen Manufacturers’ Websites
The list below was, as stated, random, so while I know of others that have done this too, I don’t want them to feel slighted for not being included. What’s important here it to see examples of how these manufacturers have decided to create an intentional focus on serving this vertical market.

Manufacturers that placed a major emphasis on the H.O.W. markets:

Epson

Sennheiser

Christie Digital

Digital Projection

Piksel

Manufacturers that had a H.O.W. presence on their websites:

Panasonic

NEC

AC Lighting/Jands

Shure

A slew of other manufacturers I checked had nothing about the H.O.W. market on their websites. This is possibly due to the fact that many old-school manufacturers still place too great an emphasis on pushing products instead of offering solutions for various vertical markets or applications.

There are many manufacturers that hire H.O.W. market specialists/managers to help systems integrators and end users find applications for their products. However, many of these staff are simply wearing another hat and most do not have H.O.W.-specific resources or web landing pages to support their efforts. At least it’s a start.

Packing & Making Products for Churches
It’s one thing to position a product in a line-up of offerings on an H.O.W. specific page on a website, but it’s another when a manufacturer either repackages products for churches (or makes products exclusively for churches).

Sennheiser PraisePack

Sennheiser’s Praise Pack, a re-packing of microphones – just for churches

This is small, but it is an example of doing this exact thing, as Sennheiser demonstrated with its “Praise Pack” of microphones for churches. Praise Pack is tailored for the needs of small and medium-sized churches, consisting of four dynamic microphones housed in specially embroidered gator case. All for $349, which is about a $50 savings from ordering four of the $99 mics, plus you get the case thrown in.

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Simple, right? But that’s the beauty of it, too. They understand various demographics within the H.O.W. space and guide them towards specific purchases that fit both their needs and their perceptions. Sennheiser has a reputation as a premium brand, so this introduces their brand  to smaller, growing churches to their brand and provides them with an obvious choice for upgrades over time.

A decade ago, I worked with NewTek on a unique little sub $5k product called TriCaster, now updated to the latest TriCaster Mini. What was most impressive to me was the engineering decisions to develop the product with my feedback about how churches — a majority of the targeted user base for the product — would use it. The product ended up winning a Technical Emmy Award, so their engineering was great, but that they went so far as to rethink the signal flow of video through the unit that scaled to fixed resolutions (uncommon at the time) and had a user interface that was built for the average church volunteer made this product a hit with small to mid-size churches.

Just think about how your products could be re-packaged or even have a GUI (graphical user interface) that was an option for churches. As Sennheiser and NewTek have found, focusing specifically on churches may include more than building H.O.W. specific landing pages.

How Much Business This Represents
I can’t name brands here because of non-disclosure agreements, but I’ve seen how much this market can represent to the bottom line of manufacturers. In some cases, H.O.W. accounts for nearly 25 percent of all sales, while for others it’s a single-digit percentage. What’s crazy to me was when I met with a juggernaut firm that shared that they thought church sales accounted for up to 10 percent of their overall sales of a division within this multi-billion dollar organization. I asked them “that’s what you’re selling without any focused effort. What would happen if you actually tried?” 

In the meantime, here’s two very important questions for you to ask your C.F.O.:

1) What percentage of our sales are made to churches?

2) What would happen if we really went after this vertical market?

The economy can be up or down, bull or bear markets, and churches remain fairly consistent through it all. This is not a market to be lightly considered, but one that could — and should — represent significant contributions to your bottom line.

What do you think — is creating a H.O.W. section of your website or re-packaging products for churches a possibility for your business? Comment below.