I attend a lot of church conferences and I hear a lot of the same lamenting from smaller churches and church planters: “I wish we had the level of (A/V/L) technology that this church has…” as they stand inside a mega- or giga-church auditorium enjoying the tremendous time, talent and technology accumulated over years. Technology, to these guys, is simply beyond their perceived reach and so they wait until they’re much larger and have more funds to begin leveraging the kind of technology that would serve them well today.
Ah, but the price. It’s not that most of the A/V/L technology is over-priced; it’s simply that new technologies offer enhancements that larger, more sophisticated venues demand. In the meantime, there’s a gap between the technology that smaller churches need and the price point to buy new technology.
Over the years, rental shops have made use of used technology through selling it to these churches, but this has largely been a hit-or-miss scenario because most of this technology is cleaned up, but not fully refurbished. This leads me to what I believe could be a profitable trend for manufacturers and dealers: determining the viability of refurbishing products for sale in limited quantities.
Further, churches would rather buy from the manufacturer or a dealer than someone pulling gear out of road cases. Apple computer charges a premium for their refurbished products, and they aren’t hurting their new product sales in the process.
Does Refurb Hurt New Product Sales?
The major obstacle to this is the obvious fear that by offering refurbished technology, new product sales will suffer because not only small venues will want to save money. Entire projects could be lost to refurbished sales, at what are likely lower margins. One solution is to simply limit the quantities of refurbished products for sale — or even for sale to a specific organization.
Even if there is a small hit to new product sales, there are a few key benefits to selling refurbished products. First is the decision to stay within a family product line, whereby the church staff and volunteers get to know how your technology works. They become familiar with your menu systems, replacement expendable parts and even your support channel. This familiarity is significant because it also represents a growing trust equity. Equally as important is the integration to existing technical infrastructure, whereby similar/same connections, similar software, and programming create a standardization process within the church.
The refurbished products would likely have a limited warranty that was less than the coverage of new products, but the idea here is to provide a 2- to 5-year solution for churches with limited purchasing power as they’re growing and adding more to their annual budget.
Make Upgrading Easier
When the staff and volunteer tech team have developed an affinity for your brand and product family lines, you’ve put the first step into place to create a clear upgrade path. In addition to the refurbished initial sale, special offers can incentivize churches to continuously build onto their technology infrastructure, adding great flexibility and expansion into multiple venues within the church. In this way, the affordability of refurbished products not only create the clear upgrade path, but may be repurposed into other venues.
Another opportunity comes with incentivizing the church through trade-in programs. Obviously, this replenishes some of the refurb channel, but more importantly, it allows for churches to amortize their costs over a longer period of time, knowing that some percentage of the original sale will be applied through a trade-in program. Every bean counter in church will see the clear value. Further, it creates a win/win/win strategy as the manufacturer, dealer, and church all benefit coming and going.
Buy Back Brand Loyalty
You’ve probably made the mental leap to this point — with additional revenue from refurbished products, more brand familiarity amongst the church technical staff and the amortization of costs across multiple years and purchases, you’ll have created the most sought-after part of any company’s marketing strategy: brand loyalty.
As I’ve pointed out in previous articles here on rAVe, my politically-incorrect observation is that “the only group who talk more than women are pastors.” : ) When brand loyalty enters the discussion, you’ll find your Net Promoter Score increasing, along with new client sales. Over the years, I’ve seen this happen time and again — and with both the smaller sales as well as some HUGE sales, all based on the recommendation of an influential church that is LOYAL to their brand.
There may not be a perfect, seamless solution, but the reality is that a strategy needs to be adopted to target the >90 percent of the 300,000 churches with less than 90 people in attendance and the growing number of churches with attendance under 500; not to mention the groups above that which are still growing and looking for budget!