Needs Analysis for Small Houses of Worship (Part 2)
What did they say they wanted? More importantly what did you hear and finally, what do they really need? The answers to these key questions are the roadmap to winning the job, but more often than not, just finding the map is a huge issue in and of itself.
As was discussed in the first part of this series, the smaller HOW facilities simply do not have the experience or knowledge to conduct or even begin to develop a really accurate needs analysis. If you are lucky, they will have done some online research and collected a bunch of ideas and brand names of what they think they want based on what they read or saw in that process. Occasionally they will have spoken with other facilities in their area to see how problems were addressed and looked at what solutions other might have deployed, but in our experience this is the exception rather than the rule.
In the vast majority of cases, an integrator, manufacturer (or manufacturer’s rep), distributor or — given the proliferation of online sourcing — a company’s multi-line, web-based sales channel(s) are the pathways to getting to the answers to the questions posed above.
As we noted in part one, “It is essential to determine with some degree of certainty who is the lead person on the financial side of the project — or in more prosaic terms — who is the major donor to the project? In the majority of smaller HOW projects there are one or two principal donors, usually people who normally prefer to remain in the background.”
For manufacturers who have not had much traction in this market in the past, the explosive growth of online sales and the customer’s ability to do a lot of research and exploration in the virtual world is a double-edged sword — it can dramatically help cut through to the buyer, but it can also create substantial confusion and purchase stagnation because the customer is overloaded with choices and conflicting information.
A New Path?
For those congregations looking for resources and support, an option is now available that should be considered by both manufacturers and their sales/marketing partners and dealers — using the online channel as a direct sales tool.
A Door That’s Already Been Opened
Because the congregation is likely to have done some online research, they will have come into contact with one or more of the major AV technology or IT vendors. That’s where they are getting their information and to a degree that’s how at least basic needs analysis framework is developed. It’s not a traditional structure and it’s usually incomplete and not verified against actual needs, but it’s a start.
As a supplier, I want to know who’s been collecting information, on what and where they are so that it can be followed up by my sales support team or by my sales engineers as the case may be.
The data is there, it’s a matter of making the business arrangement with the online sources and finding a logical way to monetize the research inquiries that are already taking place.
In fact, many small HOWs are quite comfortable buying directly from a large online type supplier, so joining that infrastructure channel is both a worthwhile option and a viable method of developing a simple but effective needs analysis template for AV, IT or lighting products and services.
Real World Answers
Earlier, it was noted that smaller congregations develop some form of list of what they think they want or have been told they might need. If you’re working with this type of client, the most crucial thing you can do to enable a real workable solution to be created is to get a copy of that list or information.
Knowing what they know, and seeing what they have seen will allow you to steer the customer to the correct answer to the actual question – which is not what do they want but what do they need?
Defining the Goal, Establishing the Results
The end point of any needs analysis process should be a working document that specifies solutions and methods of achieving those solutions, within the real budget that the facility can manage. Therefore, developing a technical plan is only half the battle, the other half is defining the cost equation, refining the cost benefit perceptions and working with the client to help them define precisely what expenditure is required to get to a viable and workable end point. Remember, that end point may not be where things started, but it has to be at a position where the facility is comfortable with the result and also at a budget level they can actually afford.
Far too often we have been asked to review a proposal which was well outside the financial capability of the facility. While it may have been an excellent solution, it’s of little value if it never gets beyond the paperwork stage.
Therefore, it’s essential to close the needs analysis loop by conducting a cold-light-of-day style fiscal capability determination. It can be awkward to ask this type of question, and many smaller congregations really have no reference for how much they should be considering from a budget standpoint. It is incumbent on you to help them understand what each of their hard-won dollars will buy and for what purpose. Doing this early on will position you as a team player who is trying to help them reach their goal and also give you a clear understanding of what their feasible capital budget really is.
In part three of this series we will take a look at these elements and create a final conceptual structure and develop a solution template you can apply to a wide variety of worship styles.