Needs Analysis for Small Houses of Worship (Part 3)

In the first two parts of this series (part one, part two) we broke down the information regarding who is involved in the decision tree, who should be what did the congregation/facility/staff/leadership say they wanted? More importantly what did you hear and finally, what do they really need?

As we strongly emphasized in part one, “It is essential to determine with some certainty who is the lead person on the financial side of the project — or in more commonplace 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.

A New Path?

For those manufacturers who have not been able to effectively generate much traction in this market in the past, the relatively recent explosive growth of on-line sales is something to take note of and consider using as a data mine for
leads and potential customers.

The Internet has made it feasible for even the most remote and resource limited potential buyer/user/customer’s ability to do a lot of research and exploration in the virtual world.

This is in many respects, though, is a double-edged blade. 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.

Collating, filtering and using the leads produced by these searches are massively under-exploited resources for manufactures of a wide range of products and systems.

Developing a Plan

Putting a sales/fulfillment structure and people in place to operate and complete the processes to “mine” this resource is a significant but worthwhile consideration for anyone looking to more effectively sell into the HOW marketplace, especially the smaller facilities.

For those congregations looking for resources and support, this new path offers an option that should be seriously considered by both manufacturers and their sales/marketing partners and dealers — using the on-line 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/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 fully vetted or verified against actual needs and use, 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 on-line sources and finding a logical way to monetize the research inquiries that are already taking place.

In fact, many small HOW’s are quite comfortable buying directly from a large on-line 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/lighting products, security, access control and many other services and technologies.

Real World Answers

Earlier, it was stated that smaller congregations commonly 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 for their needs analysis is to get a copy of that list or information and use it to build your needs analysis documents and project scope/definition outlines and related materials. It’s your best foundation since it has already been at least tacitly approved by the HOW.

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 Desired Result(s)

In summary, therefore 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 truly crucial portion of the process is, the other half — 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 results, 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 is 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.

When you have all the information you need to assemble it into a clear, plain English concrete configuration and develop a set of solution “templates” you can fill in efficiently for your product type and application and be able to apply them to a wide variety of worship styles, physical structures and worship team needs and demands.

If you use this approach your chances of achieving a positive result are increased and the happy HOW facility will be able to assist you in growing your ability to help others within their faith community and geographic area

Remember, collect data, make a plan and support the user!