‘Solve their technology pain, then introduce them to a technology strategy.’ That should be the mantra for consultants, systems integrators, and manufacturers selling to the church market.
The House of Worship (HOW) market is not without strategy. In fact, they’re some of the most focused organizations around when it comes to their strategic purpose. However, they often lack a strategy for their audio, video and lighting equipment, leaving them with a fractured audiovisual infrastructure, difficult upgrade paths and costly mistakes.
Systems integrators and manufacturers have plenty of history with local churches looking to fix a major pain point as soon as possible. As in, before next weekend. After all, Sunday comes every seven days and the HOW market has become dependant upon audiovisual support as part of almost all weekend services. While the quick sales are usually seen as a benefit to the vendor, the bigger opportunity is to not only provide a technology solution but a technology strategy roadmap.
In the megachurch market (more than 2,000 attendees each weekend), a technology strategy often looks like standardization on brands and components. And this comes mostly because the vast majority of these churches have more than one campus, necessitating the requirement of standardized operation for their technical staff and volunteers. In the midsize and smaller HOW market space, a single location with one or more venues is the norm, resulting in a myriad of technology purchases made as the church grew.
Aligning AV Strategy to Church Vision
The asymmetrical alignment of strategy to execution between the church’s vision roadmap and technology roadmap is one which results in not only last-minute, acute pain-point purchases but also difficult upgrade paths. Often reporting to the music pastor or business administrator of the church, the technology leadership (staff or volunteer) rarely has the opportunity to present a unified strategy to align technology to the vision for growth. It is in this apparent gap where the systems integrator, consultant or manufacturer has the opportunity to provide clarity and hope for better stewardship of the church’s funds.
If the infrastructure is the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities needed for consistent operation, then the question to ask churches goes something like this: “How consistent is the audiovisual team at producing technically seamless services?” In my nearly 30 years of experience in the church market, I can tell you that the vast majority don’t have consistency in operation week in and week out without issues, much less seamless services. It is only when the AV operation is unnoticed that the service went seamlessly. From an audiovisual standpoint, anything that draws attention unnecessarily or doesn’t operate as it should is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Since the infrastructure is the backbone of the signal path and the operational backplane for the AV gear, when it is weak or fractured, the problems will manifest both in function and operation by the AV team. Teams hampered by this kind of basic issue often find workarounds to try and avoid or minimize the issue, but this is a temporary bandage and not a solution in and of itself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a church tech booth and seen an 8.5″ by 11″ piece of paper with some warning printed upon it to prevent unwary techs from inadvertently wreaking havoc due to a systemic issue of neglect. “Don’t EVER touch this button,” or “Don’t wiggle this cable,” are the humorous but serious indications of an infrastructure issue that has the potential to be devastating when amplified during a service.
Start With Expectations, Not The Acute Pain
To properly address any of these infrastructure pain points, it’s helpful to diagnose and diagram the signal flow and operational processes required to achieve full operation. You might be surprised to learn that precious few churches have an up-to-date (or any) signal flow diagrams or documented operating procedures. While it’s obvious this is needed, it’s not the first place to start. First, ask the church leadership (senior pastor, music minister, worship pastor, campus pastor, etc.) what they expect at a minimum from the AV team for a weekend service. Then ask them what they would (realistically) like to see the AV technology operation progress to in three to five years as the church grows.
Armed with this insight, your firm has the golden opportunity to offer the church leaders a strategic audiovisual roadmap to meet or exceed their minimum expectations and a clear upgrade path to align with their three- to five-year goals.
Once the infrastructure plan is in place, the next step (and yet another solution your firm brings to the church) is operational documentation and training. There’s only a tiny percent of churches which would not benefit from an ongoing service and support contract with local experts. As Gary Kayye pointed out in his 2018 Krystal Ball predictions, AVaaS (AV as a Service) is a viable option for churches; especially if they need a major overhaul or are starting from scratch.
From Gary’s article: “AVaaS is where all the AV hardware, software, programming and integration services are paid on a recurring basis — maybe annually, quarterly or even monthly. The customer will like this as it removes the risk of owning a depreciating asset that is generally locally managed. And you will like this since you are the owner, technically, of the AV gear. You become their in-house AV company — their go-to for all AV needs. Most of your clients have been using this model in some capacity for years for both IT and furniture. But in the AV space, until now, we’ve pretty much only applied it to services — selling recurring service or maintenance contracts — and sometimes proactive monitoring, too. But why not everything?”
I’ve long promoted the viability and profitability of offering service to churches as a way to go well beyond the sale of AV gear. The Future of Selling to Churches. Money, Price, and Budget in Churches. Cost Depreciation and the Amortization of Church AVL Technology. Contracting Staff for 3 Months to Churches.
Solve the pain, then introduce the strategy. Help churches see beyond the immediacy of the coming weekend and align their AV strategy with their church vision. When you do, you’ll see church leaders light up and lean in; they’re invested in the future vision, so why shouldn’t the technology be used a force-multiplier to facilitate that vision? It should, and you can help them see the opportunity.
What say you? Share your views and links in the comments below.