Three Mistakes AVL Manufacturers Are Making

featured-how-trendsAs a house of worship consultant to manufacturers and systems integrators, I’ve seen and heard from a wide array of companies in the Audio/Video/Lighting (AVL) space about their experience with the church market. I think your experience at a manufacturer or dealer will likely follow one of these patterns of thought and leadership. All the more essentially, I want to empower you to help identify the methods holding your firm back from tremendous success in this 300,000+ church vertical market. Below, I’ve identified the three mistakes AVL manufacturers are making when it comes to marketing to the house of worship market.

We Don’t Know How To Reach Churches

I hear the phrase “we don’t know how to reach churches” about a third of the time when speaking with AVL professionals. In my experience, this is another way of saying “we don’t know how to target vertical markets.” To speak to a specific kind of prospect requires a focused marketing effort on identifying the unique contexts and needs of the potential buyer.

Are you creating these products because you want to use them or because you believe they add value to people in various industries? Ideally, you do want to use your own products and solutions, but that’s not why you’d expand from a hobby to a business. Your business exists because someone identified a need for at least one kind of user, and built something to meet that need — even if it’s something they didn’t even know they needed until you built it!

Reaching church buyers is exactly the same as reaching Corporate, Education, Government, or Residential buyers: helping people find your product as a solution for their workflow. People are people and vertical markets all contain people. Church people are the same people who also fill those other vertical market roles. Their application is God-focused, but your technology is agnostic.

I’ve written extensively about how to reach church buyers. In case you’ve missed any of them, here’s a quick list of helpful articles here on rAVe:

We’re An Engineering Company, Not A Marketing Company

Too often, products are placed front-and-center along with the line card highlighting bullet points of three to five key features; the idea being to expect the prospect to think like the engineers who designed the product and self-identify solutions based on technical capabilities.

Hint: Not many of your buyers are AVL engineers. With that in mind, it’s helpful to understand that what went into making your product great isn’t likely to start the influx of orders for your gear.

Engineers make good products. Marketers make good stories.

Engineers think they way they do for a reason. It’s why the products on the market today do the amazing things they do. However, it’s unlikely the same person sitting behind the bench working on microprocessors is the same person you’d put on the show floor to woo potential buyers. It is therefore unreasonable to leave the marketing up to the engineer; not because they lack the ‘smarts’, but they lack the skills to tell a great story. The reverse is usually true, too. Apple’s iconic Steve Jobs, smart as he was, focused himself as the marketing and sales guy, but it was Steve Wozniak the engineer who made Apple’s early products.

I’d never suggest that an AVL manufacturer orient their company as marketing-first. Neither would I suggest AVL manufacturers lead their sales and marketing efforts with engineering – except when targeting engineers as a marketing persona.

We Need To Market Better On Social Media

The third pattern I’ve found in my consulting with manufacturers and systems integrators has to do with the idea of leveraging social media for sales in the new digital landscape. Social media, however, is simply an obnoxious bullhorn for those who apply the same self-serving techniques via advertising and at trade shows. The last channel you want to abuse is social media, because unlike advertising or the exhibit hall floor, this channel has a voice that bites back when you abuse or misuse it.

A social media acquaintance of mine shared her thoughts on digital marketing in today’s marketplace, and I couldn’t offer a more succinct or on-point message than what she wrote, so I’m inserting her brilliance below to speak directly to manufacturers. This should be emailed, shared on your social network, and made an agenda item in your next new product meeting. It is that good.

A successful marketer today spends her time creating alignment and cohesion across the business to create a customer experience that’s consistent with what the company aspires to be.

It’s that simple, and that difficult.

The most important thing to remember is that social technologies and their capabilities are the catalyst for change, they’re not the solution to the problem. Their capabilities are what shine a spotlight on our vulnerabilities as businesses, namely the disconnects between our contrived brand and our customers’ expectations of us, and the stifled, process-driven flows of information inside our own companies that largely get in the way of us doing a better job of communicating with each other and with our customers.

We have to understand data without getting ourselves buried in the idea that Big Data will be our salvation, lest we burn time and energy chasing the wrong analytical windmills.

We have to shape a consistent customer experience and give them a voice in how we work while still aligning that with a business strategy that they may not have the whole picture for, and trying to hone in on the right kind of customer for our business.

We have to unlock internal community and communication so that we can shake off the industrial-era chains that dictate efficiency above all, and instead make our companies more modular and free people up to collaborate, innovate, make agile decisions, and maneuver at the speed of the ever-changing market.

We have to guide a business culture that wants all of those things and bridges the gap between risk management and open innovation in a way that keeps the doors open but the ideas flowing and changing.

In a world of content noise, proliferation of social networks, splintered conversations…the only true marketing advantage today lies with how you treat people, and how focused you are on creating a truly outstanding customer experience.

This is sage advice and practical wisdom that, I believe, should be applied to every AVL manufacturer.

What say you? Do you see manufacturers taking any of the positions described above? Share your views in the comments below.