Small Changes Can Have a Big Impact on Your 2021 CI Business

Written by Hank Alexander

December 14, 2020

As we close in on the end of 2020 and look toward 2021, it’s a good time to think about what lessons we might be able to apply to our futures in the custom installation (CI) business.

Let’s start with 2020.

Everything that was right is wrong. And everything that was wrong is right. What’s next? Cats and dogs living together? Yeah, probably. But seriously, 2020 has taught us to be ready for anything and to always talk to customers about the options for WFH (work from home) and LFH (learn from home) so that they can make the right choices or upgrades to create a robust network.

Even if a client has a network that’s only a few years old, the changes in technical specs (WiFi 6) or mesh make upgrading a good option. And all-in-all, the benefits outweigh the minimal costs. Your customers should upgrade now so that their networks are ready for whatever comes next and are prepared for any other system upgrades they might want to make down the road. Because, let’s face it, EVERYTHING in the home is on the internet, from the obvious phone, computer and tablet to the refrigerator, the exercise equipment, the bed and even the mirror.

Old clients become new again.

Over the years, we’ve talked about marketing to previous customers. And if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to always stay in touch with past clients and don’t ignore marketing to them. People are used to upgrading phones, tablets and computers every few years, and some of the same upgrade cycles can apply to your clients’ entertainment systems.

This year, some big vendors – including Sony – have given marketing assets to their dealers that talk, not about products and specs, but about upgrading and enjoying your already installed system more. Other ways to market to your existing client base include focusing on new entertainment areas and options, like Samsung’s new Terrace outdoor television line. Marketing to your existing client base will help you diversify your CI business from new construction and “word of mouth” referrals to continuing business clients. And let’s face it, it costs a lot less to keep a client than to market and attract a new one.

Thinking outside the traditional CI box.

But growth doesn’t just happen with customers. Don’t forget to explore new markets. Right now, one of the hottest trends is healthy living. Since the beginning of COVID-19, health and wellness have been top-of-mind for clients. There are a lot of options in the wellness space, from lighting and human-centric lighting to shades and air cleaning. Wellness partnerships will make your business even more important to your existing clients and give you new opportunities to reach out and discuss options.

Plus, these upgrades don’t have to cost a lot of money, and some have great retrofit options. Just adding shades can change the way a client lives, works and enjoys their home. In addition, adding powered shades is a fairly easy process, especially with some of the new battery- and even solar-powered shade options.

Recurring revenue models will grow and thrive in the new marketplace. In the past this has been focused primarily on security, but, moving forward, remote network monitoring and even remote service opportunities will attract not just new customers but new options from vendor partners.

Take, for example, clients who are concerned about having people coming in and out of their homes in the middle of a pandemic. If you can offer them the ability to remotely monitor both their networks and the devices on the networks, and proactively reach out if there’s an issue, you’re not just selling a service. You’re providing convenience and peace of mind. And that makes this an upgrade that practically sells itself.

So, what’s 2021 have in store?

If this year has taught me anything, it’s that nothing is predictable. However, a few things are obvious. Supply chain issues are likely to continue. Having a functioning website will be important. The upgrade cycle will be in hyperdrive. And marketing the RIGHT opportunities to your existing client base can and will help bridge the gap between new projects. Don’t wait for January to get started. Now is the time!

This blog was first published in the November 2020 issue of Retail Observer.


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