Branding for AV integrators shouldn’t be an afterthought, especially considering that you’re in the business of executing great customer experiences and bringing them to life using the power of audio and video solutions. With endless touchpoints and mediums, and with venues ranging from houses of worship to large commercial installations (and everything in between), your offering must be articulated and portrayed with the keenest set of eyes and in the simplest ways. With “experience” at the heart of everything you work on, why shouldn’t your organization have a great brand?
There’s been a recent shift in the AV industry; we’ve gone from a dry business-to-business (B2B) approach and come to incorporate more of a business-to-consumer (B2C) “brand experience” feel. Integration companies looking to excel in this new world have to stand out and continue to differentiate—not just from a product or solutions perspective, but also from the perspectives of messaging, marketing and brand experience.
In 2019 and beyond, having a concrete brand (and subsequent marketing strategy) is a “must have,” not a “nice to have.” It truly is the audio to your video, or the yin to your yang.
With so much online chatter and noise about which steps to take and how to take them, coupled with endless technology systems and platforms to ponder, I want to make thinking about branding your AV integration business as easy as possible. Because, in the end, it’s not about justifying your worth by being a complicated brand; instead, it’s about being a relatable, easy-to-understand brand that serves as a guide to your customers.
What follows are four tips to elevate your AV integration brand.
Don’t Be The Hero, Be The Guide
Want to dominate your industry? Listen up! Most brands want to position themselves as the hero. They want to be the Luke Skywalker of their industry, saving their customers from impending doom. In fact, though, this formulation couldn’t be further from the truth. You aren’t the hero; it’s your customers who are the heroes. You’re the guide, and, with your framework for success, you can guide your customers to a long-lasting, positive relationship not only with their customers, but also with you.
Focus On Building Trust
There is a magic formula in branding and marketing, and it all comes down to trust. As a brand and marketing consultant who works in the AV industry, I often partner with business leaders to simplify their messaging and create awesome marketing materials. However, my underlying angle is always to help brands build trust with their audience. When we break it down in its simplest form, trust equals Reliability + Delight. When we can push out a reliable product (or message) in a consistent manner, we build brand equity and audience trust.
That’s exactly how brands like Apple, Amazon and Starbucks have been able to stay on top for so long. They’re predictable, and they always aim to please their customers—no matter the cost (because they know the lifetime value of that customer is a lot higher than the transaction of the moment).
Be Proactive, Not Reactive
I see it all the time, but especially at conferences and trade shows: Integration companies taking a back-seat approach executing on their marketing and being reactive to their competitors and day-of trends. A lack of planning leaves so many opportunities on the table—opportunities not only to sell, but also to build brand equity and awareness.
A proactive approach, by contrast, plans ahead with goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) in mind, often working backward from those goals to achieve them in the simplest, easiest ways possible. With the right strategy in place, you’re able to connect with your audience and serve them content that’s not only relevant, but also timely.
When working with brands, we often loosely plan our yearly marketing strategy around larger events, trade shows and conferences because, often, doing so gives us the opportunity to really home in on what offering or products we want to lead with; then, we can craft messaging, creative and content around that.
One of the biggest opportunity areas for commercial AV and integration companies looking to differentiate and build their brand centers on the messaging. I’m talking about not just a mission statement (which I have a hard time believing in these days), but, rather, all the messaging that surrounds your organization—from your website, to social-media posts, to your sales lingo, to the way you answer the phone. It all matters more than you think.
Let’s take your website, for example. With the average B2B website bounce rate hovering around 15 percent higher than for a B2C website, it is clear that messaging and calls to actions are not being articulated clearly.
If you are not leading with a message such as, “We solve X problem(s) for X audience(s), so contact us now,” then you are clearly missing what should be the main idea of your website. It’s about lead generation. Why be cute and confuse your prospective client? Tell him or her the problem that you solve and how to contact you; then, watch your bounce rate go down and your leads go up.
Design For Conversion, Not To Win An Award
I’m a design and brand guy. I love the interplay between the two. However, I also understand when it’s time to tone down the design and just focus on optimization and the conversion rate for the brands with which I consult.
Too many times, websites and brands become their own worst enemy by being over-branded or over-designed. It can happen to all of us. But all is not lost—you’ve just lost track of your goals and the core strategies at hand.
To circumvent this, I often do check-ups with my clients to make sure all our sails are facing in the right direction and we’re not doing things just for the sake of doing them. Purpose and context should drive all your actions; if you do so, your audience will thank you with their business, their affinity and, hopefully, with referrals.
Branding might seem intangible and mystical to some, but, with the right mentality, team and guidance, small actions can turn into large initiatives, which can then spread like wildfire until you have a living, breathing brand. And, if you achieve that, it’ll bring in new business as it nurtures existing business and builds an enduring legacy.
It just takes commitment. Are you ready for the journey?
[This article originally appeared in the July 2019 edition of Sound & Communications]