Last time, I discussed how to leverage our superior knowledge and experience in sales, design and delivery of service to compete with ADT, Verizon and Comcast in the emerging wireless home integration space. Today, we will tackle a more challenging problem—marketing against these gorillas.
These electronic service providers (ESPs) are masters at TV, print and direct-mail advertising. In an early column, I expressed a hope that their marketing efforts would educate consumers on the benefits and cost savings of wireless home integration. Then, we could ride these coattails, and use our expertise to deliver superior products and services. But the economic crisis has curtailed their advertising efforts, and today’s consumer remains largely unaware of the potential of wireless home integration. So how can we tell this story ourselves?
The King Is Dead
Independent custom retailers can’t hope to match the saturation marketing of the ESPs, even at their current reduced levels. Conventional advertising is just too expensive—and too inefficient. Today’s consumers are over-stimulated, barraged with messages to buy! Buy! BUY! How does the self-respecting consumer respond? With the mute button, of course—the literal one on the TV and a mental one as we skip through advertising in newspapers, magazines and junk mail.
Internet marketing, though much cheaper, has become a noisy and difficult-to-manage free-for-all. But at least Internet users are already engaging in the kind of thinking and behavior that we want to mobilize: using their fingertips to gain worldwide connectivity.
Some say that traditional advertising is dead—that the century-old stimulus-response advertising paradigm (monkey see, monkey buy) has run its course. Why? Because informed consumers with disposable income no longer simply want to purchase the next new thing. They want their purchase to help differentiate them from their friends and neighbors. They want to craft a unique identity—a lifestyle. To market to them successfully, we will need a vehicle, a message and a vocabulary that better engages these personal needs.
Richard Baker of Premium Knowledge Group terms this new marketing strategy “lifestyle segmentation.” He has demonstrated the value of this approach in his work with high-end clients like Rolls Royce, Steinway Pianos and luxury cruise-lines. And like most things premium, it will inevitably trend down to mid-market, the sweet spot of wireless home integration.
The New Order
If independent custom retailers and integrators don’t have the resources to run with the gorillas, and if old school marketing is dead anyway, how can custom retailers tell the compelling story of wireless home integration to consumers, and position themselves as the leaders in this space? Several associates and I have grappled with this question over the past year and have created a perspective—and crafted a solution—which we believe will advance the cause of independent custom retailers who wish to excel in penetrating the wireless home integration market.
We have built an informational website—SyncMyHome.com—that accomplishes a number of goals toward this end. First, let’s look at the benefits to the consumer.
SyncMyHome.com tells the wireless home integration story—that it’s now possible to remotely monitor and control almost any important aspect of the home by integrating inexpensive (and ubiquitous) smartphones or tablets with broadband connectivity, cloud storage and a wide range of wireless electronic devices (including intrusion alarms, security cameras, climate control, lighting control, wireless home entertainment, energy and water use, to name just a few).
A Lifestyle Typology
We have developed a wireless lifestyle typology, which organizes the broad range of available electronic features into five daily concerns: Protect, Conserve, Connect, Enjoy and Adapt. This typology simplifies and systematizes what is otherwise a long and confusing list of potential features, and shows how they can be combined to satisfy important lifestyle goals. We also show how specific technologies—lighting control, for example—can be adapted to divergent purposes, such as safety, aesthetics, security or saving energy.
Wireless Lifestyle Planner
This assessment tool helps consumers to focus on the wireless lifestyle patterns that are likely to be most important in their daily lives. Consisting of 50 attitude, behavior and demographic questions about home, family, aging, neighborhood, energy conservation, etc., this survey takes only a few minutes to complete. It is then scored online for the five Wireless Lifestyle Scales (plus 15 sub-scales, for a total of 20 scale scores). Visitors receive—by email—their Wireless Lifestyle Profile, showing their individual results, along with an Interpretive Guide.
This section highlights features that can conserve resources and save money—remote monitoring and control of lighting, shades or thermostats, for example. The savings can pay for the cost of the improvement (often in as little as four or five years, depending on local climate and energy rates)—a powerful selling point.
A Savings Calculator
The U.S. Department of Energy sponsors an online energy calculator to help homeowners identify improvements (such as upgrading insulation or replacing an obsolete furnace) that will save energy and money. From information supplied by the visitor on home size, construction features and local climate, the site identifies upgrades that will conserve energy, then calculates the expected payback period for each recommended improvement.
SyncMyHome.com contains a link to this site. We encourage visitors to consider basic energy-saving upgrades identified by the DOE Calculator, before investing in wireless electronic energy-saving features. It makes sense to identify and pick the low-hanging fruit first.
This section provides an updated list of available service providers, including the ESPs, as well as the Home ConnecTeam and Connected Source R (pending). Also included are current pricing and special packages and promotions.
On this page, the consumer can find and download in-depth reports that further clarify aspects of wireless home integration. Initial offerings include “Real-life Energy Savings,” “The Truth About Lighting Control” and “Can Your Infrastructure Support your Wireless Lifestyle?” Additional technical reports will be added on a regular basis. Outside experts are invited to contribute to this section.
Here, visitors may sign up to receive industry and consumer alerts, new Tech Matter reports, provider pricing updates, and other timely information.
OK, you say. This all looks very useful to the consumer. But how does SyncMyHome.com help custom retailers and integrators gain market share against the gorillas?
Building Understanding, Trust & Buzz
The mission of SyncMyHome.com is to be an authoritative, unbiased and consumer-friendly voice in this new and expanding space. Wireless home integration is poised to be the next mega-trend, swept along by the dramatic success of the smartphone and tablet. But it will falter if features are sold the way aluminum siding was sold in the ’60s.
Done right, wireless monitoring and control of the home (not to mention work, and one’s personal life) on a personal digital device will provide an almost addictive experience for most users—in a positive, legal sense, of course.
So the question is not whether this technology will sell. Rather it is how to market and sell it in a way that seamlessly links the consumer to his home. When this occurs, the buzz will flow naturally, and everyone wins—except maybe the Gorillas.
SyncMyHome.com was specifically created to accomplish two things—first, to make it as easy as possible for consumers to understand this technology, and how it can enhance their everyday lives; and second, to promote the interests of qualified independent dealer/integrators in this very explosive space.
By introducing the Wireless Lifestyle Typology and Planner, the website establishes a standard vocabulary and framework for qualifying potential clients, formally assessing their needs, targeting specific lifestyle patterns for adjunct advertising, and developing nuanced selling strategies for each lifestyle type. Wireless lifestyle segmentation provides a pathway that interested consumers will use to make wireless home integration a part of their unique identity.
It’s time for us to claim our position in this emerging market. Dealer/integrators who want a convenient and focused source of up-to-date industry information and analysis can find it at SyncMyHome.com.
You can also use the site to download tech reports for your clients, use My Lifestyle Planner to help qualify them, or even encourage them to explore the site on their own—to sell themselves on specific lifestyle features.
Additional SyncMyHome.com initiatives to support independent dealers and groups are in the works and will launch shortly, including display advertising, a referral service and data mining.
Once the customer understands the possibilities of home integration, the most important question will be this: which specialist in my area can best sync my home to my lifestyle? When they visit SynchMyHome.com, the answer can be YOU! For more information, visit the website or contact us at george@SynchMyHome.com CR
George E. McKechnie, PhD, is president of Axiom Home Theater in Monterey, Calif., and founding editor of SyncMyHome.com. He is contributing editor to CustomRetailer.