Referrals. Networking. Those words are big in the business of technology integration – for a lot of firms, they’re the best marketing tools they have.
For a growing number of integrators, there’s a preferred method for reaching architects, designers, and builders and keeping that contact list robust and engaged: become a CEDIA Outreach Instructor.
“COIs” are trained to teach a variety of CEDIA-specific courses to those in the building trades, courses that focus on everything from security solutions to home theater installations. They’re anecdotal, solution-based courses – not “how-to” sessions but a window into the value that tech will provide to any project. The courses – in addition to offering a “soft-sell” presentation of CEDIA member services – provide attendees with continuing education credits, too.
Sure, a manufacturer could drop in and present a lunch-and-learn to a room full of architects, but as Brian Farley, VP of Sales for Crescendo Designs, points out: “It’s much more meaningful coming from me. The attendees see my conviction, my passion, my enthusiasm. I’m the expert."
Josh Christian (a longtime CEDIA member who’s currently working on a new startup firm) is a fan, too:
“Actively giving presentations to industry partners through the COI program elevated my company and myself to ‘thought leader’ status in the eyes of the people I addressed."
Architects love the hands-on stuff
David Devanna, Systems Designer with New Jersey’s iTEC Consultants, has some favorites among the courses he offers. “The lighting course is very focused -- and I have a really nice selection of props – which architects love. It really engages them.”
“Most of the people who are attending are people we’ve worked with already in some capacity,” says Brian Farley. “It’s essentially a reminder: We’re here, we’re ‘those guys.’ I just had a ‘regular’ refer some clients as a result – the COI courses outline the complexity of what we do, and reinforce our status as the experts.”
Texas-based Audio Video Innovations’ Keith Brown found that one meeting among a group of architects spun nicely into additional COI presentations. “I had one architect say ‘I’d be really impressed if an AV company could come and fix my Wi-Fi.’” Realizing he had a chance to prove his firm handled vastly more than AV, Brown replied, “I’ll have someone there tomorrow.”
The quid pro quo? Brown wound up presenting that architect’s firm with multiple COI presentations.
For Brian Farley, “People come because I invite them personally. And I’d rather have four to six people who are the right people attend.”
David Devanna’s learned how to nurture those relationships – even if he starts the process with what amounts to a cold call. His strategy: He’ll target a specific area he wants to open up in the Tri-State area, Google architects in that town or country, and determine if the firm’s targeting the same demo he’s mining.“I’ll drive over and introduce myself. That’s a ‘touch.’ Then I’ll follow up with a call, an email – more touches. I’ll offer a lunch-and-learn. Then I’ll show up again to hand the attendees their certificates.“By the time I’m done, that’s four or five touches.”For Devanna, one presentation often leads to another: “Any course that I do, I mention the other courses that are available. One firm sets them up every month or so.“I don’t know if they just like the free lunches I bring,” he laughs. Bottom line, though: “It’s ways to keep in touch.”For Brian Farley, “People come because I invite them personally. And I’d rather have four to six people who are the right people attend.”
Train the TrainerA CEDIA member who’s interested in becoming a CEDIA Outreach Instructor (COI) is required to take a day-long “Train the Trainer” class. That class unlocks all the COI courseware for the instructor — once the initial session is passed and paid for, access to all the materials CEDIA has developed for the program is free.There’s homework ahead of the “Train the Trainer” class, including a presentation that COIs are expected to know cold — an instructor is evaluated on their presentation by their peers. That evaluation determines whether or not a trainer-to-be is ready to teach.The next “TTT” class is scheduled for June 15-16 at Lutron’s Global Specification Office in New York, NY and then on Tuesday, September 5 at the CEDIA 2017 show in San Diego.