Today’s post comes from Jim Annes, VP and general manager at AVAD, an industry-leading provider of solutions to the residential and commercial custom installation markets and a division of Ingram Micro. Here, read more about how advancements in technology and more affordable price points are bringing effective video conferencing into small-to-medium business spaces and the home.
This story originally ran in Custom Retailer Magazine
When I ask our dealers if they are installing video conferencing systems as part of their residential or commercial solutions, I often get one of two reactions. In one scenario, either their knowledge of, or experience with, video conferencing has left them with the impression that the only workable options are expensive telepresence solutions. In the other scenario, they are dealing with customers who prefer a free solution like Google Chat or Apple’s FaceTime.
Many are surprised to discover that there are several video conferencing solutions in the marketplace—solutions that are far more robust and functional than free offerings, and more flexible than telepresence products.
They are also surprised to learn that these products can be purchased at very affordable price points. These solutions do not replace the ability to chat casually with grandma through your Samsung TV, nor do they unseat Cisco in the very high end of the market. These are solutions that are aimed at the user who wants quality at an affordable price.
So why should you care about this market? First and foremost, the size of the opportunity. Let’s strip out the Fortune 1,000 and other large corporations. Even with those companies removed, there are more than 27.9 million small-to-medium businesses in the U.S., according to the Small Business Administration.
Now that video conferencing solutions are coming down in price and becoming more flexible, the residential market presents an opportunity as well. Fifty-two percent of the aforementioned 27.9 million small businesses are home-based. In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 24 percent of all workers in U.S. companies currently telecommute, ranging anywhere from a few hours a week to full time. In today’s always-on, hyper-connected workspace, video conferencing is most likely the next productivity tool that will be widely adopted in both offices and homes.
Since many dealers want to have an idea of what it takes to be successful in the space before they commit time and resources to learning how to deploy a video conferencing solution, here are some high-level issues we typically address with dealers:
Keep Client Needs in Mind
When you spec a solution, one question that often arises is, “How do I keep myself from making a simple mistake that makes my profits disappear?” Here are some key areas to address:
• What problems are they trying to solve? Business, residential, both?
• How are they currently interacting with others?
• What problems arise in these interactions?
• How could they be enhanced?
• What bandwidth is available?
• How many other offices or people would typically be on one teleconference?
• Is there a need for mobility and flexibility? Many of these solutions integrate with phones, tablets and laptops, and these permissions can be granted to co-workers or business partners on a per user basis.
• What are the unique network characteristics, including the number and type of firewalls and routers? Who manages them?
• Have they identified the size of the room or the number of participants in the office environment?
• Who do they frequently communicate with inside and outside of the company?
• Is there a desire to offer conferencing to valued partners?
Almost every solution involves the integration of cameras, speakers, microphones, video panels, codecs (also known as “end points”), bridging software or hardware, networking, security and control products.
Some solutions, such as Mondopad, have an “all-in-one” approach, where everything comes bundled with a 55-inch or 70-inch interactive touchpanel display. The key here is integration. High-performance systems require setup and configuration and many of the components are already familiar to installers.
Recurring revenue is big revenue. Don’t miss out on the opportunity. There are maintenance contracts and renewals you can employ to help your customers stay current on patches and updates. There are also hosting and scheduling services that installers can resell to their clients that make it easy to manage their video conferencing solutions.
Don’t forget that your partners have your back. Distributors and vendors who are serious about video conferencing have a lot of resources you can leverage.
At AVAD, we offer experience centers that installers can use to demonstrate the solutions with their clients. We also offer access to our system design, as well as technical support teams for needs-analysis, site visits and client meetings. In addition to this, we offer specification assistance for product and solution design.
Manufacturers like Lifesize and Mondopad also offer trainings on how to give the best demo to a prospective client, as well as needs-analysis checklists and technical support. Occasionally, manufacturers can also provide live demos that are customized based on the needs of your customers.
In summary, the home and small business video conferencing market is large and growing, with plenty of resources that can be used to enable your success today and into the future. Are you ready to get started and be ahead of the pack that will soon follow? CR
Jim Annes is the VP and general manager at AVAD, an industry-leading provider of solutions to the residential and commercial custom installation markets. Learn more at http://www.avad.com, and connect with AVAD on Twitter @AVAD_LLC, or at facebook.com/AVADllc.