Expecting a Royal Flush on the Flop

We’re saying this with tounge in cheek, firmly so; Maybe we’re a terrible distributor. In many respects – probably because we don’t aggressively and actively force our product ranges down the neck of every Tom, Dick and Harry.

We are however fantastic at assisting our dealers and their customers with doing the right thing; and we know we’re doing things correctly when it comes to assisting with technical implementation and sales of the products we do represent.

Recently we assisted one of them by hitting the ball out of the park on a proposal for a new client. While we never encourage budgetary discussions off the bat, it happens, and in this case it was predefined. The client had viewed a cinema which immediately recalibrated their level of expectation, but that commanded a price that was, in their own words, somewhat unachievable for them.

However, with correct design, a set level of performance was not. Given their room size being dramatically different to the room experienced, we helped the dealer spec a system which at the very least will achieve 102dB at the Reference Seating Position with great LFE and bass response, while putting 27fL on screen, post-calibration.

Sure, it’s not 105dB or 35fL, which are numbers the industry should be (but are not!) intimately familiar, nor comfortable, with – but its a helluvalot better than a number of other proposals the client saw which were based purely on branded product bundles, with no objective performance level. With our design they knows what they’re getting first and foremost, and brand names aren’t really required at this junction – after all, the entire system is to be hidden behind some acoustically translucent fabric walls – allowing sheer focus on the experience of watching movies in that room.

Whatever happens to that quote or estimate, we’ll probably never know, not unless or until it pops back up on our radar as a possible order for some product – we hope – but we can’t ever say for definite. Which in itself is the fodder for another post, another day.

In keeping with that design mindset, and on a very much related note, alongside the services we offer to all our industry colleagues, we feel the need to question what happens to these deals, both technically and practically – because we’ve been struck by a new trend which has raised its head, and its not pretty;

Over the last few months more than a handful of dealers have approached us because they “want to be different”. They’re tired of “competing with other dealers on products which are discounted” and to which every dealer under the African sun has access to.

Cutting to the chase, we’ve got a bit of a wake up call for everyone; we are also tired of hearing the same old rant and rave; About wanting to be unique, and to be different, promptly followed by request for price lists, and then a cursory scan through to look for ‘better products’ which then go into an installation portfolio, or onto a product pages, or best yet, into the same basket of discounted products used on just about every proposal driven by whatever software is being used at the time.

Surprise, surprise; beyond that usually a discussion about how much discount they can leverage ensues, some words are exchanged, a promise of let’s see what we can do is made, but, Ta-Da!!; Nothing changes.

The crux of the matter here is that if your store, your van, your business card, or your sales pitch has more product and big name logos on it than your own brand name, you’re in deep, deep trouble. Not because you might not be able to do the work, or deliver an experience, but definitely because through doing so you are showcasing that you place more value on those products and brands than you do on your own name and technical ability.

If your sole aim is to show your customer how much value they can leverage through the final amount of discount achieved off a retail price point, you best have a good wetsuit – you’re going to paddling out of the cold, dark, deep-end for a long time. You’re creating a false economy for yourself. You’re engineering value incorrectly.

We hate to break it to you; the only way to improve your overall portfolio, and your overall installation level and caliber, is if you up your game in terms of the technical and functional specification you deliver to the end user. If a dealer upped their game by selling themselves, and their services rather than focussing on product and price, they’d immediately make a difference and ‘stand out’. In fact, we’re so confident of that we have some seriously crazy policies for our dealers in place that help achieve this.

Strangely though, from a sales perspective, this all has nothing to do with products. (See, terrible distributor – we should be saying just buy our stuff, its the best, never mind what the technical or functional specifications are, or what standards need to be met! The rest is not our problem).

If you stick to a chosen set of standards, and you deliver an overall system which is objectively verifiable and measurable to those standards, or at least a percentage of that standard, then you will have a customer who is absolutely blown away – not only by your professionalism, but by the fact you’ve been very open and honest with them [because, hey, maths doesn’t lie, neither does engineering. But marking.. well…lets grab a beer and discuss…]

Integrity sells. Honesty sells. A happy customer – we can guarantee you – is one who is blown away by the curated experience you deliver them; based on a level of performance you have clearly show them they will be able to achieve through a mix of design and products that performs together in relative harmony.

Setting a level of expectation and then meeting that level of expectation is simply a matter of plugging numbers. Honestly, it can’t get any simpler. The problem we see most commonly lays with not knowing your numbers, and then defaulting to marketing BS about which is louder or better because you get a better deal from that supplier this week. Imagine if doctors had to operate like this? I cant use the precision scalpel, I’ll just use the hacksaw – I mean its the same thing isn’t it? Life and death anyone!? (More comedic effect)

The most recent dealer who approached us saying they’re looking for something unique for a client, thinking that one of our products from brand x is going to be their magic ticket, is in for a surprise.

The problem(s), we fear, start way earlier than this enquiry, because on receipt of their clients’ room design – we realised there literally was none. We were simply provided with some plans the architect had drawn up showing the room and seating positions; and everything about that is wrong.

I could go into detail of how and where the layout was technically incorrect, and unfathomably so. Suffice to say though, for given the size of the room, not only from an acoustical perspective, but from a visual perspective, a 32” CRT on a ceiling bracket at the bottom of a boomy, bassy, single lane bowling alley would be a better scenario. We’re exaggerating for comedic effect here, again, but trying to convey a point;

If you design with strong foundations, and build off those, you’ll be guaranteed way better performance than if you just bang some great product into a room, and together with some nice seats, you hope the mix works well. (Or worse yet, you trust someone else that tells you it will work well without doing your own due diligence!)

If you’re looking at spending a considerable amount of money on product, then you’d best be sure that the product will work correctly in the instance in which you are implementing it.

If you’ve received a final price, or cost, or worse – bought the damn system – even before you’ve designed your room, or before you’ve assessed the requirements of how, where and why you need to do what you need to do to reach the best level of minimal compromise – well, “caveat emptor – buyer beware; be very aware”.

We are very fortunate that our product portfolio contains a number of very effective, very efficient, and very design friendly ‘band aids’ which could very well be utilised in a great number of installations to improve them simply by inclusion. However we don’t recommend treating the symptoms, we recommend getting right down to the root and cause, and curing that before looking at the rest.

We can soundly say (excuse the pun there), that the products in our stable – beyond the band aids – can not only shake rattle and roll with the very best our there, if not also being THE best out there, but they can do so day in and day out, at a level of performance which makes achieving a technically superior experience not only deliverable, and measurable, but actually, in the grand scheme of things, also quite affordable.

This is Africa though, and I’m always reminded of the advert of that came out a few years back (and was promptly banned IIRC) of a very, very posh car parked in the driveway of a tin Shack in a township. It’s one thing to be flash with the cash if you can, but don’t spend it without having done your homework. Don’t spent it if you cant justify it, or afford it. Certainly don’t spend it if you have no understanding – to a level you are least comfortable – of what exactly you are getting yourself into.

Otherwise, just like many, (and we’ll again emphasise here for final comedic effect), many, many, many other end customers, you too could end up burning your fingers badly with a completely sub-par experience because you placed value on the wrong thing without realising there was need for recalibrating your levels of expectation and perspective.

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