Choosing Aesthetics Over Sound Quality
Feb 2, 2009 8:00 AM, By Rebecca Day
The philosophy would have been unheard of 10 or even five years ago. For an in-wall loudspeaker manufacturer such Sonance to focus on aesthetics over sound quality flies in the face of everything audio engineers have been trained to work toward in pushing the envelope of sound quality.
While loudspeaker performance has reached a highly advanced level, market opportunities exist in areas where sound quality isn't a priority. Sonance made a bold move over the past couple of years when it chose to focus its development efforts on new linesfrom completely invisible loudspeakers to ones that complement the latest in-ceiling lighting fixtures. The new looks are a radically different sales strategy from the good-better-best method of selling loudspeakers, and the decision seems to be paying off.
"Our strategy is to take what is a profitable category for a custom installer and make it more profitable by raising the average price per pair of speakers that a dealer can sell and by introducing aesthetics and design into the equation," says Chief Operating Officer Ari Supran. "It's not just bringing customers new products but the tools and education to do outreach efforts to architect and interior designers."
Supran, formerly with Lutron Electronics, has applied knowledge from the architectural market where lighting design is an integral element of high-end residential design. "We've taken our products and created the tools such as AIA and ASID-accredited classes that our dealers can learn to provide within their territories and provide architects and interior designers with continuing education credits. At the same time, we can introduce them to new solutions they weren't aware of before."
Encouraging and enabling integrators to form relationships outside of the builder market couldn't have come at a better time. By establishing relationships with the design world, integrators can get a foot into the door of projects at a much earlier stage. "It puts them at a seat at the table during the design phase of the job rather than being viewed as a subcontractor during construction," Supran says. "That gets them involved earlier which helps them increase profit margin."
In some cases, integrators have been able to grow into the position of project manager where they coordinate both trades and also act as the implementer of a designer's vision. That, too, can have lucrative benefits. "That's an alternative revenue source for them where they're not only charging for their time of installation but they're charging for design as well as project management," Supran says.
Sonance hasn't turned its back on performance, Supran says, but the company is encouraging dealers to think of speakers with the eyes, as much as the ears, in mind. "Dealers can really change the way they give their clients choices," he says. Rather than good-better-best sound, they can give them good, better, best aesthetics. "Once they position it in that realm, it changes the way the consumer thinks about what they're spending their money on."
Too often dealers consumers say they don't have golden ears and can't hear the difference between good and better speakers. By adding aesthetics to the sales pitch, dealers can turn a different knob with their client, Supran says. "It's not an artificial difference," he says. "We've changed the rules by showing dealers how they can show consumers something that's much more tangible. We want consumers to say, 'This speaker looks better and it's going to look better in my room so I'm more willing to spend the premium.'"
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