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Find Your Niche

When you consider that the majority of AV systems integration firms are businesses with less than $5 million in annual revenue, you get the sense that ours is an industry with many niche players. In fact, this is a fairly good description of the pro AV industry in the United States, and given the products and services we provide, it's the correct model.

When you consider that the majority of AV systems integration firms are businesses with less than $5 million in annual revenue, you get the sense that ours is an industry with many niche players. In fact, this is a fairly good description of the pro AV industry in the United States, and given the products and services we provide, it's the correct model.

There are few “national” AV firms. Those that are national in scope inevitably have smaller regional or local offices that essentially operate as one of the many “less than $5 million” independent companies. Our customers require that “small business” attention and level of service that sometimes diminishes as companies grow larger. It's one of the characteristics that differentiates pro AV from many of the other technical trades.

So, do you have a market specialty within pro AV? Many integrators are afraid to address that question, fearing that a response imposes a limit to their business “reach” or potential. But look at the history of any successful business venture, and you'll find roots in a highly specialized, narrowly-defined business segment — a niche.

Pro AV is full of niche applications. You could say that our entire industry began as a niche market — education. But even within education, there are niches with AV needs that have supported many thriving systems integrators. While researching this issue's “Guide to Doing Business in Education AV,” we found that AV spending in the K-12 segment is almost half that of AV spending in higher education. Does that mean K-12 isn't a lucrative market? Of course not. Even within K-12, there's further niche segmentation: Private K-12 schools spend about one-tenth of what public schools do on AV. Yet there are AV systems integrators whose entire businesses are supported only by private school AV projects.

Having a niche helps focus your business. Marketing plans have pinpoint accuracy, sales databases have structure and definition, and employees all work from the same page. As a result, customers tend to regard you as the specialist in your field, and come to you for advice. Of course, there can be downsides to being “too niched” that must be carefully considered. But to say you're a pro AV integrator specializing in the K-12 market — or any other niche segment —sets you apart from the IT technicians, electricians, and consumer electronics stores currently eyeing your business.

Mark Mayfield
Editor



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