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Q&A with Doug Swan, Point Source Audio

New director of sales at Point Source Audio, he has more than 20 years of sales experience and founded a marketing firm, rental company, and wholesale audio product distributor.

New director of sales at Point Source Audio, he has more than 20 years of sales experience and founded a marketing firm, rental company, and wholesale audio product distributor.

New director of sales at Point Source Audio, he has more than 20 years of sales experience and founded a marketing firm, rental company, and wholesale audio product distributor.

PRO AV: What marketing challenges do you foresee in the audio industry and how do you plan to overcome them?

SWAN: I think it's the ongoing quest to create demand at the end-user level and how we reach those as a manufacturer — I think that's the biggest challenge; getting directly to those customers, so that they're aware of our product [and] they drive our resellers, at least for us. I think in general, the biggest challenge is the church market. It's such a huge part of our business, yet it's so hard to reach the right people directly. On the flip side, I think that e-mail marketing and the Web have enabled many of us, particularly relatively new brands like Point Source, to put their brands out quickly.

PRO AV: Do you think the role of the independent sales rep will continue to be an important factor in selling AV products and systems?

SWAN: We do. There's certainly a trend in the industry toward larger manufacturers not using independent reps and having their own captive people, but I think the industry is too small for companies to have their own sales forces. The key in the independent reps' ongoing contribution to the industry has to be in changing the way they sell and present their products. And the good rep firms out there are doing that. They're helping bring more than just a spec sheet to their customers. They're helping them with their business, looking at the trends, and the rep has a fantastic perspective on that because he sees an entire territory.

PRO AV: How do you see the role of AV equipment distributors in the future of pro AV?

SWAN: It's always surprised me how much of the business is done direct by manufacturers, as opposed to going through the distributors. I think what they like is the connection, particularly for technical support. There might be a little bit of the ego, too. I know over the years I've talked to a lot of dealers who say, “Well, we buy direct.” And I think that's kind of funny. I mean, you look at huge companies like Wal-Mart and Target, and they buy from distributors because they've realized that it's a cost-effective way to consolidate their purchasing.

PRO AV: Many people believe that several product categories are becoming commoditized — that it's difficult to differentiate among various companies' product offerings. Head-worn microphones are an example where there are many choices. How do you differentiate your product offering from your competition?

SWAN: I think the thing that has made Point Source successful in a relatively short period of time is we've offered nothing but ear-worn products. We never got into the lav market, and we don't make handheld mics, so I think that is what has separated us. We feel that ear-worn products are the new lavs, and once the end-users discover the performance benefits in going to an ear-worn product, they'll get rid of their lavs and start buying more ear-worns. In addition, we've priced ourselves to be something churches can afford — and not just mega-churches, but that huge base of small and medium-sized churches that needs the performance boost but can't spend $450 on it.

PRO AV: You've already mentioned that the house of worship market is very important to your business. Why is that?

SWAN: I think it's the biggest buying group of professional audio equipment in the country. I don't know where the pro audio business would be if it wasn't for the house of worship market. We continue to see exponential growth of that market. We do sell to a number of rental and production companies, but they're on sort of a schedule; they'll buy 50 microphones one year, and we don't hear from them again for two years. The church market is a lot steadier.



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