Spotlight on InfoComm 2019


Innovation and Culture: New Winning Combo for Pro AV Companies

AV companies and manufacturers need to spend more time and focus more time on creating innovative experiences their customers can’t get anywhere else.

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Innovation and Culture: New Winning Combo for Pro AV Companies

Photo courtesy of Sandy Marak Photography

If more than 80 percent of business buyers want to replicate their personal buying experiences when making purchases for their companies and more than two-thirds of company executives say experiences should trump products, why do companies only spend 10 percent of budgets on innovation?

That’s a lot of math, to be sure, but the bottom line is AV companies that expect to succeed today need to be thinking about creating customer experiences they can’t get anywhere else.

Where AV Companies Need to Learn

“Getting everybody to go on this journey isn’t easy,” Tiffani Bova, growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce, told 180 attendees at the 2019 PSNI Supersummit in Atlanta earlier this month.

“The hardest part is the people part. We have to start to rethink how we’ve followed these paths.

“We don’t have a technology problem. We have a people and process problem,” she says.

Paths to Business Growth

Bova outlined 10 paths to growth businesses can follow in the constantly changing tech industry, from co-opetition, partnerships and market acceleration to product expansion, customer and product diversification and customer base penetration.

There are also paths through customer experiences, sales optimization, churn and unconventional strategies, says Bova.

“Customers will remember the experience they had much longer than the price they paid,” she said, pointing to the tendency of some conference attendees to eschew the free coffee organizers offer them in favor of getting a cup at Starbucks.

“The customer experience has proven to be a great competitive advantage.”

Certainly, growth is easier said than done, says Bova, who notes that the world’s largest IT companies spend about two-thirds to three-quarters of their annual budgets to “keep the lights on.”

That means most companies are spending about 90 percent of their budgets on necessities.

“That doesn’t leave much for innovation,” she says.

The paradox is more than two-thirds of company executives expect their organizations to emphasize customer experience over products.

Why? Because two-thirds of customers will pay more for a great experience.

The experience-focused approach seems to be the way to go for AV companies targeting steady growth that outpaces their competitors. Companies that excel in experience grow their revenues 4 to 8 percent above the market, says Bova.

More About AV Companies Growing

Another interesting stat: more than four-fifths of business buyers want the same experiences when buying for their companies as when they’re buying for themselves, so companies that can deliver on that stand to grow more quickly than those that can’t or won’t.

“As much as this is a disruption, it’s a huge opportunity to solve problems for your customers,” says Bova. “Think about getting to the future and meeting your customers when they show up.”

In an age when there are more smartphones on the planet than toothbrushes, the connected customer mandate is something business must consider at all times, says Bova.

That plays out through relevant personal marketing, blending the digital and physical worlds, identifying customers at every touch point, working everywhere, adding value all the time and delivering moments of “WOW!”

“If you can help your customers grow, they need more from you,” says Bova. “If they need more from you, you can grow too.” For those who aren’t aware, we’re in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, better known as the digital transformation.

“When my scale talks to my fridge and locks it then my car drives me directly to the gym, I’m retiring,” says Bova with a laugh.

Predictive Customer Experiences

Customer experiences have changed from being reactive in the 1990s to proactive in the 2000s to predictive today.

How companies react to and use the information customers are telling them can go a long way toward determining their successes, says Bova.

“Your customers are telling you things, but are you doing anything about it or the same thing as always? Using the data requires reading it and analyzing it,” she says. “You can’t just keep behaving the same way as you always have.

“The customer is far more disruptive than the technology. You can’t hold on to what used to be or the customer will go somewhere else,” says Bova, who adds more than three-quarters of customers expect personalized experiences.

It’s important to engage your customers across their entire journey, making experiences that are brand-driven, consumer-driven and engagement-driven.

Companies can move from a product-centric approach to customer-centric approach by applying intelligence systematically to create positive feedback loops.

“It may force you to think differently about partner-to-partner collaboration,” says Bova. “The decisions we make up high have an impact down low and usually it’s on the customer side.”

AV companies with a focus on the future establish a customer-centric culture; redefine relationships, both internally and externally; selecting key performance indicators (KPIs) to foster the right behavior; and using data in context to create predictive interactions.

“Your greatest customers are the ones you already have,” says Bova. “If you don’t have anything new to sell them, you have to find new ones. It’s all about a drive toward intimate customer engagement.”

Don’t expect the transformation to be easy though. Bova says this culture shift could take 12 to 18 months.

“The backbone of corporate growth is personal growth,” she says. “This is what being a leader is all about.”