Damn Right Kramer Is Shifting toward IT but It’s Taking AV with It

Kramer execs discuss big opportunities on the IT side, becoming more software-centric, plans to sell solutions as-a-service and bold distribution plans.

Tom LeBlanc

It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes or Woodward and Bernstein to notice that something is up with Kramer.

The AV solutions manufacturer appears restless and ambitious.

It’s not just that Kramer, which had done little more than dabble in automation, launched at InfoComm 2016 Kramer Control aiming to virtually eliminate the need for programming with the cloud-based solution’s drag-and-drop features. A lot can be read into the reasons Kramer seemed particularly excited about Kramer Control.

Then VP of marketing Clint Hoffman seemed most excited about the solution’s ability to capture data that he says can provide tremendous value to customers while creating value-add opportunities for integrators.

“For years people probably thought of Kramer as a box maker or an add-on product, but as we go forward we’re going to be able to do the whole system,” Biegacki says.

“It literally captures everything that happens in the control aspect of your system 100 percent of the time automatically and you can immediately get reports on it,” he said.

Hoffman also teased an interest in selling Kramer solutions in an as-a-service model and building solutions around customers’ IT managers’ needs.

There was a sense that when it comes to rethinking traditional AV integration products, services and business models, nothing was off the table.

Meanwhile, longtime, beloved Kramer president and CEO Dave Bright stepped down from those roles as he eases into retirement at the end of 2016 and in came former Belden executive Steve Biegacki to take the helm.

Next, Hoffman was promoted to VP of operations, and Kramer announced an expansion of its U.S. sales team with several new appointees and positioned it as a “restructuring” of its U.S. business to provide more customer focus.

One thing is clear: Kramer is moving aggressively.

I talked to Biegacki and Hoffman to try to get a better idea of the direction it’s heading.

Kramer recently announced a handful of sales team moves and the announcement referred not just to the personnel but to U.S. business restructuring. What’s the greater goal?

Biegacki: The greater goal really is —our business has gone forward and grown since Dave [Bright] started the business 20 years ago, but I think we’re at a transition point now, specifically as it relates to the conversion of AV and IT space and as it relates to our product portfolio.

I think our portfolio is becoming more complete. We’re moving more into the control space in a bigger way than ever before. We obviously have an outstanding collaboration line. Both play across AV and IT spaces.

For years people probably thought of Kramer as a box maker or an add-on product, but as we go forward we’re going to be able to do the whole system. Everything from control to signal management to collaboration. I think we’ll be a full line supplier of AV solutions.

Can you talk about the differences between Kramer’s brand awareness and market penetration in the U.S. versus other regions in the world?

Hoffman: It’s more of a historical factor. Companies like Crestron and Extron grew up in the U.S. Kramer being Israel-based actually got its start in western Europe. In Europe there is a perception that Kramer is one of the founders [of AV] and in the U.S. there are other companies that have that.

Biegacki: There is an opportunity to leverage customer relationships we have that start outside the U.S. and have U.S. operations. We are leveraging that shift to drive our business and as a result we’ve also kind of changed the way we do business. It’s forced us to be more customer-centric in our approach with the actual end users in North America leveraging what we have coming out of Western Europe.

Hoffman: Steve used the term “relationship.” People develop relationships with brands over a certain amount of time and people buy from people they’re comfortable with and that they trust. Part of the restructure is putting more resources on that front line.

As Steve mentioned we made boxes and in an analog world that’s fine, but there are a whole bunch of things that go beyond that in a converged world. We’re still going to have boxes which are part of the solution but we’re very focused on software and cloud based solutions. We see that future and we adopted [tagline] AV beyond the box.