Here’s Why Integrators Should Get Into the Furniture Business

Published: March 29, 2016

It’s surprising to me that more AV integration firms haven’t aligned themselves with a B2B furniture dealer. Being able to bring up AV early in the renovation or buildout process when customers are having furniture and space conversations is an unquantifiable advantage.

Red Thread, a $33 million Boston-based integration firm born out of a $230 million commercial furniture dealer, has success positioning itself not as a tech provider, but as a firm that solves customers’ space challenges. Traditional integrators “tend to look at the technology that’s going into the space as just an add-on,” said VP of audio-visual group John Mitton in a 2014 CI profile. The Red Thread approach, he says, is “integration of technology to complement, and be part of, the overall solution — a holistic approach to it.”

It also gets its foot in the door early with countless, faithful office furniture customers.

Following a similar track is Intereum, known in Minnesota’s Twin Cities area as a premier provider of office furniture and a big Herman Miller dealer. The $60 million furniture company launched an AV division three years ago. The AV division expected to finish 2015 at nearly $4 million in sales.

Many local AV competitors don’t even know that Intereum sells AV because the furniture dealer has locked up the AV project before traditional AV firms have had a chance to bid on it.

Mark Lorenson — who like Red Thread’s Mitton was his company’s IT director before launching an AV division — runs Intereum’s AV division as audio-visual director. An early decision was to align Intereum’s upscale reputation as a loyal Herman Miller dealer with an AV counterpart, Crestron. He’s had success educating customers about the Crestron brand and positioning it in the same vain as Herman Miller.

Intereum has also found success bringing AV into the conversation sooner in the process. “Since we’re in at the beginning we have a unique opportunity to tell a story about how we can manage the entire space, where the furniture will be and where the AV will go,” Lorenson says.

It improves on the traditional model where “the AV guy comes in after the fact and says, ‘That table won’t work. We’re going to drill into it.’ That’s where we can come in and be a turnkey solution for the customer.” Meanwhile, many local AV competitors don’t even know that Intereum sells AV because the furniture dealer has locked up the AV project before traditional AV firms have had a chance to bid on it, Lorenson says.

“We see competitors’ customers walking into our door to buy office furniture. We have probably the best showroom for furniture and AV in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area.”

That’s another thing. Few traditional AV integration firms have a showroom. “In the furniture world customers schedule showroom visits,” Lorenson says. Intereum conducts quick AV presentations and asks for a follow-up meeting with the IT director or whoever the appropriate contact would be to discuss technology.

Lorenson says Intereum has a unique opportunity to tap into company’s focuses on workspace transformation. Intereum and Red Thread aren’t alone in their ability to effectively tie technology into spaces and solve customers’ workplace transformation challenges. It’s just that they’re getting to talk to customers about it far earlier than most.

Posted in: Insights

Tagged with: Red Thread

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