House of worship (HOW) is one of the perennially strongest vertical markets. Although numbers vary depending on whom you ask, there are estimated to be about 350,000 to 400,000 HOW buildings in the U.S. Not all of them are likely to use technology to enhance their services; but most sources agree that at least half of them are using video projection and audio systems.
Meanwhile, of all the vertical markets in which CIs operate, HOW seems to have the most unique characteristics, and successful integrators realize the value of a deep commitment to and understanding of these attributes.
According to Blake Jochum, executive producer, business development at All Pro Sound in Pensacola, Fla., it’s especially critical to be aware of trends and changing attitudes in the HOW market. “Churches are getting more progressive, with less emphasis on ‘preaching’ and more on entertaining – which, in turn, leads to spending more on A/V,” says Jochum. “It’s important to learn to ‘speak the language’ in the church market.”
In the HOW market, most of the leading suppliers provide complete audio, video and lighting (AVL) packages. All Pro Sound is also a large online seller of equipment to all types of vertical markets, but HOW is its specialty. Jochum uses the term “enhanced services” to describe the general technology trend in modern houses of worship.
“Today’s contemporary worship requirements are leading many traditional churches to renovate sanctuaries or build new facilities that can accommodate more advanced audio, video, and lighting systems,” he says. Despite their larges presence in on-line catalog sales, he describes All Pro Sound as a “design-build” contractor, which he feels have better margins than bid-only projects.
Based in Olympia, Wash., CCI Solutions has also built a significant business in online sales to the HOW market, but it also realizes that consulting, design, installation and service play key roles in success. Ron Simonson, CEO/president of the 37 year-old firm says: “We have a vibrant and flourishing business providing AVL products to our customers through ecommerce, phone and catalog sales. But we also have a world-class systems integration group which designs and installs some very impressive house of worship and other systems integration projects.”
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While customer service is important in any market, Simonson contends this is especially true in HOW. “Each church we partner with is given the individual attention, quality and support they need to be successful in ministry. Our people and our quality are the two attributes that consistently bring referral customers to CCI Solutions,” he says.
Although this market is extremely competitive, CCI Solutions doesn’t believe you can necessarily be successful by just offering the lowest price. “Make sure you factor the cost of providing high quality on a consistent basis and price your work accordingly,” he says. “You can’t promise to provide a long-term relationship, high quality and superior service if your business plan can’t sustain it.”