The shopping world has changed exponentially over the last decade. Consumers have more options than ever before where to buy the products they need. And at the end of the day, price is the most important decision for customers, or is it? Consumers do have a lot of choices these days as online shopping has continued to outgrow traditional shopping models. Now you may be thinking, "this doesn't apply to me, my customers need me to do the installation for them so they have to buy their products from me" and if that is what you are thinking you may be wrong. Not only is it easy to buy products online, but also it is easy to watch a video about how to do something and to get it done. Custodians, IT technicians, and general do-it-yourselfers are willing to install something themselves if they are comfortable doing it. Where does that leave you, the integrator? It leaves you with a choice, differentiate yourself or get left behind.
The number one way to differentiate your business is to be the expert. The majority of people will pay more for something if there is additional value attached to it, like professional expert installation or follow-up technical service. I will pay more to have an ASE certified mechanic work on my car than a mechanic with no certifications. The same holds true for AV installers. Additionally, the more you know and can convey to your customers, the more important your expertise becomes.
Continuing education is the key to this expertise. There are many of us that have been in this industry for 20+ years and have climbed thousands of ladders and have pulled miles of wire. We may be great at analog audio, but analog audio is slowly being eclipsed by modern technologies as the cost of network audio solutions continue to drop and more customers are looking for solutions that can answer all of their needs. Trade organizations are a great way to continue your education. If you are an AV integrator and are not an AVIXA member that is taking advantage of all the educational opportunities available throughout the year and at the annual InfoComm Expo you are missing out.
We have no bias for recommending AVIXA, we are only recognizing the importance of their CTS, CTS-I and CTS-D certifications. There is a reason doctors put M.D. at the end of their names and you should think the same way, John Doe CTS-I has more credibility than John Doe. Additionally, continuing education keeps you up to date on the latest technologies and how to apply them to design and installation. What would your customers think if you were still using a brick phone instead of a smartphone? You might be an expert on 70V wiring but if you can't get a networked amplifier configured properly, you are no use to a large cross section of clients and opportunities that require advanced audio systems. Learning what's new is not only cool (new technology always is), but it is important to your continued success.
AVIXA is not the only way to advance your technical skills and stand out in your market. The NSCA and SynAudCon are other organizations that are focused on assisting AV integrators with ongoing education. As more products become network enabled, CompTIA certification is another way to set your company apart from your competition and help you win more jobs even if you aren’t the lowest bidder.