The technicians at Sound and Vision Inc. in Ohio really don’t seem to mind that the company is not based in a warm climate. In fact, it doesn’t seem to matter at all because the company is doing quite well designing and installing lots of outdoor technology for its clients in the chilly Midwest.
In 2016, the hybrid retail/custom integration company performed approximately 100 outdoor jobs, including 15 such projects that priced out over $20,000.
One key to the company’s success has been the creation of a defined demonstration area in its three locations: Cuyahoga Falls, Columbus and suburban Cleveland (Beechwood, Ohio).
In the company’s large 13,000-square-foot Cuyahoga Falls store, there is a 200-square-foot demo space tucked into the facility that allows consumers to view SunBriteTV displays paired with various outdoor audio solutions ranging from rock speakers to traditional on-eave speakers.
“We actually have a demo area very close to the front of the store,” says Mike Woods, president and CEO. “When you walk in, you can see it.”
Options Help Heat Up Outdoor Audio Sales
The area has a paver tile floor with a retaining wall and an additional wall featuring rock-, planter- and landscape-style audio speakers, embedded in mulch, from SnapAV/Episode, Sony and NEAR. On top of the retailing wall, there are some plants and greenery, along with several on-eave solutions from Paradigm and B&W. The demo is set up with a switcher system that the salesperson typically controls for clients.
I think our customers want to take full advantage of their limited quality time outside and want it to be the best possible performance.”
“Customers can really hear the difference,” comments Woods. “We have a couple outdoor subwoofers set up, so we can add a subwoofer in and out during the demo. I think we can give a pretty convincing demonstration, and we can show value as to why you should spend more money on an outdoor system, why it’s in your benefit to power your outdoor system with quality power amplifiers versus running them on receivers or low-end multi-channel amps.”
Woods says the demo definitely helps the company sell more outdoor technology, already an increasingly popular sales option these days even in more temperate climates — and actually that’s a sales pitch that may speak for itself outside warm-weather states — as evidenced by Sound and Vision’s success.
“Outdoor audio has been a very viable category for us since we’ve opened. We’ve always done really well with it. I think a lot can be said for the fact that we’re in Ohio. We only have so many good months per year to use outdoor audio, so I think our customers want to take full advantage of their limited quality time outside and want it to be the best possible performance,” says Woods.
Video Made for the Environment
The demo area also includes a large flat panel from SunBriteTV, a division of SnapAV.
“SunBriteTV is the only line of outdoor TVs that we carry,” says Woods, noting that he has sold that line for nine years. There is running water in the display area to highlight the waterproof elements of the TV and speakers.
“Essentially the sales guys talk about the importance of using an outdoor TV outside. Of course, you always get a few customers that insist on using a conventional TV outside, and we always ask those customers to sign a waiver freeing us of any responsibility from possible electrical hazards and other factors from putting an indoor product outside in a harsh Ohio environment. It hits home to the customer when we have them sign that waiver.”
Woods says just last year a client insisted on having a $5,000 indoor flat panel installed outside.
“The first bad storm came through three weeks later and the TV got a lot of water on it, shorted out, and wasn’t covered under warranty,” he says. “That gentleman ended up buying a 65-inch SunBriteTV.
“It’s been a nice transition since SnapAV has taken over SunBriteTV,” Woods continues. “There was a little bit of concern with programs and different arrangements we had, but they’ve been very easy to work with. Our SunBriteTV business has stayed consistent. The reliability of the product has been phenomenal. Over the hundreds of TVs we’ve purchased over the last nine years, I can only think of one failure.”
Proper Planning Will Pay Dividends
Sound and Vision will start doing exterior projects in April, with its peak season in northern Ohio from May through August. Most of the company’s 100 or so outdoor A/V projects per year are simply extended zones of interior systems, but Woods estimates that each year the team does about 15 standalone outdoor projects that cost over $20,000.
“Whenever we’re inspecting a new home, we always put a big emphasis on outdoor [A/V]. We occasionally get 16-zone systems, but typically we’re doing an eight-zone system, plus additional theater areas, like a screen porch or patio area,” Woods explains. “Often for a landscape audio system, we might have as many as 16 speakers on the same zone.”
Woods says having good communications with the landscaper is vital to the success of an outdoor project, especially during the planning stage.
“Getting the proper conduit in the right places to run wire, and having the ability, if you need to, to run an additional wire in the future if there’s some problem is really key,” he notes. “Once the concrete is poured, it’s not like in a house where you can find ways to run wires. If you don’t have the proper conduit or wiring in place, you could be really limited to any type of system expansion.”
Just getting started selling outdoor AV? Check out our guide to 33 products for outdoor installations.