Who knew that a $50 Amazon Echo Dot could lead to so much home automation business? Smart-home specialist Joe Whitaker of The Thoughtful Home (TTH) had a hunch. He left a few Dots on select doorsteps, along with information about potential uses … and it worked.
“We have three more qualified leads in the hopper,” says Whitaker, who is on CEDIA’s board of directors.
With early success achieved, Whitaker had stickers custom-made for the top of the Dot, featuring the TTH logo and contact information.
A piece called “Create your Thoughtful Home with Alexa” is included in the box, “detailing just how much Alexa could do with the addition of a Control4 system,” Whitaker explains. “We talk about what a home system could be, and how, with the user’s voice, everything can be controlled.”
In the last round of Dot drops, one landed next door to an existing TTH client. The Dot recipient was just moving into the place … which happened to have a Control4 system.
“This particular project brought around $20,000,” Whitaker says, “even though they already had a lot of amazing gear in place.”
The Thoughtful Home doesn’t just leave Dots willy nilly around the neighborhood, Whitaker explains.
“Everything is severely targeted,” he says. “We are already in the areas of our target clients, so it’s easy to find neighbors that might benefit from our service.”
In particular, the company looks for houses with no outdoor cameras and no “legit” door stations, or else the visible gear is outdated.
In those situations, Whitaker says, “An Echo is much better than a Haines & Company card or door hanger.”
Even if Dot recipients don’t become customers, they nevertheless mention the strange gift to friends and colleagues, Whitaker explains: “It generates buzz – ‘Hey, this guy left me an Echo’”
Next Phase of the Great Dot Drop-Off
Whitaker is thinking about the next phase of the Amazon Alexa gambit. He is establishing a website for “works-with-Alexa” gear that his company sells or installs.
He plans also create an Alexa Skill so customers can “Ask Thoughtful Home what’s new.” Alexa might mention a sale on Yale locks or a new feature for Control4, Whitaker suggests.
“Our days of traditional marketing are gone,” he says. “It used to be you needed a good website. Now everyone does that. Then it was SEO and now everyone does that. You have to be bold, be different, take a gamble.