Smart-Home Dealer Drops Amazon Echo on Doorsteps, Gets Control4 Business

Smart-home specialist and CEDIA board member Joe Whitaker of The Thoughtful Home closes Control4 and other home automation deals after leaving Amazon Alexa on select doorsteps.


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.

With an initial investment of $1,000 (20 Dots), Whitaker closed (and has completed) more than $30,000 worth of projects, from small Sonos installs to complete Control4 automation systems.

“We have three more qualified leads in the hopper,” says Whitaker, who is on CEDIA’s board of directors.

The Thoughtful Home went through several iterations of custom stickers before settling on this version. It's important to select the right sticker material and ink, says Joe Whitaker — one that is durable, weather resistant and difficult to remove.

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.”

Extreme Vetting

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the company looks for houses with no outdoor cameras and no “legit” door stations, or else the visible gear is outdated.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.

About the Author

Julie Jacobson
Julie Jacobson:

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson




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