Design, Design, Design

Design, Design, Design

This post is part 3 of a 5-part series titled ‘5 Ways Integrators Can Charge More for Their Services‘. We are examining ways that Systems Integrators can raise their perceived value, and with it their prices.  In part 1 we discussed the concept of ‘Living Spaces First, Technology Second‘. In this post, we will explore the value of selling design services.

Systems Integration has become exponentially more complex since the birth of our industry.  This has left many of us longing for the set-it-and-forget-it nature of the systems of yesteryear.  The current trends in our industry don’t bode well for those who refuse to adjust to their business models.  System-complexity and Total Cost to Service continue to climb, while profit margins on hardware evaporate all around us.

Profit on hardware used to be enough to offset all but the most egregious labor under-estimations.  Not any longer.  Labor now needs to stand on its own as a profitable line item.  One great way to make that happen is to sell design services as a distinct offering, separate from the installation side of the business.  Most famously, this concept was discussed in an article by the founder of Bay Audio, Ira Friedman, titled “Will You Design or Build?“.  I discussed his take on this topic in a previous blog post you can check out here.  In summary he argues that as any trade matures (electrical, plumbing, and now systems integration) the division between design and labor must necessarily grow wider.  It’s hard to disagree.

The AV business attempts to accomplish two things: “design” and “build.” Compare this to architecture, interior design, or any of the building trades, and you quickly see the problem. Architects and designers design. They don’t build. And most trades–electrical, plumbing, flooring– build. They don’t design.

I’m hard pressed to find any other established industry that successfully accomplishes both. Which leads me to believe it can’t be done successfully over time.

Moving forward, any integration business would be well advised to begin marketing and selling design services right away.  In the commercial side of the business it is already common practice to have distinct firms in charge of design and installation respectively.  This is rarely the case in residential.  But that is changing quickly, especially, but not exclusively, in the higher end markets.

Homeowners, architects, and builders alike have realized the value in a unified directive that will drive the home technology implementation from the outset of the project.  The results being more consistent, apples-to-apples estimates, far fewer change orders, and a much smoother installation process.  Selling these services in a relatively new concept in the residential side.  The market needs to be educated, which can be an uphill battle.  But for an industry in need of ways to enhance our perceived value, it’s a fight worth fighting.

Are you selling design services already? If not, what’s holding you back? If so, how has the experience been for you, your clients, and your industry partners? Let me know in the comments below.


Posts In This Series:





  1. Building the Referral Pipeline | Integrators AcademyIntegrators Academy - July 23, 2014

    […] Part 3 – Design, Design, Design […]

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