HTSA Looks To Boost Sales, Membership

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St. Louis —

Home Technology Specialists of America (HTSA) has set its sights on growing group revenue by $100 million over the next six months.

Richard Glikes, executive director of the 58-member buying group for specialty A/V dealers, custom installers and system integrators, announced the new sales goal this month at HTSA’s annual Fall Pump Up meeting here at the Ritz-Carlton.

Glikes said the $100 million increase would help offset but not compensate for sales losses over the past two years that reduced group revenue to less than $400 million.

“We can do it,” he told TWICE. “We have a good strategy in place.”

The plan includes a new membership drive, an “aggressive” online attack, a focus on Black Friday, and continued marketing and public relations efforts.

To grow its ranks the group has created a new associatemember tier with lower dues and an annual sales requirement of $2.5 million, half that of current members.

Glikes is looking to add about a dozen “young, smart” system integrators that would swell the group’s ranks to more than 70 members and lay the groundwork for future growth, he said.

On the Internet front, HTSA is providing new customized websites to members through an optimized platform featuring new graphics, readily changeable skins and enhanced search-engine marketing. The platform, which represents a six-figure investment, went live last week.

The group has also invested another six-figure sum in e-commerce tools like Google AdWords, banner ads and keyword searches that goes into effect next month.

Also on the November agenda is a Black Friday thrust. Glikes declined to disclose the details for competitive reasons, but said a plan is in place. “We’re trying to make Black Friday an issue,” he noted.

Meanwhile, HTSA will continue to position itself as “an objective, unbiased authority” on home technology through a national and local effort that includes targeted press releases and how-to web videos, explained the group’s public relations counsel, Gregory Matusky of Gregory FCA. The latter, hosted by HTSA training director David Berman, included last summer’s “Ultimate Football Experience” video, a five-part tutorial on 3D TV, and an upcoming threepart series on whole-home control.

The videos are posted on

www.htsa.com

and YouTube and members were encouraged to add them to their own companies’ sites. Matusky also urged attendees to follow the example of HTSA member Brian Hudkins, principal of Gramophone, who has initiated an aggressive social-networking campaign that includes blogs, newsletters and accounts at Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare and Delicious.

Also in the works, reported HTSA president Leon Shaw, principal of Audio Advice, is another online platform, tentatively titled HTSA Exchange.com, which will allow vendors and members to exchange and update information on the fly, including standard price sheets and lists of new or discontinued products. Glikes said he intends to share the concept with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and CEDIA in the hope of standardizing the tool industry-wide.

Other highlights of the three-day conclave were presentations by therapist, consultant, comedian and keynoter Connie Podesta on how to identify customers by four core personality types in order to close a sale, and a discussion by member Bob Gullo, president of Electronics Design Group, on the differences between “the good old days” of traditional retailing and today’s infinitely more complex business of custom installation.

“The traditional retail model is gone,” he told attendees, ticking off a litany of departed CE dealers. In today’s Internet- connected world, custom-install services are mandatory, but necessitate an extended sales process; a complicated implementation that requires input from electricians, architects and HVAC contractors; and a larger and more diverse staff that includes sales personnel, consultants, engineers and project managers.

New HTSA suppliers at the fall meeting included Paradigm, Sandy Gross’s new GoldenEar Technology homespeaker company, and GE Money. Missing from the vendor ranks was former vendor-of-the-year SpeakerCraft, which began supplying the Progressive Retailers Organization (PRO Group) last spring and announced a wider distribution policy this month at CEDIA that includes higher-end mass-market retailers.

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