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How Marketers Can Target Integrators and Customer Plans for Spending

How will integrator spending differ in 2022 over 2021, and what are their plans for attending events? Our research has the answers.

How Marketers Can Target Integrators and Customer Plans for Spending

Are any of you marketers targeting integration firms wishing that you could be a fly on the wall of your customers’ 2022 budget meetings? Well, we can’t exactly give you that kind of access, but we can provide some information we think might be very valuable.

We recently conducted some market research among integration firms to find out what they’re planning to buy, how they expect their spending to change in 2022 compared with 2021, and if/where they’re planning to attend events.

The results of our research can be found below — we hope that they help you better-target integrators in the new year!

Who we surveyed

Of the 336 people who took our survey, nearly half said they work at a commercial-focused integration firm. Almost 40% belong to the residential channel; and just over 12% to the security channel.

Nearly 70% of the integrators we surveyed work for companies with under 100 employees. A bit over 13% work for companies with 101-300 employees. Just under 5% said their companies are somewhere between 301-500; 3% said 501-1000; and about 11% said over 1000 people work at their company.

Over 33% of respondents say they own their businesses, while almost 23% are systems designers, and 21% work in sales or marketing. About 5% are installers, 2% are buyers, and 14% identified as “other.”

Their predicted spending in 2022

Great news for AV product manufacturers: when we asked integrators how they expect their overall budget for purchasing tech products to change in 2022 over 2021, not a single one of them said it would decrease drastically.

In fact, over half of the respondents said it would increase moderately; 30% said it would stay the same; over 12% said it would increase significantly, and only about 3% said it would decrease at all.

It seems like AV manufacturers may have an easier time proving their worth in 2022 — but don’t translate that to “my marketing will write itself.

Content will get you further in 2022 than it ever has before. This is the time to get in front of more eyes, as those eyes likely belong to someone who might be more willing to spend.

You would expect an AV integrator to spend the most money on AV products. But the fact that IT solutions trailed AV ones by less than one percentage point when we asked integrators what types of products they expect to spend money on in 2022 says a lot about that category’s necessity over the last couple of years.

Cybersecurity, managed services, work from home technology…these are the buzzwords which AV integrators have been forced to respond to during the pandemic.

Now that the savvy integration firms have successfully sold systems which integrate with those categories, they don’t want to stop, and we’re likely to see these categories outrank traditional AV equipment — whether or not another critical COVID wave occurs. This was going to happen anyway, given the convergence of IT and AV we’ve seen over the last decade.

This doesn’t mean that screen manufacturers or producers of specialized audio equipment are out of luck — there will always be a need for AV equipment which just functions as AV equipment. But marketers of such equipment will have to work harder at finding what differentiates their company’s solutions from others in these niches — and communicate those values with even more clarity.

IT spending in 2022

We wanted to dive a bit deeper into the results presented in the above graph, so we asked these survey-takers how they expected their IT spending to change in 2022 over 2021. Here’s what they said:

The good news for marketers of IT products is that only about 5% of tech buyers said their budget for IT spending would decrease whatsoever.

The vast majority of integrators said their IT tech spending would either stay the same (35%) or increase moderately 50%). Even a bit over 9% said their spending will increase significantly!

IT spending was already up over the last couple of years as companies were forced to deal with the many implications of the pandemic — not just WFH and networking tech, but cybersecurity and cloud as well.

It seems as though manufacturers can target integrators by focusing on how their IT products make it easier to protect and serve integrator’s clients. Also, if these manufacturers really want to get an integrator’s attention, they’ll offer valuable content which speaks to how integrators should be interfacing with IT buyers and what those buyers specifically need from these systems.

AV spending in 2022

The breakdown numbers above predict a great year for AV manufacturers in 2022.

Over half the respondents say their spending on AV solutions will increase moderately, even though the next-highest statistic (over 30%) shows spending will stay the same. Consider that nearly 13% said they expect spending to increase significantly, and that only about 3% said it would decrease moderately.

Targeting integrators as “tech guides”

While IT technology has certainly been a growing category in the integrator’s repertoire, don’t mistake integration firms as “passive dealers” who simply ask IT clients what black boxes they need and provide only that.

According to our research, it seems integrators are positioning themselves as true “technology partners,” guiding their clients through technical scenarios and suggesting specific SKUs based on valuable experience.

When we asked integrators how often THEY are the ones to specify products used in a system over their clients, well over half said that they do so anywhere from 50 to 99% of the time.

Another 13% of our respondents said that they choose the specific SKUs for every single client. Only 7% of respondents told us they choose the products less than 25% of the time.

These numbers should pique the attention of technology marketers for two key reasons:

  • It should alter how you talk to integrators — sure, it’s great if your product can beat out the competition in terms of price and keep certain installations in the black, but it’s also important to stress what you can do to help integrators continue to be the value-added partners that they should all aspire to be. Now is the time to show integrators how you as a company can be their partner and what value you can add to that triangular relationship.
  • It should point to the value of integrators for helping end user sales — if end users see integrators as partners, it will help you to better communicate and build trust with those end users if you also address integrators as partners. There’s no reason you can’t be on both sides of the channel, as long as you demonstrate that you know the value each side brings to the table.

Integrator’s event plans for 2022

Obviously, a big part of any marketing budget is the production of and/or attendance at industry events. So here’s your evidence that these events are at least somewhat worth the investment: the overwhelming majority of integrators are planning on going to at least one, if not more industry events in 2022.

As for what size and type of show, it seems marketers may have a good case to diversify the type and size of events they attend in 202 (and the immediate future). Over 45% of those we surveyed said they plan on attending a mix of larger expositions, medium-sized regional shows, and hyper-local vendor days.

The rest of them answered favorably for each of those sized shows fairly evenly.

Many of us are wondering about the “virtual vs. in person” question while the world still grapples with COVID and its variants. Here’s what integrators are planning:

You might be tempted to think that integrators don’t particularly care for virtual events, given that the majority of them are either planning for a mix of both in-person and virtual, or exclusively in-person.

Those numbers make it seem as though most of them who will attend virtual would almost prefer in-person.

Whatever their true individual preference, integrators will have to accept that the continually-evolving pandemic could alter schedules at any time. Manufacturers already accepted that when they pivoted away from big expositions in 2020 in favor of virtual happy hours and thematic web conferences.

Lastly, we asked integrators to name the events they are planning to attend. While the included word graph does a great job portraying the most popular answers, we thought we’d list a few more below for your planning purposes:

  • ISE
  • InfoComm
  • GSX
  • National Builder Show
  • ISTE
  • Educause
  • Intelisys
  • Total Tech Summit
  • Not sure yet