We regularly reach out to integrators to ask about what they like and dislike about dealing with manufacturers, distributors, and software providers. In this edition of Integrator Opinion, I spoke with Lionel, the CEO of a Texas-based, 25-person integration firm that specializes in unified communications for offices. He told me about his preferences when it comes to tech manufacturer websites.
Tell me about a positive manufacturer experience?
Lionel: I found one manufacturer that released a kit that allowed me to set up a real simple, bring your own device-type conference room. When we connected the speakers and the microphone, I remember one of the guys going, ‘how do we configure it?’ And the rep says, ‘You don’t configure it, you just plug it in, and it just works and it hears itself and it does it by itself.’
We’re going, ‘Yeah, that’s not possible.’ And we plugged it in. And we all looked at each other, like, ‘this is great!’
I’ve had great solutions where a manufacturer really drew a line around that part of the technology, like, ‘here’s the USB and HDMI, and the output and the input and the microphone and the speaker, and it’s all cohesive.’
Tell me about a negative one?
Lionel: Some of the challenges when I’ve had very negative experiences have been around sending things to market that the marketing people wrote great things about in the marketing catalog, but then don’t deliver. They release things too quickly and frustrate integrators. I’ve heard of entire forklift removals of video over IP technologies because things were promised but were not delivered.
We do a lot of bench testing here in house and flag things if they don’t work. But absolutely, we have had instances where we had a unified communications device and the dongles were all failing. And the manufacturer didn’t give us credit for any of them. And I bought 150 of them. I have a lot of other options, and integrators have a lot of other options. Nobody holds the keys to any one thing right now.
I feel like marketers have pressure from above and below. They have pressure from the marketplace, telling them that they need to be releasing things, and they have pressure from the C-suite saying ‘you need to be telling people about the hot stuff that we’re delivering.’
Tech manufacturer websites: what value do you get out of them?
Lionel: There is a manufacturer website that I that I love, there’s a few of them, and they work easily from a little tree on the left hand side — there’s always a breadcrumb. I know exactly where I am. I know what I’m looking for. I can browse for a part.
I like going to manufacturer websites that don’t provide all the HTML5 trickery and scrolling and images that stay there while the page moves behind it — I’m looking for products. I don’t need the design version of that.
There are two major manufacturers in AV: one has a really bare bones website where I can find line diagrams of examples of exactly what I need. The other one is me wading hip deep in marketing materials. And I just want to know if this thing has an internet connection!
Marketing is really nice, but ultimately, that that should only be a portion of it. In the sidebar should be all the marketing stuff, like a YouTube video, a PDF spec sheet, etc. But the website to me should fundamentally be a catalog.
What content are you most likely to use on a manufacturer website?
Lionel: One of the most important things I look for is a YouTube video of somebody unboxing a product, talking about the setup of it, plugging it in, and interacting with it. Those those little 4-10 minute videos are worth their weight in gold.
I love PDF spec sheets, especially when they have dimensions on them. And they flip them around and I get to see them. Marketing people don’t like the back of the TVs because they’re ‘ugly’ – but it’s what integrators connect to. So it’s important to take a look at it from the perspective of somebody that’s specifying it.