Consumer interest in smart home technology is rising annually. According to a survey by Coldwell Banker Real Estate, most potential home buyers view a house equipped with smart technology as more "move-in ready" than a house without it, and 61 percent of millennials prefer a smart home. Many real estate and tech experts anticipate a watershed moment in the next several years, with the percentage of housing stock that has at least one smart feature expected to double by 2020. Contractors and home installation techs can break ahead of the pack by incorporating home automation into the services they offer.
Focus on Your Specialty
The Internet of Things is large and growing, ranging from major house features that include lighting, automatic doors and security systems to extras such as window curtains and smart entertainment systems. Home safety also now comes automated with smart smoke detectors and flood monitoring. Before you hang a shingle offering to install them all, focus on what you know to carve out a niche for your business. If you're a licensed electrician, you should have no problem hard-wiring smart switches throughout a home. Landscapers are better equipped to set up automated irrigation systems that can provide unique watering settings to different plants, and the owners of security companies know where to set up outdoor smart cameras to monitor a property's perimeter. Contractors and home builders have a unique opportunity to design a smart house from the ground up, including hard-wired lighting, smart locks and even big-ticket appliances such as smart refrigerators and washer/dryers. For new homes, built-in Wi-Fi provides the rock-solid internet connection that smart technology needs to be reliable. Try to keep in mind that some states require a license to install certain types of smart tech. For example, only a licensed security specialist can legally install alarm systems in most states, including smart systems. These regulations are a hurdle for some, but if you're already licensed, you have a leg up on the competition.
Know Thy Tech
Before you learn how to sell home automation, it is good to be prepared to explain and demonstrate the technology. There's no single industry definition of what smart technology is, but the term typically applies to products that connect to the internet via Wi-Fi, which allows users to control the product through an app on their smartphone, tablet or computer. For example, you can turn on a smart light bulb just by tapping a button in the app. This set-up works fine for a few devices, but if you want to install different types or brands of smart devices, you may need a hub. A hub acts as the middleman between smart devices and apps, allowing you to sync devices for centralized control and smoother automated scheduling. Hubs are increasingly compatible with third-party devices, however, no one hub works with every smart device on the market, so check with each manufacturer individually as you make your hardware list. Before you tackle your first job, try to be sure you understand what your chosen product line can do and what its limitations are. Customers interested in smart lighting need to know if they can turn off all the lights in the house with one tap, dim the chandelier or sync up their color-changing smart bulbs. The answer depends on the equipment and set up, so it's important that your knowledge goes beyond the basics. If you're still learning the tech yourself, consider transforming a room in your home or business into a show room to gain a deeper understanding and give demonstrations.
Grouping smart devices into home packages helps customers understand the benefits of what they are buying. Saving energy appeals to many homeowners, and a package that combines a smart thermostat and smart lighting can help them lower energy bills. Contractors who specialize in home theaters and screening rooms can market a smart home theater package with automated lighting, black-curtains that close on command and dongles that turn their existing big screen into a smart TV. Young families consistently demonstrate an interest in the security and convenience of home automation, which you can market to homeowners with safety features that include smart smoke alarms, a voice assistant that answers queries while their hands are full and door locks that open automatically when the kids arrive home from school. Many workplaces are interested in ways to improve a small business with automation but don't know where to start. You can show them how with packages that include smart doorbells to remotely screen visitors, lighting that turns off automatically after the business day or a smart board that works with projectors for innovative collaboration.
Explore Business Models
Traditionally, contractors provide an estimate for a specific job based on the actual cost of construction, plus a mark-up that typically ranges from 10 to 30 percent to cover profit and costs, including insurance and taxes. Many companies that specialize in installing smart homes follow a version of this model. While there's nothing wrong with the direct consumer hardware sales approach, customers new to home automation often have follow-up questions about how to use it and direct these inquiries to whoever installed it. You can get ahead of the problem and get compensated for your time by including technical support in the package for the first several months. This approach is also a great sales strategy, as many consumers aren't sure they understand how smart technology works. By offering to hold their hand, you make customers feel safe enough to take the plunge. Some home automation companies are experimenting with subscription-based models, much like cable and internet providers. Customers sign a monthly contract for anywhere from six to 12 months in exchange for installation and hardware.
Whatever your business model, consider starting with a lean business plan that covers essential questions. Try to figure out conservative estimates for target sales numbers and cash flow, as well as logistics, such as who is performing installations and how much to charge. Consider identifying the target market for your new smart home services. Even if you already provide traditional services such as construction or landscaping, your new customers may have different interests and priorities. By figuring out what motivates them, you can better develop your pitch for the technology's benefits.
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