Rockleigh, NJ 07647
Crestron Electronics, Inc.
Sept. 1, 2022 - Sam Kennedy was impressed.
"When I walked into that first NEXT event and saw the breadth of what Crestron offers, I think that's what resonated," says Kennedy, Crestron's senior director of product marketing. Coincidentally, Kennedy began his tenure at Crestron as the Crestron NEXT Road Trip tour began. "That first show in Boston was my second day on the job," he says.
"I've seen a pretty wide variety of events, but this was different — the sheer scale of it was really something," he adds. "The fact that we put on a regional trade show by ourselves — that had a huge impact."
Now, after stops in 11 cities over ten months, the Crestron NEXT Road Trip has come to a close, wrapping up in Dallas in late August. The events, which included stops from Boston to Birmingham and San Jose to Chicago, were designed to provide "hands-on, one-on-one demos of all our key technology platforms, demos from our guest technology partners, training, and answers from our experts," according to the organizers.
One of those organizers, Crestron's Executive Director of Customer Experience Rosanne Lang, explained why the company took up a tour that tallied well over 11,000 miles: "NEXT was created because there were no live events and people were hesitant to travel due to the pandemic, so we brought the show to them. It was the first time we brought our entire ecosystem to one event incorporating our commercial, residential, and lighting solutions in single venues across the U.S."
"While we couldn't hit every city, the 11 stops we landed on were selected under the advisement of our sales teams for the best regional concentration of our customers — including dealers, consultants, and even end-users — in our commercial and residential businesses," Lang adds.
On the commercial side of the event, the team chose products with a solutions-based strategy.
"We looked at the solutions that were really driving the marketplace, that our customers were really looking for, and tried to put on the best display of how the products can come together to provide a better application for a customer," says Lauren Simmen, director of product marketing for Crestron. "We displayed our AirMedia and Flex solutions, but we also demonstrated how to integrate Microsoft Teams and Zoom and Smart Gallery and Front Row into our existing applications," she adds. "We felt this was a much more engaging way to demonstrate the products than just presenting a series of black boxes."
Simmen and her colleagues had to adjust on the fly as new products came to market. "I think the events team hates us," she laughs. (EDITOR'S NOTE: They don't.) "We'd begun the road trips with the intention of keeping them fairly evergreen, but as things developed — the acquisition of 1 Beyond technology is a great example — we had to add them to the mix." Many of the solutions were getting press and social media attention, such as the Crestron UC-BX31 line of kits that included Jabra® devices, so it was critical that attendees got to experience the solutions in-person as pandemic restrictions waned.
"From the residential side, we focused on some of the latest products and solutions that have come to the market over the past two years," explains Michael Short, Crestron's director of residential marketing. "With COVID hitting, the focus was not to just display brand new stuff, but two years' worth of products that dealers probably hadn't had the chance to look at, feel, and play with," he adds. Highlights on the residential side included battery-operated shades, the new Crestron DM NAX™ products, and the entire Crestron residential speaker line, which features high-end solutions made in partnership with Origin Acoustics.
"Probably the biggest things that we brought to NEXT were the new light fixtures," says Short. Attendees even had to sign an NDA to see these lighting demos, including bio-centric tuning and the Crestron SolarSync® sensor technology that connects indoor lighting with the actual rhythms of sunshine. "That was a really exciting demo room," says Short.
There were presentations in addition to the products. "We wanted to give the dealers the opportunity to get a refresh," says Short. "If they hadn't had the chance to do any in-person training during lockdowns, this was an excellent chance to be in a room with our solutions engineers."
"We picked three key courses," says Short. One course covered the fundamentals of selling Crestron Home. "In that class, we made sure that we had both solutions engineers and sales guys to give our dealers true one-on-one conversations." There was also a course on "stretching" Crestron Home® OS, as Short puts it, making sure dealers knew all the features of the platform that might not be readily apparent.
Short and his colleagues made allowances for the courses to evolve. "The lighting course included new elements and system updates as they came to market over the course of the tour," he says, and attendee feedback was encouraged, which further adjusted the content.
A similar shift was undertaken on the commercial side. "As the tour progressed, we noticed that salespeople were the primary attendees at first — it's tough for an integrator to take two full days away from the office," says Simmen. As a result, Simmen and hear team offered general education on the first day of each two-day event and more technical training on day two. "That way, the integrators, the technical experts, could come in and focus on products from VC-4 to AirMedia to Crestron Flex solutions and really take a deep dive into what they could do."
All in all, Short was fond of the road trips as they buttressed Crestron's presence at the larger trade shows. "We love trade shows because it gives us a chance to see more people, launch new products, get the message out there, and meet new dealers and prospects.
"With NEXT, we had a captive audience. We could run our own training. Post-training, dealers could hang around and have conversations and not need to rush off for meetings elsewhere in a show," he adds. That extra time allowed for more technical conversations between dealers and Crestron staff.
Lauren Simmen's take in this regard is similar to Short's, but she did notice something else: "It was fascinating to see the regional differences. In Chicago, there was a real blend of interest in both residential and commercial solutions — but some cities were vastly more interested in hearing about residential products than commercial, and vice-versa." Every city seemed to have its own particular COVID protocols, too, and that made for constant adjustments.
The Crestron staff discovered their own internal fringe benefits: "We had a great many employees meet each other for the first time at these events," says Rosanne Lang. Plus, she says, there was a definite energy to the meeting of dealers, salespeople, and specialists after two years of pandemic restrictions. "It really ignited the crowd in each city," she notes.
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