Home Automation Podcast Episode #190: An Industry Q&A With Scott Abel
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Scott Abel, Director of Quality and Consumer at SAV, shares the importance of brand consistency and how to avoid brand confusion.
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Scott Abel. Recorded live on Wednesday, October 13th, 2021, at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Scott Abel
Scott Abel is an expert marketer and in his role as the Director of Quality & Customer, he is focused on brand management, marketing analytics, and content strategies at SAV. After graduating from Montana State University in 2002, he worked as an in-house designer of a well-respected ranch and home supply store. Scott then went on to pursue his master’s degree at the Academy of Art University which catapulted him into freelancing at design firms throughout Silicon Valley. After eight years in the Bay Area, Scott moved back to Montana and joined the team at SAV Digital Environments.
- The experience gained and lessons learned while working in Silicon Valley
- The importance of brand consistency and how to avoid brand confusion
- Using criticisms as motivation to grow and improve
- Building relationships with photographers and videographers
- Creating and maintaining a social media presence
Ron: Hello. Ron Callis is here with another episode of Automation Unplugged. Today is Wednesday, October 13th. It is just a little bit after 12:30 p.m. I hope this is coming to you guys loud and clear, and I hope you're having a productive day and a productive week. We're entering Q4, as are all of you. Oh my goodness,s is our industry alive and well? There are all sorts of craziness when you turn on the news. That's why I don't turn on the news anymore. I don't think I've turned on the news and maybe six or nine months. And if you just pay attention to what's happening in our lives with our customers, I would say that things are going pretty well. A lot of the uncertainly a lot of fear and anxiety are still out there about COVID. But at the end of the day, integrators are busy. They're there often, in many cases busier than they've ever been. That continues. What else continues?
The supply shortages and chip shortages and this that and the other, there's still lots of pain, and it seems a lot of that pain is going to continue for you guys and gals, probably for the next six to 12 months. What I've heard is maybe in later 2022, some of that will be diminished or reduced. Meanwhile, our agency has seen record levels of demand, and we see it on all fronts, from integrators, tom you guys reaching out to us, engaging us. We're also seeing record interactions with manufacturers looking to explore putting programs together for dealers to help you grow your business in the coming quarters and years. We are hiring on a lot of fronts. I think I have maybe five or six different open positions. If you're out there and interested, definitely go to onefirefly.com, go to Careers and check that out if you know friends that are out there in the marketing domain. Please send them our way because we are looking for people all across our organization. That's good news. I'm experiencing a lot of the same pains that you guys are around bandwidth limitations around personne. When we bring someone on, we still get them indoctrinated into our industry and trained up and, of course, teaching them all of our SOPs and methods.
It's not like flipping a switch, but everyone listening or watching this knows that because you guys have all of the same pain points. It's good, good problems, caviar problems, I call them. But nonetheless, they can be a little wacky, a little stressful, but it's all good. But enough of me giving you guys an update. We are here for Show 190, and today we are honored to have Scott Able. He is the Director of Quality and Customer at Savvy Digital Environments. Savvy is up in Montana. They are one of the fastest-growing, one of the largest integration firms in the country, and we're going to learn about Scott's role. What the heck is a director of quality and customer? Well, Scott's going to tell us what that is. Scott just comes to the table with a high level of experience in marketing and branding from Silicon Valley. It has a fascinating background. I'm going to go ahead and bring in Scott now. Scott, how are you?
Scott: I'm doing well, thank you.
Ron: I know our audience couldn't hear you, but I could listen to you in my ears like guys quiet down.
Scott: Yeah, I don't know. It's fine. This is a pretty open environment in our showroom,m and I are casting in a relaxed atmosphere. We just had two interior designers stop in to say hi, and I sat right behind m,e, and they said, Welcome, be back. It'll be. Are you sure we can, you know, pull out some extra mike,s, and I know how you join us there. They're pretty, pretty important to our industry.
Ron: Amen. You guys have known that for a long time, and I know one of your strategies. So let's go ahead and get you introduced. What is your role? Who are you? And for those that may not know who SAV is?
Scott: Well, great. Thanks, Ron, and thanks for having me. My name is Scott Abel, and I'm the director of quality and customer at Savvy Enough Up in Montana. It's kind of an interesting title, but it boils down to a marketing creator, marketing, and creative director with a few other things added in there, from business development to creative web social ROI SEO as much as you can.
Ron: All those buzzwords.
Scott: It i. It's all-encompassing. It's a holistic view.
Ron: By the way, for those that are listening. I just put the video full width because I'm noticing all of this beautiful art around you. Can you describe where you're at and where is all this beautiful art from?
Scott: Absolutely. My desk is facing this way. I have a big monitor right here, and this is my laptop. And behind me is the foyer or the lobby—all this art. When we integrated Ketra into our showroom, one of the best things Ketradids is highlight illuminate art and texture and colors. One of the million things it does well. Did we think why not put up some art to show it off? And ironically, the art behind me in the foyer is dimmable lighting, which we use with Lutron, who owns Ketra. But the light in front of me is Ketra. I was able to tune the light to this podcast to make it the clearest possible for visibility. That's where all the art came from and behind me is typically from Nashville, which is quite popular up in Montana.
Ron: Got it. Well, I appreciate you describing that you have a great environment to work in, looks like you guys have a beautiful showroom.
Scott: It is. It's gorgeous. We love it here.
Ron: Alright, and SAV, for those that are uninformed and do not know who SAV is.
Scott: Absolutely. Of course, we are a home technology integrator started back in the early 2000s with SAV Studio AV. AV stands for audio-video. Corey Rystad, who began it early 2000s here, essentially. We did that in our great studio audio-video equipment in homes, meaning like home theaters, surround sound throughout the home. As technology advanced and people started coining the the the term smart home, so did SAV and so mid-2010s. It broke down to an acronym SAV, and we added digital environments to it. We're almost talking about when smartphones are coming out. He partnered with other big firms throughout the US, and then eventually, it just worked out and became SAV Digital Environments, and that's where we are today.
Ron: Got it. And where do you guys primarily do work?
Scott: We are mostly in Montana, but our reach goes as far as the low island countries. That is because we have a lot of clientele here that have second and third homes and third and fourth homes in the islands, even the East Coast where a lot of first homes are and the West Coast. But we are very fortunate there's a place here called the Yellowstone Club, Big Sky Resort, Moonlight Basin, just within the hour away. Imagine maybe Aspen or Vail or something like that in the middle of Montana in a way. We have many people coming here who want their homes to be awake for at home but still have all the technology and capabilities. Imagine trying to get high-speed internet in the middle of a mountain. Of course, that's one of our specialties, and high-end homes like this security, that's another specialty. My role is a holistic, all-encompassing role. So are we as a company.
Ron: Awesome? Your background? Tell us where you come from.
Scott: I come from here originally. I was born and raised in Helena, the capital only like an hour and a half away and early 2000 late 90s. I'm going to date myself. I went to undergrad at Montana State and got a Bachelors in Studio Art emphasis and Graphic Design. I was very fortunate. Back then, there weren't too many designers in needed design studios or designers required. But I landed a job at a company called Big Art Ranch and Home Supply. They had seven or eight stores. Imagine a miniature Home Depot with ranch supplies stuff too. They were going through a name and brand platform change, and I was fortunate to jump right into it and work on the marketing team as a designer. I was specifically put in charge of point of sale in-store signage and banners. Within that year, we're going to say it's 2002-2003 now. They were opening two new stores within that year to reach about 10, I guess. It's all in the northwest like a forward Montana couple in. Wyoming and Colorado. But they were growing fast, and it was like having a local Home Depot owned by local people and this nice little ranch town in the middle of nowhere, almost.
But it was needed. All the farmers and all the ranches needed supplies. It was very relevant, and they grew, and I helped them go through a name change and brand platform change and worked on their current media and expanded into advertising and so on. And took about two and a half years, and it was successful. At that point, I've always wanted to get an advanced degree. So I decided to move down to San Francisco to pursue a Masters's in Graphic Design at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Since then, Big R Ranch and Home Supply changed their name into Murdoch's Ranch and Home Supply. Murdoch was the last name of the owner, a very well-respected gentleman here. And they have, I think, three dozen stores throughout the US now as far as Nebraska, a highly successful firm. A couple of them our clients directly. It's pretty great. A couple of the directors back them. It's a success story for them, definitely, and helps get me to San Francisco and get my master's. And while I was down there, the smartest move I could ever do was work for a coffee shop. Because you meet a lot of people, a lot of connections and is a very personable person. I made a lot of connections, and that's the same thing here. When I was going to undergrad, I worked for a coffee shop. I started freelancing a little too while I was in grad school, and it was a four-year program, and I was so quick about it because I did summer school all three years and did it in three and a half years. I immediately started freelancing and contracting for startups in the Bay Area, and these startups were had clients is as big as Google and Apple, and Pepsi and. You name it, and so I worked on many big-name companies and creative for them and then but between that laughter after I graduated and freelanced a little, I landed an internship at a very well-respected design firm called Pentagram Design.
Timing and opportunity aligned. It was 2007. The housing crash, but smartphones coming out, and it was very cutthroat down there and pentagram. I started as an intern, and I worked there for a full year and intern. Even though, as an intern, you don't get paid as much. Especially in San Francisco, I knew it would help take me places. And it did. After that internship was up, I just started freelancing and contracting more and more and more, and it was very lucrative. About a year after that, and we're talking, 2008, got pretty serious with my now wife, so I decided it would be wiser to get a more concrete job. I went back to in-house design for marketing at a firm. It was a job search engine here. They still exist. They were acquired eventually, but they're still out there.
Ron: I want to interject a question. I remember I started this business. The origin of this business was called Firefly Design Group, and I launched it in '07. And I remember that I started the company and went out, traded in my BlackBerry, and got an iPhone, a generation one iPhone. I started One Firefly started Firefly Design Group with two employees, and we all had iPhones because we wanted to be tech-forward. I'm curious what it was like to be in Silicon Valley then when I mean, that was a brand new, earth-shattering technology.
Scott: Oh my gosh, it was an explosion. It was exciting and scary. It was a whole bunch of things all wrapped up in one little package. But I mean, there are people coming out of the weeds that are just when I said cutthroat. So many people the hardest. From my perspective, the hottest thing to get into at that point was UI and UX design. User interface and user experience, and it's kind of the building, the creative aspects of products and anything you see nowadays, they experience that people have on phones, working closely with designers. They are designers themselves, so that was extremely hot. I wanted to stick with my guns. I had a master's in graphic design, so I'm like, I'm going to be in graphic design. And I worked within marketing before going to grad school, so I knew I knew the opportunities there.
From my perspective, many creative people graduate and come to the Bay Area or are in the Bay Area. I want to work for a design firm, kind of like I did when I was contracting and freelancing, and I decided I was going to settle down a little bit and work in-house. I have this future wife, and we're planning a family, and I want to be a little bit more solid. So that's why I landed in house design and within marketing departments. Yep. And I did that for four and a half years. It was a great job with a great company. I transitioned out because they had a transition in, and even though I kept my role within that marketing department, it made me a little uncomfortable.
Ron: Time to move on.
Scott: It is, yeah. As a loyal individual, I still felt like it was time to move on, and four and a half years is pretty good there. Then I found an amazing firm company called SoundHound Inc, which their base technology is the user. I mean, voice AI tech.
Ron: Sounds like a Silicon Valley startup.
Scott: It is. They've been there as long as SAV has been around here, but they're still considered startups. In a way, they're almost the same in the number of people we have. I think they have a little over one hundred. We have a little under 100. We have this startup mentality of amazing benefits, very close, tight-knit family in a way.
Ron: Probably same valuations as well, right?
Scott: Absolutely. We have values, and I've worked at or seen places that I've worked with freelancing that they don't have. They don't have mission statements, don't have values, don't have brand standards, and so on, and you can see the difference firsthand why some places are very successful and why not. Take the ego out of it, and you'll have more success. From what I've seen, the SoundHound is incredible, and they're going places. Their base technology as voice AI, but their product was music recognition because the world wasn't ready for voice AI in the early 2000s.
Ron: Is that the app where you let your phone listen to the song, and it tells you what song that is?
Scott: Absolutely. They're their number one competitor. Then they're kind of different split paths in a way, but it was Shazam. Most people know Shazam. SoundHound is the other one. But Shazam kind of went down, and I don't want to speak too much about that because I never worked there, and I just see, and you observe. But they kind of moved into TV in a way they still do music recognition, but also TV. I mean, they also have Beaches M with Jamie Fox on TV and nothing else towards them. Great company, great technology. SoundHound was the same they music recognition, but since their core technology was voice AI that nobody ever knew about. They worked on that in the background while. Becoming popular with music recognition, and once the timing was right, and that was basically after smartphones came out and they were all right within the next couple of years, we needed to really launch this product. And they launched an app called Hound, which is a voice app. You can go on it just like you could do with Google or Siri or whatnot. It's on your phone, and it's app-based, and you can get directions and a lot of partners and getting APIs and so on, so forth, like Yelp and stuff like that. You can get results really quick and really accurate and complex ones.
Ron: It sounds like an awesome company. Why did you leave?
Scott: Oh, well, I moved back to Montana. I always planned on being in a large city for about a dozen years, and oddly enough, it was a dozen years and one month. About two years before moving back, my wife and I start transitioning back to Montana, meaning looking for a place to live, looking into job prospects. In the end, when we moved back, we both worked remotely. She still works remotely for her company. I worked for SoundHound for a couple of a few months for to be exact. As I transitioned out into a role here, and yeah, so we always plan on moving back. It's family and friends and the Montana lifestyle.
Ron: And what is the Montana lifestyle?
Scott: Well, we planned on what we knew from the past, and it's a little bit slower pace. But it's not really a slower pace. The population is substantially less, but you're still getting it's a fast-paced environment now as well. And that is not as crazy as San Francisco, but it's nice and fast-paced and has a lot of career-oriented people and socially oriented people. It's fine. We're used to it—a lot of people from here and still here. The state here, I can see, are not too happy with what it turned into.
Ron: But it's changing, right? Because city folk is heading to Montana to live the mountain lifestyle.
Scott: It is, it is. But I may put things in perspective, Montana, I think like the fourth or for third or fourth-largest landmass in the United States. Next, like Texas, California, Alaska, we have the population of Montana. I think Teter's right around a million people. I lived near San Jose before leaving. And that was almost the population of just the city of San Jose. It's been four and a half five years since then. So things have changed.
Ron: How did you land at SAV, and how did this Director of Quality and Customer role help us understand? How did that evolve? Because I'm going to guess that Corey, who, by the way, was our guest on Automation Unplugged. I'm looking over here at my cheat sheet. He was on episode 170, so it was just 20 shows ago. I had him here on the show, and people should listen and check that out. It's really an awesome story, and he's a great storyteller. How did you guys find each other?
Scott: Well, it's a part of my role as a relationship, and a good friend of mine is the senior sales technology advisor here, and he's been here for a long time. And he wanted me to come in and kind of give Corey and the company my two cents, my take on where they're at and where I personally could see them going and what it would take to get them there. Initially, it wasn't necessarily an interview, it was more of a conversation, a very candid, transparent conversation between me in the creative world and this company that's transitioned from SAV Studio AV to SAV Digital Environments and everything that they do, and essentially they had a logo and word of mouth and a strong partners. They wanted to take it to the next level. So I came in and did my research, looked at the industry, and gave him my very candid input, and that conversation started turning into more of an interview. I'm sure we both felt like it could turn into that or put it into consideration. Still, it really started turning into that because Corey really enjoyed what I had to say. I really enjoyed it, what I heard about his company and his values, and seeing where the company could potentially go. It started turning into an interview, and then it led to a job.
Ron: How long have you been there now?
Scott: Four and a half, five years, five years in March.
Ron: You joined. You get hired. You have this cool title. What is the first thing you do? How do you start helping improve their brand or improving their marketing and their overall presence? What did you think about tackling first?
Scott: Oh, that's a loaded question there so much. That's what made the role so great because there was so much opportunity, and they already had a presence, and people really liked and liked the company. I was able to take their history and transition it into a visual and a story, and that's what I define marketing as. I have enough years of graphic design and just experience within marketing. I had to really do my research and really work on all the other skills that it would take to keep this role because that Director of Quality and Customer was a marketing director and creative director and business development and website and social and all those things in one, where's the quality kind of relates to that creative aspect and customer relates more to, you know, marketing. I guess they all work together in a way. But sure, I mean, the very first thing I did was create a brand guide brand standards, colors, consistent colors, fonts, photography, imagery, language. And once I developed that, I would translate it into website presence. They had a splash page on average at about 15 to 17 people visiting it a month. Nowadays, it's fifteen hundred or something hundred a month. It's been over ten thousand before on crazy months. But yeah, a lot of people laugh at this, but one of my favorite things I did, and it was very beginning as I took their logo, they wanted to keep the logo. It was good, and it just needed some refinement. And I put it into the golden ratio, and it was off. There's something about that logo that was nice. I would change things here and there, but we wanted to keep it kind of that brand and see what we could turn it into developing it into.
I put that logo into the golden ratio, and it was all off, and I could see why I was bothered by it. Nothing was there, wasn't aligned. It wasn't. If people aren't familiar with the golden ratio, it's kind of like Da Vinci's Fibonacci sequence, as I recall. But it's perfection in math. If that image that you see with the conch shell and I was able to lay it in there and almost late in their perfect and shift like things ever so slightly to make it just feel perfect. That was one of my favorite things did.
Ron: It's does sound very fulfilling.
Scott: It's very nerdy. But from a design perspective, it was needed. It was much needed.
"I know from working with designers and now having as an agency to do to defend our work, a lot of the times when you design something. You'll defend that work to your client, whether it's your professor or your customer. In other words, you'll explain it. You'll help them understand why you're doing what you're doing and answer their questions."
Ron: As a designer, you're familiar with this. I know from working with designers and now having as an agency to defend our work, a lot of the time, when you design something, you'll defend that work to your client. Whether it's your professor or your customer, in other words, you'll explain it. You'll help them understand why you're doing what you're doing and answer their questions. How do you defend? Because I'm going to bet 99 percent of integrators worldwide do not have a style guide. Why should they have a style guide? What's the reason they should have those standards you defined logo usage, colors, fonts. Why has that been centralized or organized in some way? How does that benefit them?
"Essentially, having a style guide is a set of rules, and having rules will help you apply those rules to everything that you do to help develop that brand into more of a consistent look and feel."
Scott: Well, essentially, having a style guide is a set of rules, and having rules will help you apply those rules to everything that you do to help develop that brand into more of a consistent look and feel. Having that guide also helps other people. You share it with people in your company, so if somebody wants to take their logo and put it on a T-shirt and you see that T-shirt later, it's all messed up. Brand wise, if they would have looked at that style guide, even though I don't condone DIY with our brand, if they have that style guide, they could have been like, "Oh, OK, well, I need to make sure I do this and that so that it fits within the brand."When you have a style guide, it gives you a set of rules to follow for brand consistency.
Ron: I've looked Scott at clients' websites, and their logo will be blue, and then I'll go to their Facebook page, and their logo is yellow. Then they'll give me their brochure and their logo is green, and I could keep going. Help me understand. What is your logo actually like? Well, they're all our logo. Can you help our audience understand why that's so wrong in so many ways?
"If there's an inconsistency, it's brand confusion. If you see a green logo, somebody somewhere and somebody is used to seeing it orange. They might think, well, who is this person, is this somebody else? Are they competing with them?"
Scott: Well, I mean, if there's an inconsistency, it's brand confusion. If you see a green logo, somebody somewhere and somebody is used to seeing it orange. They might think, well, who is this person, is this somebody else? Are they competing with them? That's just one example. One thing I do is create monochrome logos, but they're usually kept within the brand guide, and you'll have three, maybe four, main colors. You can create single-color logos, and you're talking about solid white, solid black, solid grays. But no solid greens when you have a solid orange logo. You just want to avoid brand confusion as much as possible, and that's another thing that brand standards do is keep that consistency so that you can avoid brand confusion.
Ron: Question and a high level here, and I'm going to pull up your website in just a few minutes for the audience, and I'll put it on the screen. But before we go there, what do you define or what when you think about the fact that you spent this career freelancing, doing graphic design and then working in agencies, doing design and marketing and then working for Silicon Valley startups, doing branding and marketing, and you joined an integration firm. You're bringing a pedigree of experience and life experiences and education that's pretty rare inside of our industry. What did you do? You've been there now for five years, and you guys are one of the worst firms in the business. What led to your success? in this role, and you successfully working with a visionary like Corey in a great business, in a great market, but what's led to the success, your success in this role?
Scott: It starts with that. It starts with the people. Corey and the team here are outstanding, and I never consider it only me on the team within the marketing department because there are so many successes are due to inspiration or insight, anything from Corey to other team members. It's incredible, and that's where it started, and that's what really attracted me to this, this firm, and the industry. Before I even started, they took me down to a large partner firm, so Nantes in Southern California, and kind of showed me the inside workings of manufacturing partners and speakers. It's like speakers. I used to wire my own car stereos, and it's exciting and fun, and ever-changing. When it comes to personal experiences, I define graphic design and marketing as storytelling. And even though I don't have a degree in marketing per se, it's experiencing, and it's listening, keeping an open mind and research galore and falling industry standards or industry. The industry in general in marketing and, of course, keeping up with creativity and so on and so forth. That's really what led me to this role, in a way. There's a saying, don't take no for an answer. I do the opposite.
I did the opposite my whole life. I took no for an answer because if there was a no, I would move on and try something new, whether being a project or whatnot. That's one thing that's always helped me as a personal mantra is like, if it's a no, you could defend your work, say it's just a piece of work. It's a logo you're designing as a freelancer, and somebody is like, "No, no, no." Still, take that no and turn it into a yes. And I think that's what will make things more successful. The more no's you get, the more successes you'll have in the end.
Ron: What is the role of photography and videographer in your marketing and your branding and the image that you and your team are putting forward?
Scott: That was a tough one when I first started because getting into clients' homes and getting photos taken is difficult because you're working with a lot of people, you have to get permission from the builder, architect, designer, so on and so forth. It was difficult. I ended up being a personable person. I start building relationships with architects and interior designers and a lot of architects and engineers owners. They're so close with clients that they will already have photos of their portfolios. Instead of reaching out to like clients or stuff like that, I would build a relationship with interior designers and architects and then ask them if they're all right if I purchased photos for REITs in our portfolio, too. Oftentimes, you wouldn't see the audio, video security, anything like that. I had to start selling a narrative, a lifestyle unless you see these, and people could feel like it could be their home or their bedroom. I would sell a narrative with the photos I would take or get. Eventually, as I developed the brand in photography, I was able to develop relationships with clients and, of course, project managers who had relationships with clients and so on, so forth. Then I was able to start getting into places and get titrated photos, and run photo shoots and video shoots. But it all starts with relationships—relationship building.
Ron: The imagery on your website is nothing short of maybe some of the best in imagery in our industry. For those that are listening to the podcast and don't see the video podcast, you definitely want to go to the SAV website, which is savinc.net. You want to check that out. Or you can jump on Facebook or LinkedIn and watch this video, and you'll see some, some content there on the screen. How often do you do photoshoots? Let's just look at some of the real basics, the fundamentals. How often do you do a shoot? Schedule a shoot, and do you pre-planned that? Or does it randomly happen?
Scott: Oh man, I'm always planning for one, but it's very difficult to actually get them, of course. In fact, right before this cast, I was talking to two photographers trying to get them in last minute to shoot on Tuesday. With people's schedules, it's difficult. Hopefully, I will land it. But it's really difficult. My goal is to at least do a video or a photoshoot once a quarter. Every three months. My take away what I'll end up with is hopefully 6 to 12 photos or a nice video. That's my goal. It mostly works out every six months. Wes is on our team here at One Firefly, and Wes actually runs our Google Ads team. But he says the project gallery, and he's linked to it here in the comments on Facebook. He says the project gallery under residential is incredible. Basically, all of the imagery on savinc.net is top-notch. Great work and I completely agree with Wes.
Scott: Thank you.
Ron: Do you work with different photographers? Do you have a portfolio of photographers, or do you do some of this yourself? How do you logistics-wise, people that are listening or watching? They go, I believe it. I believe this matters. What are some of the mechanics?
Scott: If you scroll to the bottom of the website, I credit all of our photographers. In the beginning, I would try to credit each kind of photo with a little caption photo by so-and-so. But in the footer site-wide, you'll see at the very, very bottom. Unfortunately, on the page you're on, you're going to have to scroll a long way.
Ron: Because that is a long page.
Scott: It has case studies and stories on them.
Ron: These guys here?
Scott: Yep, right at the very bottom there. I do have a portfolio of photographers that I work with, and I have my favorites, of course, but I also need to keep it open because if I'm unable to schedule one photographer, I need a backup plan. And. It's kind of agnostic in a way, but you need quality photography too.
Scott: At the very beginning, say, I would get photography that was subpar in my perspective, lighting wasn't right, or the position wasn't right, but I had to start somewhere. And from there, it's you also have to eliminate things as you move on to like if you get a better photo later. To toss that one, even though you paid for it or you used it in your marketing before, but that's also a point. You want fresh content. Things get stale so quickly that if you have a visitor that visits, say, in January and they visit June, and it's exactly the same. It might turn them off. You want to keep that consistency, but you want it slightly different. Maybe it's a photo tweak or a quote or something like that, or a new case study, or something. Something excites them and keeps their blood moving.
Ron: What role do you feel videography has in your company's marketing?
Scott: It's tough. Video is, of course, more expensive and it's more work. Getting into a client's home to do photos is easier to get in than to do a video if you tell somebody you want a video they replace. They're a little bit more hesitant. But video is important, and just like social media, it's like people. If there are people that don't think it's important, it is important. It's selling that narrative and telling a story about your company or something you're trying to tell a story about. And I would say that's the most important thing is telling the story. One thing from my old role is when I was trying to move from Art Director to Creative Director, my boss said, "What is there that you could work on to help you advance your role?
And a few things, of course, but one of them was a very important thing, and that was copywriting. Essentially, most everything you see, unless it's credited to somebody on there, is written in collaboration with, you know, people at work. You're interviewing them and then writing the story. And so that was one of the biggest things I could ever do is focus and hone in on copywriting and what's good and what's bad grammar and, you know, mistakes and everything like that. I added that to my personal portfolio, and it is storytelling, just like videos and photography. Those three things combined help tell the story to the best of its ability.
Ron: What I'm looking at here on the screen is this beautiful video. Is this a video that you guys produced? It says, capture it. But it says SAV. Is this you guys? Or is this a Lutron marketing video that others can have or use?
Scott: It is ours. We hired a local firm called Sicat Creative to help us do this video. In fact, they're doing two videos for us. But Tetra is one of the most forward-thinking futures of home technologies out there right now, in my perspective, voices as well, but the lighting of an environment is so pivotal to the environment. After we integrated Ketra here, I said, let's create a video and a landing page devoted to Ketra. It doesn't show the product in there.
Ron: I just have to let the audience know here. I just watched a full video on Ketra, and all I saw was nature. Explain this because it's beautiful. I was actually just shocked. There's no product. There are no interiors. It's all nature.
Scott: If you see the video on its own without anything, it's probably intriguing. And that's a goal, but it doesn't really tell anybody too much, except for, holy crap, this is beautiful outdoor lighting, and being outdoors where it really comes together is when it when it's seen on the website with the rest of that landing page. That's the idea behind it and the idea. Because of the outdoors, beautiful lighting, and sunset and sunrise, this is because Ketrta is a lighting technology that is meant to follow the. The light outside your circadian rhythms, the intensities from sunrise to sunset. In our showroom, I can make the lighting almost like it's a sunrise in here. It's coming up from zero percent to 100 percent, but very low Kelvin's, which is very warm and slowly. And it goes with the sun, and it's tied to your latitude, your longitude, and where you are, and so you can create it to go with the sun from sunrise to sunset.
The natural progression of our bodies is how we were before interior lighting was a thing, and interior lighting, and technically it's throwing us all off. It keeps us up later at night, wakes us up early in the morning. With that automation of that light, that is as follows The sun. You can create an interior environment that matches outdoor and who doesn't want to be outdoor in the light and at all times. Imagine having that indoors. As I talked about, Ketra earlier illuminating art and color and textures, and I was saying, that's just one of the things it does. This is another one of the things it does is follow the lighting and the intensities of the outdoors indoors.
Ron: Is this video that I'm watching now, is this again a Lutron video, or is this your video?
Scott: This is theirs now. I above created a video that shows the outdoors indoors, and then I put in their video below the fold. If people go down below, they can actually see, OK. It all comes together. Now we're showing the lighting indoors. This is one of their videos. It's showing the product, and it's showing the lighting indoors and the capabilities and lifestyles and feelings.
Ron: Alright, I'm in a rapid-fire here because I'm mindful of the time, and I want to talk about so many things, so talk to me about Instagram. How do you think about Instagram for SAV?
Scott: Absolutely. You do have to follow trends, and you have to follow what works and what doesn't? Research and keep up with the times, break a few rules here and there. I break a few rules, but Instagram is made for photography, and it's meant to show photos in the best possible manner so other people can see and react. One way I break a rule, sometimes I will do a larger story, whereas. Technically, Instagram should have a little quick little blurb about it. And, of course, hashtags and tagging so that it becomes more viral. But I mean, there are more people who see it if you hashtag smart home.
And I don't have any hashtags on any of my posts, smart home. Nobody will ever see them. When you tag partners the @ with their name, it lets them know that they've been tagged in something that they worked on with you, and people on their Instagram will see you. What's your frequency of posting on Instagram? And I'm going to rapid-fire go through the different? Oh, sure. I wish I could do it every other day. Honestly, it's like once a week is my goal to post something. And I want to change it up. I want to show projects, but I want to show people. And then little things here and there, that's Instagram. So start with beautiful imagery for Instagram. Go from there. Facebook. Mm-Hmm. How does savvy think about Facebook? A rule that I break is a lot of my posting on Instagram will also be very similar, if not exact, on Facebook. There's a lot of firms out there saying, change it up, don't post the same things you do to everything. But I often do if it's more socially oriented. I will not put it on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is more of a business perspective, and I'll show more of a business perspective on their lot, tagging a lot of partners talking about projects. Instagram is more for photography and quick stories. Facebook is kind of in-between.
You have a lot of the social aspect, but then you have a little bit of the business aspect. You want to show great photography. Facebook is great for putting events on. For example, I put it on as an event so that people, when they're searching for events, and in Bozeman, whether it be virtual or on-site, Facebook is a good way to say it'll follow trends. It follows them what they're interested in. Suppose they're interested in a mainstream speaker like Sonos. And we're a high-level Sonos integrator, and it's something related to it. They will see my event. That example is a few summers ago, we had a lawn party that was sponsored by Sonos, and we had a lot of people that show up off the street only because they were on Facebook searching for specific things, and it led them to our event.
Ron: I'm noticing that your event link off of Facebook is driving into a landing page. Can you talk about just that philosophy? That takes work. If you're going to run the event on Facebook, you've now got to go build this event page. You've gone even deeper. This event page looks like for training for architects and designers you've gone out and even linked to. It looks like more detailed PDFs for each of those courses. This is really good marketing, and this is also really hard because this is a lot of detail and a lot of time and energy getting this right. But yet clearly, you and your team clearly say this is worth the investment.
Scott: It is. When people say Wow, you did that as well, and I define it as not extra work. I define it as my role. This is what you need to succeed in the company with this type of role and having an in-house marketing and creative arm. If you skip a step, it's not going to be successful. I will create blogs that are very important, and events pages are very important. What I'll do is on social media. I'll plan to say, if there's an event coming up, my plan is to have three teasers. The first teaser is more of a save the date and a very minimal amount. I will also put them in my monthly newsletters and splash them everywhere possible. And the second post will be a little bit more information. If you tell people too far in advance, it's kind of they'll forget about it, and that's why you do a teaser for an advance. My father in advance is a month and a half max four to six weeks, and then I'll do another one a few weeks before the event, and then the last one giving full info about the event the week before or the week of like. If it's on a Thursday or Friday, I'll do it on Monday or Tuesday.
That will not only attract new people, but it also reminds people they saw the teaser or the save the date. All those teasers and save the dates and stuff will have the least amount of info. It's also taking a chance. People want more info. You're sending them somewhere else to get more info, but it creates traffic. It creates engagement. It creates SEO and SEM, and all those little acronyms build that event and so on, so forth.
Ron: I want to dive deeper into a rapid-fire email. How do you use email to reach out to your customers, and how should those listening think about the utilization of email as a tool?
Scott: Yeah, you have to really be careful with that because most email programs are free. Will people have to sign up for it? That's why, on my web page at the bottom, every page says, "Subscribe to our newsletter." I don't want to put it too blatant because the most important stuff is our work newsletter is not going to be a gigantic button at the bottom. It's going to people that are invested in your website and they look at. As much as possible will eventually see that, and so and it is a fine line, I mean, if you send too many emails in a month, you'll have a lot of unsubscribing. I can't make a list of people I know from a CC on an email to industry partners. An example is an architect or a builder will send up a message to all the contractors, from AV to the architect to inter designers and so on, so forth. And you have a list of like 40 people. You can't take that list.
Ron: You're so tempted, though, right? That's such a good list. That's illegal. That's definitely not best practice.
Scott: Yeah, it's not best practices. When I have events, is I'll have a prize giveaway. Sign up to win a Sonos One and you'll be put on her email list. I always give people options to on that sign to sign up to win that raffle says this is optional. Do not leave your email if you do not want our email list, so an example is right now doing two different campaigns, but I separate my email list in the program that I'm using. One is specifically targeting Creston home integration. The other one is more general information about SAV like a project or product highlight or a partner feature or something like that and Crestron. I would highlight that maybe. One of my sections three to five sections max in my personal emails, and I'm now doing two email campaigns in one month. It's a fine line. You have to separate them enough that you're not crossing people and they're getting hit week after week.
Ron: They don't want to burden your list.
Scott: Exactly. Then you'll separate like I will go as far as finding out which clients dislike a certain product and make sure they're not on that email list unless it's more of a general. Did you know at the advancements in technology here it's worth checking out?
Ron: High level, do you guys use a CRM for customer relations, was it called CRM, is customer relations management, but do you use that to track your lead gen, your job opportunities, and all your contacts across your team?
Scott: Absolutely and mostly the sales department and I'm technically part of the sales department, but more of a support for sales. But I will be part of know strategy meetings and higher-level meetings in regard to sales at SAV and they definitely have used CRM for quite some time now. There are so many different tools.
Ron: On the Biz Dev side, you're running, let's say, Facebook ad or you're running forms on your website. Do you go to the level of detail of making those forms pipe stuff into a CRM or i.e. for full 100 percent tracking of everything in your marketing sphere? Are you not that focused on that right now?
Scott: Some and some not. So there's a little that will and that specifically anything it is coming through to a sales-related email or form or something like that, it will filter through it, but stuff that says, if somebody reaches out to me via social media or marketing SAV email. No, I don't. It comes directly to me and I will gauge the importance and everything about that input.
"Showrooms are as important today as they've ever been, and certainly, they're growing in need and demand as people are coming out of hibernation and they want to go see touch and experience this technology. "
Ron: I guess I may hit one more strategy here. We're kind of coming out of COVID and depending on what part of the country you're in. People have been meeting face to face for a long time or they're just starting to. But our audience is around the world and people at all. They're at various stages of progressing through this new state of things. But showrooms are as important today as they've ever been, and certainly, they're growing in need and demand as people are coming out of hibernation and they want to go see touch, and experience this technology. You guys, I understand, have a showroom space. I've never been to your facility. What do you think leads to a great experience in a showroom?
Scott: We have some really high-end audio here, and we have some high-end clientele. We'll have Macintosh amps paired with someone, say rear speakers. At one point we have had Steinway Lindorff, which is super. If you're familiar and some very nice gear. Yeah, very nice. But then. We'll have Sonos, and Sonos is amazing, their technology is great, but you're talking a price point of $200 speaker to $2000 speaker or $20000 speaker. But it's all depending on what the clients want. If somebody comes in and they're looking for super high end, we can show them super high end if they're looking for. Man, you know, it's out of my budget or I don't want to go that crazy. Give me something more simplified. We have that to show them. Same with our lighting control and shades and shade control and security. We recently had somebody coming here and looking at cameras looking at, what's our division called SAV Alarm, which I could get to in branding internally in a minute if you like.
They came in there like, "I see these dome cameras everywhere. Do you have any?" I'm like, We do. We have three different varieties of them here and we have PTZ, pan tilt zoom, follow the movement, and zoom in on the movement. But then we have a standard one that will be static. We're close to a very busy street right here, and a lot of mirrors on cars get hit of cars passing by and they see cameras in our business and they come in and say, "Hey, I see you have cameras.".
Ron: Did you get a recording of the street over here?
Scott: Exactly. We moved the camera down because we got too much. It's an easy answer is my mirror got knocked off.
Ron: Alright. I told you I was going to ask you one more. I'm going to sneak in one more. But we are now quickly approaching the hour. Oh, yeah, I get this question frequently and I have belief systems, but I'm not going to lobby them or bandy them about. I'm going to go to you. I'm an integrator and I'm residential, and now I'm launching commercial or I'm an integrator and I'm launching an electrical division, or I'm launching an alarm division or any combination thereof. I see and hear it and in every conceivable manner that conversation gets approached. What's your belief system of how to effectively do that? Maybe the pros and cons, do they spin that up as a separate brand, a separate business, or do they brand that capability or division under the primary brand? What are some things to consider?
Scott: Yeah, I mean, first thing's first, they say you don't have a specific line or division in your company, but it's a much-needed one. Within our company, we have a team of individuals that do a lot of R&D and test products, and I call them SAV labs, even though that's not a technical term for it, but they're a group of individuals that that play with the equipment. Best way to describe it. When it becomes something we will, I will take it over from a brand perspective. How can I market this? When I first got here, SAV did have an SAV alarm division, but it was our same circle with savvy in it, the orange one. And it's the same digital environments out there and it's said alarm. Well, that created brand confusion.
Well, who's SAV Digital Environments? The same as, SAV Alarm. Who is SAV alarm? The first thing I did, and of course, it didn't relate to security and surveillance. You look at an orange circle, it does not relate to, security and surveillance. I sketched up a lot of ideas and created more of a security badge. Related. This was designed and then created said alarm in it and then underneath said a division of SAV Digital Environments, most recently are SAV care division, which is client services, is such a big part of our company. They're like, "Hey, what you did with, I say the alarm, can you do that for us?" I did, and I created it. Create it based it off of the savvy alarm badge, but creative. It created it as more of a client service, you search, you see checkmarks or you see thumbs up or stuff like that. I just start sketching up a lot of ideas that related to a client service type of scenario. Now on our SAV Alarm page, you have our badge and you go to SAV Care and you'll see our SAV Care badge, which is slightly different.
Ron: I'm going to scroll for our folks watching the video. I'm going to go to SAV Care. And there's the badge. SAV Care, and if I come over here as SAV Alarm, there you go. Similar badge.
Scott: Similar, but different enough.
Ron: Similar, but different enough. That's great. Well, Scott, I don't want to abuse the opportunity that you've provided us to counsel us on all things marketing and branding. You've kindly shared with us your history and your thoughts on marketing and branding for those that are watching or listening and want to follow you and or get in touch with you. What do you recommend?
Scott: I created an email that comes to
Ron: Awesome. And I do want to give Keith a quick shout-out quick. Keith Easterly said "Scott and SAV are terrific and valued HTSA members working with them was an absolute blast. Sorry, I can't stay here on Facebook, but I wanted to say hello to Mr. Abel. I'll catch this in a recorded version." Awesome. Appreciate you jumping in! Well, Scott, it was a pleasure having you on the show on Show 190, sir. Thank you so much for joining us.
Scott: My pleasure and thank you so much. It was great.
Ron: Alright, folks, there you have it, show 190. Scott Abel, Director of Quality and Customer at SAV Digital Environments there at Montana. Definitely recommend checking out their website. Follow them on everywhere social. They really are a flag bearer for our industry in terms of best practices. And now that you know, Scott, you know why? Because you know that he knows his stuff, and he's definitely representing not only SAV well, but they're representing our industry well. If you want to, I'm a big believer when you're trying to do something, you don't have to recreate the wheel, go look at those that are doing it well. These guys are doing it well. Yes, we run an agency for integrators. I follow Scott and I follow what SRB is doing because I think they're best in class. It's a word of advice to check them out and maybe you get some tips or ideas. I want to thank everyone for tuning in. If you have not already. Don't forget to go and subscribe to the podcast if you are watching this live or in the replay and just search up Automation Unplugged and you'll find the podcast and you can subscribe. If you feel so compelled, love you to leave a review as well that will help us in the algorithm ultimately gain more viewers and listeners. On that note, folks, I'm going to sign off and I will see everyone next week. Thanks so much. Be well.
As the Director of Quality & Customer, Scott Abel is focused on brand management, marketing analytics, and content strategies at SAV. After graduating from Montana State University in 2002, he worked as an in-house designer of a well-respected ranch and home supply store. Scott then went on to pursue his master's degree at the Academy of Art University which catapulted him into freelancing at design firms throughout Silicon Valley. After eight years in the Bay Area, Scott moved back to Montana and joined the team at SAV Digital Environments.
Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly become the leading marketing firm specializing in integrated technology and security. The One Firefly team works hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution Mercury Pro.
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