Watch Episode #82: An Industry Q&A with Robert Keeler
The Importance of Preparing for Inevitable Economic Downturns
This week's show features our host Ron Callis interviewing Robert Keeler. Recorded live on Wednesday July 10th, 2019 at 12:30pm EST.
About Robert Keeler
Here are some of the topics Ron had the opportunity to discuss with Robert Keeler:
- Robert's background in the industry
- Developing Original Content
- Events (lunch&learns)
- Photographing/Documenting your work
- The CEDIA Designer software
- Preparing for a downturn
Ron: Hello everybody. Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation. Unplugged. We're on episode 82. Today is Wednesday, July 10th. Hopefully, you all had a nice and relaxing holiday week last week and weekend. And today I am excited that we're bringing you Robert Keeler with CEDIA. I've known Robert for a long time. He's an industry veteran and an advocate for our industry and an advocate for all of you listening out there on all sides of the business, whether you're on the dealer side or the manufacturer side. And so let's go ahead and jump to it and bring in Robert and let's say hello and get the conversation started. So, alright, let me get technology to behave here. There we are. What's up Robert?
Robert: Hey how are you doing on this fine day?
Ron: I am super! It is a beautiful day here in sunny South Florida and where are you coming to us from Robert?
Robert: So well at 3:00 AM I was in Pittsburgh at 7:00 AM I'm in Chicago and now I'm in Minneapolis, the home base. So yeah, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Yeah. So today's been a long day already.
Ron: What time was your flight?
Robert: It was like 5 AM.
Ron: 5 AM flights! I don't miss those. I try not to do those when I can help it.
Robert: I try not to either.
Ron: But it does get you home quicker. And I guess that's a silver lining, right?
Robert: That is. In fact, it's interesting cause with this role, it's not so much a Monday through Friday anymore. It's got some flexibility, like Monday through Wednesday and I can have a day trip here, a two-day trip there. So anyway, it's nice to be home.
Ron: Really quick Robert do you prefer Rob or Robert? Both work?
Robert: Both work.
Ron: Alright, let me scan. I'm going to jump over here to Facebook and just make sure that in fact, the interwebs are cooperating and we are streaming live. So just give me one moment here.
Robert: Yeah. Gotta make sure the technology's working right.
Ron: Oh man. And we're on the bleeding edge here, streaming live and my audience knows sometimes it works and sometimes not so well. But it does look like we are streaming live here and we have an audience starting to form, which is great. If you're out there definitely say hello. Give us a like or a comment to elicit maybe where you're coming to us from and if you're listening to us on replay don't be shy. You can do the same. Give us a like or a share or a comment. And if you have any questions for Rob live, type those into the comments and I'll do my best to read those to him live and we'll get his live response.
Robert: And nothing's off the table, I'd say too.
Ron: Nothing's off the table. You heard that straight from Robert guys. So ask him the hard questions. Go for it. Alright so Robert, what were you doing out in Pittsburgh by the way?
Robert: Actually I was with the Powerhouse Alliance, a group of distributors across the country and they had one of their annual meetings and I delivered the keynote speech yesterday morning. So a little nervous. So it's kind of funny. The friends of mine that were there were kind of giving me a little trash talking before I came on. Oh yeah. It was, it was classic. But it was a great event. A great opportunity to literally chat with the people or help drive new business. They, from a distribution standpoint, the distributor channel of businesses really gets a lot of dealers started, and today's established brands often started working with distributors solely. And it's just great to be part of a part of that equation. And yeah, we had a good time and had some good conversation.
Ron: Alright. So, Robert, a lot of our audience may or may not know your background and so I always like to just start with the background and then we'll kind of bring it forward into your current roles and responsibilities at CEDIA. So if you could fill us in kinda. How did you land in this industry and maybe what are some of the things you've done along the way?
Robert: You bet. Well, I guess my entire career has been in this industry from day one. And it's funny you said, industry veteran. I'm not sure if that's code for, been around the block once or twice, but I have. It's been a fun ride. I've worked with a number of companies. Both established global entities like Pioneer Electronics for a number of years. Hitachi and worked for some smaller companies startups that focused on digital photo frames, Internet-based photo frames and market research. But I did start on the retail side. Going to college I would do custom car audio and spent a lot of time building out some really high-end systems. I'd say I've sold grown-up toys my entire career and it's been a fun ride. Pioneer Electronics moved me from San Diego to Minneapolis back in '99 and here it is, 20 years later. This Fall will be 20 years in Minneapolis. I think it's time for me to head out though. This last winter was pretty nasty.
Ron: I was just going to add that back in 2000? Maybe it was early January of 2001. Lutron moved me to Minneapolis.
Robert: Okay, yeah. We thought we'd only be here three, five years. But it's a great place. I can't speak highly enough of it. It's a phenomenal place to raise a family. It's great if you're like me, here I am. I'm mired in technology, so my escapism. To quote, "My escape time, my escape room is the great outdoors." And also getting out my son and I and my family, we do some trips where it's no cell phone service and if you're in trouble, you better have a phone because you're miles from nowhere. But that's usually how I escape. But you know I've grown up in this industry as an adult and been through a number of roles. I had some leadership roles at Hitachi BDI Furniture. I've done a few different things. Most recently was Vice President of sales at Stewart Film Screen and responsible for North American sales and just trying to grow that business after Grant Stuart passed away and Mary Stewart took over. And anyways, every experience along the way, it's really ultimately led me to be a great ambassador for CEDIA.
Ron: Okay. What is your role and responsibilities? When officially did you join CEDIA?
Robert: At the end of April? Like literally, I'm eight or nine weeks in and so it's still relatively new. But, Senior Director of sales sponsorships and partnerships. And if people have seen stuff in the trades, it's my job to help sell CEDIA but more to ensure that our members see the value and get said value out of it. I joke here and there. I'm like, my job is to get abused by our members, to make sure that they're getting what they're looking for.
Ron: So are you the receiver now of the technology professionals that come to you with the question of why should I be a member of CEDIA?
Robert: Absolutely. Absolutely. I get it all.
Ron: Are you the punching bag?
Robert: I can be. I came on with CEDIA and how do I say this? Because certainly, I'm an ambassador and an employee of CEDIA. But, in terms of the organization having sold off the trade show part one of the things I'm trying to help people understand at this juncture is that CEDIA has always been the trade association. And if I talk to people and play word games, I said, what does CEDIA mean to you? Most people will say it's the expo. And that's a good response. But the reality of it is, it's a trade association that's designed to help raise the tide for all members and all vendors. Let the rising tide float all boats and let the individual companies battle for their market share. When Samsung and Sony and LG and Vizio, they're all going for it. My job is ultimately to help those companies find different ways or find different channels of which to reach out. Case in point, we're working with the design and build community or we're trying to reach or help our members improve upon their skillset in one way, shape, or form. And that includes manufacturers, reps, distributors, buying groups, and not just only the end dealer. But, I think that even though I'm still going through some of the learning curves of exactly what we have and what we can offer, we're building out things on a constant basis. Our education curriculum is really the crux of things. So, when I say education, I'm talking about everything from boot camps for new employees to workforce development scenarios. Fact. Now we are accredited for Indiana which makes our workforce development program easier to spread out to other states. Cause I know our industry is just plagued with how to find the right people, find staff, find people to carry on the work. But also, business development,how to improve your business, certifications as well. It's kind of like, think of it as the opportunity to say yes, I know what I'm talking about. Yeah.
Ron: Just, I don't have the exact timing. But I want to say I'll be approximate and then you can be exact. But approximately in the last year, CEDIA purchased the traveling shows, The Tech Summit.
Robert: Yep. So business and tech summits. Mark Schakowsky and Frank White have developed that program over I think what, 12 years now? And the interesting thing is I've been involved with that as a manufacturer for probably nine.
Ron: You and I have seen each other at many of those events over the years.
Robert: Yeah. I jokingly say I tell my kids I've got enough friends across the country that if they were ever to do a road trip, that I could probably get them a couch to sleep on overnight. But no, CEDIA purchased the Business in Technology Summit and really, in essence, it's a grassroots, local CEDIA event. We have sponsors that help support us. Which to be honest, we can't do anything without the industry sponsors. There's a cost to bear. And what's great is the ROI of the event is really well. I mean, I saw it as a manufacturer. So for me, it was a no brainer. Some companies choose to spend their money in different ways like we've had people evolve from. They participate and now they're focusing on bringing people to new facilities. But, I imagine they'll come back. But we have a large following and it's what, 11, 12 cities? We'll expand a couple more. This next year they entered Canada. This past year, it was a phenomenal event. It just goes to show you that again, this is one of those things where coming on board CEDIA, I have to take responsibility for a number of things and it's a shared responsibility. So, I mean, this is a team effort. Let's face it. But one of the things I come to realize in Canada is that they've been underserved. That marketplace is starving for attention. They are looking, I mean, there's a high propensity for people to be CEDIA members in Canada. And interestingly enough, I mean we can talk about economics later, but in the US housing stats are down when literally the morning I'm walking into the meeting, I'm looking at the morning news and they're telling them, the stat was Toronto housing stats are up 25% and I'm like, wow! I mean, that's just amazing. But it just goes to show that that segment of businesses is growing. We will add Vancouver to the list next year. So we'll have the two sides. And we're also looking at another site too. Um I don't want to say too much more I suppose, but we are looking at making a little more encompassing because let's face it, there is a lot of marketplaces out there. Canada is established. They're doing the same things that dealers in the US are doing. It's no different. So,it's time to pay some attention to them.
Ron: Now, one of the topics I know is top of mind for you. I just went back a couple of months ago. I was at a Pro Source event and I saw Giles speaking.
Robert: Yeah, I think that was my second day.
Ron: Yeah, that was day two for you at CEDIA. That's funny. And it's in particular about this concept that we've had a really good run as an economy here in the US for the last 10 years or so. You probably know these exact facts, but yeah, I'm gonna just share my screen here and I'm going to share something. I own some mutual funds with American Funds and they were just bought out by a company called The Capital Group. And this is an email or a blog post they made about how to predict the next recession. And they're talking about the US coming out of a strong cycle. And here's another one that talks about, what is a recession and the boom that happens after a recession and then what is the length of time? So how do you see your role at CEDIA in terms of educating and preparing our industry as to what is likely happening and then is it going to happen? And if so, when is it going to happen? Cause I'm sure you have access to data that's maybe better than the average Joe.
Robert: Well, there is data that's available. We use a federal reserve data and there are some other sources that we use. But yeah, so I think that that's something that's near and dear to us right now because ultimately what I'm trying to do is help prepare dealers think through and absorb what is potentially a recessionary time. I mean, I don't want to say it's happening, but it's due and the data shows that, that it is due. So a couple of the slides that I've been sharing, one of them is economic.
Ron: Can you send me that deck? So let me attempt to get technology to behave. It actually jumped off my screen, so I'm going to try to add it back here if you bear with me.
Robert: So while you're doing that I can talk through that too. So this July marks the 121st month. Yeah. We're going to go up a few slides. It's like that up here. Oh, there's one more. There we go. Expand. So right now, as of this month, the economic expansion in the US is running about 121 months. And that makes it the longest on recorded history for the US and all said and done that's phenomenal. I mean, we're seeing unprecedented growth. Companies are expanding, companies are. But at the same time you look at the historical data and at some point in time there's going to be a contraction. The contraction is a recession. In fact, the next slide beyond the expansion one is recession length. This last recession, I think it was dubbed The Great Recession, but that thing was just nasty. I mean, it was 18 months in length for, for recessionary. Most recessions don't last a year. They're only 11 months. With short ones, six to eight months, but the average is only 11. And by the way, I do have to preface all this. I'm not an economist. I just kind of play one in my job a little bit. So please bear that in mind, but the data that we get is from the feds. So please bear that in mind. But I guess what we're really trying to say is prepare yourself for this short time. Yeah. Okay. So here's a slide that's on here. So this is Bloomberg in conjunction with fed data. So you're saying there's a chance there's one coming and I never want to get gloom and doom. I mean, trust me, my friends are like, if I'm in a bad mood, I'm avoiding some words. Right. I mean, it's so when you get right down to it we are due. But there's a couple of different companies that have indicators. Forbes has four indicators that suggest a recession and only one of the yield curve is in decline. Everything else is, is great. Unemployment, housing prices is up. Unemployment is all-time low. Although that one fluctuates like 0.1, 0.2, from month to month, this last year. But by and large, that's still incredibly low. And, the other thing is I keep using that turn of phrase, but the indicators that would suggest that it's impending or imminent, they're not there. So, but I will say. The personal savings rate. Go back to the previous one and, I'll show you why it's so unique. So this shows, this slide shows two graphs. One of them shows your, disposable personal income. This is basically what you make. And the graph below it is your personal consumption. So as you look during the recessionary time, as we were coming out of the recession, amount that what you earned versus what you spent, was greater. And now we're at a point now where I say this, this is where probably an economist could probably speak better, but basically we're almost spending what we're making and there are all sorts of factors. Now, this is probably, John Q public. This isn't the, and I'm not going to use the 1% term. I'm not, but this is like 5%. The people that are integrators typically do have a little more, personal income. But, this is the mainstream USA. This is fed data. So this is all-encompassing. So go to the next slide and you'll see this is just from 2015 to today. You're talking about six people in 2015 they were at. Oh no, and that's unemployment we need to go back to, there was a personal savings rate just next to one yet personal savings rate. So in 2015, we were saving on an average of about six and a quarter percent of our income. Today it's less than two and a half. So basically out of a hundred box, rather than keeping six and a quarter, you're barely keeping 2.5. That's kind of alarming. But I also think that there are other factors. Things are, mean health insurance costs have gone up. There are other things that, we've seen artificially.
Ron: I mean, my interpretation, I think this is restating some of the points you just said. It's not that Ms. Smith that would buy a $50,000 home theater. This is not necessarily her. If she has a net worth, she still has that net worth. It's that this nationally aggregated data is telling us there are some symptoms here that could lead to a pending recession, which has all the ramifications for us as an industry.
Robert: Well, you look at it. I mean this, I will say I think my personal savings rates a little higher. I do know that. But we're talking about some of the employees of our, of our clients, of our businesses. If you get right down to it, you know that that's mainstream, that's, that's if you look at it from a different perspective, those are our employees.
Ron: I have a question that just got posted actually has been quite a few posts here. I'm gonna throw it up on the screen here. Chris Gamble one of our great listeners from the UK he just posted, I said, could CEDIA EMEA do something similar? And it sounds like gathering this data or aggregating this data for Europe. Is that an option?
Robert: I don't know that one, I'd have to look into and JJ feel free to connect with me offline because that although that looks like Chris was Chris, that was Chris. I'm not sure what Europe would offer. But I believe that we can, we can definitely take a look into, sourcing some of that. I'm not sure what can be done of it.
Ron: You had mentioned JJ and JJ did comment. He says, a student debt living above your means.
Robert: Great examples. I love that. I love that meme where, where there's a picture of an older gentleman, he's like, woo, I'm partying. I just paid off my student loans. Do you know? I mean I look at my daughter, she's out of state tuition. If it wasn't for scholarships, she's not going where she's going, and not to put a too fine a point on it. I mean, that's just, that's another thing. I mean, there's a couple of things that are going on and you're starting to see some backlash from mainstream America. I'm tired of paying these costs that are just out of whack. I will have to follow up on that one. But there's a slide that I saw when I was doing my research of everything that was increasing in costs, inflation-adjusted, etc. Like things were rising two to 4%. Tuition was like seven, 9%, 10% a year. I mean, that was, that's ridiculous. And you're, you're seeing now a backlash. I think it was Apple and Google, they're talking about, we don't, we don't mandate that you have to have aa degree anymore. And I've read several, I saw that headline. I started reading several articles. That's exciting. I mean I think you are starting to see some of that backlash from those costs.
Ron: So now that we have our listeners may be in with a bit of shock and awe of some of these data that are not looking great, I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to know that, what goes up comes down. And I think we all have been the receivers of an economy that's been very positive. At least I'll just say domestically here in the US and a likely broader in North America. What are and there is a comment, I do have a question cause I want to get on the flip side. How do you prepare for this and what are some of the things to be mindful of from the CEDIA perspective? But let me just read a quick question.
Robert: Well, I think I see Chris's and I think we can segway from that because when we start talking about where do we go from here? Okay. So this is, this is data that suggests that we need to be mindful of our business a little bit and take a look at things. And, one of the things that I look at is, expanding your business opportunities, your outreach digital marketing is, is more important than ever before. I can't, I know I'm preaching to the choir here on this one, but I can't speak highly enough of that, of that scenario. Looking at different categories that are more designer-friendly and essentially what I'm really trying to get at is allowing you to get into the door or the deadline process sooner.
Robert: I'll give you a great personal example, Ron. So at Stewart, we had a quote out there for the, basically a $60,000 screen. Okay. And finally the order comes in and it's like 9,000. I'm like, Whoa what' happened? Where, where the other $50,000 go? Well, it turns out it was, it was a cost over runs of the construction, and that sells because of the AB side, it was on the tail end of the process. It literally was, I spent my money on appliances. I changed my fixtures out. I went with Carrera marble instead of,a court's product, so the AB AB budget gets squeezed and, and, and what I, what we're trying to do is help push dealers, integrators to be able to get in the design process sooner. Great, great categories to do that are shading and lighting. I know the buying groups have made a large focus on engaging with lighting firms. One of the stats that, that I heard, which, which really portends to the opportunity is that now, now granted, I mean, some of it you gotta take with a grain of salt. But let's face it, some of these are rooted in fact, and they're kind of evolved a little bit for sales process. But in commonplace builders put in 50% of the number of lighting fixtures that they should be putting in. So if you're telling me that they put in 30, lighting fixtures, there should be 60,lighting designers saying, yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Ron: Well, and if the dealers on the selling side of that equation, now he has a vested interest in making sure that is, that education's out there. Absolutely.
Robert: And I'll tell you, these companies, they're, you don't have to have a lighting designer on staff. I mean, you can use your use and abuse your manufacturer partners. They're the ones who are the pros at it and can help you become that pro. But you don't, you never have to go it alone. And in fact, I always make sure that that integrators, reach out and, and develop those relationships from a design perspective with the, with the manufacturers. I'd never had any issue, sitting in on a design process trying to figure out the right solution. And also you think about it too, if it turns out to be the wrong one, where do you, where are you, where are you kidding? You have the ownership of, I don't want to say blame, but if I'm, if I'm the one specking in a screen or a or a shade or lighting fixture and I would do it wrong, I'm going to own it in all, as a manufacturer, you're gonna if you're part of it, you're also going to own it. I mean, I've talked to some, some networking folks where they're like they want to do like a day class. And this was actually born out of the texts an idea. So I'm anxious to see how this folds out, but imagine it as an integrator signing up for a day class on networking. And then once you complete it, you're talking about advanced replacement guarantee, no questions asked. Well, take our, because they're now on a different education process where it's more about let's troubleshoot this.
Ron: Let's take care of that customer for life. And now getting an ongoing service model for that customer versus a one and done sale. So can you, can you provide some color or detail? I mean, I, I am an advocate of the business development strategy where integrators go out into the community, into the architect's offices, into the interior designer's offices, into the builder's offices. And they in an, I'll say in a pseudo impartial way, purely educated. And CEDIA makes this very easy. I mean, many years ago, I want to say probably close to 10 years ago, I was, I became CEDIA outreach, a CEDIA outreach instructor. Yup.
Robert: Now I'm certified. I went through that training Samantha and our office, she does a great job at leading that. it's a great way to now keep in mind when, when a COI, a certified outreach instructor, goes out into the public or the industry, we expect them to be brand agnostic. Especially if you're a manufacturer. But come on, I mean, if you're working for Lutron or you're working for Stewart Filmscreen you know who you work for. But the point is that you can still make it brand agnostic and you, you, you, you do the brand awareness. And because let's face it, not every brand has a hundred percent solution. Okay. But, but there are smart people out there that, that, you mentioned, get that customer for life. If I couldn't do something, I recommend something else. And, and that created that my value or my company's value because then they knew that when it came time to exactly that they didn't have to go anywhere else. They knew exactly what they were getting.
Ron: Well, if an integrator is setting these up in their community, they have the ability to get their foot in the door and the offices that they may not otherwise get their foot into the door and they're offering the entity to say the architectural firm something very valuable, something they need. And that is the CU. Yes. I have a page up on the screen. I think everyone can see it here. This may or may not be the best page. If there's another place direct me there. Robin. I'll, I'll go over there.
Robert: I think that might be and there are some things that I may not know. So I think, I think you're in the right direction. Okay.
Ron: So the thing is, I think one of the really powerful capabilities that CEDIA brings. Any member in, you now can attend this training, become certified, and now you can wear this badge and you can go into our offices and, and you're not there to sell your company per se. You're there to educate and offer these, these trade partners something they need. They have to have their CEOs in order to maintain their licenses and CEDIA. And is that possible?
Robert: Absolutely. And when you're the subject matter expert, they're going to come back to you for questions and comments and things and so and, and we're doing what we can to help out. So, so Joel Sutton on, on, on, on, on the team as well. So he, his focuses is really the design and build community. So again, we don't want to, we don't want to be in a situation where, where people have to go it alone. So we're, we're trying to do what we can to help set the stage. And a great example was mile. Now it's almost two a month and a half ago, but I'm, I'm talking to an architect and basically his comment was, yeah, I go to CES every year. I'm like, dude, that's sorry man, that's the wrong show for you. It's like, what do you mean? I go, if you want a smart toothbrush, you go to CES. But if you want to talk about lighting fixtures, custom home fixtures, shading integration into the home you need to be at, CEDIA at the expo, or come to one of the business in tech exchange, business events. But something else I wanted to bring up in that much, like, so, you know how I mean, let's face it, even the general public tends to know about CES and in January, right in Vegas. So to what CEDIA is to CES. Okay. A different, more designed for focus function at the consumer electronics industry. There is an equivalent on the architect side that a lot of people do not know about. Everybody talks about American Institute of Architects. Okay. So that's the CS equivalent for what I'm talking about. There is a CEDIA equivalent called, custom rock custom residential architects network. And that group of individuals, we're, we're making significant inroads in communicating with them so that we can further the cause to give that platform for COI integrators to go have those lunch and learns with, with those particular folks. Cause those are the folks that ultimately you want to connect with. And lunch and learns are still always yep, there you go. Lunch and learns are going to be a great thing. Now I'm kind of embarrassed by this. I can't remember the integrators name. I actually was doing a number of years ago. I was doing some dealer visits and it was, he was getting ready for a lunch and learn in this facility and, and he's got the chair set up and he's got a slide, a PowerPoint on. And the cool part about it, I loved it, was that the first slide, a beautiful shot of interior space and the next two slides were based, particularly here. It was the same image. But the second slide said, you know, first of all, I was like, welcome, welcome to the event, lunch and learn. The second side, still have the same photo. But it said, can you find all of the electronics in there? And it's, that was his entree into it because he's, his focus was integrators or interior designers and architects. And, and we have a pretty clear view of never the Twain shall meet sometimes, from a design perspective.
Ron: JJ just posted a comment. Robert, he's attempting to be controversial here. He says I'm not sold on communicating with designers, architects, and builders. And then he goes on to comment. He says, there's no loyalty. So what would be your rebuttal to that?
Robert: I get it. And the, and the thing is, I'll go back to the retail side of things. If you compete on price, someone will beat you by a dollar and then that's not your customer. And that's, unfortunately, some of the scenarios is that we'd get into pricing and, and JJ has got the interesting thing is, somebody like JJ has got a value to add. His business looks a lot different than other integrators. And I, there's a couple of guys that I can, I can rattle off just the same and, and that their value equation goes beyond price and it was, it's that all that it takes years to build loyalty and, you can lose that loyalty in five minutes saying the wrong thing, you know. And I think in this case from an industry who has, I don't want to say no clue, but there's not a lot of interest in the AB component side of things from the design and build community. Yet we're now mixing the two on a daily basis. I mean, I, my wife already knows my next house, I'm like, she's like, what do you mean we're not going to have a light switch? Well, there'll be one light switch. I'll have like six buttons on it, or, there'll be times the shades will go up and down with the clock. All these things and she's like, what? And the tech will be there, but it's going to be hidden. It's going to be invisible. And I think the architecture always worried about how's it gonna affect my design? I mean, here, here's a little side note. I spent two years studying architecture. Don't think I didn't see that, I mean, we're talking some serious snobbery. I mean, of course, the one, the reason why I didn't do architecture is someone, someone pointed out, it's like the only good ones are the dead ones. Thinking about it, all some of the best architecture that, they were controversial at the time and only, only over decades later.
Ron: Too much respected. So I'm going to throw this in a completely different direction here. And then, believe it or not, we've been speaking I want to say almost 45 minutes. You blink and you do it. So here's, here's another question. Ted posted, he said, can you give us some insider info on the coolest things happening at CEDIA in September? Now, obviously CEDIA sold the expo, but CEDIA and the trade organization is at the CEDIA expo. So maybe answer that from your perspective.
Robert: You know what, I wish I could, cause I'm going to tell you right now, my, I love the bleeding edge stuff. I love, I love it. I'd have to, Ted, I'd have to probably start poking around a little bit, but I do know that we've had some award submissions for CEDIA. I mean, I've, I've been part of it. I mean, last year I was with Stuart when we, we got a hall of fame award for the store got a hall of fame award for the director's choice product that was 15 years old or 13 years old. And then literally the next day they were, we were showcasing the next generation of director's choice. But I gotta believe that there'll be some more AK focus. I'm anxious just it, just as you are to see some of the new stuff and because we've sold the expo and we kind of keep a tight lid on new product introductions that come through us from an award submission. Some of them will have to be it would be the expo floor or a T typical news outlets. But I think there's a couple of integrators that, we were talking about digital marketing and there's a couple of guys and JJ is one of them. And the guys.
Ron: They didn't just post, they said the coolest thing happening in the digital ramble. Right. But see, but that's, but that's the value. That's the value add I'm talking about.
Robert: When we talk about digital marketing in that it does take, I mean, I don't even want to begin to know how much time out of it the day it takes JJ or the Montgomery's at time to, out of Salt Lake to do a production or a Rob Scuba of one of the reps in New York to produce content. And again, it goes back to the original content and, and that's what's, that's what I think is the trend in the change, the seed change of what our industry is really going to propel itself into the next, the next wave in that people are consuming data at a voracious rate. I talked to people that listen to podcasts on, listen to things in the car. They're, doing stuff, it, the days of sitting in front of the TV are gone, okay. That was probably a little harsh, but point is, is that we probably watched less. I mean already we already know that the iPad is as direct a threat to televisions and TVs. I mean, if, I think if it wasn't for the fact that I have a theater in my house, my kids would probably be watching Netflix on their computer just the same. But they'd rather go, they'd rather go watch it on the big screen.
Ron: Robert, Chris has given you a shout out. He says I love the energy that Robert Keeler is brings. Yeah, baby.
Robert: But what's that, Dilbert? Is it Dilbert? I don't know. You can't turn down awesome, doesn't it?
Ron: You can't turn down awesome. That's funny.
Robert: No, that's the thing.
Ron: Chris just posted, their goal is a hundred posts a day on social media.
Robert: That's, well, you know what? And that's the thing, it's like social media.
Ron: They have to be Gary V's disciples that that's like Gary V level of content creation. Okay. I don't even remotely approach that.
Robert: Well, I'm going to take that and cause this is a conversation I was having with somebody in that there's so much content out there, what becomes clutter and what becomes useful and, and, and that's gonna be different for everybody. And that's why you still have to create that digital content. Because I mean, you're, you're more of an expert on this than I am, but paid search is easy. Just write a check and you can rise. But the best stuff is your original creation. It's your original content. That's the part that's gonna stand apart, you know? And I dunno, it's just I'm preaching to the choir right now.
Ron: The world is different today and it's gonna the exciting thing for all of us is it's going to keep changing and how to communicate and how to be heard is ever-evolving.
Robert: Yeah. Well, it depends on who you talk to. It used to take three or four touches to reach somebody, then it moved to five and now I think it's up to seven touches and you have to do it differently. So whether it's social media content, it's an email blast. And here's the hard part. The hard part is the actual visit, face to face, and phone call. I mean, developing those relationships personally beyond the digital media side. There's a couple of guys, a couple of people who have commented, I've gotten to know them personally, and, and so they know who I am, what I'm about, I know what they are, what they're about. So, it makes it easy for me to joke and joke she'll for them because I know what they're doing firsthand.
Ron: Speaking of which, I'm going to say mostly plug. If you aren't following One Firefly on Instagram, go to Instagram and look us up. Robert, do you follow One Firefly on Instagram? If not, you will now.
Robert: I do.
Ron: Well, here's the thing, I'm definitely on the older clientele. So you're not fine on Instagram or you're, you're not on. I actually, you know what, you know what I do. I'm not on Instagram, but I look at a lot of stuff. I mean, I, I have a voracious appetite See what's out there, is coming on hot on Instagram. If you think about the photography and the power of the image and the video from the amazing installs that our industry is doing every day, and the fact that the content is not only interesting to look at, but it's just, it's interesting to see the process from beginning to end. And it is my opinion. I'd love to hear the folks listening or watching live to hear their opinion, but I think Instagram is really a new frontier for our industry are like you, Robert, you've been around, you're not an active Instagrammer while what's happening is there's a whole generation of millennials that are, yup. And I'm not a millennial, unfortunately, I'm gen X, but, I'm, I was late to Instagram as well personally. And One Firefly was late. We only joined in September.
Robert: Well, here's the only thing for me, it's, it's not that I don't necessarily, I don't post on it, but I, I mean I searched through design, I through search, through install installations. I mean it follows some of these installers, but you know what, when they're likeminded, I'm looking through them, and I'm evaluated in, that brings up a good point. And you and I talked about this a number of months back and that, from a content perspective, I would urge, urge people to take professional photographs, hire a pro and, and if the cost is too much ask for partnership with, from your vendors. Don't answer that. The cost isn't too much. They just increase their marketing budget well and that, well, the reality is, I'm not talking about photos on the last install or leaving the facility, leaving the install after you commissioned it. You know the ladder close off. Oh, I gotta take some photos with my phone. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about having a photographer who knows lighting, I mean talk to your favorite realtor. I mean, let's face it, we all know realtor too. They take, they need to take photographs of the interior. Find a realtor that's a friend of yours that has great photos and grab that, grab that photog excuse me, that photographer and take some pictures. And it's funny.
Ron: I'm here now just dropping the names of integrators around the country here. There we go. Hottest rappers, right? I don't know what that means, Chris, but I'll post it. Why not? What do we got? Stealth Acoustics here throwing us some love. They said if you care about your clients' business at all and their website is iffy, do not hesitate to help your partner by sending them to One Firefly. Man, I love the guys at Stealth Acoustics, the guys and the girls. I love that whole team, that whole company. Yup.
Robert: So you bring up a good point though. I mean that's this industry. I always say it's like if, I don't know so much just because I haven't met him yet, I mean there's, I've been doing this for a long time. A lot of us have it. It's just, it's, it's fun. I mean, God forbid I actually had to get a job in some other business sector, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be as fun.
Ron: There's a reason I've been here 20 years and hopefully I'll be here another 20 years. God willing. But it's why leave? We get to play with toys all day and talk about toys and have fun.
Robert: I tell you, one of my, one of my favorite moments was actually at a business exchange. It was, it's a great success story integrator brought a client in and we were showing a high-end projector, high-end source, and a high-end screen. I'll leave the names out and there was a moment in time, on the sales process when you see the client's eyes roll back lays over the like, yeah, I'm done, right? I step in and I go, Hey, do you want to see something you haven't seen in quite some time unless you actually saw it in the theater? He's like, what? And I teed up, I teed up Lawrence of Arabia on a Kaleidescape. Okay, I'm given one a boy and aI teed it up and next thing you know is we're watching it for like 20 minutes. And it turns out that that he knows the industry. So he's pointing out the little things here and there that are just speaking to him and he then he turns to the integrator, Gus, I'll take it. And I'm literally like, you know his finger, I'll take it. And they integrate. It's like, what do you mean it goes, all three pieces were done. I mean literally we sold aI think it was $160,000 screen or a projector, $50,000 screen and a client escape all in one fell swoop. Just because we spent a little extra time showing somebody bill little different, right.
Ron: To that adage, customers at all levels buy with emotion and justify with facts. So if you strike that emotional chord in the right way, magic happens and you stop selling, take their money. Exactly. Robert, it was awesome having you on buddy. And congratulations on joining CEDIA. Congrats. I know the industry is thankful that you're there and I think you can do a lot of good and spreading the love and the good word and I'm happy for you. So how, how can everyone get in touch with you? What's the best way, if anyone wants to talk to you directly?
Ron: Alright, I'm going to throw that up on the screen. Oh, that's it. Bingo. Set. How to find you. All right. So if you got there and you want to learn more about CEDIA or you want a rave to Robert about how much you love CEDIA or if you have questions about value proposition, he's, he's your man.
Robert: I try. And I work for you.
Ron: That's literally, they had One Firefly's been a proud member of CEDIA for our 11 years in business. So very good. Very good. Day one. Robert, thanks for joining us on the show.
Robert: Thank you very much. Have a great week and enjoy yourselves.
Ron: Awesome. All right gang. There you have it. The one and only Robert Keeler industry veteran CEDIA advocate and frontman. And it was great to have him on the show. If you liked this content, again, please like and, or comment and if you feel so inclined, share this out to the world and it'll be greatly appreciated. So on that note, I will see you next time. And, thanks for joining me here on episode number 82 of automation unplugged. Thanks, guys.
An industry veteran with over 20 years of experience, Robert Keeler started in the car audio industry in retail and manufacturing and now "sells CEDIA" and ensures members see not only the value but take advantage of said value.
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 within the integrated technology and security space. The One Firefly team work hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution, Mercury Pro.
Resources and links from the interview:
- Highlights from the 2019 September CEDIA Expo
- Powerhouse Alliance Consumer Electronics and Power Supply Distributor Group
- Forbes Four Major Recession Indicators
If you’d like to contact Robert, he provided his email to reach out to him.