The Sound of Success
Five Things to Look for in a Brand Partner in 2021. Stay-at-home orders during pandemic continue to spell opportunity
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BY FRANK STERNS
Frank Sterns is the President of Definitive Technology and Polk Audio at Sound United and is charged with accelerating each brand’s growth globally. Prior to his role at Sound United, Sterns served as Vice President, A/V Specialty/Custom Integration at Sony Electronics, where he spearheaded Sony’s growth in the custom integration channel by calling upon his many years of experience in the category and his great relationships with channel leaders.
I got into this business because I love music and music reproduction, especially loudspeakers. However, in my 30 years dedicated to CI and premium channels, I’ve actually found that building lasting relationships has been one of the most rewarding and integral parts of bringing joy to the world through sound. After all, the most innovative, high-performance products from iconic audio brands like Denon, Marantz, Polk Audio, Classé, Definitive Technology and Bowers and Wilkins can’t sell themselves without knowledgeable, dedicated individuals to make it happen. Given the undeniable shift to a lifestyle centered around being at home more, for better or for worse, I believe 2021 will prove to be another very strong year for our industry. There are new opportunities for us to educate a broader swath of consumers on the joys a great home entertainment system brings… even in the midst of a pandemic!
Brand Recognition Ask yourself, “Am I working with a brand that resonates with my customers?” Instead of doing all the work of pioneering a brand your customers may not know or trust, invest in heritage brands and strong brand identities that make your selling life easier. Look for a brand with a solid reputation and a long history of innovation. Also, keep an eye out for brands that offer products that provide solutions as well as brand identity. This also includes brands that leverage their digital presence to educate customers on the importance of working with an authorized dealer.

Manufacturers should be judged by their ability to provide a full suite of great products that are competitively priced and offer superb value to consumers and strong profits to dealers.
Accessible, Passionate Leadership Relationships are crucial in our industry. How accessible is your brand partner’s leadership? How enjoyable will it be to do business with this brand day in and day out? It should be clear that your partner’s contact team consists of people who are passionate about the products they sell and the work they do every day. Work with companies that care about their brands, their dealers, their customers and their products, and who you can rely on to take your call or answer your email, should issues arise.
Training & Tech Support Dealers should look for manufacturers who invest in and understand the importance of training. The brands you want to partner with in 2021 should be able to do two things extremely well. Firstly, they must be able to teach your staff how to seamlessly use their products in projects. Secondly – and maybe more importantly, they must be able to teach your staff how to sell products to your customers. On a related note, brands should also offer dealers easily accessible technical support, especially for more complex products, like AVRs and processors. The best training teams today offer an array of content across social media, in-house courses and remote learning opportunities, including YouTube.
Product Assortment and Profitability Manufacturers should be judged by their ability to provide a full suite of great products that are competitively priced and offer superb value to consumers and strong profits to dealers. It’s important to understand firsthand the value of a complete and up-to-date product assortment and to leverage size and scale in manufacturing, engineering, and supply chain to deliver for your dealers and end-user customers. Innovation, coupled with world-class support, takes scale. Look for partners that have the muscle to deliver on your behalf.
Product Performance, Reliability and Value The success of any partnership starts with a reliable, high-performance product that you, as a consumer, would want to own yourself. That way, you can feel great about selling it to your clients. Ultimately, your reputation depends on the reliability of the products you sell and install, so carefully choose manufacturers with the skill and scale to build consistently high-quality products every time, and back them with service and support. In our world, a product’s value can extend even beyond its functional quality, offering customers pride of ownership, the feeling of being part of a community, and a deeper connection with music and entertainment. Find a manufacturer who checks all of these boxes, and you’ll reap the rewards.
With customer interest in at-home entertainment on the rise this past year, dealers should expect and demand only the best from brand partners and simply continue to pursue their mission of bringing joy to the world through sound. Healthy dealer partnerships will remain a key component of that success story.
What will your 2021 success story sound like?