GE Home Tech Bows Builder Program with Bose, Interlogix, Klipsch, Legrand

By Julie Jacobson

The Authorized Integrators Network, or AIN Group — also known as GE Home Technologies (GEHT) — has announced a homebuilder program to offer security, structured wiring, central vacuum systems, surround sound and whole-house audio to builders nationwide.

AIN/GEHT is a network of about 200 top security companies – primarily high-volume providers—in the U.S., including Guardian Protection Services and dozens of dealers in the CE Pro 100. Some 370 dealer members convened this week in Tampa for the annual AIN conference, sharing best practices, learning about recurring revenues, and networking with 36 vendor partners.

The new GE Home Technologies National Builder Program launches this quarter with Bose (speakers), Klipsch (speakers), Legrand (OnQ structured wiring, multiroom audio, communications), Interlogix (security) and Dirt Devil (central vacuum) as the main kickoff partners.

The GE designation dates back over a decade, when GE Security (formerly Interlogix, nee ITI) teamed with a couple of other home technology vendors to create a network of low-voltage dealers that installed security and home entertainment solutions. Although UTC acquired GE Security in 2009 and eventually reverted to the original Interlogix security brand, the AIN Group was grandfathered into the deal and is able to continue using the GEHT moniker and iconic GE “meatball” logo.

“If you mention ‘General Electric’ to builders, the brand opens doors,” says AIN SVP/Midwest Larry Wright.

AIN also believes doors will open because of the appeal of a national network of low-voltage installers that covers about 90 percent of the country.

“We have a national footprint of bonded, licensed and insured dealers,” says Todd Girdis, AIN director of business development.

No matter where in the U.S. a builder does business, it can standardize on products and services across the board, with predictable outcomes, according to AIN.

The group aims to seal national contracts with the top 22 builders in the U.S., representing over 100,000 new homes per year.

Can they pull it off? It would be a first.

The Challenge of National Builder Programs

Virtually every attempt at national builder programs for security and other home technologies has failed over the past two decades, given that homebuilding is a highly localized business, with regional offices establishing their own relationships with local providers … despite mandates from the corporate office.

But AIN thinks it can sign builders to national programs because of its strong dealer network and a national standard for products, pricing and level of service.Authorized Integrators Network’s (AIN) Larry Wright presents builder program at AIN conference.

The vendors involved in the program have all agreed to generous allowances for model homes, as well as friends-and-family discounts for builder employees. Dealers agree to certain services such as a one-hour training session for each home buyer upon move-in. Both vendors and installers agree to other provisions such as a one-year warranty on parts and labor.

In selling the program to builders — AIN plans to target them through trade shows and digital marketing — the organization will offer simple good/better/best packages, except in the two critical categories of security and structured wiring, which will be offered as standard, with add-on options.

“Keeping it simple is much better in this scenario,” says Wright.

He notes he was “shocked” to learn that Bose last year sold more than $5 million of product through its builder program by offering only three options.

For its part, although Bose does have a national builder program, the speaker company acknowledges that the sales process is mostly driven at the local level by Bose dealers who have relationships with builders in their markets.

Even so, builders such as Toll Brothers, which consistently specs Bose products in its homes throughout the U.S., value name-brand options and consistent packages and pricing.

The builder promotes Bose on its Web site, alongside brands such as Kohler faucets, Andersen windows, Corian countertops and Viking appliances.

Toll Brothers notes:

As the nation’s leading builder of luxury homes, we have the power and the range to offer you the best brand-name products in the industry. Because of this, our homes are appointed with the highest-quality elements – including plumbing fixtures (for example, we’re the only national home builder offering all Kohler made plumbing fixtures and faucets), appliances, flooring, cabinetry, and much, much more. Because we are able to partner with only the most stellar companies, and because of our national purchasing power, these features add even greater value to your Toll Brothers home.

While AIN and some of its builder program partners such as Legrand and Interlogix are not household names, the group thinks “GE Home Technologies” will resonate with consumers.

In addition, Wright suggests builders might use their own branding around a complete AIN-inspired home technology offering to gain national attention for their tech savviness.

“Builders might want to do national advertising like they do with Kohler,” Wright says.

Dealer Response to Builder Program

Dealers at the AIN conference applauded the builder initiative. They pay a fee to participate in the program, which covers outreach programs, literature and access to builders that sign on.

AIN dealer Jeff Davies, GM of the Digital Home Division of Beutler Corp. in McClellan, Calif., says he’ll definitely sign up for the program.

He says Beutler, which does a large volume of HVAC business, already works with builders to prewire their new homes for security and entertainment; however, when it comes to getting the attachment sales – including security and recurring revenue – the home buyers often got with other installers like ADT that have enormous marketing budgets.

He thinks the AIN program, which requires builders to give installers access to all participating home buyers, will help Beutler close more sales.

Other AIN dealers, who already have spent years building relationships with local chapters of national homebuilders, are unsure of the value to them.

Privately they tell CE Pro, SSI‘s sister publication, they already feel secure with their relationships and might not benefit from any national deals that AIN might secure. But they also noted that the model home program, which includes the flagship builder brands as well as AIN vendors and Linear, are more generous than they typically can negotiate on their own. Those discounts alone might be worth the price of admission.

Of the 100,000 new homes built last year by the top 22 builders, more than half of them employed AIN dealers for low-voltage syste
ms, according to AIN.

Now the organization will work to grab the remainder of the homes and boost “sales per rooftop.”

Julie Jacobson is Editor-at-large for CE Promagazine. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.

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