Marketing matters

Continuing our series of interviews with leading members of the professional audiovisual community, this month’s InAVator is Ray Phillpot - Chairman and Marketing Director of one of the UK’s most successful systems integration firms, Asysco.

Describe your role within Asysco

Although I'm Chairman and Marketing Director, the Chairman part is more of a board function than anything else. Day to day I'm extremely involved in the company's marketing and I came originally from a pure sales background. My father worked for 3M, and I grew up with 3M audiovisual systems from the age of 16 or so, and then came into the business myself – AV has just been in my blood.

I went into sales in Asysco, did that for a while, and have since done every job in the company almost – accounts, IT, and then ended up running the marketing, which is probably what I'm best at and what I like the most.

How do you go about marketing an integration firm?

One of my big focuses at this time is our website and driving leads at it. We're being very successful at that at the moment, and I think we are way out in front of our competition right now in the way we are marketing our website. We have hundreds and hundreds of Google adwords that drive traffic at our site. If you have a look at it, you'll notice that if you click on any of our sponsored search results in Google, you'll end up on a landing page rather than being dumped in the middle of the website just because one of the keywords you searched for happens to appear on that page.

This stops people from just entering the site randomly, finding it unhelpful and bouncing off again. We are getting, every single week, forty quality leads from our site. The other thing we do is make use of negative keywords too. That ensures that we can keep just professional traffic on the site and keep the unnecessary stuff off. If you search for vbrick, one of our key suppliers, on we will always appear in or around the top five.

What are Asysco's main markets, in your opinion?

We dominate in Finance, in Legal, and in Consultancy. The problem I find, from a marketing perspective, is that a lot of these companies just won't let you talk about what you've done, or take pictures, or mention their name. It’s difficult to make the most of our client list.

We've also done quite a lot of local government and central government projects under PFIs (private finance initiatives). The most recent one of those was the refurbishment of the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall.

We are rather geared around the work that comes through from consultants. So our relationship with them has been key as we have grown. Of course what happens is that at the end of the contractual period, is that the client becomes yours to look after. So what we've worked on developing for the last three or four years is our managed services business. The year we’re looking to hit four million pounds in that area.

We've a huge commitment now to after sales service and support, and we're launching a new section on our website, which we hope will help people to select us as their preferred supplier for support services.

We've also just instituted small works teams to operate under our managed services banner, purely because bringing the engineering team back in to snag or put in a small change, post installation is really hard to do. Especially once they are occupied on a new project.

That's reflected in the growth of the company we're now 125+ individuals, and that's excluding sub-contractors. Out of that I'd say only 12 or so are sales, and the rest are in Engineering. By engineering I mean everything from CAD operators to installers.

What do you think the biggest challenge has been for you guys in the last three to four years?

I think if you boil it down, the biggest thing is that we are now in the business of risk management. I think that's a side effect of AV as an industry growing up and having to play with the big boys now. We are treated in exactly the same way as any other main contractor would be. Everyone is looking to make their margin our of everyone else's slip up. I don't think that's down to anything other than business being done in a more contractual way these days.

What’s your view of things to come?

From my side, I'm very much about the future. We're doing very well today, but we need to make sure we make the most of now. The thing is that this market is going to explode over the next few years in terms of moving towards the whole networked community. Both enterprise wide and just generally. The whole .NET thing from Microsoft will change how both AMX and Crestron do control-wise. I cannot see proprietary software, with the way that the market is opening up, commanding the same prices as it does today.

Do you have any foreign plans, like some of your competitors?

We are working extensively overseas now, that's mainly on global contracts that we've won in the UK. It will be the service side of things that drive this international expansion for us. If we have to support customers overseas, we will want to do it with our own staff. So will you see Asysco offices abroad? Unequivocally yes. You'll see Asysco open a Scottish office within the next 12 months. I see us having a physical presence in North America at some point, and the other key area for us is the Far East. Over time, I would see us having a support office in that time zone there as well. It also depends on where opportunities arise. All of these plans depend on us having the business in place or the international customers that will bring us the business to support these offices.

What about your staff development and training?

I have been a big proponent of training. In the last six months I have put in excess of 60 plus people through the CTS scheme. For me it's been very important to do that, put staff through that as a benchmark. Any of my staff that are prepared to make the commitment go through that we will sponsor. I will actually post up their certificates on their staff profiles on our website.

For too long, companies in this industry, including our own, have been afraid to be put their staff up, and put their names out there for fear of poaching. But if you look after people, give them a good salary, train them and give them a career path, you can have a head-hunter on the phone everyday and they won't leave you. There will always be someone who's prepared to go elsewhere for an extra few grand, but if you look after people, they tend to look after you.

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