Internet of Things (IoT) used to be a niche product for technical geeks. With Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple’s Homekit, these products are moving mainstream. Your clients hear about this stuff every day. If you get ahead of the curve, you can position yourself as the local expert at a handsome rate.
What Is Internet of Things?
Much like “the cloud,” the definition of IoT varies by context and application. Here is the way I like to define it:
“Non-traditional networked devices that interact with the physical world in some way.”
I admit that’s a pretty broad definition, but we have to start somewhere. Amazon’s Echo is the most widely advertised product in this category. A client might buy it, but not use it for much more than asking a few questions and playing music. That’s like using a smartphone just to make phone calls! You’re missing out on some amazing features.
Other products your clients could or should be asking about include smart light bulbs, thermostats, cameras, alarms, and electrical switches. Many ISPs, alarm companies and even insurance companies are selling home automation packages. They may not call it IoT, but that’s probably what it is.
Things like lamp timers and motion sensors have been around a long time. They just haven’t been connected to the internet and interact like they do today. Consumers would have to buy expensive proprietary systems to have this stuff. They’d either hire a specialized company for the work, or they’d be technical enough to do it themselves.
As IoT has moved down to the end-user level, that shift creates a great opportunity for computer repair firms.
Why Clients Need Your Help With IoT
Just like they might need help setting up a computer or wireless router, clients should be calling you with IoT stuff. We all cringe when our clients have wireless networks without a password and an SSID of linksys. They don’t always know they need our help. After all, isn’t this stuff supposed to be easy to setup?
Ideally, they’ll call you before they even open up the box of the IoT stuff. In reality, they’ll contact you after a breach or hearing about a breach in the news. Improperly configured devices lead to privacy breaches, security risks, and even ransomware. Your clients should be relying on you to secure that wireless thermostat, not an HVAC company.
Just like a wireless router, IoT devices need security and firmware updates to prevent breaches. Good passwords need to be setup to prevent hackers from peeking into their home or turning on the AC in the winter. That’s why you need to educate your clients and proactively let them know you’re an IoT expert.
After you apply good security practices to your client’s IoT devices, you can earn additional revenue in teaching them how IoT devices work together. For example, if a client has a Nest thermostat, I’ll tell them the value of using the Amazon Echo to control it. If they have an Amazon Echo, it’s time to suggest a Belkin WeMo so they can turn on and off lights with a voice command.
They need you to teach them what’s cool, slick, and easy. You probably do this when they get a new computer, printer or smartphone. You want your clients to get the most value out of their purchase and upsell your services along with that tutoring. Clients don’t know what they need until you tell them.
Prospecting and Up Selling Clients on IoT
Your clients probably already see ads for IoT, but don’t know the value. While it looks cool on TV, how can it help your client in everyday life? That’s where you’ll need to start selling to the client.
The easy sell is usually a thermostat, with the Nest being the device everyone’s heard about. Before our Nest, we had a programmable thermostat, but never really took advantage of the programming. Sure, we could save hundreds of dollars each season, but even as a computer repair tech, it was too much of a pain for me. I’m too busy fixing computers to figure out when the heat should come on during the winter. I’m lazy just like everyone else. That’s why we have technology, to make us more efficient.
Weather is a common topic in small talk. When you’re chatting with a client in their home or your shop, we all like to complain about it being too hot or too cold. If you live in the parts of the country with steady even weather I envy you. For the rest of us, our bills go up as the seasons change. That’s when you mention the financial savings of a thermostat that learns your habits and doesn’t heat or cool and empty house.
That’s why I’m partnering with HVAC installers to support IoT thermostats after the sale. The HVAC people don’t want to deal with setting up a wireless router or firmware updates. That’s where my services come in and I don’t even have to sell or install the thermostat. The HVAC company does all the selling; I just do the IT support.
Another easy sale is programmable outlets like Belkin’s WeMo. When clients go on vacation, they’re concerned with home security. They might have some of those old-fashioned timers that turn on the lights on a regular schedule. Just like thermostats, programming these are a pain. They can’t be remote controlled either. If the client forgets to program the light switch before leaving town, they’re out of luck. When you hear a client mentioning an upcoming vacation, that’s the time to teach them about IoT adapters.
Even if you don’t make that initial sale, you’ve planted the idea in their mind you’re the person that knows about this stuff. When the see ads for IoT devices, it reminds them of the value of putting that into their home or business. They’ll also remember you’re the person to ask about this stuff to make sure it is safe and secure.
Educating Yourself and Your Customers
If you want to start adding this revenue to your computer repair business, you’ll need to install IoT devices yourself. For the price of one or two service calls, you can add some switches or a thermostat to your home. You don’t need any home improvement skills to install most of this stuff. If you can screw in a light bulb or plug in a surge protector, you can install IoT stuff. The things you’ll find easy is the stuff the clients find hard: securing devices, connecting them to wifi and installing updates.
Through my social media outlets, newsletters, blog and website, I let clients know some of the fun success stories with IoT. For example, I love talking about dogs. When I’m in a client’s home, I’ll chat with them about their dog. Then I’ll show my adorable beagle through a webcam. If the client is a dog lover, they’ll embrace being able to check up on the little one when they’re away from home. It’s your choice whether you want to sell the hardware, but you can surely sell the installation and configuration. If they object to an internet-enabled camera due to security concerns, that’s when you mention your expertise at securing this stuff.
The more you support IoT, the more you’ll want to buy. Not only will it be fun to have this stuff in your home, but you’ll continue educating yourself. I have a space heater in my home office, but I’m always worried about leaving it on and burning down the house. It’s true! Well, now I have an IoT-connected space heater. If I’m worried, I pull out my smartphone and turn it off.
Closing the Sale
If you’re always on the lookout for potential IoT customers, closing the deal should be easy. Other companies are selling customers on the devices and the everyday value. After you let clients know you’re an expert and a user of IoT, you’ll be the logical person for setup and ongoing support.
Once you get up to speed on IoT, you’ll expand your marketable skills and get a head start on your competition in this emerging market. This area is an excellent opportunity for revenue as other areas of the computer repair business seem to be drying up.
What has been your experience with supporting IoT devices? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.