August 22, 2021
I wrote this piece for the Music & Sound Retailer back in January of 2020 and it is even more relevant today. And while we at IEMITO often focus on educating in-ear buyers, this article is geared toward the in-ear sellers. This is a must read for anyone who works in MI or Pro-Audio.
Would you Like In-Ears with That?
There’s a simple way to keep your customers coming back to the store: Introduce them to the world of in-ear monitoring. In-ear monitors are the most cost-effective and easiest way for any musician to take their performance to the next level. They are great for practicing and rehearsing, and they are a game-changer for live performances. And then there is the growth in the market, something that definitely can’t be ignored.
“The personal studio monitor/in-ear monitoring category in the United States has been growing at a double-digit five-year compound annual growth rate at Shure, and we expect it to continue growing at a similar rate in the future,” said Sean Bowman, director of retail sales, Shure. “This is a stable, growing market for a retailer to invest. Especially popular with touring and worship musicians, performers continue to value lower stage volume for cleaner mixes, individualizing their monitor mixes, hearing clearly from anywhere on the stage and sound isolation for hearing protection.”
Think of in-ears as something that can turbocharge any instrument. They enhance the sound and give the musician an uncanny ability to focus on pitch and tone. With this level of precision and concentration, major breakthroughs take place. Vocalists begin to play with their dynamics and range. Drummers start to pay attention to their ghost notes. Guitarists weave new harmonies. And bass players tighten up.
Hearing breeds confidence. Of course, hearing protection is a wonderful byproduct of using in-ear monitors. By sealing off the ear canal, inears passively block 26dB of ambient stage noise. They are like earplugs and headphones all rolled into one. So, with all these benefits — for every type of musician — why is your sales team still leaving money on the table by not actively upselling in-ear monitors with every instrument purchase?
I believe that the problem is twofold. Customers are aware of in-ear monitors, but always assume that they are only for top-touring pro acts. The standard line is “I’ll get them someday.” And MI sales professionals don’t have a simple script or process to follow when talking to customers about in-ears. That’s why I wrote this article. Tear it out and hang it in your sales office.
Start Small, Be Practical
At first glance, the in-ear ecosystem might seem overly complex. In-ear monitors come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges. And then there’s the delivery system — as in, what are you going to plug your in-ears into? You can quickly become overwhelmed with choices and suffer from decision paralysis. Let’s avoid this. Here’s how to bypass unnecessary complications.
When you are closing the instrument sale, ask what brand of in-ear monitors they’ll be using when they practice. Ask as if they already have a set at home; ask with that level of confidence and certainty. Then move right into talking about all the benefits noted above. As you’re talking, reach over for a set of Shure SE215s or Westone UM 10s. These are both industry standards and gateways for everything to come in the future.
Of course, there are also wonderful entry-level universal in-ears by Sennheiser, Mackie, Zildjian, Audio-Technica and many other trusted pro-audio brands — so if your customer shows a clear brand preference, make sure to take that into account. As you hand the box over to your customer, say, “When you’re not practicing or performing with these, they’ll be amazing headphones for your phone. You’ll hear details and nuances in your favorite songs like never before.”
While talking about this aspect of in-ears — enjoying them off stage — reach over for an economical proaudio headphone amp like the Behringer Powerplay 2 or the Rolls PM50S Personal Monitor Amp. Let your customer know that these bodypacks will help get them started using in-ears and that, sooner or later, they’ll want to make some upgrades, but that these will get them up and running.
Get Information and Follow Up
Because of the personal nature of in-ear monitors, this sale naturally allows for a deeper relationship to develop. Take advantage of that. Make sure that you get your customer’s contact information and set a reminder to check in with them in three weeks after the initial purchase and then six months after that. On the first touchpoint, simply make sure that they are happy and that they are loving their new in-ear monitor setup. Field any new questions that they have now that they’re more familiar with how everything works together.
On the second call, talk about the freedom that comes from being untethered and suggest that it’s time to discuss wireless solutions. Shure and Sennheiser both lead the industry for their wireless RF transmitter and receiver systems, but there are also plenty of UHF systems that can meet your customer’s needs. Don’t forget about better hardwired body packs for drummers and keyboardists.
Either way, these are great conversations to have, and this level of personal attention will get your customer back into the store.
No Inventory, Pure Margin
Over time, some of your customers will demand more oomph and horsepower from their inears. These musicians are perfect candidates for custom in-ear monitors. Since they’re already familiar with the benefits and already have a wired or wireless solution in place, this is a gravy sale. Plus, custom monitors are made to order, so there’s no inventory to carry and you’ll collect the money upfront. There are zero costs involved. It just takes a little planning and relationship building.
Here’s how to offer custom in-ear monitors in your MI store. Call three to five of the top custom in-ear manufacturers. Tell them that this isn’t your primary focus and that you won’t have many sales, but that when someone wants to upgrade to customs, you’d like to broker the transaction. Negotiate the margin structure and get a contact person from the company to help when the time is right. Log your notes from the conversation and enter the appropriate information into your point-of-sale system as a special order.
When it’s time to place the custom order, make sure that you have the finished product shipped directly to the store for pickup. This gets your customer in the store and on your floor yet again. The final piece of the puzzle is to find a local audiologist near your store. (You need an audiologist to take impressions of the customer’s ears so that the manufacturer can build something that fits them perfectly.) Speak with the audiologist ahead of time and negotiate a rate for custom ear impressions. This is a very normal task for audiologists, and it’s all part of the process of building custom in-ears.
By focusing on boosting your customer’s engagement and enjoyment through additional sales of in-ear monitors, you get to deepen your relationship with your customer, you get them in the store many more times and you tap into an entirely new revenue opportunity.