Datapath’s US director doubles down on service in successful sales recipe
This article first appeared in System Contractor News in the USA, January 2023.
With new offices, a new demonstration suite for its multi-award-winning solution and a 200%+ growth in support staff across the US, Datapath has shown strong resilience to the industry pressures of recent years. We speak to Mark Bohs, Director of Sales (Americas) about the secret of their success.
It was a bold move for Datapath in 2018, when it was decided that they would bypass the tried and trusted model of distribution sales to launch ‘Project Direct’ – allowing them to identify opportunities and sell to customers directly in both North and South America.
Mark Bohs, Datapath’s director of sales across the continent, oversaw the change in approach to market, which now sees Datapath North America as the company’s most prolific division by unit sales.
Looking back on the success of the past five years, Bohs blows out his cheeks as he reflects on the success: “We have more than doubled our staff and have gone from one technical support person to five, with more expected in the near future.”
“We have a dedicated training team as well as two pre-sales engineers and a full-time system builder.”
The growing team, which now covers every state (excluding Hawaii and Alaska) coincides with an expanding portfolio of video processing solutions in both hardware and software form. Well known for their video processors, controllers, management software and capture and graphics cards, the company have recently swept up numerous industry awards for their Aetria solution, which provides control of multi-source, multi-end point video from a single interface.
With the ability to help design full systems from scratch, as well as the control, management and monitoring of complex systems, Aetria can be a challenge to fully explain – even in virtual training sessions. After seeing the benefits of ‘hands on’ demonstrations at trade shows and, more recently, Datapath’s series of roadshows across the USA, Datapath North America’s new Pennsylvania offices now have one of the most comprehensive video management demonstration suites in the country. Built in conjunction with Planar, the offices boast 12 video walls – with all being direct view LED apart from a singular 3×1 display. The direct view LED video walls allows operators to get the best out of Aetria’s capabilities, as users can create their own templates and do not require ‘hard’ borders or bezels of any kind.
Planar have also installed their own Datapath demo facility in their offices in Provedence, Rhode Island, fully equipped with Aetria hardware and software, along with demo suites in Washington DC and Southern Florida, with the West Coast next to benefit from a ‘hands-on’ Aetria experience.
As well as an ever-increasing portfolio of hardware and software, ranging from capture cards to full solutions for complex control room video management, the growth of Datapath in the United States has also been due to the increased offering of commissioning and additional services – something Bohs can take considerable credit for.
Bohs and his team were the first to initiate a full commissioning service to Datapath customers, allowing SIs and end users to utilize Datapath engineers pre and post installation. This literal ‘right by your side’ service has been extremely well received across Datapath’s target markets across the Americas – so much so that commissioning has now been successfully utilized across Datapath’s global divisions from Europe to the Far East.
“We aim to fully support our customers, and we’ve proved to be really good at it,” adds Bohs. “The commissioning service has been a big hit, in both North and South America. People want the service. During the pandemic, we had 30-40 commissioning backlogs because we couldn’t get on site. Obviously, this was the same for all elements of the install, so the delay was part of a bigger picture.”
The initiative of additional support was born from a conversation several years ago, when Bohs , along with Datapath’s Director of Customer and Technical Support – Dave Spence – were discussing ways to ensure customers had full support at every stage of an install, and beyond.
He explains: “Five years ago, we talked about how we could improve things – we can’t just sell a system and ‘leave it out there’. Most of our large projects require a degree of bespoke personalization with differing requirements for processing power, outputs and the necessary capture and graphics cards. That is how our full commissioning service was born. Selling services is now a big part of our offering and now that we have the personnel, we are able to get more projects progressed and it continues to grow.”
Bohs adds: “This service is used by many of our SIs here in the US. Even some of the larger ones such as AVI-SPL and Diversified are more than happy for us to support with our commissioning service if it’s something they do not need to do. We are always mindful of Integrators’ needs and we don’t want to encroach where their value-added sales are, but our service is there if required.”
Covid concerns of yesteryear did, and to some extent still do, impact supply chains across the industry, but Bohs is steadfast in conveying Datapath’s position: “I am comfortable in saying that, if there is a supply issue with a project, it will not be down to Datapath. We are usually a component in a much larger project and, obviously we have seen some frustrating delays at certain parts of an install.”
“I have been on the road with my team for the past eight weeks for the Datapath US roadshows and I’ve spoken to a lot of people. Some of the things I’m hearing is that engineers are going back and redesigning things because they need to get these projects off the books. People are now looking at new solutions, new manufacturers and new ways of doing things in order to overcome issues.”
So what of the future? The post-pandemic period is seeing a realization of new processes and the Pro AV market is no different. “AV over IP is discussed in more opportunities,” says Bohs. “We are seeing KVM over IP being requested as well, specifically in the control room and NOC environments that we are going after.”
Bohs concludes: “In the digital signage space, direct view LED is now taking over and being pushed a lot but has not fully embraced AVoIP, yet. In stark contrast, In Sportsbooks and similar environments, AVoIP has been a game changer. Having any content, anywhere in any size makes things a lot easier for these type of customers and that is, essentially what Datapath is about – making things easier for our customers and our customers’ customers.”