Picking up where we last left off… Dan Laufman was ready to sell Emotiva-branded product like the DMC-1 pre/pro early in the company’s history. The market, however, was not quite ready for him, or more specifically, his plan to sell high-end audio gear on the internet in its wild-west early days.
Not that he didn’t know how to sell product. As a now-seasoned audio industry veteran, Dan had experience on the sales floor and selling OEM to leading companies. It’s just that no major high-end audio players had yet carved a path to selling on the web.
“When we were ready to start selling products in earnest, it became crystal clear that we had a lot to learn about doing so on the web,” says Dan. “Our bank wasn’t equipped to do online banking, but a forward-thinking representative was eager to work with us, if only to further his education on the subject.”
With the help of the bank representative and all the information they could put their hands on, Dan and Cathy learned about the nascent world of internet sales from the ground up.
“We filled out banking forms, guessed at how much sales volume we’d need to support, set up a monthly operating line, all by the seat of our pants,” says Dan. “It was at this point that we came to grips with the need to create a website that truly represented the brand and made it easy for customers to find and buy our gear without concern about whether we’d stand behind it or not.”
Like the company itself, Dan and Cathy created the website from scratch, again relying on input from friends and examples set by other, non-competitive brands that were beginning to make headway online.
“Today, it’s no novelty to sell audio products online, but in 2007, we went mostly on instinct,” says Dan. “To be honest, Cathy gets the credit for crunching the numbers and keeping on eye on the bottom line. It was my job to create products, web content, and find someone in who was capable of bringing our online presence to life.”
A local photographer who just happened to take their family portrait was enlisted to photograph products in the living room of his home… with bed sheets for backdrops! He also knew a guy who had made some simple websites for some of his beauty clients, so Cathy and Dan hired him to help out. Dan and the boys got to work on the site while Cathy worked out the banking and credit card processing details and interacted with customers to ensure that our nascent business ran smoothly, and that company did its best to stay in the black.
Says Dan: “Cathy would speak to customers who were interested in our products and convey to them that their satisfaction was our ultimate goal and the cornerstone of our business model. Even before we were properly set up to process credit cards, she told potential clients that we would ship them the gear upfront, at no charge. If they liked it, then they could send us a check. This was all done on trust; we didn’t have any real recourse if they decided not to pay us. If it didn’t meet their expectations, they could return the product within 30 days, no questions asked. No one ever took advantage of us. We were paid for everything we sent. 100%! Can you imagine that? We realized then that we had something special going on and it made us understand that our customers were anxious for us to succeed and had become part of our extend company family.”
With a groundbreaking consumer-friendly, mutually trusting business policy in place, Emotiva sales took off in a manner that was entirely unexpected. People pulled for the brand more than anyone at the company could have predicted. And we treated them like they were important to us… because they are!
“Emotiva met a need in the market, and with it came a sense of community and enduring sense of mutual loyalty between us and our customers. While others in the business saw consumers as a nothing more than a dollar sign and a credit card number, our personal relationship with our growing fan base was new to the business, and we knew we had to nurture it if we were to grow.”
One of the most important forums for communication between Emotiva and its customers was and remains our forum: The Emotiva Lounge. This is where any and all subjects regarding the brand, audio, products, recordings, life, and more are discussed under the auspices of the Emotiva brand and family. We’ll dive deep into the inspiration and legacy of the Lounge in part five.