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Creating a Winning Strategy for Smart Lighting Control

  • 01.10.18
  • ::
  • By Erik Davidson

Cortet Blog | Strategy For Success

Welcome to my next post in an ongoing series focused on helping you build a successful Smart Lighting Control strategy.

This post is primarily for our readers from luminaire and lamp manufacturers who have decided the time is right for adding Smart Lighting Controls, or SLC (also called Networked Lighting Controls, or NLC) to their product portfolio and are now looking for the best way to get started.

If that's you, read on for our step-by-step recommendations on how to begin creating a strategy that has the highest chance of success from the start.


Step 1: Evaluate Your Current Strengths

You’ll be tempted to jump directly into defining your product mix and go-to-market plan, but taking the time to do some foundational work in advance gives you a much higher chance of success at launch.

Start by clearly identifying your company's and/or your team’s current strengths and competitive advantages in the market. Perhaps you lead in brand value for a certain customer group. Maybe you are the hard-fought channel leader in a particular geographic area. Perhaps you dominate the market with one of your specific product lines, or you have unmatched design, manufacturing, or distribution capabilities.

Understanding what your company is uniquely good at and what gives you an advantage is going to inform your entry point into the Smart Lighting Control market; it’s going to inform what you build, buy, or partner to get; and it’s going to inform your long-term path to success.

Step 2: Target an Entry Point Where You’re Already Winning

Begin creating a list of market segments (e.g. education, retail, hospitality, etc.) where you think you’re having the biggest, most positive impact — essentially, where you’re already winning.

Start by examining who buys your lighting products today and categorize these customers into groups that share a common set of problems or needs.

Further refine this list by highlighting the market segments that are currently generating the highest total contributing margins to your company’s top line. These could be your larger, higher-volume, but perhaps lower-margin segments. Or, they could also be your highly focused niche segments, with small-volume but high-margin percentage.

Work on focusing your list down to what you believe is currently your single strongest segment based on a mix of your strengths (where you have the strongest competitive advantage and where your distinctive competencies are a good match) and margin contribution (where you’re already making the most profit).

This is your entry point: the segment you’ll target with your first Smart Lighting Control offering.

Step 3: Define and Solve Clear Problems for Your Target Segment

Next, do further research on your entry-point segment to discover the biggest challenges customers are facing there.

Note that it's very important to get out of your office and start spending a lot of time with your customers during this phase. Developing and selling Smart Lighting Controls is very different than developing and selling luminaires and lamps. Customers have different problems, and different links in the value chain touch the problems.

Define the top problems as specifically as you can, then work on prioritizing the list based on which you can solve most effectively with a Smart Lighting Control solution.

The more clearly you define and understand the problem(s) you're solving, the better your chances of creating a strategy, portfolio, and roadmap that will be differentiated and that adds superior value.

Step 4: Begin Laying Out Your SLC-Based Product Mix

Analyze your current portfolio and identify what products you already have that can ideally solve the problems you've prioritized when implemented with Smart Lighting Controls. This is a preliminary evaluation and will be the first step in determining what you’ll need to build, buy or partner for — more on that later.

Since this may be the first time you’re carefully considering what is required for a complete Smart Lighting Control solution, we’ve listed below the technology and product categories you will need (at the very least) to create a competitive offering.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO GET STARTED IN SLC

1. Accessory control devices with well-engineered, thoroughly-tested embedded control software on board.

Accessories include things such as:

  • In-wall switches and dimmers
  • Motion and occupancy sensors
  • Ambient light sensors
  • Devices to control receptacles

If these accessories are wirelessly controlled (ideal for many modern use cases and for retrofits), the accessories must also include RF-optimized wireless hardware with strong embedded wireless firmware. 

2. Devices to connect luminaires (or lamps) to the control network with well-engineered, thoroughly-tested embedded control software on board.

Devices to control lights may include:

  • Control-enabled LED drivers
  • Dimmable control adapters for luminaires
  • Wirelessly-enabled lamps
  • Wireless modules embedded into luminaires for control

Again, if these devices are wirelessly controlled, they must contain RF-optimized wireless hardware with strong embedded wireless firmware.

3. A User Interface (UI) application such as a modern mobile app (Android/iOS) with a strong User Experience (UX). 

The UI/UX should be aimed at:

  • Solving market problems simply
  • Simplifying the installation experience for installers
  • Simplifying the usage experience for end market users
  • Prioritizing on-premises, local control while allowing for offsite, remote control

4. Lighting controllers (or gateways) for secure, centralized network coordination and control of all networked devices (lights, switches/dimmers, sensors, etc.), all connected UI applications (local and remote), and cloud software for remote access.

5. Lighting controllers (or gateways) for secure, centralized network coordination and control of all networked devices (lights, switches/dimmers, sensors, etc.), all connected UI applications (local and remote), and cloud software for remote access.

6. A secure cloud for remote access via offsite UI applications, remote maintenance, and over-the-air (OTA) upgrade capabilities for networked devices.

7. Documentation and training materials to enable installers.

8. Strong controls support.

You’ll want to aim all of the above elements of your Smart Lighting Control offering squarely at solving the specific market problems you identified for your selected market segment.

Step 5: Determine Your Internal Capabilities and Identify Gaps

Once you’ve completed your preliminary evaluation of your product mix, it’s time to do a formal analysis to determine if you have the necessary internal competencies to successfully build your final product portfolio and go-to-market requirements.

Start by evaluating your current R&D capabilities. Quantify your R&D budget, catalogue your R&D team’s competencies, identify your areas of weakness, and determine necessary budget adjustments.

Next, evaluate your manufacturing capabilities.  Clearly determine your production capacity and whether you need to add capacity and/or infrastructure to effectively produce and distribute controls-based components and products.

Then, evaluate your geographic channel access and sales team. Where and to whom can you currently sell your system? How quickly can you ramp sales?

For Next Time: Build, Buy or Partner?

Congratulations! You’ve identified your starting target market segment, clearly defined the segment problem(s) you intend to solve, and carefully evaluated how you can apply your current products and internal competencies to address the opportunity.

Now it’s time to finalize your product portfolio strategy and determine whether it will be best to fill any identified gaps by building them yourself, buying them outright, or partnering to make it happen.

Likely it will be some combination of all three, and I’ll help you decide by detailing what we see as the pros and cons of each in my next post. Until then, be sure to subscribe to our email alerts and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook so you don't miss a thing.

See you there.


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