As I mentioned in my blog entry about the First Alert Professional Conference, I recently conducted a roundtable with four of the most experienced and respected CEOs from some of the installation community’s most successful companies. The two-hour discourse included John Bourque of Cranston, R.I.-based HB Alarm; Joe Hassan of Certified Security Systems in Jacksonville, Fla.; John Jennings of Safeguard Security and Communications in Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Joe Nuccio of ASG Security in Beltsville, Md.
Unlike many so-called roundtables that are actually individual interviews often haphazardly cobbled together, this material was generated organically directly from a lively, fully interactive session in which the state of the industry was hotly debated and assessed. Although much of the discussion will be available in the January issue of SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION, with bonus content in the online version, the sheer volume of fascinating and incisive comments expressed during this marathon session demand an additional outlet. That outlet is Under Surveillance, and this is the first of several exclusive postings stemming from this summit of industry leaders.
This installment focuses on marketing in today’s challenging economic environment. The panelists knock around which marketing mediums and service offerings are the most viable.
(l-r) John Jennings, Joe Nuccio, Joe Hassan and John Bourque
What marketing methods have you found work well with new and existing customers?
John Bourque: Our best marketing venue we found is talk radio. We find that the market we’re looking for, the demographics, fits perfectly into talk radio. Basically, people around this table, white males, 40-65 years old, who either own their own or investment properties, and they listen to talk radio more and more. We have a very good talk radio station. We have one station, there are multiple stations, but we have one station that’s dominant in the marketplace and we’ve taken one of the personalities on that and made him our spokesperson.
Joe Hassan: We saw the slowdown coming. The good thing about new construction is you can see it coming because of the number of customers you see in the design center, so it wasn’t a surprise. Obviously, that pipeline was eventually going to catch up. So for existing customers, we sent a simple postcard to our entire commercial customer base that was well done; a guy sitting at the beach with a laptop and it said, ‘Watch your home from your business or your business from your home.” We stayed busy for a few months selling remote video services off that. Most of us have these acres of diamonds that we tend to overlook because we think, ‘Well, they’re getting security from us and that’s all they ever want.’ Your average customer probably doesn’t really understand all you have to offer because the sales representative probably went there, found out what the expectation was that day, hopefully filled that, went back, installed it and that was it until we send them a bill. It’s not fun because the only time they hear from us is when they have a siren blaring and they just set their alarm off.
Remote video has almost become like selling entertainment services. I think it’s a great benefit to us — we kind of got the benefit of the phone in the house for years. Now we’re getting the benefit of the Internet connection, which almost every home and business has, and they’re paying, in some cases, upwards of $100 a month for and we tell them, ‘All we need to do is get your IP address and we can link you up.’ The first question is always going to be, ‘How much is it going to cost me to be able to do that?’ You say, ‘Well, that part is already covered, but let me tell you about our maintenance plan so you basically never have to worry about paying for this again.’
Eighty percent of the surveillance systems we sell from four-channel on up have some form of a maintenance agreement with them. That’s a big part of our program, because once again, we’re always focused on that, that stellar growth on our RMR side. And people are willing to pay for that, because it’s no different from a printer or computer or anything else. It’s a network-driven animal and if you need technical support, and that’s included as part of it. And if you have trouble logging on remotely and you need help, there is an advance replacement program on the equipment so your business never goes two or three weeks without protection or being able to capture something.
I think in the past, it’s been, well, you make a good margin, works great. Because of the interactivity of remote viewing, and people seeing that as a service they get everyday even though they’re paying for it with the Internet, they’re more willing to give you some monthly income because you’re giving them something they can use day in, day out vs. an alarm system that just sits there. They’ve probably been looking at their alarm bill every month and going, ‘Wow, I pay this much and I never have a break-in; is this really something I need?’ The interactivity creates stickiness and I think it’s a very solid way to grow.
John Jennings: If they don’t get that type of service from you, they’re probably going to get it from your competitor. The worst call you can get is, ‘I didn’t know you did that.’ Then they cancel service and say, ‘Well, I wish I had known. I put in a new camera system and I don’t even need it anymore.’ And you’re going, ‘Oh, my God, what am I doing as far as marketing is concerned?’ I think that comes back to Joe’s point, if you’re not out marketing it consistently then we’re not trying to raise the level of what people spend with us. If new customers aren’t coming in the door as fast, you’ve got to go back and remind the exiting clientele to get them paying you more money for services you can provide. And that’s really where our whole focus has been this past year, going back to our existing clientele and making this more relevant to them.