The First Alert Professional (FAP) Convention for Honeywell’s authorized dealer program is always one of my favorite events to attend. Not only is the agenda always stacked with terrific sessions and events but the convention facilitates networking opportunities among many of the industry’s leading installing security company owners and managers. It’s like our industry’s version of the “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.” Plus, lots of great educational opportunities are offered, and, oh yeah, the event is always held in appealing locales within amenity-rich venues. This year’s incarnation, held Nov. 11-14 at the Boca Raton (Fla.) Resort & Club, was no different.
I personally attended three of the educational sessions: “Web-Based Marketing and Lead Generation,” “Managed Video Systems: Commercial” and “Government Business.”
During “Web-Based Marketing and Lead Generation,” Jim Callahan of Atlanta’s Ackerman Security hammered home the effectiveness of creating sales opportunities online. He spoke of the value of tools like Google Analytics and said the average cost per sales lead generated via search engine advertising for his business was around $25-$30, significantly less than any other marketing method. Callahan also said the average net cost for closing online-generated sales was just $55.
Later, Kristin Milner of ADS Security in Nashville, Tenn., covered social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and LinkedIn. She advocated devoting the time and effort to reaching out through these channels but conceded that the return would be difficult to assess and building a following would take some time. According to Milner, ADS is just getting going with social media itself and is presently devoting 90 minutes daily to the effort split between two employees who post four updates each week. Milner says the future plan is to set up a dedicated team within the business to manage the social media and post content on a regular basis.
During “Managed Video Systems: Commercial,” instructor Chris Brown, president of Interactive Solutions Group, said, “Every camera already in the field or about to be deployed is an RMR [recurring monthly revenue] opportunity. And it’s not that hard to sell it.” He said it is all about looking at how you can help businesses better manage their operations rather than purely secure them. “The hardest part is changing how you sell,” he added. “You must stop being a vendor and become a partner in what they need for their business to succeed. Be a problem-solver and forget about focusing on the products themselves. Talk solutions and deliver ongoing, measurable results.”
Here are three other points Brown stressed: 1) Package managed video offerings as structured as possible to ensure efficiency and profitability; 2) Pay close attention to camera placement, bandwidth and transmission methods when designing a system; 3) Contracts must be very specific to avoid being held liable for the broad range of eventualities that come with video surveillance. Also keep equipment separate from services in the contract because the equipment will continue to change a fast rate.
During “Government Business,” Mitch Brozik of Secure US in Morgantown, W.Va., talked about the almost unlimited opportunities to subcontract for General Services Administration (GSA)-listed vendors, and even subcontract to the subcontractors. He said taking this avenue means not having to even place bids to participate in government projects. In addition to a steady stream of projects, Brozik said other advantages include higher labor rates established by states for government-contracted jobs as well as a 50-percent markup on equipment. In particular, he said his company has found success in providing fire alarm inspections for landlords of buildings occupied by federal government agencies, which helps get a foot in the door that can lead to other business such as CCTV systems.
Honeywell’s GSA expert and liaison Vince Adams then took over and stated that 23 percent of all federal contracting is done with small businesses, like those of installing security companies. He explained how there are myriad categories of special interest or disadvantaged small businesses defined by the federal government and that it behooves so-called Tier-1 and -2 vendors like Johnson Controls, Siemens, Boeing, etc., to subcontract with such small businesses to win their government bids.
Here are basics the presenter recommended to get started: 1) Participation requires a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number, a Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) code and a taxpayer ID; 2) Purchase the “U.S. Government Manual” for $50, which lists all the agencies and purchasing contacts; and 3) Go to fedbizopps.gov and sign up to receive E-mail alerts as projects come in (also try ssileadtracker.com).
Adams also recommended looking into the Department of Defense (DoD) small business programs, as well as those of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Finally, for those with the budget for it (approximately $25,000 for costs and the assistance of a specialty consultant such as GSA Schedules Inc.) a company can seek to get itself onto a GSA Schedule so it can then contract directly with the federal government.