The security industry has no shortage of dead-end jobs; jobs best filled by overweight, lazy (and typically sleepy) people. At least, that’s what Hollywood would have you believe. In both the guarding and systems sides, our industry is challenged by image issues.
How many movies depict the security guard as the strong, capable hero? In how many is he the bumbling idiot who, if he does get anything right, does so in spite of himself? Sadly, it’s the latter. Even sadder, the fictional character of the hapless guard isn’t much of a stretch from reality. Typically, the common representation for the industry is a goofball dressed up in a ridiculous, ill-fitting uniform. If he’s driving a car, it’s a Crown Victoria. He’s got a badge, maybe even a baton. If he’s in the United States, he likely has a gun on his hip. He’s dressed to reflect, as fully as possible, the ‘rent-a-cop’ stereotype.
On the electronic side of the industry, millions of dollars are spent pumping out fear-based advertising that vastly oversells the value of an alarm system. Consumers get set up for serious disappointment when the first time they actually need their alarm they learn what they saw on TV, and what the alarm company sold them, are completely different than what happens in reality.
Many companies proudly repackage inherent service weaknesses as features (my favorite example: Enhanced Call Verification). This industry has a serious image problem. Fortunately, that’s where the big opportunity is. Many consumers are tired of receiving poor service and being misled. They are easy marks for the first company to approach them with an honest, professional and complete security service.
SSI Editor-in-Chief Scott Goldfine’s December column highlights the ‘Top 10 Security Contractor Concerns’ of 2012. Two of the top concerns were “the recession and bad economy” and “competition from other security companies.” Despite those concerns, it would appear that many in our industry continue to conduct themselves as they always have — doing the same things, in the same manner, as most of their competitors. They even call their services by the same names. No wonder competition from other security companies is such a concern.
Why do so many insist on marketing efforts touting the same service that any other company could provide? If your marketing leads with your ability to offer Total Connect, for example, you probably should be worried about the competition beating you. It’s a credit to Honeywell that Total Connect has become almost ubiquitous in the home security space. However, that type of ubiquity can stand in the way of your company differentiating itself from the competitive crowd. It’s akin to a restaurateur marketing a “unique” dining experience because they offer a particular brand of condiment widely available anywhere.
Selling the same equipment marketed in the same manner as everyone else is not differentiation. This trains clients to view you and your services as commodities likely to be found more cheaply from a competitor willing to engage in a race to the bottom.
The poor image, generic messaging and weak marketing in this industry present big opportunities for entrepreneurs. Is now the best time to be an ‘authorized dealer’ pushing the same generic offerings as everyone else? If you’re selling guard services, do you really need to perpetuate the stereotype of the bumbling night watchman?
There’s a big difference between trying to stand out from the crowd by being a little bit better and avoiding crowds altogether. Rock promoter Bill Graham famously said of the Grateful Dead, “They’re not the best at what they do; they’re the only ones who do what they do.” Consumers have more choices in front of them today than they did last year. New technology, new service delivery models and new entrants to the market are already here.
Will 2013 be the year you try to be the ‘best’ among a sea of competitors offering the same services, or is it the year you become the ‘only?’
Mike Jagger is President of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada-based Provident Security.
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