A sluggish economy has slowed sales of IP-based video products along with other sectors of the security and video surveillance market. But despite current market conditions the long-term outlook for these technologies remains bright; there is consensus throughout the industry that IP-based sales will overtake analog sales sooner rather than later. For now it may be that a volatile economy is convincing customers to stick with the tried-and-true.
It would be a mistake for installing security contractors to take solace in the continuing success of analog in the market. Entrenched affinity for analog systems is likely to send a decent amount of analog business to integrators in the near-term. Yet analog technology will eventually fade away. Integrators who resist the transition will be hopelessly, and perhaps irreversibly, behind the times. You don't want to be holding tight to the legacy of analog video right up until the phone stops ringing.
A better plan is to make strategic choices and investments now related to management, marketing and sales to get a larger share of the early IP-based business pie. Most importantly, making a move now enables an integrator to be well-poised to lead the market when IP growth really kicks in, whether it's next year or three years down the line.
Let's take a look at some of the elements security dealers and integrators should embrace as part of an effective IP market strategy.
Understand the Changing Market
The first step in embracing the industry shift to IP-based systems is to understand the market dynamics at play and the resulting effects on end users.
The use of networks to empower physical security systems has blurred the lines of authority at end-user companies. The security director, as always, is clearly a major decision-maker in buying a new system. Yet corporate IT managers are also key influencers regarding a system's infrastructure, specifically related to how a networked system might affect or interact on the enterprise level.
Fundamentally, a networked physical security system becomes an integral part of the information flow of the enterprise. The ramifications of that truth affect everything from who makes the final buying decision to service after the sale. Larger installations are even more likely to have additional stakeholders involved in the buying decision.
A firm grasp of the marketplace nuances can enable integrators to tailor their sales presentations to the decision makers. Integrators also have to understand the fundamentals and how they relate to each customer, including how the security system interfaces with the enterprise network, the benefits it can provide to the end-user company and the potential to deliver an overall return on investment (ROI).
In some situations, integrators can actually help to bridge the internal gap between the security department and the IT department; for instance, by being able to speak in the jargon of either discipline.
Training Staff, Educating Clients
Training goes into the cost column of an integrator's ledger, but there is no better investment in the long-term health of the business. A working knowledge of the latest technologies is always paramount. This is especially true when a market is in transition. Customers considering the leap to an IP-based surveillance system will be looking for an integrator with an IT-centric workforce that has network knowledge and experience.
Because multiple issues and problems can arise, whether during installation or with the finished system, an integrator's employees must be able to deal with system variables. Because end users involved in smaller installations are unlikely to have IT expertise available in-house, the integrator's role becomes that much more valuable.
Hence, employees with networking certifications from Cisco and Microsoft demonstrate an integrator's commitment to IP-based systems, as well as industry certifications from organizations such as Building Industry Consulting Service Int'l (BICSI) can also be helpful. Employees should also be well-trained by equipment suppliers in the specifics of various systems.
Another aspect of a market in transition is the need to educate end-user customers. Almost everyone has heard of IP-based video, but how many of an integrator's prospects truly appreciate the inherent advantages of newer systems? Integrators can play an important role in educating the market.
Equipment suppliers are doing their part to communicate the value of IP-based systems to the marketplace, but the integrator is uniquely positioned to help an end user apply that information to the specifics of their situation. Integrators who are advocates for IP systems, who know and appreciate the systems' advantages, will be rewarded with more business.
Integrators should also create sales tools to help them educate prospects on the advantages of an IP system. This is another area where manufacturers can assist integrators by making sales and marketing materials readily accessible, informative and editable so they can tailor them to individual presentations.
The easier it is for integrators to communicate the benefits of networked systems to their prospects, the faster the sales process will take place. Information on the overall functionality and lower total cost of ownership (TCO) of networked systems will be of great interest to management and other purchase influencers.
Also necessary, be prepared to share and illustrate success stories. It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of building a track record of successfully deployed IP systems. Past project wins are an invaluable sales tool that can help develop and win new business.
Integrators should always ask satisfied customers if they would be willing to talk with future prospects about their experience with the integrator. Such peer-to-peer communication is invaluable and integrators should document their most current installations as references. Take pictures, collect testimonials, maybe even shoot videos and use them to convey how your solution helped resolve the customer's "pain points."
Prospects with similar security issues will be able to easily identify with similar installations, and will trust you to take their pain away too.