Taking a Fresh Look at Dealer Programs
Installing contractor support programs have been around for decades but are they keeping pace with changing times? Learn how some programs are continuing to provide dealers with the support, branding and other assistance to succeed in an era of harsh economics, fierce competition, and emerging technologies and services.
Do you belong to a dealer program that truly services your business needs to the fullest? Are you taking full advantage of the training and marketing assistance available to you to maintain competiveness? As technological advances and economics have altered the marketplace to create new opportunities — as well as pitfalls — partnering with the right dealer program can be an especially significant alliance.
For installing security contractors who are members of a dealer program, it might be high time to gauge whether or not it has kept pace, for instance, with emerging technologies and services that are becoming hot commodities with end-user customers. Other installation pros looking to join a dealer program will need to understand the importance of evaluating the various offerings of training and educational coursework, lead generation tools, marketing and sales materials, product discounts, and numerous other program features.
What follows is an overview of dealer programs, highlighting the array of services and benefits they can offer, as well as expectations providers may have of participating member companies. Included are examples of leading programs from manufacturers, national and regional systems integrators, and wholesale central monitoring stations.
Summing Up Dealer Programs
Let’s begin by taking a broad-brush look at the variety of support features common to dealer programs. The breadth of a particular program’s offerings may comprise all of the following elements or only a subset:
- Account acquisitions
- Billing and collections
- Brand name use (through affiliation or licensing)
- Sales training
- Sales and marketing collateral materials
Familiar national security companies that operate dealer programs usually provide most if not all of the above offerings. While these can be robust, well-rounded programs, they may not necessarily make for the right partner. Many installing security contractors prefer to maintain their independence in order to build their own name brand, while keeping as much recurring revenue as possible instead of selling their subscribers to a program sponsor.
Hence, a more stripped down dealer program can oftentimes be tailored to better meet specific needs and expectations of an individual dealer.
“When a security installer asks me to recommend a dealer program, I have to respond with many questions before sharing my professional opinion. Not all dealer programs offer the same opportunities,” says Peter Giacalone, president of Giacalone Associates LLC, an independent security consulting firm serving central stations, manufacturers and dealers. “Programs offer such diversity, and answering what is the best program for a dealer really depends on what a dealer is seeking to accomplish.”
To that end, and to identify the ideal partnership, copious elbow grease will need to be committed to research and conducting inquiries. Be prepared to ask questions in order to uncover the fine print that spells out all your membership obligations. Also, seek out current and previous members of the program you are investigating and ask about their experiences.
One of the more common elements that exist in most programs is a financial mechanism that will offer lending against the collateral of monitoring account contracts or the acquisition of the accounts. Although this is a broad category, many differences exist here as well. For example, some programs require dealers to sell all new accounts created under the brand of the sponsoring dealer program.
This may be an acceptable provision for some dealers, but not for others. Programs such as this typically offer a structure where the dealer is essentially a sales and marketing machine. Although they may generate additional revenue from upgrades and nonmonitored services, the structure is almost a pure retail operation without the ability to build RMR and the equity that RMR brings to a company.
Other programs with a finance option may offer the flexibility to fund or sell accounts at the dealer’s discretion. Although most programs with this structure do not offer any brand recognition, it does give the independent dealer options, says Giacalone, who is a featured contributor to SSI‘s “Monitoring Matters” column.
“I have found that a well-structured program, managed by organizations with depth in management and capital, usually brings great benefits to the dealers,” he says. “Understand that even with these quality programs, it takes a well-rounded management team and capital for the independent dealer to succeed within these programs.”
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