How to Keep You and Your Customers Up-to-Date With the Latest Technology
If you’re tired of the same old technology, turn the page to new offerings. Security pros share adoption strategies and marketing tips to make sure you and your customers are ready.
According to Moore’s Law, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles about every two years. Over the decades, this principle has shown to be accurate with technology in general, including electronic security.
While the industry can sometimes be slow to adopt certain trends or practices (hello, cybersecurity), there’s no denying the advancements in power and features that are available in the latest products.
With new products and offerings being released at such a rapid rate, how’s a pro supposed to keep up with it all? SSI spoke with a trio of security integrators/dealers about what’s involved in expanding their products and services portfolio, as well as couple manufacturers about how they assist in the process.
Living in the age of the Internet, there’s no shortage of ways to keep up to date on the latest and greatest offerings. In addition to your trusty trade publication and the vast Internet, it is important to have close relationships with your technology providers. Consumers like to brag about having what’s new and trendy, so it’s imperative to keep up with the times.
“We just stay up on all the new technologies that come out and we have very close relationships with Alarm.com and also Qolsys,” explains Curtis Kindred, president of Dallas-based ONIT Smart Home. “So we try to stay out ahead and try to be a pioneer and making sure that we’re offering all of our customers, or trying to get out ahead of our competitors, by offering our customers the latest and greatest of what’s to come in the smart home industry.”
Bill DeFries, CEO and owner of Dayton, Ohio-based Copp Systems, echoes the importance of manufacturers, and says there isn’t just one easy way to stay up-to-date. “It’s a combination of two things. It gets pushed by invention and ingenuity within our industry, so it gets pushed down through the verticals, so your alarm detail dealers or your systems integrators like us, or even IT firms, because we’re so centric that way.”
He continues, “We depend on and we leverage our manufacturers a lot with their product development and their marketing materials and their subject matter expertise. We also leverage our distributors too. We’re a PSA dealer. The distributors have a lot of influence on what happens in the industry and what systems integrators will adopt.”
Distributors and manufacturers know security integrators rely on them in order to succeed. That means they need to have the latest product information and support readily available. Many will have a “resources” tab somewhere on its website that will typically contain everything from product catalogs and resources, to literature and video. Distributors also frequently partner with manufacturers to host training sessions and demos.
“We have a large team of technical trainers that are out and about living on the road throughout the year providing trainings directly to customers in their locations. We definitely utilize our distributor’s locations and do larger training sessions in there. The important part is to make sure they understand the whole value of that product, how that product is going to impact their business, how it’s going to help them drive additional RMR and more importantly, how easy it is to use and train their staff on,” says Bruce Mungiguerra, SVP of sales and marketing, Nortek Security and Control.
Whether it’s attending trade shows and trainings, or just surfing the web, it is essential to have a good relationship with manufacturers and stay attentive. Alarm.com has a team that focuses exclusively on partner communications and outreach.
“Any time we’ve got a new feature that’s available or new training opportunity, any type of new content or resource that’s available, we are letting them know primarily via email but we are also keeping our exclusive partner portal up-to-date with information as well,” explains Anne Ferguson, vice president of marketing for Alarm.com. “That partner portal is a place where our partners can go any time to access our knowledgebase where they can find all sorts of product documentation, installation guides, marketing resources, sales support resources. They can also access all of our online training as well.”
Exploring New Vertical Horizons
The security business is tough. Not only do your competitors include other security companies, but also the likes of Amazon, Google and Comcast. Did you see that coming 10 years ago? Instead of letting jobs go to A/V pros or the Geek Squad, take them on yourself. It is imperative that you evolve your company to offer more than just your basic security system and surveillance cameras.
Copp Systems is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. A business doesn’t stick around that long without adapting to the times. The company was founded by Roy Copp in 1920 as an audio company, selling and servicing RCA living room consoles. Eventually, Copp became the authorized repair center for AC Delco AM radios in General Motors vehicles.
Copp then began developing intercom systems in local schools, which then led to him doing public address systems in factories and healthcare facilities in the Dayton area. This low-voltage technology eventually brought the company into the surveillance and security realm.
“Then obviously the digital age came around and we needed to change with that effort,” explains DeFries. “Bringing technology to the forefront — that’s where we’re at right now. We’re in the midst of changing to, you know, the latest digital stuff around video surveillance, access control, IT and managed IT, and you know the Cloud services and video analytics and having stuff out at the edge.”
ONIT Smart Home was recently rebranded from American Defense Systems in order to better reflect its offerings. In fact, the company has several companies focusing on different verticals, all under the ONIT Home Service brand. Other brands include ONIT Concierge, ONIT Energy USA, ONIT Roofing & Construction, ONIT Insurance and ONIT Water.
“We do a lot with new homeowners and new homeowners are always excited about getting new gadgets, new things for their home,” says Kindred. “One thing that we’ve done well is helping them set up their utilities, their TV and Internet with some of the major providers across the nation and then we talk to them about security, but we also found that when customers get a new house they have projects that they want to do.”
He continues, “And you know, solar has become a big opportunity where we talk to them and say, hey you trusted us to do your home security and be your concierge with the TV and Internet, how about we take a look and see if we can make your home into a green home and add solar to that?”
As a global, service-based integrator, Convergint Technologies works in a number of verticals. Navdeep Johar, the company’s director of IoT, says Convergint identifies key technology partners and then filters them for different use cases for verticals.
“Our main paradigm is we always talk vertical and think horizontal, because we know that if we have created a solution for one particular vertical there is always a horizontal denominator which can be used and leveraged into other verticals,” he explains. “So we leverage the pockets of excellence to quickly ramp up on the system integration using technology partners. We tailor-design critical use cases for verticals to make something very strong.”
Training Your Employees
What good is new technology if your company isn’t familiar with it? Your techs need to know how to install it and your salespeople need to know how to sell and market it. There’s no one way to do this — use every tool in your arsenal. You also need to analyze the cost and make sure it’s worth it.
“When we see something, it takes somebody, people in the leadership position or product management leadership, to really adopt these items and then say OK, we’re going to roll this out across our organization, what does that mean, how is it going to impact our current product line,” says DeFries. “What kind of money are we going to have to invest in training our security engineers, or our sales engineers, as well as you know, there’s probably four times the amount of training that’s needed for our technical staff or our engineering staff. So, when you make a decision like that, what are you going to adopt it for and then who’s going to buy it?”
DeFries adds that integrators, especially smaller ones, rely on manufacturers to invest in successful products and offer sales, engineering and marketing support and training. Having that support structure in place is key.
“We are not going to roll out an offering to our partners unless we feel confident that we have done everything possible to help them succeed with it. So that means, certainly, that the new product or service is rock-solid from a functionality and end-customer experience standpoint,” says Ferguson.
She continues, “It also means that before we launch we’re going to ensure we’ve got the sales resources, the marketing resources, we’re creating the training that’s necessary, we’ve updated our installation apps, we’ve got the right reporting in place to be able to help partners understand the effectiveness of the new offering they might be going out with. We try to take a holistic approach in terms of ensuring we are equipping all parts of our integrators partners’ business to be able to support new offerings.”
Convergint has several ways of training its employees on the latest technologies, including webinars, that are broadcasted to all employees, in addition to utilizing subject matter experts that technicians and salespeople can reach out to.
Proclaiming Your New Offerings
Once you’ve settled on your new offerings and solutions, you need to make sure your customers are aware of them. Reach into your aforementioned arsenal and give it everything you got. Whether its old school door-to-door sales or using the web, let it be known you are offering the latest and greatest.
Security professionals bemoan the marketing budgets of DIY and telecom companies, but you don’t need to spend a fortune to fight fire with fire. Find yourself a marketing expert that is well-versed in search engine optimization (SEO) to improve organic search results. Use Facebook ads to tout your new products and services. Done correctly, you can affordably reach thousands of potential customers.
Marketing is also an area where you should especially leverage your partners and manufacturers. You don’t necessarily need your own in-house design team and video crew. Reach out to your partners and find out what resources are available.
“We have a wide variety of resources available to our partners — everything from co-brandable sales slicks to product summaries and brochureware that they can quickly access via our partner portal to take advantage of. We’ve got a lot in the way of co-brandable video content and that’s an area of increasing focus for us,” says Ferguson.
Mungiguerra notes that by utilizing materials from partners, integrators can give off the presence of a larger company, but still have that local company feel. “We provide a lot of marketing materials and that ‘presence’ [dealers and integrators] need to be able to show their products to their customers. We also have demos, we provide videos for dealers that they can brand and sell with their own company name,” he says.
The rate of innovation will continue to hum along, as will consumers’ appetites for the newest technology. Heed the words of these professionals and don’t get left behind.
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