Move on up and down the channel

Opportunities run deep and not always most visible

John Robinson, president of ATGix in Ridgeland, Miss., said there are always opportunities in the government vertical market, however, he advised integrators to "drill down a little deeper in the area of the government vertical market. By that I mean education, correctional, law enforcement, airports, etc. While the check writing entity might be similar, the applications and needs are very diverse." Robinson said it's been tough as far as funding currently for these various government entities, but he expects new opportunities to emerge in the latter part of this year. Access Technology Group Inc. dba ATGix is a U.S. veteran-owned small business technology systems integrator, and a registered, licensed contractor in the state of Mississippi, licensed by the State Board of Contractors. It holds numerous other credentials that assist in procuring jobs in the government market.

Robinson said his entire team focuses on the government arena and remote video management and access control as a service has become increasingly popular for these customers. As far as regulations, "these vary from state to state and there tend to be more requirements at the federal level," he added.

Like other vertical markets, the government arena may not be as robust as in the past, but in addition to the federal level, there are jobs at local and state municipalities and many other related facilities. These users are looking for integrated solutions and ways to enhance the services they provide. Don't limit yourself to the big jobs only-there's work to be done up and down the channel and additional funding may emerge later this year.

How to market security solutions for municipalities
By Bob Barry

To compete for local government business, security dealers and integrators must first recognize that this niche market requires a consistent, long-term commitment. The buying cycle for local government municipalities is extremely slow and cumbersome, so you should make sure you have a steady flow of day-to-day short-term business to sustain you while waiting for long-cycle jobs to come to fruition. Winning work from local municipalities also demands cost-effective solutions, as this business is based on bids. The rewards for your diligence and patience are a lucrative market and the near certainty that the bill will be paid.

Here are some additional factors that can contribute to a security integrator's success in these markets:

Understand the bidding process. When municipalities seek to award a contract for a new building or structure, they solicit an architectural and engineering (A&E) firm to design the building. After getting the project, the A&E firm creates a specification which typically includes details for the security-related part of the project. By signing up with a service such as Reed Construction Data or McGraw Hill Construction/Dodge Project Marketplace, a security integrator can get word when a project is at the early stages of being awarded to an A&E who will be designing the project specifications.

Use a personal touch. After an A&E firm wins a job, it's a good idea to call them and congratulate them on getting the business (and offer to help if they need any information related to security systems). Keeping in touch with the key players throughout the bidding process can put an integrator in a more favorable position since he has already established a rapport and may get a second look when the bid goes public.

Spread the word. A&E firms bill by the hour, so an effective way to get time with them is to provide lunch. Even before the bidding process begins, you can call up A&E firms to introduce your company and organize "lunch-and-learns." You provide lunch and in return you get an hour of captive audience time to tell them what you bring to the table. When a project comes up, you are already uppermost in their minds.

Make it easy. Look to the manufacturers whose products you sell for the specs you need. Many manufacturers make these available via their Web sites or other resources. There are also services such as ARCAT Inc. that translate product information from various manufacturers into Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) specs, either in a 1995 or a 2004 format. When an engineer needs an access control spec, for example, he can simply download it from these sites.

Don't overlook retrofits. To thrive in the world of retrofits, it is critical that the systems you sell work with open architecture platforms and have written drivers for systems that are common at local, state or even federal facilities. The more platforms and solutions you can manage, the greater the potential for retrofit business.

Get there early. If you have a working relationship with a municipality or an A&E firm, you have a much better chance of finding out when jobs are coming onto the marketplace. Every job you win will help build a basis for future jobs by establishing relationships and creating a reputation for meeting customer needs. Once you get in, word travels fast.