All in a Name: Smith & Wesson Brings Security Home

Rich Thompson, president of The Standard Alarm Company, knew he had to do something about capturing his piece of the residential market in Huntington and the surrounding neighborhoods of West Virginia. He just couldn’t sit back and let another day slide without a comprehensive plan to bring in more business in the burgeoning home market.

“I drove down the streets of the neighborhoods and kept watching the ADT yard signs going up,” said Thompson, who is president of the company. “I didn’t want to think I was missing an opportunity to build my business,” he said.

Thompson is a traditional installing dealer who was doing more commercial work than residential. It wasn’t that he was having a hard time finding business, but he wanted to get a bigger slice of the residential pie. He signed up in January to become part of the Smith & Wesson (S&W) Security Services Authorized Dealer Program, offered by NationWide Digital Monitoring Co. Inc., Freeport, N.Y. NationWide Digital is a division of The New York Merchants Protective Co. Inc., a well-respected iconic industry company founded by Hyman Glass in 1910. Account monitoring for the S&W program is handled by NationWide’s central station.

“The program has given us a new direction and energy we didn’t have before,” Thompson continued. “It’s new business; business we didn’t have before. I really like the fact that with the S&W program I own the accounts and don’t have to sell them. I maintain a stake in my own business.”

9 out of 10 familiar with S&W

NationWide formally launched the program last year, banking on the success of bringing the Smith & Wesson brand name to security. And so far, Wayne Wahrsager, president of New York Merchants Protective, has been dead-on with the impression the program is making in the marketplace.

“Smith & Wesson has a 156-year reputation and in a 2004 brand awareness survey some 87 percent of respondents knew of the name,” said Wahrsager. “We know this brand awareness will help dealers get into more homes so they can get more sales,” he said. “We want dealers to keep their accounts,” he continued. “This is not an account acquisition program. This is about dealers building their recurring revenue.”

The very first dealer to sign up with the program was Technical Systems LLC, Mesa, Ariz. Bill Riley, operations manager, said despite the current challenging economic times the company pledged to stay focused on new growth opportunities.

“One of the biggest reasons we signed on with the program was name recognition,” Riley said. “I started researching dealership programs a few years ago but was always unhappy with the restrictions. I read about the Smith & Wesson dealer program last year and contacted them. I loved the name for obvious reasons,” he said.

In addition to the name, the well-staked and protected sales territories were also critical to Technical System’s desire to join. Riley said Smith & Wesson Security Services have been specific about not allowing more dealers in than the market can bear.

“This was another key selling point to me,” Riley continued. “I had worked previously for one of the top security integrators in the country with probably the largest dealer program and found that one of the biggest hurdles were the amount of dealers allowed in any given area.”

While the S&W name no doubt carries weight, an important part of any dealer program is support, especially in marketing—an area many dealers are unfamiliar with or don’t have the time or resources to devote the attention required.

For Clifford Pfleger, president of Secure Operations Inc. in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., finding the right fit was critical, as he runs his company on nearly all referrals—95 percent.

“I thought the S&W logo and brand name would bring that side into my business,” Pfleger said. “It has absolutely been received very well. The logo and name has already given me customers that I would not have yet gotten by my web of referrals,” he said. Pfleger is a past president of the Long Island Alarm Association and currently secretary of the New York Burglar and Fire Alarm Association.

“They really took the time to develop the marketing, brochures and professional look that I wanted.” Pfleger said he has never been part of any other dealer programs because he was concerned about losing his company’s identity and wanted to maintain 100 percent of his customer’s installation, service and monitoring revenues.

NationWide has brought a top selection of products to market with the program, currently offering DMP, Visonic, Xanboo and others which are emblazoned with the S&W name. The continued development of video monitoring will also play into the introduction of new products. But Pfleger said he did not join the program specifically for the products offered.

“Alarm equipment is just that,” Pfleger continued. “You can get into a Ford or Chevy argument all day. I think the top manufacturers all offer top quality products that just use slightly different aesthetics or different programming methods. I did not pick S&W because of the vendor equipment they use. Whether it is DMP, Honeywell, GE or Napco, none of the manufacturers has everything I would like. Some day they will run out of features that differentiate them from one another and they will have to fall back solely on improving their customer and technical service.”

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Look for the Right Fit

Back in the day, dealer programs were quite common. Remember the Dictograph, Dynamark and Radionics dealer programs? At the time, they brought integrators up to the next level in industry technologies.

There are many dealer programs in the industry today, for both larger integrators and smaller companies. The thing to look at is the fit, for you and your customer, and how the program may work with you with regards to your future goals.

Considering the economy, dealer programs may be on a comeback trail, although they certainly have changed with the times. Products are often core, and many are already integrated for the installer, i.e., they work together as a single solution. Some dealer programs have begun a quasi-distribution of products through their customers, the integrators, and that trend can be expected to continue. Dealer programs also give integrators access to training and marketing programs and materials to build the business as well as other professional services.

As technologies continue to converge and merge, dealer programs are beneficial alliances.

According to Paul Pierce, PhD candidate at Lund University and a lead researcher in the LUSAX Security Informatics study, alliances are a great way to build business. “Alliances are an inevitable part of the future, especially as technology converges and systems run on the same networks,” Pierce said.

Rich Thompson of The Standard Alarm Co. is putting his confidence in the Smith & Wesson name and well-known security products to grab more share of the residential market in the community in which he does business.

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