Cover Story: What Do Your Residential Customers Really Want?

Knowing the trends and savvy marketing will enable smaller dealers to compete with the big boys

Integrators with their fingers on the pulse of the residential market say the days of selling burglar alarms are going the way of residential wall phones. There may be a small market for them somewhere; however, serious RMR will come from Internet and smartphone-based security services. Big telcos like AT&T and Comcast are positioning themselves for that future. To survive and thrive, security dealers need to get there first. 

Currently, there is somewhere between 20-22 percent residential market penetration in the security business. “We need to get to the next 20 percent of the market,” says Mitch Brozik, founding partner of Secure US. Founded in 1993 and based in Morgantown, W.Va, the company provides services to more than 10,000 customers throughout the region. In May 1998 the company opened its own UL-listed monitoring center and 16,000 square-foot corporate office, but Brozik still sees himself as one of the little guys and he works hard to keep the company and its customers tied closely.

Crime is up nationally. Generation Y is very connected. They want to be able to arm their systems, change room temperature, unlock doors or monitor their children when they return from school. “We are seeing more connected services,” Brozik says, noting the trend to smartphones, iPads and similar devices. “It is helping us penetrate the next layer of the market,” he adds.

“The lifestyle component continues to be top-of-mind for consumers,” says David Hood, director of business development at EPS Security, Grand Rapids, MI. Founded in 1955, EPS now has 200 employees working out of six branch offices. Hood notes that the younger generation of homeowners is busier than ever and technology-based systems appeal to them.


Features Your Customers Want

Indeed, cellular connectivity, IP-based systems and video are all the rage. Yet Electronic Security Association (ESA) president John Knox is wary of selling technology for technology’s sake. “I qualify customers first,” he says. “Figure out whether they need these services — will new services enhance their life? Tell them that it’s not as easy and seamless as the ads claim. I explain the limitations of the services.”

Hood says video is very hot in the commercial market in Michigan and is catching on in the residential sector. “There is a comfort level there,” he says. “People are embracing cameras, culturally, in their homes. They are not opposed to having a camera in the house or on their grounds.”

Using Wi-Fi to check on the children, the dog or the property is an easy sell to the tech-savvy customer. “The biggest secret to success is telling the customer why they should buy,” Knox says. While he never would go negative on a competitor, Knox makes sure the customer knows that the high-tech system installer will have access to his home or office network — the same one the customer uses for online banking and the like. News reports are full of stories about people who opened ports on networks and did not protect them. The recent “baby cam” brouhaha is a good case in point.

“There are limits to who people will trust,” Knox points out. “I’d never say the other guy is not trustworthy. But most security firms have a 10-year track record with their clients. Clients see us as people they can trust.”


Marketing + Technology = Success

One recurring theme among successful residential dealers is the need to reach the customer — to let them know about all the nifty technology that will take them beyond simple intrusion or fire alarms into the 21st century.

Judo techniques might work: use the big guy’s power against him. “A lot of little guys are frustrated when the big boys act like they invented technology like remote-control thermostats or door unlocking,” Knox says. “Little guys know they are not only capable but a lot better at doing the same thing — b?ut little guys don’t have the marketing budget to compete,” he adds.

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