The Path To Access Control And Security Success
Former locksmith Integrated Security, Inc. transitioned into a $2.5 million security integrator by increasing marketing, adding employees, and revamping service contracts.
Integrated Security, Inc. (ISI) (Foxboro, MA) recently installed new security camera systems at seven U.S. Coast Guard port stations. So what, you say? Well, consider this: most of the cameras used in this project cost approximately $4,000 each and are designed to monitor (up to four miles) the bodies of water surrounding the stations. Not exactly your standard CCTV (closed-circuit television) installation. Moreover, four years prior to this project, ISI was just a locksmith averaging $700,000 in annual sales revenue. Today, the company is a full-fledged security integrator with plans to reach $2.5 million in sales this year. But that success didn't come without change.
Become Your Clients' Security Director
After 30 years in business, ISI amassed a client list of nearly 1,000 companies. However, Michael Ehrlich, CEO of ISI, estimated that only about 500 customers purchase products or services on a regular basis. Still, not a bad client base, unless, that is, those clients still view you as a locksmith company. "In the past two years we've made some changes to our company because we were tired of our customers using our competitors to install access control or CCTV equipment," Ehrlich said. "Those customers originally hired us for locks, and they still think of us only for that type of business. We are trying to overcome that perception now by promoting ourselves as a security director."
To become that security director, ISI needed to be involved in the early planning stages of customers' building renovation/addition projects. Invariably, customers rely on a project's architect to also handle the access control systems. But the architects usually aren't security specialists, and if ISI was to become involved in these projects, it needed to stay in constant contact with its clients. Ehrlich and his father, who founded the company, decided it was their personal responsibility to maintain this customer contact, so they hired someone to take over the daily operations of the business. They also added an estimator to handle all of the long-term client proposals (previously the Ehrlichs were performing this function, too). Within one year after these changes were put into effect, ISI grew its annual sales revenue by 30%.
Market To Consultants For More Leads
Aside from increasing their contact with existing customers, both Ehrlichs also have been developing relationships with security consultants. "Security consultants not only design security solutions, they make recommendations on how to implement the components and train staff," Ehrlich stated. "If they recommend multiple vendors for a project and something goes wrong, everyone blames everyone else. Therefore, I promote to them that we can be their single security solution source."
Ehrlich said he now proactively calls consultants to market his company's capabilities. He also meets these consultants at trade shows such as ASIS (American Society for Industrial Security), ISC (International Security Conference), and NSCA (National Security Contractors Association).
ISI sometimes develops a relationship with a security consultant when a new customer wants to ensure it is receiving an objective opinion regarding its security needs. In these situations, Ehrlich arranges for the security consultant to deal with the planning phases of the project and ISI to implement the final solution. "We often offer our existing client base this service," he added.
Don't Overlook Service Contracts
In addition to increased client contact and marketing efforts, ISI changed its focus toward service contracts. "We recently added new planned maintenance and full replacement coverage plans because the electronic systems we sell today cost more than the ones we implemented when we were just a locksmith," Ehrlich said. "More importantly, our customers want these types of service contracts, so they can plan for these costs in their operating budgets. When we made these changes, we had to refocus our sales staff to realize the value of service contracts for customers and us."
Offer All The Components Of A Security Solution
During the past four years, ISI transitioned 80% of its business to electronic alarm and access control systems. The company still offers locksmith services because Ehrlich believes it's important to have the right locking hardware expertise to be able to offer a total access control package. For instance, he explained how an access control system using an ID card still needs doors that lock properly and shut every time. That requires knowledge of which lock hardware works best with the type of doors (e.g. glass, wood, metal) and frames the customer needs. It's this integration of all of the aspects of a security system that Ehrlich said his competitors are often lacking. "Most people think of a security system as an alarm," said Ehrlich. "But, an alarm is only a detection device, not a protection device. For us, a security system is composed of an alarm, an access control device, locking hardware, doors and door frames, and video surveillance equipment."
ISI made a lot of changes in the past few years as it transitioned into a security integrator. But those changes seem to be paying off as the company continues to land corporate clients like Johnson & Johnson and government customers like the U.S. Coast Guard.