Local and regional integrators that face a choice between expansion and annihilation by the global players have an uphill battle to fight. Facing down the giants requires some intelligent uses of key market principles including: niche identity, co-branding, and planning for modest growth.
Don’t turn to your company’s marketing materials to understand who you are. No matter what your brochures say about you, when it comes to identifying who you really are, nothing is more critical than humility and honesty — and the bottom line.
Instead, look at the sales of your company as your data source and go beyond the dollars and cents. Look at who your customers are. Who is buying your products and services already? Who do they think you are?
If your sales show that your bottom line is affected more by a few very large projects, even though your customer base is 75 percent small retail and residential, what is your niche?
It would seem to be small business and residential. However, with good planning, one or two large projects can provide tremendous leverage into future business opportunities. What should you do?
Does this mean you should abandon the small business and residential markets? Probably not. But, it may mean that your marketing message needs a shift in emphasis. As companies seek growth, their messages are often too big to capture the hearts and minds of the niche they have successfully served. Find the authentic message.
Niche identity is a starting place for strategic planning, and it should never be abandoned. Instead, it should be modified to accommodate directions the company wants to take.
It is hard for small business owners to accept the fact that global security companies have a distinct edge that cannot be overcome by shaking hands with business owners and passing out business cards. There are just too many hands to shake to overcome the billion dollar marketing programs of the huge market players.
It is possible, however, for integrators to develop partnering relationships with the larger players. Becoming useful to them by developing local relationships and resources can put you in a position to grow your bottom line with larger projects. Sharing the glory is better than groveling alone.
Building a network that includes key people in companies that you want to emulate is a useful business tool. Positive relationship development with your competitors cannot hurt you as long as you can manage to protect what is proprietary in your company, such as your upcoming projects calendar.
Planning for modest growth
Think of the difference between a hurdler and a high-jumper in track and field. A hurdler lands on his feet; a high jumper lands on his back.
The prize of winning the big projects is never attained without jumping a few hurdles along the way. Attaining name recognition in your chosen market place, gaining a positive reputation, overcoming deficiencies in service by accelerating your response time and staying with the customer until he is 100 percent satisfied — all of these are significant hurdles.
High jumpers see just the high bar over their heads, and they want all the glory of winning. So do hurdlers, but hurdlers see the obstacles that have to be overcome to get to the finish line victoriously.
Be a hurdler. Take on new products, projects, and markets with great care. Keep an ear open for what your customers are saying. They will let you know if you are ready to take on new markets. They may even suggest the ones you should pursue. Think of how many times your salespeople have to say to an inquiring customer, “I’m sorry, I wish I could help you, but that’s something our company does not do.” There’s a market for you.
In the past two years, companies that have grown wisely and have not overextended themselves have benefited from the losses of those companies who bit off more than they could chew.
Succeeding in the world of security integration requires both an accelerator and a brake pedal. Knowing when and how much to apply at a given time takes honesty and courage as a business owner. Successfully alternating between the two will keep your company on the right course.