A conference held this spring on the topic of sales and marketing in the PERS business was aptly named Catalyst ’16, by its host, Affiliated Monitoring, Union, N.J. The day-and-a-half long conference was packed with speakers and sponsors who offered high-level, tangible takeaways to attendees; the conference served as a “catalyst” for attendees to grow their businesses through the knowledge learned about how to better market and sell PERS. From speakers such as Geoff Gross of Medical Guardian; Michele Shuster of MacMurray, Petersen & Shuster LLP; and Bobby Valentine, athletic professional ― to a large number of sponsors offering expert-level knowledge of products and services ― Catalyst proved to be a valuable experience for attendees.
“We came to this idea of doing a sales and marketing conference because it was a constant refrain from our PERS dealers and people in the industry that there was a lack of information on sales and marketing skills in the PERS industry. We saw that opportunity and decided that we would put together Catalyst,” said Daniel Oppenheim, vice president of Affiliated Monitoring.
Oppenheim stirred interest among the nearly 200 attendees of Catalyst by providing a glimpse of the future demographic makeup of the United States. “The true market for the PERS industry ― the first-time new customer ― is the “middle-old,” and that is what we should really start focusing on…. The average age of a PERS user at sign-up is 81, but if you actually look at the age distribution, it really starts in the mid to late 70s,” a period that Oppenheim describes as “middle-old.” 
“Between today and 2030, the number of people aged 70 to 84 will increase by 17.5 million people to a total of 42 million people. …That is a 69 percent increase. There are few industries ― any industries ― that have such an unbelievable growth in their market size coming at them,” he said.
Oppenheim emphasized the high level of support dealers can expect to receive from Affiliated Monitoring. “Affiliated has more software and PERS manufacturing integrations than any other monitoring center in the United States. We are here to support you on all of the major providers; but we also have innovative software integrations,” he said.
He unveiled the first of several new software releases developed by Affiliated’s team, called CareAlert: Priority Group Chat, designed to enhance communication in an emergency among the protected person’s circle of family and friends. When a PERS user sends an alert and a care specialist begins making calls, CareAlert sends a text message to the user’s loved ones and caregivers simultaneously. Those people simply click on a link contained in the text and it opens up a group chat feature so they can decide on the best way to help their loved one. By clicking on an “on my way” button, one person can let everyone in the group know that they are going to check on the PERS user. Oppenheim emphasized that it works with every phone and with every PERS provider and is exclusive to Affiliated Monitoring’s dealers and is private labeled for them.
Throughout Catalyst 16, speakers shared strategy, opinion and market intelligence to Catalyst 16 attendees who are strongly considering getting into the PERS industry as well as those who already have PERS businesses.
Geoff Gross, CEO of Philadelphia-based Medical Guardian, spoke about the importance of company culture, hiring the right people, and social media strategy. The company has 25,000 Facebook followers and is represented by 82-year-old actress, Florence Henderson, whom Gross describes as an independent, active senior who lives alone and well represents the type of customer that the company wants to attract.
“We want our clients to understand that you don’t have to be almost dead to have a PERS device. That’s the perception they still have, and that’s the opportunity. Our onboard age is actually 77.5,” Gross described.
He added that one of the key marketing decisions he made was to hire a full-time videographer in 2013. “I was really passionate about showcasing not only product videos, installation videos, and how-to videos, but also showcasing our people and who we are. I wanted to put faces and names in back of what we do. I thought that was very different than what we saw in our industry.”
Athletic director and former professional baseball player and manager, Bobby Valentine, talked about his life in baseball (he managed the Texas Rangers and New York Mets, among others), and inspired the audience by discussing the need to bring passion and commitment to every job. “The idea of being passionate and committed is something you will be asked to do every day of your life… when you go to work and some people are expecting you to be excellent, if you bring with you in your backpack a passionately committed way of going about your work, you’re going to be very successful,” Valentine said.
Among the speakers was Michele Shuster, a consumer regulatory attorney and founding partner of Mac Murray, Petersen & Shuster LLP, New Albany, Ohio. She discussed the importance of maintaining compliance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the types of exposures that dealers who do telemarketing in the PERS industry have.
“In the 20 some years that I’ve been doing this, I have worked with lots of businesses, both proactively on the compliance front and also in a defensive posture when they were being targeted by regulators or sued by… professional plaintiffs. Most of these people… were well-meaning business owners and managers. They all meant to treat their customers in a way that was the best that they could treat them. They didn’t intend to violate the laws, but unfortunately...most of these laws just by the mere fact that you committed an act, a violation of the statute, they come with some very serious penalties, ranging from at the low end $500 per call, going all the way up on the federal level to $16,000 per call or per violation. The issues here are serious. They have a significant potential impact on your bottom line,” Shuster said.
She discussed the importance of scripts and approving them so they contain the proper language and disclosures. “In addition to knowing on the federal level what you have to do, there are 50 states that also have their own take on these disclosure requirements. For example, some of them require that you cannot provide a rebuttal if somebody says they are not interested in your product or service,” she said.
Catalyst 16 offered ample time for attendees to meet with exhibiting sponsors. Platinum Sponsors were: Climax; Mytrex Inc.; LogicMark; Numera; and Essence. Gold Sponsors were: Perennial Software; Live Free; DSC; Alarm.com; and Anelto.
Making it an event to remember, Affiliated Monitoring arranged for attendees to take an Everglades excursion on an airboat, including viewing alligators in their natural habitat. A Caribbean Calypso Beach Bash and Pig Roast on the second night of the conference was a special treat for attendees who got to meet new people, share ideas and experiences and enjoy a great selection of food and drink on a beautiful beach setting.
Affiliated Monitoring plans to hold the Catalyst Conference again in 2017.