Cloud-based video services can make a security integrator’s life easier in terms of installation, customer service and maintenance. The same services also can make end users’ interactions with their surveillance systems simpler in terms of notifications, ease of use, security, storage, maintenance and more. Though cloud solutions are still a small but growing part of many security integrators’ offerings, cloud-based video services come with a number of positive benefits, not the least of which is long-term recurring revenue. Some integrators don’t know where to start when it comes to cloud, while others need to redefine their selling points in order to grow.
SDM spoke with a range of security integrators and managed service providers offering cloud-based video services in varying forms to gather their best advice on how to get started, along with the best sales strategies and marketing messages for successfully selling these services.
Where to Begin
Some security integrators are apprehensive about the cloud or unsure of where to begin. That’s how Jay Patel, vice president of Best Communication Networks of Lakeview, Ore., says his company felt about getting into cloud 10 years ago. “Initially we were a bit hesitant, too. ... Cloud is a whole different beast; but you learn and you find a partner and a solution that is safe and hosted by the right people,” he says.
Patel says the first place to start is to find the right partner who will offer support when needed. Best Communication Networks often has an expert from its cloud partner in the room at sales meetings to help translate some of the benefits and possibilities available to customers, he adds.
Andy Johnson, IT and systems director at Care Protect, Cleveland, England, suggests security integrators sign up for free trial accounts and try different cloud services for themselves. “I defy anyone to try it and say they prefer the old way,” he says. Care Protect, which specializes in providing cloud video storage and management to care homes and hospital facilities, used to partner with different cloud providers until it came upon its current cloud service because of its ease of use on both the integrator and customer sides, Johnson says.
Other integrators agree that testing different platforms and services is the best way to experience the benefits of a cloud video solution, and determine which ones suit an integrator’s business. “I signed up for demos with six or seven different platforms when we started and I used them myself,” says Gregory Keeling, co-founder and vice president of New York Security Solutions, Flushing, New York. “You’ve got to learn the products and see which products have the marketable features that you need to help certain clients. I identified the features in each product that worked for our current clientele and identified features and products that would be valuable for the growth of my company for future business.”
When Stone Security of Salt Lake City began offering cloud-based video services, Aaron Simpson, president and CTO of the company, says that narrowing down the options of providers was important. His best advice for security integrators is to remember that they can start slowly, offering one type of service or solution first and building services over time. “You don’t have to bite it all off at once. It doesn’t have to be an all or none mentality,” Simpson says. In other words, starting with cloud-based storage, a hybrid deployment or just one cloud-based service provider’s solution is a good opportunity to become an expert in the offering.
If identifying the right host provider along with becoming an expert on the solution is an important first step, the next step to successfully market cloud is establishing an end user’s needs.
“We are selling a job, but we are coming in as consultants. We are there to advise what we think is the best solution, so during the sales process it is important to identify what the customer is trying to achieve,” says Oded Weinstock, director of technical sales at Paragon Security, New York.
“Since we are really in the infancy of [cloud-based services] right now, one size does not fit all,” notes Keeling of New York Security Solutions. “You may need to have three different cloud video solutions in your arsenal to meet client needs. There is not one way with every opportunity and there is not one product that can do everything yet, so it’s really a matter of understanding what the customer’s problems are and understanding requirements.”
Positioning the Benefits
As simple as it may sound, if the integrator thinks a client will benefit from a cloud-based video solution, then it is important to communicate the specific benefits they can expect. This is imperative to the sales process say other security integrators and managed services providers, as the marketplace is not completely educated yet on cloud-based video solutions.
“What a customer is buying from us is not really cloud, so to speak, but the services in and out of the cloud,” says Dan Nestor, president of Gainesville, Ga.-based C3 Communications. “The recurring revenue that you get is nice, but the real benefit is that it keeps you engaged with the customer because it’s a monthly service. The retention will be greater and it leads to more revenue opportunities.”
Bastion Security, Portland, Ore. — which offers customers storage, cloud-based analytics such as motion detection, line crossing or object detection, and hybrid solutions for on-premises storage with cloud-based analytics and monitoring — tries to focus on the value a cloud solution will create for the customer. “Cloud-based architecture offers a lot of benefits to the end user as well as a lot of benefits to us,” says Bill Fitzhenry, chief sales officer at the company. “Educating customers on the benefits of leveraging this technology to help solve their specific problems is how you create confidence and value.”
For National Networks, which offers cloud-based video storage along with cloud system management, focusing on the benefit of guaranteed storage along with the ability to troubleshoot a problem right away are big selling points, according to Marcus Edwards, vice president of cabling infrastructure at the Lake Charles, La.-based integrator. “A lot of our customers are open to cloud video storage because they’ve seen or had problems with their local storage and hardware in the past and are looking for guarantees,” he says.
In addition, according to Edwards, customers are also receptive to having easier access to their video. “With on prem, we don’t usually hear from the client unless they need to see their video and forgot how to log in or what to do. The software may be confusing or less user-friendly or not able to be exported easily. With our cloud vendor, that is all done on a mobile app or web page and every little clip is easy to find, download, or even text or email. It makes for a happier customer,” he explains.
Don Fruhwirth, director of product management at Interface Security Systems, St. Louis, Mo., says that the ability to keep a surveillance system up-to-date in terms of security patches and upgrades, along with the ability to remotely troubleshoot issues, are great marketing points for integrators to focus on. “Managing the cameras, adjusting focus and settings or setting role-based permissions, for example, can sometimes be hard to do. The benefits of the right solution allow an integrator to manage this effectively from the cloud,” he describes.
Another major talking point that many security integrators use during the sales process with a full-cloud solution of storage and/or analytics (meaning no hardware servers on the client end), is the advantage of not having onsite servers to maintain and upgrade. “You can approach it and say, ‘What if I can get you video recording and you don’t have to have any equipment and you can access it from anywhere and you don’t have to worry about maintaining anything?’ That’s a big benefit to customers,” says Patel of Best Communication Networks.
In the end, the benefits to the customer are what help security integrators and managed services providers successfully deploy cloud-based video solutions and earn that recurring revenue. “Selling cloud requires the integrator to take a step back and look at how they create value for their customer,” Fitzhenry of Bastion Security says. “It’s about understanding the benefits cloud-based architecture can provide your end users with and being the trusted advisor they need.”