Guest Post: A Retail Store……For Security

Tony Collums by Tony Collums | 03.25.2013

Tony Collums is the President and Director of Operations for The Alarm Company. He has been involved in the security and electronics industry since 1979.

Sometimes it’s hard to teach an old dog a new trick. The dog has gotten used to laying around the porch and being fed, watered and pampered without a care in the world. But what happens when the dog has to make it on his own? Well, he can either learn a new way to find his food and water or he can die.

The security business is a lot like this scenario. For years, many of us were like that dog. Our business was great, the phones rang off the hook, referrals were outstanding and we could actually make a profit. But times have changed, so we have to change as well or we will starve to death and die financially.

Many security companies work out of their homes, trucks, small offices, multi-tenant office buildings, industrial complexes and off the beaten path locations. The time has come for us in the security industry to come out of our hiding places and to become visible and accessible. Retail shopping centers and strip malls could be the wave of the future for the low voltage industry. We are no longer just the alarm company, we are becoming so much more. Because of technology, potential clients want to see more. So we have to create an environment that will draw them to our turf. That is where a retail store front comes into play. Let’s look at some ideas for a retail store for the low voltage industry.

It is always better to be in an established shopping center than to be in a stand alone building. Some of your most well known retailers have adopted this strategy for years. They put their business close to other businesses that will advertise and draw customers to those business locations and you will benefit from the traffic they create and vice versa. Do a traffic count, see how many potential customers travel by the location that you are looking at. Pay attention to the area and the type of businesses that are located in the center. You want to choose a location that is easily accessible and safe for your clientele to visit. Also will it be good for you to conduct business in that area? Pursue areas where you are the strongest.

Once you have found your ideal location, you have to make it appealing to future customers and existing customers. Make it visible, first and foremost. See what the shopping center management will allow you to install for a sign. You want to avoid centers that have painted plywood signs. It is time to get your name, logo and services in the bright lights. Find a good sign company and let them design something that people will see and remember. Most city municipalities have sign ordinances and permits. The company that designs your sign should be familiar with the laws and they should include that in their bid when proposing the installation of your new sign. Let people know what you do as they drive or walk by your business.

For some of us, we have worked in retail and are familiar with setting up store displays and fixtures. One of the first things you can do is go to similar retail businesses and get ideas from their stores. Hire carpenters and painters to spruce your place up to be appealling and functional. Have working displays and keep them current. If you sell alarm systems, have the equipment on display and functioning. If you sell CCTV systems, have an interactive display setup so your potential customers can get hands on with it. Whatever you want to sell, display it in a working environment. Make the customer feel like the product is something that they can see using in their home. Setup a conference or meeting room where you can have meetings with clients who are building. A place where they can bring their blueprints and have a consultation with you. Keep small parts available for sale to the general public such as batteries, contacts, smoke detector test spray, air dusters and even some tools. Always have plenty of brochures and ready made yard signs available.

People have to know that you have opened a retail location. First, notify your existing customer base. Use email, invoice stuffers, direct mail, attach brochures to your service tickets and invoices. Make announcements on your webpage. Do a press release to the print and electronic media. Have an open house, serve refreshments and offer specials or gifts to those who attend. You know your market:  Invite who would make the biggest impact on your bottom line. Do a live radio remote broadcast with a local station that has a large following. Maybe you can get the shopping center management to get everybody in the center to do this as a center. This would reduce your cost tremendously. Put flyers on the cars in the parking lot. Make friends with your retail business neighbors, solicit their business. Offer to scratch their back, if they scratch yours. Park a company vehicle with your logo or advertising on it out by the street.

Make sure that you have somebody at your retail location that can help people when they come in. Products displayed should be clearly priced and the staff working there should have some knowledge about what is on the display. Be customer friendly, always smiling and courteous to those customers and potential customers that walk into your store.

In a world full of Internet shoppers, door knockers, postal coupons, you can be different. By being a little bit old school in a new age of doing business for a security company. Come out of your hiding place, be visible and accessible and offer something that seems to be going away…….friendly, knowledgeable customer service.