How Integrators Differentiate Against Their Competitors

By Brian Rhodes, Published Jan 15, 2014, 12:00am EST

We asked over 100 integrators how they differentiate against their competitors, with the following open ended question:

With barriers to entry so low, product availability easier than ever and so many people claiming to be 'integrators', it can be challenging to stand out against the competition. In this note, we examine the patterns found, share these integrator's direct input and provide our recommendations on best options.

Key Themes

The responses ranged in tone between degrees of 'sales speak' and stark technical bluntness, but most fell across three categories:

  • Skilled People: A majority of responses noted the capabilities and skills of the employees are what separate their companies from the pack. Whether it was education, certification, or deep experience, the most common answer was hiring 'smart people' able to work outside the bounds of 'box solutions'.
  • Smooth Projects: Suprisingly, another common answer was how valuable good execution and project management is to customers. Many integrators noted that bringing many potential skills to bear and using defined project management methods worked well at distinguishing themselves for competitors.
  • Service First: Most integrators see their company's commitment to customers as the simple answer to what makes them different. Simple steps like prompt callbacks to missed calls, ongoing training, and guaranteed service deadlines were common.

Skilled People & Thinking

Employing sharp workers, top to bottom, is a common aim. From salespeople, to designers, to installers, having employees who understand security technology, and the enduser's goals for that technology is critical.  Even medium integrators mentioned that salespeople remained involved with the project after the contract is signed, demonstrating technical skills in addition to just closing the deal. Many integrators noted they do not sell 'off the shelf kits' of a single brand or offering, but seek to find the best equipment for each job.

Here's a selection of quotes on this aspect:

  • "Technical strength and craftsmanlike work product."
  • "We have IT professionals on staff to work alongside the customers IT department. "
  • "To deliver a design and a solution in the form of a system that exceeded a client's expectations."
  • "(Our salesman) offer a choice of systems and focus on the best solution available for a particular task"
  • "We adopt a consultative approach with our customers where we find value beyond security's need for technology." 
  • "Software development - we have our own software development team."
  • "Custom solutions and systems to allow installation into a smaller physical footprint as well as the ability to secure and/or hide the equipment from being identified as the "system".
  • "Engineering driven company which has full IT staff. Has equal umber of Security engineers as technicians."
  • "A few of the items we use to differentiate our firm begins with our staff's education. Our team is made up of Professional Engineers, PMP certified Project Managers, CCNP Network Professionals and Technical Diploma Graduates and apprentices. "
  • "No bulk stock of cameras or equipment to be pushed or proposed to a client it isn't a fit for."
  • "Test and study how our equipment actually works and will actually perform giving real life screen shots of actual installed cameras and equipment and not using Spec sheets and typical Sales literature (glorified techie half-truths of equipment capabilities)"

Smooth Projects

Integrators also noted that performance matters. Compared to competitors who flub the execution of installation and maintenance, these companies shared the value in developing project management processes. Several noted that they were able to execute both very small and very large projects as a result of this step.  Other keys: use multiskilled workers that stay with the project over several phases

  • "Clarity and detailed information in a scope of work"
  • "Tell the customer who is on a job, who to call for problems, and when work is finished."
  • "The Sales people also do work as Installers, so there's no promise of one thing and the Installers doing something else."
  • "Defining when work is performed and when to expect it is done."
  • "[We have adopted] ISO 9001 management in all phases of work"
  • "We sit down and design strictly defined project workflows"
  • "The ability to handle both local implementation and national roll out separates us."
  • "Our account managers are the project managers, the systems designers, and the single point of contact for everything."
  • "Our company offers 'one throat to choke' to our customers."
  • "We deliver large projects with professionally-engineered solutions, according to PMO guidelines, and with the best IT implementation and support."
  • "Detailed closeout documentation coupled with personal, quality end user/administrator training"

Service First

Finally, many responses noted the service core of their business.  From proactive maintenance to basic communication, it is clear that these integrators understand 'Customer Comes First' is not a tired cliche'. Several integrators noted the phone never gets turned off, and 'days off' occur only when the customer does not need help:

  • "We keep our commitments."
  • "Return calls promptly is simple and effective."
  • "[We have a] No Questions Asked Warranty"
  • "Proactive enduser maintenance"
  • "Providing a strong after sales service team"
  • "Our equipment closets and wire runs are works of art"
  • "We have always sold ourselves based upon craftsmanship and reliability."
  • "[We] include a user manual specific to their system. It is further updated as the software versions they use are changed."
  • "We offer our clients Reliable-24 service, guaranteeing a 2 hour response around the clock, 7 days a week, with a guaranteed correct time of 24 hours or less upon receipt of a service call."
  • "The installation is done by our factory trained technicians, and have a 24/7 service call center"
  • "We offer extended maintenance agreements that provide guaranteed response times."
  • "Host post training follow-ups to make sure that our customers have not forgotten what was taught."
  • "All cabling is color coded for future reference for quick troubleshooting, identification, and so on."
  • "We are also full service locksmiths, selling and installing a large volume of door hardware."
  • "Our company strives to deliver a design and a solution in the form of a system that exceeds client expectations."
  • "It is as simple as showing up when you say you will, saying you don't know when you don't know the answer to the question, or it can be standing by your quote when you discover that conditions on the job weren't what you expected"

Demo Truck

A New Zealand integrator, Smartway, pointed to a smart sales tool his company built to provide on-site demonstrations and included some snapshots:

"Surveillance Demonstration Truck that is set up as a mobile control room (SWAT Vehicle) complete with a 10m pole and an IP PTZ that pops up out of the roof. We demonstrate the difference between Analogue and IP which closes the sale as people perceive we are serious and CCTV

This truck allows him to show the customer what they are buying and to clearly define 'what is good-enough' in terms of camera performance. While many integrators have demo setups at their office and some manufacturers (like Bosch and FLIR) have similar mobile units, we find this particularly rare and interesting way to differentiate one's integration capabilities.

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