Manufacturer Sales Pitches RevealedBy: John Honovich, Published on Dec 02, 2014
IPVM sent a 'secret shopper' to ISC East 2014 to talk to manufacturer sales reps at their booths. We wanted to understand and contrast how they pitched to a prototypical end user.
Would they follow the stock company line? Would they go off script? Would they attack their competitors? How would they make the case of why to choose them?
4 Questions Asked
Our secret shopper explained that they were looking for a ~20 camera system.
Each manufacturer was then asked the same 4 fundamental questions:
- "What's the 3 biggest reasons to choose your company?" - Goal: to see what they emphasized as competitive differentiation.
- "My boss has suggested buying a kit online. What do you provide that they don't?" - Goal: to determine how they positioned themselves against low-cost commodity offerings.
- "Someone on the floor told me about this company named Hikvision. What do you think of them? How do you compare?" - Goal: to understand how manufacturers are dealing with the growing presence of Chinese manufacturers.
- "Where do you recommend I buy your products? Can I get them off Google shopping?" - Goal: to see how much (or little) manufacturers supported the traditional integrator channel.
We 'secret shopped' 12 manufacturers including:
Note: Acti, Arecont and Hikvision did not have booths at ISC East 2014 and, therefore, were not included.
We received many fascinating responses. Here are a few of the most intriguing:
- "They all suck."
- "The Cadillac of IP Cameras"
- "The most intelligent product"
- "The premier camera company ever."
- "Most user friendly on the market."
- "Best image on the market."
- "[Our company name] is like saying Jello'"
- "They don't take cybersecurity seriously."
- "They are full of malware."
- "The Apple of IP solutions, others follow."
Universal Defense of Channel
The one area where all manufacturers questioned agreed upon was going through the channel / integrators. Despite our shopper saying that they were an end user and asking specifically about buying online, every manufacturer advised buying through an integrator. Even more surprisingly, and obviously incorrectly, Axis' rep claimed that users 'can't buy' their products, and Bosch's rep said theirs are 'not available online."
More Aggressive Than Company Marketing
Most reps were notably more aggressive than their company marketing material. For example, Pelco saying that they are "The premier camera company ever", Panasonic that they were "The Cadillac of IP Cameras", and Axis boasted that they are "The Apple of IP solutions, others follow."
Nonetheless, Avigilon beat them all with their matter of fact response to our question about competitors.
"They all suck" - Avigilon rep's blunt assessment of his competitors.
Avigilon's rep was confident and technical, though monotone.
The core pitch centered around them 'doing everything' (i.e., end to end solution) and having 'the largest range of MP cameras'. The third element was analytics / intelligence. For our secret shopper, Avigilon emphasized using the microdome.
When asked about Hikvision, the Avigilon rep was taken aback, retorting that 'they [Avigilon] make higher quality', calling out their 1 to 29MP offerings.
The Axis rep focused on their positioning in the industry, claiming that they were the 'leaders of the industry, that they were the 'Apple of IP solutions' whom 'others follow', and that they invented the IP camera.
The other core pitch was their openness, emphasizing their open architecture and development partners, emphasizing that 'most are closed.'
Regarding Hikvision, the Axis rep said that Hikvision is 'swamping the industry' but that Hikvision's quality is 'no comparison' to them. The Axis rep acknowledged that are 'not as low [priced] as others' but argued that they backed it up with quality and support.
The strangest claims from Axis was on sales. The rep emphasized that they 'don't sell direct', which is technically true since Axis only sells to a limited number of distributors but misleading since they re-sell to anyone. The real head-scratcher was the Axis rep contention that 'users can't buy', that they have to go through integrators and partners. While partners surely appreciate such support, this is simply not correct, as end users can buy through a vast array of online resellers.
Outside of generic claims of quality, Bosch's rep emphasized their direct to storage approach, which he claimed 'eliminated the NVR' and was 'unique in the industry'. While Bosch's direct to ISCI aspect is rare, it is limited to Bosch's own products and has never really taken off.
When asked about Hikvision, the Bosch rep smirked, saying that Hikvision was 'just a camera' contrasting it to built-in analytics and storage in Bosch's cameras.
Finally, the Bosch rep said that their cameras are not available online, which is, of course, not true.
Now that Canon owns Milestone, would this change Canon's pitch?
No. The Canon rep did not bring up Milestone ownership at all, only mentioning Milestone as part of a list of VMSes that are partners with them (also mentioning Genetec). Indeed, for our secret shopper's application, they recommended going to Digital Watchdog.
Canon's rep said that Hikvision was for 'basic systems', emphasizing Canon's support, relationships, and warranty.
Exacq focused on usability, touting that they were the 'most user friendly on the market' and that anyone could be comfortable using the system.
Genetec focused on 'unification', emphasizing 'one interface', a 'single pane of glass' that can manage video, access and LPR all in one.
Beyond that he emphasized scalability and reliability, noting that they go from 2 camera to 200,000 camera systems.
Milestone's rep not only proclaimed them 'open platform' but also, amazingly and incorrectly, 'open source'.
Despite being owned by a camera manufacturer, the Milestone rep was sticking hard to 'openness'. Also, the rep cited 4,000+ cameras supported and ONVIF conformance as well.
Another claim was being the "#1 global leader brand out there.' Presumably, this relates to IMS rankings of only software providers (See: Genetec / Milestone VMS Ranking Distortion).
Interestingly, despite our shopper being on the lookout for a 20 camera system, the Milestone rep did not pitch Milestone's new Husky NVR/ DVRs. Instead, the rep emphasized them being software and having 'all hardware options' open.
The Mobotix rep lead with being:
- "The most intelligent" / 'PC built into the camera"
- "Made in Germany" (Note: Is this really convincing for US camera buyers? This is not a car.)
- 360 cameras that can replace 4 analog cameras
In comparison to kits, Mobotix emphasized their longevity and reliability claiming a 9 year average device life.
Compared to Hikvision, Mobotix said Hikvision was better than kits (weird, since many kits re-brand Hikvision) but not as good as Mobotix. In particular, Mobotix emphasized higher resolution than Hikvision, ability to trigger lights and lower power consumption.
The Panasonic rep focused on image quality, boasting that they were "The Cadillac of IP Cameras" and saying that was what 'set them apart from Samsung and Axis'. The rep also noted that new models were coming out.
For Hikvision, the Panasonic rep claimed that 'they were full of malware' and incorrectly thought that Hikvision was from South Korea.
Pelco's rep hammered home their brand name, ironic given that our shopper did not know whom Pelco was going in.
The Pelco rep enthusiastically emphasized that, Pelco was "the premier camera company ever', and that 'Pelco was like saying Jello'.
As for Hikvision, Pelco emphasized being from California / the US and that Hikvision was 'not in the same field'.
[Note this interview occurred before Samsung surveillance was sold off.]
The Samsung rep lead with their IP cameras using their own developed chip (WiseNet III), claiming that 'all others buy theirs'.
The rep said that Samsung was a 'great product at a great price' emphasizing the overall affordability of their offering. However, the rep also claimed less than a 0.1% failure rate.
As for Hikvision, the Samsung rep said that Hikvision 'does not take cybersecurity seriously' and that Hikvision IP cameras can be hacked. In addition, Hikvision was selling on 'low price, not quality.'
Sony's rep emphasized that they had 'the best image on the market', claiming that they 'own the broadcast market' and that 'everyone is using a Sony chip'
In particular, Sony emphasized their WDR capabilities, their 'less than 1% failure rate' and that they, unlike kits or low cost providers, 'will still be around' in the long term.
Vivotek's rep lead with:
- Manufacturing their own product
- Large feature set + range from low to high resolution
- 'No compatibility issues', flexible support from third party recording platforms
For kits, emphasized varifocal and fisheye / panoramic as differentiators.
Finally, for Hikvision, the Vivotek rep hesitated but then declared, "We don't compete with them. They are made in China. We are from Taiwan." Though that might be a justification in Taiwan (versus China), it is not a compelling counter for most buyers.