SMB Market Video Surveillance Guide

By Brian Rhodes, Published Aug 20, 2015, 12:00am EDT

This 13-page guide explains the key uses, design factors, and players in the small-medium business surveillance market.

A global group of 90 integrators responded, each offering insights in selling, implementing, and maintaining video surveillance systems in one of the most common, yet diverse market segments.

Note: this report is a companion to our Favorite SMB Video Surveillance Manufacturers report that details which camera types and recorders are commonly proposed to these customers. For more survey results, see our School Video Surveillance GuideHospital Video Surveillance Guide, and City Video Surveillance Guides for similar vertical reports.

Questions Answered

We share these core insights on SMB surveillance systems:

(1) What Is The Typical Customer Profile?

(2) What Percentage of All Projects are SMB?

(3) Who are Your Primary Competitors?

(4) What types of Niche Security Technologies are popular with SMB customers?

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(5) How Crucial is Remote Viewing?

(6) How Often are Sales Closed on the Quotes You Give?

(7) How big is the Internet Price-Checking Threat?

The list below summarizes the key finding and patterns found:

  • Business Types Diverse: The SMB market is diverse, and there is no 'typical customer'. Integrators and installers report a broad mix of facilities, with many in the segment having no similarity beyond gross camera count with others.
  • Very Common Projects: SMB projects are the most common projects by percentage for many installers and integrators regardless of geography.
  • Primary Competitors: Small installation companies are cited as the most common competitor type regardless of region, however other common providers include electricians, IT firms, and alarm providers.
  • Advanced Offerings Uncommon: Low interest in techologies like hosted video, analytics, and integration with access control, although panoramic cameras are a popular offering.
  • Remote Viewing Must Have: The majority of responses say this is a 'must-have' feature for typical SMB customers.
  • Sales Closing Percentage High: While overall close rates are high, responses attribute this to strong word-of-mouth rather than competitive bid business, and they note that low price is typically key in winning.
  • Internet Price-Checking Low: Overall, prospects shopping quotes on the internet seldom happens, with bids that emphasize service and vendor labor skill a key factor.

The detailed survey questions are examined in depth below:

Business Types

Question: What are the most common types of businesses or organizations that you install 20 cameras or less on a single site?

Summary: Without question, the SMB segment is quite varied includes business and facilities including: Office Buildings, Retailers, Doctor Offices, Manufacturing, Churches, Restaurants, Municipal Buildings, and small infrastructure outbuildings. 

Of all the various types, typical groups are described in the answers below:

  • "We do tons of these of all types.  Medium commercial, small individual schools (ie not a district project), day/child care. Some, but not much, residential. But there is a difference between the 2-8 camera projects and the 8 - 20 camera projects. Under 8 is is almost always about the price. Over 8 is more about the overall system design and quality. Usually even more so than the large 50+ camera projects."
  • "Commercial customers with a single place of business, so there is no need to network multiple locations into a single camera system. Also, even larger buildings will start with a smaller camera system due to costs of deploying their ideal system up front. Once installed, it usually takes another year or so before they find more money for additional cameras. Most of these applications are for exterior cameras and building perimeter applications. Not until you move inside the building do the camera counts start going way up."
  • "Small to Mid size(under 25,000 square feet area) of any customer premise which could be a retail, Manufacturing, warehouses, processing units which requires surveillance for both Indoor & Outdoor areas."
  • "Various different verticals but mainly you would classify them as a small to medium sized business."
  • "Strip malls, small apartment complexes, retail, restaurants"
  • "Convenience Stores and other Small Retail is big"
  • "Churches, daycares, and other 'soft target' facilities like aftercare facilities."
  • "Multi-tenant Office building, Retail stores, Single tenant office buildings, Hotels, Banks"
  • "We install 8 to 20 camera systems most commonly in community (recreation) centers, small distribution/packaging facilities, transit park & ride facilities, small commercial, and power utility sub stations/re-gen sites."
  • "We install 8 to 20 camera systems most commonly in community (recreation) centers, small distribution/packaging facilities, transit park & ride facilities, small commercial, and power utility sub stations/re-gen sites."
  • "Jewelry Stores, Dry Cleaners, Small Warehouse/Shop, Restaurant, Office, Apartments"
  • "Commercial building (usually corporate office sites), High Schools, Middle Schools, Elementary Schools, Oil & Gas sites, Retail, and highend residential (not in the standard residential market)."
  • "Small Schools, Govt Facilities, Typical Small Hospital outpatient facilitys"

How Common Are These Projects?

Question: Of all your projects what percentage are under 20 cameras, single site ones? Are you doing more, less or the same of these types of projects than 5 years ago?

Summary:  In general, the lower prices of video surveillance systems have increased their use in the SMB segment as systems are more affordable or have justifyable costs compared to 5 years ago.  While most responses reflected a general increase, some installers noted they are doing less SMB work as a result of their own internal focuses changing to larger systems or increased compeition at the low-end poaching jobs.

Overall Increase in Jobs

  • "More than 70% of our business is under 20 camera projects. We are doing more."
  • "In the past two years we have been installing several each month, before two years ago we were installing 2 each year. 90% of projects are 10-20 cameras. We have done two or three each year over 20 cameras, very few over 32 since we have been in business."
  • "70% of our Project are under 20 cameras. We do more of this projects than 5 years ago. A typical Project in Switzerland is about 25 cameras.."
  • "About 65% are under 20 cameras. I am doing more today than in the last 5 years because most people are beggining to understand the importance of surveillance system."
  • "70% are 20 and under, and we are doing more than 5 years ago for sure. I would think this grew by approx 200%"

Small Systems Growing Still

Even though the segment has grown, the outlook is for continued growth:

  • "50%. We are doing a lot more of these, probably because the end-user prices have declined so much in recent years."
  • "We are doing more smaller projects. It seems that video surveillance is no longer a wish item, but rather a requirement."
  • "I would say ~80%. We are doing much more of these than 5 years ago."
  • "About 75% are less than 20. We do more now but we have increased our ability to sell them and install them too."
  • "I would say 95% of our installs are 20 cameras or less. We seem to be doing more of these each year"

Not The Same For Everyone

However, several commenters noted that they have already seen a decline in SMB projects based on reduced profit margins and increased competition.

  • "We are doing less than 5 years ago. We are focused on larger projects."
  • "Overall less, because it does not pay the same as it used to, so we focus on big accounts."
  • "Less. With retail banking mergers, the pie is smaller than it used to be."
  • "Less of these projects since we doing more K-12 projects which have 30~75 cameras at a time. We were doing a ton of these jobs during the Great Recession but it seems like bigger projects are the norm for right now."
  • "It's a decreasing percentage, but it has always been less than 20% of our video projects. The decrease is attributable to the fact that there are so many vendors and off the shelf kits for this piece of the market."

Primary Competitors

Question: Who are the most common types of competitors for under 20 camera, single site projects? What do they offer / lead with?

Summary:  While answers varied by region, the most common competition for SMB projects are small, low overhead, semi-skilled installers commonly (irreverantly) called 'trunkslammers'. These small and often new providers are newer to the overall market and are often willing to take less profits to gain a foothold on business:


  • "Small scale companies (under 30 employees). usually they offer competitive prices (due to their low overhead cost), and more flexibility with the client."
  • "Most of our competitors are truck slammers. We usually win the projects because many of the people who look to us are concerned with trusting a one or two man operation."
  • "Common competitors are small security installers. They are offering cheap Chinese systems."
  • "Ladder and van guys, similar products but they use labour costs as their margin."
  • "Typically either trunk slammer one man band types or integrators that come at video from a different angle (e.g. phone system guys). Trunk slammers used to sell cheap analogue but are now pushing HD SDI/CVI etc. Still cheap, just higher resolution. Phone system guys typically sell IP and tey to bundle it worth the phone system or network gear. A lot of these types use Axis."

However, other common competition include electrican firms, IT companies, and intrusion alarm companies including large incumbent firms:


  • "Local electrician, they offer most Analog. Only bigger electrician companys install IP cameras. The network know how is the problem."
  • "We compete with several electrical contractors on new or remodel projects."
  • "electrical contractors. Typically they offer systems you find at the box stores."
  • "Lots of small accounts just call electricans and look at whatever cheap analogue system they push."

IT Service and Resellers

  • "Computer shops or smaller IT resellers are major competitors in this segment."
  • "The local IT guy from just around the corner, who makes an offer with a DVR/NVR."
  • "IT companies offering Avigilon on the high end and installing Costco/Sam's Club kits on the low end."
  • "Every network consultant thinks he can do this work, and we get tons of our work this way."
  • "Computer resellers and their salesmen try to bite into our work constantly."

Alarm Companies

  • "We see alarm dealers that lead with olders analogue systems."
  • "Obviously, almost EVERY alarm company and I'm going up against the DIY'ers."
  • "alarm companies, and they lead with cheap analog dvr/nvr. They usually try to get the secretary excited about having a live view monitor on his/her desk."
  • "every alarm company they typically offer a Digimerge, Costco, WatchDog also we have been seeing a big push with the Flir systems."
  • "Alarms - generally they dont know much about Video Surveillance."

Niche Offering Popularity

Question: Do you successfully offer any special technologies or services, such as hosted video, video analytics, panoramic cameras, access control integration, etc. to under 20 camera, single site projects? Why or why not?

Summary: The most common answer is 'none', with responses generally citing lack of interest or no funding as the reason. Many answered the question similar to this one:

"I have offered but not successfully sold any special services. Our internet is too slow out here for hosted video. I have sold a limited quantity of panoramic cameras and access control. There does not seem to be a demand for it."

Of special niche offerings, panoramics are strongest while hosted video, video analytics, and access control integration is weak.

Mostly 'Plain Vanilla' Surveillance Only

  • "We do quote Fisheye cameras from time to time but it's typically meat and potato record 24/7 with 5 outdoor IR cameras"
  • "No. There is not much interest at this project scale."
  • "These customers have no interest and want video as cheap as possible."
  • "I have offered but not successfully sold any special services. Our internet is too slow out here for hosted video. I have sold a limited quantity of panoramic cameras and access control. There does not seem to be a demand for it."
  • "Most of our customers don't require or have the need for a lot of special services though. A lot of our smaller projects are a reaction to a break in or something bad happening that triggered the need for a surveillance system, so a lot of those customers just want a simple system that's recording."
  • "No. Most dont require it and price is a key component at this level"
  • "Not typically. Most of these end-users do not need this level of sophistication. Also, a portion of these projects come through the bid market where low price is still the most important feature."
  • "Generally, no. Those jobs tend to be tighter on budget so integration extras normally don't come into it."

Panoramics Common

  • "We will offer 360 cameras but that's about it. "
  • "We have one panoramic installed at a jeweler and they love it. It is simply an overview of the entire sales floor. We supplemented with detail cams where needed."
  • "We do offer panoramic and deploy them often. In many cases we can use panoramic technology to reduce the number of cameras deployed."
  • "yes panoramic cameras are successful."
  • "Many customers love the wide views and lower camera counts that panoramics offer."

Hosted/Cloud Video Weak

  • "Yes we sell hosted video for some projects(project under 6 cameras)"
  • "We offer hosted video for all small sites, some understand there would be a benefit for them and sign on."
  • "Yes. Hosted video is still not as accepted as it will be."
  • "We do offer hosted but rarely sell it. "
  • "We looked into eagle eye but not feasible at the bandwidth currently offered at a lot of locations."
  • "As far as hosted video, there always seems to be some interest until they hear about the pricing and bandwidth requirements."
  • "We offer hosted but have a hard time selling it. Every so often, a customer loves it, but its rare."

Access Control Rare

  • "If access control is present on the site or going to be deployed we would make a play to integrate the two technologies"
  • "No, mostly we offer only CCTV except for banks and gas stations there we have integration mostly with intrusion and access control systems."
  • " I have sold a limited quantity of panoramic cameras and access control. There does not seem to be a demand for it."
  • "Rarely does a small project require ACS or ACS integration."

Remote Viewing

Question: How important is providing smartphone or tablet remote access for under 20 camera, single site video surveillance systems? Why?

Summary:  In general, having visibility of systems through smartphones, tablets, or web browsers is a critical feature for SMB customers.  Several commenters describe this visibility has as much operational awareness and management benefit as pure security value:

Vital / Must-Have

  • "99.99% of customers require remote access via smartphone or tablet. Everyone hates big brother but every business owner wants to be big brother. I would say 50% of our customer say they will never use it, when I followup with them a few weeks later they tell me they're on their camera system everyday and they love it. This brings in lots of referrals."
  • "It is crucial and almost always the first thing that is requested. Everyone always wants to see their site when they are not there. At first I think its more novelty to them and then when they do it they see what people are really doing (or not doing) when the boss is gone."
  • "Very important as everyone wants remote view on their phone"
  • "Most clients expect it."
  • "Growing, Now considered essential"
  • "It seems to be one of the most important features for customers. Owners want to be able to see what is going on at their premises (home or business). They also use this feature as a means of remote alarm verification. So they can quickly identify if an alarm is true or false."
  • "This is almost always requested, especially for domestic installations but also for businesses with multiple branches where the owner may want to 'check in' at branches from wherever they happen to be at the time."
  • "Remote capabilities are now a MUST HAVE not just for security, but for management to use as a valuable monitoring tool. Situations arise at all times and with the convenience of a remote device, video can be accessed from virtually any location at any time."
  • "Crucial! Owners demand offsite monitoring and love 24/7 easy access from anywhere."
  • "Very important. Most of our clients are owners or people that have "skin in the game". The ability to view what's going on in their business at any time gives them a sense of control."

A Nice Option, but Not Critical

In contrast, not everone reports remote viewing is indispensible for SMB customers, rather suggesting that the novelty outweighs the practical value for most:

  • "Not very important, but helps in sale and demo of product."
  • "It is a nice to have not a must have. Most customers have their own smartphone or tablet prior to us coming on scene so us providing it is not a requirement."
  • "Most everyone wants to be able to see their cameras remotely. For the first few months, at least..."
  • "Typically we more important than with larger systems. Smaller systems don't have a guard posted in the command center all day and night the way our larger clients do. The business owner or the IT person checks in fairly regularly."
  • "Minimally important. In our experience this feature is requested but the novelty wears off within a week. We periodically check the servers to see who is logging in with the mobile client. Rarely do we see anyone ever having logged in."
  • "It seems very important to our customers however, I think it is just the "geek factor" many times and not an actual need."

Sales Closing Percentage

Question: What percentage of prospects with under 20 camera in a single site do you win / close? Why?

Summary: Overall close rates are high, with about one third of responders reporting a success rate of 70% or higher. Many cited strong referal business as the key element of this success. Others reporting less successful percentages suggest their offerings are generally more expensive, premium offerings compared to the low-end gear that is ultimately chosen.

70% - 85%+ Common 

  • "Over 80% because we have the right combination of price and performance for SMBs. We usually equal or beat competitors' pricing with 100% analog offerings."
  • "We win at least 80%, mainly because we can afford to be very choosy on what we bid. Ones we lose aren't always to a competitor, either. Many times the customer just loses interest for one reason or another."
  • "About 70%. The high rate of success is due to the fact that our business is mainly generated through word of mouth. Thus, we rarely have direct competition. "
  • "Over 80%. This is because I work of word of mouth referrals vs cold call."
  • "75% We are that damn good. :) I would say our 8 camera and under jobs have dropped much more due the box stores/online. But 8 and above have jumped. There's like a certain amount where the end user needs us to help them out."
  • "70%. Because the cost fits into their budget and the basic functionalities are provided."
  • "85% and only miss out on 5% to competitors. We really do provide a much better value than any other local group."

But <25% Is Too

  • "20%. We don't aggressively chase that work at low margins. If we are going to win it, we will be sure to make decent money on it."
  • "We are successful about 25% of the time."
  • "20-30%. More competition at this level."
  • "10 to 15%. the competition in this market is very high, and usually the large system integrators cannot fit or compete with the offered pricing levels."
  • "We win less then 20% mostly because of to high price for our systems."
  • "10%. We don't offer very cheap equipment."

Low Price is Key

  • "We win less then 20% mostly because of to high price for our systems."
  • "Approx 20%. Cheaper options are prefered."
  • "20%. If these are directly negotiated, we win 75%. If through a GC, 1 in 10 and we only bid if they tell us they want a number. Otherwise, my company is too expensive to win most low-bid opportunities."

Internet Price-Checking

Question: How often do prospects with under 20 cameras for a single site price check your quote on the Internet or compare your offering to Big Box / Online offerings?

Summary: In contrast to other market verticals (K-12, City, Hospitals), internet price shopping in the SMB market is reported as infrequent, with most responses noting a value on service or lack of understanding details to compare as barrier enough to inhibit the practice:

Not Often

  • "Not often. Our clients understand that our pricing is not the cheapest but it is not the most expensive. They need to weigh up the potential savings against the internal costs of "checking" pricing. Often the savings are negligible when a cost is put on their time. If they buy themselves then they take responsibility for warranty reports & returns etc. The vast majority see that they get greater value investing their time in actually managing their business rather than trying to buy better than we sell at."
  • "It is rare!"
  • "The possibility is there, but most do not have time or understand things well enough to shop around."
  • "20% of quotes I send out get price checked. 10% won't buy because they think they can do it themselves, the other 10% get sold on our professional installation and post sales support."
  • "I am sure it happens but we have never had feedback from the customer regarding price checking."
  • "Rarely. It's all about trust in this segment. Those who do, we'll be happy to not have as a customer because they'll stay problem customers forever."
  • "We've only been made aware of it once, that the customer could buy the Axis cameras online for not much more than we were purchasing them through distribution."
  • "Not too frequently 10%, but seems to be increasing."
  • "Not often, as I warn them up front I will be more than your DYI home surveillance offerings you find on-line. If that is their budget, I will still give them suggestions on the setup since I'm there but I don't quote a system if that is my competition."

Very Frequently 

However, some responses sharply disagreed by reporting their customers almost always check prices online before buying:

  • "I'd guess almost always. Luckily the most of that stuff is still SD analog."
  • "Nearly 95% of the time."
  • "80% of the time. However, we work to eliminate clients that are highly price sensitive from our sales pipeline as this is generally not a good fit for us."
  • "Quite often on small jobs. I'd say 100% for 4 cameras or less."
  • "They check online price in about 70% of cases."
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