SS&Si Claims To Be "The New Face of Security Distribution"

By IPVM Team, Published on Dec 03, 2018

Can 27-year-old Jake Voll disrupt the security distribution giants? He has positioned his company SS&Si as the 'NEW FACE' of distribution:

Inside this note, based on an interview with Voll, we examine:

  • Unconventional social media marketing
  • Overview of SS&Si's approach/offerings
  • SS&Si's differentiators
  • Limitations/disadvantages of SS&Si
  • Competitive comparison vs ADI and Anixter/Tri-Ed
  • Competitive comparison vs Chinese-American distributors like LTS and ENS

Voll ("Another damn millennial," he jokes and a second-generation industry profesional) has been forging his own business for a decade and in that time, he has built a following, with dealers and interested attendees at ISC East 2018 lining up to snap a picture with him.

The company, SS&Si, based in Deltona, Florida has 8 employees. In the following video from SS&Si' 2017 Innovation Conference, Voll makes his pitch:

Unconventional social media marketing

Traditional security marketing typically consists of print and broadcast advertising, sales flyers, promotional emails, cold calls, etc. By contrast, SS&Si is using social media to generate awareness and conversations with industry professionals. And they are trusting that will open the door to more and better business relationships.

In fact, Voll says the level of conversations he has on SS&Si's Facebook group "Burglar Alarms Online", with 4,500+ members, far surpasses any he could have had via traditional marketing means and venues:

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We have a limited opportunity to have a conversation with our dealers when they’re calling to order products. But social media has really opened us up. We're having great conversations on Facebook that are building relationships at levels we could never have reached by attending trade shows and conferences.

Further, Voll said his role and the role of SS&Si in the evolving security industry is to help his dealers grow and change along with the industry:

The Facebook threads aren't just a one-way conversation. It's a way for us to hear what their challenges are and to help them meet those challenges. We can know what technology they should be selling, but if we’re not helping them adapt and sell these new technologies, then we lose.

Those members commonly share best practices and wisdom gained through experience in the field, such as this recent discussion:

Overview of SS&Si's approach/offerings

SS&Si says it wants to develop a 2-way approach to its conversations with its dealers. "If they can get to know me and I can get to know them, now we have a relationship," Voll said. When that happens, said Voll, SS&Si is positioned to help its small to medium-sized members, which Voll said number 563 across 46 US states, become more successful:

Voll said his members generally are smaller dealers with annual revenue ranging from a few hundred thousand to a few million dollars. The model has similarities and differences to PSA Security Network, says Voll:

PSA takes the top guys and they offer some really valuable resources to them and they’ve done an incredible job with that. What we do is take the smaller to mid guys who would never qualify for PSA and we offer them resources. We offer them savings on monitoring and deals on funding. We could be compared in that we offer resources, but we’re different in that our members look nothing like PSA’s members.

SS&Si's line card of Intrusion, Automation, and Surveillance products includes Honeywell, Alarm.com, and Uniview among others:

Note: CamX is their private label of Dahua. The company plans to add access control and fire alarm manufacturers to their line card in the future.

SS&Si also sells Marketing and funding services to its dealers. For a fee, the company designs logos, and offers printed, branded promotional materials like fliers, brochures, decals, door hangers, business cards, etc. Also available for purchase are web design services.

Furthermore, Voll said that, while in the past, the company had used Alarm Financial Services for some funding options for his dealers, SS&Si was getting ready to roll out its own funding services, called the Capital Partner Program:

We’re launching our own funding program with our own separate company. It will offer dealers an upfront payoff on the initial term of their contract and they’ll be able to get that contract back at the end of the contract term.

Voll said that Capital Funding Partners would offer anyone--not just SS&Si members--an opportunity to hold onto their contracts and grow their business.

SS&Si's differentiators

SS&Si's key differentiators are marketing and funding services, which are atypical from a distributor.

Another differentiator between SS&Si and more traditional distributors like ADI, is that Voll makes an effort to personally connect. His Burglar Alarms Online group exemplifies this. Voll said he even gives his personal cell phone number out to all his dealers:

People are able to go on my Facebook page and see pics of me with my kid. Look at any major distributor and you look at them as this big company. No one looks at us as a big, unapproachable company. We’re SS&Si and I'm Jake. Where we beat them is on service. I give my cell phone to these guys and they can text or call me on weekends. They know they're appreciated and heard.

Limitations/disadvantages of SS&Si

SS&Si has a number of limitations / disadvantages:

  • Limited line card
  • Single location shipping
  • The company's smaller size / younger age

The line card may be sufficient for smaller alarm dealers who are their core market focus but for many dealers, especially larger ones, that use a broader range of products, the limited line card will require purchasing from other distributors.

Secondly, SS&Si ships from only one location, Deltona, Florida. This means that customers are often going to wait longer for delivery, depending on where they are located. SS&Si is planning to begin stocking up to six nationwide 3rd party fulfillment centers which would put them within next day reach of every major metropolitan area in the US.

While not conventionally seen as a limitation or a disadvantage, Voll, himself, could be seen as a limiting factor. Voll has positioned himself as the face of SS&Si, which he is positioning as the new face of security distribution. Voll's young age may cause some trepidation. Some prospects may feel he could not possibly have enough real-world experience to handle their account, their resources, their business with the necessary acumen.

Voll said he has combatted such while he built SS&Si out of a home-based e-commerce business he started at the age of 15:

I don't promote my age, but most people can do the math. For the past 10 years, I have battled through a tremendous amount of politics to get to where I am now. As I'm sure you can imagine, it's not easy to start an independent distribution company when you're the new guy in town (and usually the youngest guy in the room). But I've realized that you don't get anywhere by making enemies--you'll certainly make them along the way--but it's the friends that help you get where you want to go.

Competitive comparison vs ADI and Anixter/Tri-Ed

ADI and Anixter/Tri-Ed both have a major advantage in terms of their physical branch network that allows smaller dealers to pick up parts on the same day for their jobs, a convenience that SS&Si cannot match. Moreover, both distributors have a much broader line card and often ongoing manufacturer sales. SS&Si's main competitive counter will be their personal service / interaction.

Competitive comparison vs Chinese-American distributors like LTS and ENS

In addition to the 'older' distributors, SS&Si also faces competition from the growing Chinese-American distributors like LTS and ENS. Both of those companies are extremely aggressive on price, which SS&Si is likely to regularly be unable to match. By contrast, SS&Si will have to try to compete with more industry-specific knowledge and native-English speaking at a price premium.

Outlook SS&Si Distributors

SS&Si, undoubtedly, faces significant large competitors. However, SS&Si's "millennial" / "social media" approach is clearly different and has the potential to win over dealers that want a more personal experience and relationship with their distributors. It will be interesting to see how SS&Si can navigate the challenges of facing incumbents over the next few years.

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Comments (34)

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Btw, I encourage you to look at SS&SI's Facebook group. There are lots of groups and forums but most are just filled with petty self-promotion or spam. This one is well done.

If he can pull it off, God bless ‘em, more power to him.  Good marketing, good support... the two integral ingredients necessary to sustain a flourishing business; there are too few people these days who get it.

He's doing it right. He took over Burglar Alarms Online one of the largest groups on Facebook. I run a facebook group of almost 12,000 members and drive a ton of sales for a pellet grill company. This is how many people want to do business now. His prices are higher than what I pay now. If they were lower I would buy from him. He's a nice guy and is determined to make this happen. I have no doubt he will be successful. He probably won't be the next ADI. But he doesn't need to if he wants to hit a 7 figure income. 

The personal touch is what I like. I hate adi because to them I’m just another number and no matter who I deal with there, service is crap.

I can see how the personal touch would be nice, but is is sustainable? As this guy grows his business, won't it just be impossible to be personally fielding calls from 500, 1000, 10000 dealers/customers?

At a certain point, when you get too large the person touch kinda does go out the window, no? I mean I still get personal service from my local ADI, as I've known most of the Employees for ten years now, but outside of that I don't really expect personal service from ADI upper management.

You can sustain that personal touch. I started out with 1 customer. Our company obviously had a lot more than my one customer at the time. Now I have several hundred customers I have personally signed. They still refer me because of my "personal touch" here's the catch though. I have 4 people who help me with that personal touch. Those four people know how important every single one of my customers are to me and they help provide that personal touch when I am too busy to. 

At the end of that day, Jake shouldn't be taking calls or taking orders anyways. His personal touch won't come in the form of selling anyone. That's what makes the social media world different. His personal touch comes from interacting on social media. 

My group of Facebook has over a 95% engagement with nearly 12,000 members. Members often mention the personal touch of the head of sales/engineering. He can work from anywhere. I've been with him at Memphis in May and other BBQ competitions where we are both responding to people on social media while eating lunch. It's not hard to stay highly engaged anymore. You no longer have to engage directly with people. If someone posts something and I engage with that one person, there are thousands of other people who see that interaction and now they all think I have a personal touch.

The world is changing. For years I have heard "well the security industry is different" that's just not true. 

A personal touch doesn't mean you have to only deal with that one person. To me it also includes knowing that if there are problems I can call the "owner" to get it sorted out rather than submitting a ticket online.

 

That is still scalable with proper staff that is empowered to take care of customers.

Everyone starts with 1 customer. Several hundred with yourself an 4 assistants is still a very small scale There is more staff than that at a single ADI Branch. The question of whether it is sustainable is a valid question. Personal touch will only be a good as the person providing it. A single persons bandwidth has its limits, and once you pass those limits the personal touch falls off or has to be handled by another person. Regarding Facebook acting as the personal touch through interactions on Facebook. If you have 12,000 people @ 95% engagement means you have 11,400 people who are actively engaged. I would have to challenge that number or your definition of "Engaged". the customers I am engaged with I speak with personally on a minimum weekly basis. I would not count an email blast as being engaged customers, just like I would not count my followers on linked in as having all read an article I posted. Or my followers on Facebook being engaged because I posted an articled that got a like form them. Facebook people click like without reading all the time. 11,400 people divided by the 5 (you and your 4 employee's, means 2280 people per team member which is far more customers than you stated you had. (Several hundred). Call it 250 working days in a year that's a little over 9 "different" customers a day without repeating at all just to speak with each one once a year. I don't see that happen, and speaking to a customer once a year is not what I would define as being engaged. If those 11,400 customers are all commenting on a regular basis or asking questions on the topic or article on a regular basis, then your all buried in reading those comments or responding.

My book of business at our alarm company is different than my following on Facebook for pellet grills. You would have to read the whole thread before commenting here to see that. My point is about using Facebook groups to engage at a higher level than ADI could ever do so.

95% engagement is what I get off my Facebook analytics. An engaged facebook user means they are actively commenting, liking or sharing content. My point is, that through social media groups you do not have to engage directly one on one anymore to be seen as an engaged company. 

Background: 95% of our group members in the last 28 days have done at least one of the following; 2,887 posts, 27,916 comments and 63,822 reactions. Our typical week we see anywhere between 50 and 100 new members added.

Facebook pushes groups much harder to a users news feed than your typical LinkedIn account or an official Facebook page especially when that facebook group is highly engaged like mine. Facebook sees the value in community engagement. Join an active facebook group, participate once or twice and you'll see how that group takes over your news feed and how many alerts you get of what's going on in the group. 

Example: A person asks a question on Facebook via posting a new question to the discussion board and I or someone else from the pellet grill company respond. Thousands of people will see those responses and see that as being engaging.

While we may not directly engage with a person many will see that we are engaged with people on a regular basis, this kind of public exposure is not available if simply calling your favorite customers once a week. This allows us to stay engaged with thousands of people every week without actually having to reach out and talk to each person.

If managed right, not all Facebook groups are, they can be a HUGE benefit to company growth. We've seen the pellet grill company grow dramatically over the last 2 1/2 years or so mostly due to engagement inside the group. Jake has taken a hold of an opportunity I had not seen anyone else do until he did it. There are others following his lead. We will see if he has what it takes to increase engagement and drive more business to him. It does take time but it's far less time consuming than traditional methods. 

It's a fair point Daniel! I field a lot of calls but I also have the best team a guy could ask for! I certainly value 1:1 interaction and spend a lot of my day on that, but as John Bazyk noted, with social media, I can interact with thousands of people. They can read, view, like, comment, and share at a time that is convenient for them. And many of them message, email, and text allowing me to do the same. Plus, there's always a solution for demand outpacing production, eh? ;)

I agree that social media helps one scale. IPVM is certainly a testament to that. And to that end, I could see social media helping SS&Si improve customer acquisition, i.e., steady / increasing prospects reaching out to you, rather than cold calling every integrator over and over (Hi LTS!).

The challenge in scaling is customer service. People who know the industry, speak fluent English, are helpful and enthusiastic, etc. are in short supply. Can a distributor hire enough of those people and still maintain close enough prices to be competitive with box movers? I don't know but it's something I am curious to see.

The irony of this coming from "Undisclosed Integrator #2" is just too much!! :) Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope to have the opportunity to meet the man behind the number!

Reading title of the article i was thinking this was about swim suits and sports illustrated.

Oh well....

Companies like SS&Si and Brooklyn Supply really understand how people want to shop today. 

If I know what I want, I might as well order off a website. If I just want to email a shopping list to a rep and get a price quote back, I'll go to ADI or Anixter. But there are always going to be people who need or want that personal touch. Maybe I need product recommendations, or I need material to build a presentation, or I need some sort of out-of-the-box solution, or some weird shipping arrangement. 

It's not easy to do well, but if you can manage it, you'll build a loyal following. 

Hey, Undisclosed Distributor #4! Who wants to take the easy road anyway?

@Jake, unsolicited advice: replace the & in your company name, since the symbol is illegal in domain names...

As for domain names, SSSI.com is available through the company selling it is demanding $32,800:

I did find typing SS&Si a bit confusing because it's an atypical naming convention and has the string of 'S'. Not sure how big of a business issue it is overall but it could be incrementally better to have an easier to spell name.

I did find typing SS&Si a bit confusing because it's an atypical naming convention and has the string of 'S'.

Also, as you know, there’s the similar sounding Security Sales & Integration, or SS&I, that might trip up searchers.

@Jake, what do your S’s stand for? And why the little “i”?  I did look for an expansion in your online info but didn’t see any any.

Hello Undisclosed #5!

It stands for Security Sales and Solutions, Inc.

Why is the "i" little? At the time i was reading about a writer/philosopher who wrote "i" in lowercase as an act of humility. Or something like that... And i thought it would be cool to incorporate it in our logo.

I'm suspicious of sssi.com being listed for sale all of a sudden! Who are you Undisclosed #5 and are you sure you won't take less than $32,800?!? :)

 

 

Why is the "i" little? At the time i was reading about a writer/philosopher who wrote "i" in lowercase as an act of humility. Or something like that...

i think therefore i am?

no offense, but you don’t seem like the lowercase “i” type :)

also, well done here:

I’m suspicious of sssi.com being listed for sale all of a sudden! Who are you Undisclosed #5 and are you sure you won't take less than $32,800?!? :)

It’s because of a bidding war going on right now between Sikorsky Support Services Inc, Safety Sleep Systems International and the Scottish Sheep Scab Initiative.

Amazon is coming.

Can you feel it? Can you feel it? Can you feeeeeeel it!!

Good luck SS&Si

 

Spooky!!

I think it’s safe to say Amazon has arrived.

Nobody moves boxes better than Amazon.

There will be a void created as box moving specialty distributors consolidate (ie. low voltage into electrical). I plan to fill as much of that void as we can. It’s a better time to be growing marketshare than fighting to maintain it.

Then again, I’m just a guy with a lightbulb and some really awesome customers who dig it. 

As for the luck, I’ll take all I can get. Thank you!

I’m just a guy with a lightbulb...

Riddle: How many guys with a lightbulb does it take to change an industry?

Answer: 8, two on Facebook, two on LinkedIn, two on Twitter and two on the phones!

Why was Amazon so successful? Was it their large inventory? Distribution network? 

I would submit that Amazon was as successful as they were because of their ability to capture reviews from so many people. Most people who shop on Amazon trusted Amazon reviews. We're seeing that is not as much the case anymore. What we are seeing now is how Facebook groups are dominating consumer trust. Consumers (people who purchase alarm equipment for their alarm company are consumers too) trust people inside of a Facebook community more than people they can't engage with directly on Amazon. I'm not saying that Jake is going to be as big or bigger than Amazon or that Amazon will slowly crumble. What I am saying is that if a small alarm distributor wants to grow in a highly competitive market where his prices are the same as just about everyone else's and where he probably doesn't have a budget to get a booth at ISC west....than taking over and dominating a facebook group filled with B2B customers is the best way to get attention. I mean he's already got an article about him on IPVM one of the most read industry publications on the internet. 

Amazon is not going to crumble. Jake will succeed. Thanks for submitting your opinion on why Amazon is successful. Consumers want to use the least amount of effort and time to find the best bargain, low price comparisons along with the warmest online review that aligns with whatever logic is going on in the potential customer's mind. Shoppers may be hunting for the best price, are pressed for time, are seeking additional discounts or simply agree with a what the review states. Additionally seeing the graphical 5 stars above each review posted by someone they will never meet also influences the confidence to add that item to the cart. The gullible are easy targets while the avid shopper will exhaust will flip thru all the channels prior to making a selection be it the facebook communities you trust, Alibaba, Amazon, Anixter and even the Little Nickel.

To answer your question why Amazon is so successful is easy.

Answer: Amazon is a way of life.

Jake, thanks for the LinkedIn invite!

One question, how did you know my name?

Top Secret!! Lol

You had clicked on my LinkedIn. I usually send invites to anyone who views my profile.

An interesting new promotion from him:

It takes some serious _____ to ask people to wear a picture of you...

Do you even have room for another sticker, Brian?

This will go over big with the crowd at ISC.

Jake: Hi, I’m Jake Voll from SS&Si, top of the BAO group! I have your complimentary sticker showing me some love that I’d like you to wear prominently for a couple days. Then I’ll hunt you down and call you out whenever I see you on the floor to give you a “prize”. Best of all its totally free!

Now, just tell me where you want me to stick it ;)

 

Undisclosed #5, man you nailed the pitch! 👌Did you overhear me practicing?!

Don’t forget though, the hilarity of it all helps get them to smile while holding a lightbulb up for the picture!  💡😆

The compounding effect of posting that picture to social media magnifies it!

And ultimately, while many of them may peel that sticker off right after the picture, it won’t matter. We’ll have shared a moment and I’ll have accomplished my goal: 

To make them smile, laugh, and remember me! They may not even buy anything ever, but they’ll remember the goofy guy with a lightbulb! And for that, I’ll heart them forever!

Or not. Maybe they’ll think it’s weird, refuse to pose for a picture, and soon forget me. Lol good thing stickers are cheap! 🤣

 

 

 

 

 

Their reps are annoying and they’re overpriced. Worst thing I did was apply for an account- they would call weekly and bug me.

Sorry to hear our reps bugged you too much. We realize that most dealers practice just-in-time inventory so we try to follow up on a weekly basis. Sometimes customers tell us to cool it and we're happy to accommodate communication preferences. As far as pricing, I'm always happy to work with dealers to meet or beat the competition and I find we're very competitive overall. In any case, I want you to know that your feedback has been heard and appreciated. I'll discuss it with the team so we can continue to improve. Thank you!

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