SS&Si Claims To Be "The New Face of Security Distribution"By: IPVM Team, Published on Dec 03, 2018
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:
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.
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 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.