The Big Idea with Ron Davis
What Makes Your Company Stand Out?
If you had just one really great idea you could share with the alarm industry, what would it be?
This month we feature Bob Bonifas, President of Alarm Detection systems
Bonifas's BIG IDEA:
'Differentiate yourself from all of your competitors.'
HE NAME BOB BONIFAS has assumed legendary proportions in the security industry. Bonifas is the president of Alarm Detection Systems (ADS) in Aurora, IL, the premier independent alarm company in the Chicago area. An inaugural class inductee to SSI's Industry Hall of fame, Bonifas has been president of myriad national and local associations, has led industry pushes on all matters pertinent to its growth, has alieniated a few people along the way, but is beloved by the industry at large.
He's also a world traveler, literally. Bonifas belongs to an exclusive group of like-minded individuals who are consumed with the goal of visiting every country on Earth. I remember not too long ago turning on the news and there was Bonfas' picture looking back at me as one of the passengers stranded on a ship in Antarctica (they were eventually rescued). And while spending the bulk of his time globetrotting, Bonifas is, arguably, one of the best security operators in the industry.
DIFFERENTIATORS FOUND IN VARIOUS FLAVORS
I asked him, "Bob, if you could give just one good piece of advise to a young Bob Bonifas, say age 25, what would it be?" His advice is right on the money for anyone inbusiness, regardless of age: "Differentiate yourself from all your competitors." At first glance, it may not appear to be so meaningful. But as you think about it, you start to realize that what he is talking about is the element of running a business that causes that business to be successful.
It may have to do with service. It may have to do with a unique product offering. It may have to do with building your brand. Here are a few examples of how to differentiate.
• SSI's Legal Briefing contributor, Ken Kirschenbaum, started publishing a daily newsletter that's been going strong for quite a few years, for instance, and one of his major specialties is marketing a number of subscriber contracts, all standardized. I would suspect the majority of subscriber contracts sold in the industry go through his firm.
• In the 1970s, '80s and '90s, Radionics was known for its quality products, state-of-the-art performance and great marketing. Sonitrol stood out for its "listen-in" service, unique to that brand.
• Keith Fisher, operating on the North Shore of Chicago, built a huge brand just by using cartoon characters stenciled onto his service vehicles, long before anybody thought of something like that.
• My "day job" is managing a mergers and acquisition company (Davis Mergers & Acquisitions Group) but I've tried to offer more to the industry by writing a column, one that hopefully has added value to you.
• And, I suspect if you polled customers of Alarm Detection Systems, they would tell you how special the service is that they are getting from the company.
MAKE SURE TO MARKET YOUR UNIQUE QUALITY
Think about what your company does extraordinarily well that separates you from the pack. Perhaps you've seen that some companies seem to get more recognition and valuable press coverage than others. That's probably not an accident, those companies deliberately set out to make sure the rest of the world knows their accomplishments. They send out press releases to not just the industry press, but also local and regional newspapers and magazines. maybe you've noticed a lot of coverage of Bates Securty in Kentucky, for instance; which has an active, outstanding public relations program.
For years, marketeers have tried to find the USP (Unique Selling Proint) that differentiates one business from another, preferably in a positive light. It may have to do with your products, location, service, pricing, etc. You decide, and once you do, build on that selling feature. Make sure customers and potential customers know what your USP is.
Your online presence is a good place to start. You might find it is not too expensive to hire a local public relations firm that can help you develop a USP, and then help publicize it. Shop around, prices are across the board. If you look at the web site our firm has developed over the years (with the help of industry Advertising guru Art Romero) you can see why we're proud to direct potential clients there. A word of caution, though, if you're going to differentiate yourself with a USP, make certain you are the best at doing what you do. Otherwise, it could backfire and undo all the value it might otherwise have provided.
As I look over the web site ADS has developed, and knowing the company as well as I do, I honestly think its leader, Bob Bonifas, is the major differentiator. He's one-of-a-kind, a giver to both the community and the industry — and both know what he and his company stand for. There's a lot to emulate.
Ron Davis is Security Sales & Integration's "What's the Big Idea?" columnist and contributing market analyst. He is president of Davis Group, a full-service consulting firm serving the security industry, which also includes GraybeardsRus. He has 35 years of industry experience, including founding Security Associates International in the 1980s.