Innovations make Time & Alarm stand out

Integrator succeeds with marketing strategies ‘other companies don’t think about’
 - 
Monday, December 10, 2012

MIRA LOMA, Calif.—Time & Alarm Systems is one of Gamewell-FCI’s top distributors, and company CEO and President Keith Senn points to some innovative marketing initiatives as an important factor in the company’s success.

“We try to do things that other companies don’t think about,” Senn told Security Systems News about the 34-year-old fire and security integrator, based here. Time & Alarm has about 65 employees and opened a satellite office in San Diego about two years ago.

The free educational opportunities Time & Alarm provides for its customers is one example of the company’s outside-the-box marketing strategies, Senn said.

“We did some educational classes teaching our customers about the requirements of the state for educational facilities, [such as] what types of fire alarm systems are required, what the approval process is, what the maintenance responsibilities are, and it was targeted at school district employees,” Senn explained.

“If you’re a school district maintenance person there are no classes out there to teach you about fire alarms,” he continued. “So we put together a generic class, it’s not manufacturer-driven … and we hired an industry expert to conduct the class.”

Part of that marketing strategy is simply to build customer loyalty by giving them something of value, Senn said. “Most customers aren’t aware [of fire regulations] unless they’re cited by the fire department,” he said.

In addition to gaining knowledge, customers can get insurance discounts and other benefits if they’re in compliance with codes, he said.

And Time & Alarm can directly benefit too, Senn said.

“That was interesting,” he said. “One focus in our training class was also testing and inspection—what’s required by the NFPA and what the customer should be doing to be in compliance. As a result of that, we got an overwhelming response and requests for quotes for test and inspect. It generated revenue as a result and also built that relationship and that loyalty with customers.”

Time & Alarm was honored as one of Gamewell-FCI’s premier distributors at the annual distributor conference in October, according to Beth Welch, public relations manager for Honeywell Fire Systems, Americas.

Senn also was on a panel at the conference, where he talked about what makes Time & Alarm stand out.

He told SSN the company is in the process of setting up its own video studio to produce educational, training and marketing videos that it will promote on its website and YouTube.

“It could be something as simple as how to clean your smoke detectors or how to reset the time and the date on control equipment,” Senn said. At many client sites, “most of the time the time and date on the annunciator and the keypad are wrong.”

He said the goal “is to build the relationship with the customer and then have that customer entrust us for whatever they need.”

Senn said that “one other thing that separates us out a bit” is that the company has its own IT department, which it created about a year and half ago. “We really see the need because all these systems are migrating toward a network-based system,” he said.

Right now the department consists of two people, but Senn said it will grow because having an IT staff that’s able to talk to the IT director of a school district or college or corporate campus has given the company increased credibility. “It’s really helped us take on other projects that would have been challenging if we hadn’t had that staff on board,” he said.

He declined to discuss specific revenue figures but said 2011 was “close to our largest year ever” despite the slow economy. “By doing some of this stuff, we haven’t allowed the economy to affect us,” Senn said.