From Security Sales & Integration Magazine June 3, 2008
By Scott Goldfine
Launched little more than a half-decade ago, Beltsville, Md.-based ASG Security has wasted little time becoming one of the industry’s largest installing security systems providers. Expected to grow more than 30 percent for the fifth year in a row, ASG projects 2008 revenues will top $87 million. Much of this success can be attributed to an obsessive dedication to deliver premium customer service, and an inspired marketing plan. “Often the customer’s first impression of our company is their initial exposure to ASG through our Web site or other marketing element,” says Joe Nuccio, ASG president and CEO. “Therefore, we want the actual look and feel of each marketing item to represent the professionalism our customers can come to expect from us after the sale. We are committed to producing the highest quality marketing materials in the industry.”
Customers are not the only ones who have been seduced by ASG’s keen marketing sensibility. This year, the company was nominated by a panel of independent judges as a finalist in six of the 11 marketing categories for the 2008 SAMMYs, capturing an unprecedented four awards.
Launched in 1995 by SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION, the SAMMYs are the highest honor an installing systems integrator/dealer company can achieve in excellence for sales, marketing or installation. Announced during a gala on the eve of ISC West 2008 at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, ASG captured trophies for “best” Company Logo, Residential Brochure, Promotional Giveaway Item and Community Service Program.
“We have entered the SAMMYs each of the past four years and have been fortunate to land 10 nominations and six wins,” says ASG Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing Bob Ryan. “We are extremely proud of our company and we do our very best to portray ASG as a highly professional customer service company.”
Fortunately for the rest of the industry, Ryan and Nuccio don’t mind sharing the methodologies that have fueled their company’s meteoric rise. Managers of similar businesses interested in scaling new heights may want to pay attention to ASG’s proven operational and marketing strategies.
ASG Ascent Began 6 Years Ago
Founded in 2002 as Alarm Security Group Monitoring, in July of that year the company was purchased by private equity firms Waud Capital Partners and Northwest Capital Appreciation. A complete restructuring ensued that included the introduction of a highly seasoned management team, led by Nuccio. During the next five years, the company was renamed ASG Security and was rebuilt from the inside out. “We are proud to be recognized as one of the premier super-regional security companies operating in the U.S.,” says Nuccio.
Today, ASG’s 685 employees provide intrusion, CCTV, access control, and fire and suppression systems and services for 120,000 commercial/industrial, governmental, small business and residential customers through 16 offices in the Mid-Atlantic region and Texas. Approximately 50 percent of the company’s year-to-year growth comes from internal sales, with the other half emanating from acquisitions.
Some of the many notable acquisitions made by ASG include ProStar Security, Eagle Broadband, AccuTech Systems and Matrix Security Group. In October 2007, ASG recapitalized with Parthenon Capital, setting the stage for continued long-term growth. The firm operates a central monitoring station in McAllen, Texas.
ASG’s approach to marketing is based on what management terms, “a very sales rep-centric environment,” Ryan explains.
“First and foremost, it is our job to put ASG’s sales teams in a position to win in the marketplace. This means making sure they possess the tools and resources they need on a daily and even transactional basis, to represent the strengths of our company in a highly professional way. This runs the gamut from sales collateral to product training to business partner support.”
Grassroots, Team Effort Pays Off
In the interest of keeping its “ear to the street,” ASG, which does not have a designated marketing department, begins developing its marketing plan and materials at the grassroots level — with sales reps and customers. Three basic questions are directed toward the sales force: 1) What are the opportunities in your marketplace? 2) What resources do you need? And, most importantly, 3) What are the barriers to your success? “This bottom-up approach usually means we hit the nail on the head with pinpoint accuracy while instilling great confidence in our sales teams,” says Ryan, who adds that it is not difficult to tell if something works or not. “If the end result is a powerful marketing piece that helps create new sales, the phone will be ringing off the hook and E-mails will come flooding in. The reverse of this is usually dead silence.”
Ryan has also learned that sometimes pearls of wisdom can come from unexpected places. During a spirited debate about a particular marketing project, it’s not uncommon for him to ask a random employee for their opinion. “It’s amazing how a simple conversation can totally change the course of a project and take it from good to great,” he says.
Of course, executive management usually expects more specific, even scientific, means of evaluating the success and return on investment of a given marketing initiative. As Ryan explains, once a business is up and running with an established marketing regimen, that momentum translates into a higher rate of cost effectiveness.
“Our marketing budget is expressed as a percentage, or multiple, of the new RMR [recurring monthly revenue] we forecast to create,” he says. “Even though our sales force has grown from 50 in 2003 to more than 200 in 2008, our marketing expenses have not increased dramatically. This is partly because we have a strong base of marketing materials that only need to evolve gradually, which gives us great leverage. The only incremental expense is for the deployment of new collateral and the additional printing expense that comes with a larger sales force.”
However, perhaps even more so than monetary expenditures, it is the allocation of time that causes Ryan and his marketing cohorts the most grief. As with most American businesses today, ASG associates are accountable for and expected to excel in a variety of tasks. The company’s position as a mover and shaker in a highly competitive industry further amplifies these time constraints.
“We run a very lean corporate staff here at ASG. Everyone wears a lot of hats and is responsible for creating original work,” says Ryan. “With all the other priorities, integrating acquisitions and managing organic hyper-growth, it’s a sometimes stressful process to get to the finish line with fresh new material. But we’ve got a great team here and we always manage to get it done.”
Awards Reflect Company’s Culture
In looking more closely at the four areas ASG was recognized in for outstanding marketing, they are quite indicative of the company’s growth, team-building spirit, push for originality and pursuit to be good corporate citizens.
As a growing, evolving enterprise, the company embarked on a quest for a new logo after shortening and modifying its name from Alarm Security Group to ASG Security.
“We experimented with a lot of different concepts, including various icons and graphics … just about everything you could imagine,” recalls Ryan. “In the end, we decided to make the company name itself the actual logo by moving things around and incorporating traditional color schemes we felt would emphasize the concept of security.”
It’s likely ASG felt a sense of déjà vu when its name was announced as the best residential brochure. After all, that is the same category the company bagged its first SAMMY prize for back in 2004. In fact, upon closer examination, the piece, which positions ASG as a trusted security provider focused on solutions for ordinary families, has not changed that much.
“This brochure was actually the very first marketing piece we ever produced and is exemplary of the process of collaboration at the grassroots level of our organization,” says Ryan. “Just about everybody gave input into this one and the result is a very well-textured brochure that conveys the warmth and peace of mind that comes along with ASG service.”
There are many reasons one particular person or company tends to win awards, among them are keeping those contests in mind when making relevant decisions and making certain you satisfy the judging criteria.
“The SAMMYs have come to serve a great purpose in the security industry,” says Nuccio. “More so than ever, I really believe when companies work to produce marketing materials, they do it with the hope of winning a SAMMY award. This has a positive effect on our entire industry because the presentation of our business is elevated beyond what it’s ever been.”
That thinking and approach paid off for Ryan when he ordered 1,000 ASG Security-branded childproof outlet covers. The inexpensive item has delighted customers, generating superior bang for the buck.
“I have to confess that when we chose this promotional giveaway item, I had in mind to pick one that could potentially win a SAMMY,” says the marketer. “I basically scoured the Internet for safety- and security-related items I felt would have a positive customer impact in our residential segment. At pennies apiece, we have gotten more goodwill out of this item than any other giveaway.”
Such a giveaway item not only promotes the company but also reinforces the underlying message that ASG is looking out for families’ safety and well being beyond the typical perception of what an electronic security and fire/life-safety systems provider does. This mentality of serving in the best interests of the public plays right into community services programs.
“Serving the community is very important to ASG,” says Aggie Hassan, vice president Human Resources. “As we are in the business of providing protection for homes and businesses, we place a high value on life. It makes sense we would want to influence our surrounding communities in positive ways, and help make the community a better and safer place to live.”
With widespread participation, the spirit of charity runs deep at ASG. The company’s involvement reads like a who’s who of humanitarian causes. The firm’s community service activity ranges from specific, high profile campaigns such as Adopt-a-Family, Special Olympics, Little League Challenger, Ronald McDonald House and Habitat for Humanity, to more fundamental efforts such as food, clothing and school supplies drives.
“By becoming involved in these activities, we not only help better the community and the people in the community, but we also learn about how others live and survive in our society, and we learn about ourselves as well,” says Hassan, who spearheads ASG’s community outreach pursuits. “And we all get a wonderful sense of satisfaction at helping others and a feeling of amazing gratitude for the abundance we have in our own lives.”
Maximize Resources and Execute
The materials, ideas and efforts that have brought ASG Security acclaim are all well and good in of themselves, but a true, maximized marketing plan is one in which consistency is stressed in message, presentation and timing across every facet of the marketing program.
With that in mind, ASG has created a comprehensive series of marketing collateral that runs side by side with each of its sales channels: residential, small business and commercial/industrial. They all contain common themes and color schemes that all tie to each other to establish uniform branding.
Forging such a successful, fully coordinated program hinges greatly on having the right people, attitude and resources. “I think there are no real secrets — just the basics executed very well,” says Ryan. “We have a very talented sales force and it’s amazing what they continue to accomplish with just the basics. It’s entirely a team effort. Collaboration on these projects is the key ingredient to our success.”
Taking a moment to ponder the industry’s overall marketing landscape, Ryan says new entrants, technology developments and the SAMMYs program have greatly raised the sophistication level the past five years. While this is a positive trend, it can make it seem more daunting than ever for a company seeking to get on track with its own program, especially on a tight budget. Ryan offers some advice to ease the pain.
“Team up with your chosen manufacturer and leverage their marketing departments,” he says. “Most every major manufacturer produces high quality marketing material that can be easily branded to almost any business with a few simple mouse clicks. It’s not important if it’s yours. It’s important if it’s effective. When your budget allows, make your first marketing collateral piece one that tells the right story about your company.”
Fame Fleeting, But No Less Fun
As in other business realms, marketing is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately endeavor. You’re only as good as your most recent concept, and must always be plotting your next move.
“We’ve got some exciting initiatives planned that I believe will really change the landscape of our commercial business,” says Ryan. “We will be launching a suite of new managed services in alarm monitoring, CCTV and access control that will require some sizzling wrap-around marketing. I expect we will really be rolling by the second half of the year.
But for the moment, with his shiny new SAMMY awards in tow, a beaming Ryan is deservedly basking in the moment. Without a regret, he reflects back on the path that got him to this point: “I wouldn’t change anything. I couldn’t be happier.”