Michael and Mary Jean Major own Cunningham Security Systems, a small business that provides custom designed, high quality, monitored security systems to residential and business customers in the Portland, Maine area. The Majors purchased the already successful company in 2005 from the founders, Nancy and Paul Cunningham. During their first two years of ownership, the Majors doubled their number of customers. Quite a remarkable accomplishment considering the competition.
Security Distributing & Marketing Magazine estimates that total annual revenues for the monitored security industry in the U.S. are $45 billion. The industry is expected to grow especially among homeowners. By 2020, predicts Security Sales & Integration Magazine, 30% of all homes will have a monitored security system. The security industry is dominated by a few large national firms including ADT Security Services; Broadview Security; Stanley CSS; Protection One; and Monitronics International. Joining the fray in 2012 was Xfinity, the cable and internet service division of Comcast.
Q: So how does a small, local enterprise like Cunningham Security Systems compete in the land of the giants? A: Excellent customer service; custom solutions; affordable pricing; and, the subject of this article: aggressive and measurable marketing.
Michael Major says, "I've done three types of proactive marketing: TV, radio, and print." In regard to print ads, Michael says, "They're great for awareness, but I don't know if I've ever had anyone say I called you because I saw your ad in a magazine or newspaper."
The lack of results Michael achieved in print is not surprising given the continued decline in newspaper readership, especially in the Portland, Maine area:
Television advertising hasn't been viewed by Michael as a great marketing tool either. He says, "I found [television] to be really expensive and I couldn't track my results." But radio has been another story. Michael says, "Radio has been head-and-shoulders above the other two types of marketing we have done. That's why I continue to expand my radio advertising." Michael adds emphatically, "I know when I'm not running radio ads my phone doesn't ring."
But Michael's marketing success is not just the medium, it's also the message he uses to compete with deep-pocketed, national competition. Listen to Cunningham Security's current radio commercial:
In this commercial, Michael utilizes several powerful marketing techniques to emphasize his company's greatest strength: localness...something his national competitors cannot provide. In Michael's words: "Some of the things that set us aside from our competition are the fact we use open architecture equipment not proprietary equipment; the fact that you get to deal with me, the owner of the company, which national companies can't offer; and what's really important to Maine people is supporting the Maine economy and we do that as much as we can as well."
Another way Michael establishes the local nature of his company is by using a well-known, local radio personality as the voice of his commercial. In this case, it is Mike Violette, the co-host of the Morning News on WGAN radio. In our recent article, Radio Advertising: 15 Vital Signs, we note a study from the Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism that finds: More than half of people with favorite radio personalities considered or purchased a product advertised during that personalitiy's show. Additional information about this study also appeared in our article, Portland Radio DJ Found Guilty of Parasocial Interaction.
The final way Michael emphasizes his position as a local service provider is to include testimonials from other Portland, Maine areas businesses. In this case, he features the owner of Seagrass Bistro, a well-known local restaurant. And in a very neat marketing trick, as part of the commercial's final call-to-action, Michael offers his prospective customers a $50 gift card to Seagrass Bistro when they sign-up to do business with Cunningham Security Systems.
The final step of Michael's effective marketing, is tracking. He knows, for instance, that not only does radio advertising generate sales, he also knows which radio stations are driving each sale. He does this in two ways. First is the old fashion way. When he closes a sale he asks how the customer learned about Cunningham Security. His second tracking method is more high-tech. Since so many of Michael's new customers are coming to him through the internet, he uses a unique website address for each of the radio stations he advertises on so he can track the viability of each station. He currently owns 10 different domain names.
Michael's well thought out approach to marketing his small business in Maine has kept his phones ringing and his customer base expanding.