Time and Parking Controls

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Lots of things happen for a reason that isn’t always clear at the time (more on that later). Earlier this year, Mike Bodnar, GM of Security Partners, a Lancaster-based central monitoring station and security services provider, reached out to me to ask if I’d do a presentation on security marketing at their first-ever dealers conference. Impulsive me, I said sure. In April, when I visited their hospitality suite during ISC West in Las Vegas, I asked Joseph Mitton, Marketing Director for Security Partners, more about the event. He told me that they had done a survey of their dealers and marketing was the topic that the majority were interested in. That both surprised and encouraged me.

As the event drew closer, Debbie Stremmel, who was coordinating the conference for Security Partners, shared more details and I was struck by something obvious — the complete event package was a terrific way for Security Partners to market to, and solidify relationships with, its existing customer base.  Smart guys.

Marketing Security to a Short Attention Span World

Marketing Security to a Short Attention Span World

Generous, too — Pat Egan, Principal of Security Partners, paid for accommodations for 50 plus of his dealers from across the nation at the very cool Lancaster Arts Hotel, had presentations and a second day mini products expo at the Lancaster Barnstormers minor league ballpark, wined and dined them at Lombardo’s one night and on a murder mystery dinner excursion on the Strasburg Railroad the next.

The view from the Lancaster Barnstormers' main hospitality suite

The view from the Lancaster Barnstormers' main hospitality suite

Security Partners hosted their dealers conference in one of the Lancaster Barnstormers hospitality suites.

Security Partners hosted their dealers conference in one of the Lancaster Barnstormers hospitality suites.

Scenes from the Accelerate dealers conference of Security Partners

Scenes from the Accelerate dealers conference of Security Partners

Everything was neatly tied with a branded bow under the conference theme of “Acclerate” as in accelerate your business — from PowerPoint templates, to printed conference materials, to even welcome and sponsor messages on the Barnstormers’ digital scoreboard.  There was a nice blend of presentations: from “Trends and Overview of the Security Industry Landscape” by Shannon Murphy, VP of Sales and Marketing for Electronic Security Association; to “Business Growth Strategies” by Rob Pianka, Coach, of ActionCOACH; to “Attrition Management” by John Brady, Principal, TRG Associates; to me with “Marketing Security to a Short Attention Span World.” Day 2 featured that mini product exposition followed by several roundtable discussions with Noah Bilger (Alarm.com), Dean Mason (AlarmNet), Tad Lamb (2GIG Technologies), David Donovan (Honeywell Alarm Security), Alicia Pereira (Video IQ), and Ed Warminski (Videofied). Over the years, I’ve been to a lot of these kinds of events and this was one of the best, which is saying a lot given it was a first time for Security Partners. It surely resonated for all of the dealers who participated locally and from across the country.

A murder mystery dinner on the Strasburg Railroad was a great way to cap off a day of sessions at Security Partners dealer conference

A murder mystery dinner on the Strasburg Railroad was a great way to cap off a day of sessions at Security Partners dealer conference

EC Key, makers of a smartphone controllable/Wiegand compatible access control add-on, was a sponsor of Security Partners' dealer conference

EC Key, makers of a smartphone controllable/Wiegand compatible access control add-on, was a sponsor of Security Partners' dealer conference

The Lancaster Barnstormers' scoreboard is a great promotional addition to events held there.

The Lancaster Barnstormers' scoreboard is a great promotional addition to events held there.

The value for me was sharing a lot of agency history and experiences in security marketing: over 18 years with Linear, several more with SafetyCare, more recently with 2GIG Technologies, Secure Wireless, and Time and Parking Controls; plus, the way that the marketing landscape keeps changing dramatically on all fronts, creating new opportunities, especially through technology. But there is also the benefit of getting feedback from dealers. It was useful to hear how hard it is on the sales side to get access to quality leads, especially in quantity, to do phone sales for a product that most homeowners need but few currently have — a security/home automation system remote controllable from anywhere by smartphone (yes, there’s an app for that). On the business-to-business side, it is equally tough to find the right marketing message and media to reach decision-makers with current needs.

Ironically, the one thing that has stayed with me the most since the conference was a point I made that came back to haunt me the next day. I stressed that when you are building a web site today, you should avoid Flash because most mobile devices do not support it. Of course, a dealer came to me the next day to tell me something I already knew, that our main web site uses a lot of Flash videos that do not play on iPhones. It is a nagging problem we have lived with in recent years, but I decided to see if anyone had developed a recent workaround. A Google search led me to a promising conversion application, so I posed it to George Rothacker, Renaissance artist/marketer, long-time agency friend, Flash expert, and collaborator on our web site. George, problem-solver that he is, saw the process through to a semi-gratifying conclusion. While this app can’t convert large complex files like our web site videos, it can be used to convert smaller Flash-based files that DO play on mobile devices and are consistent cross platform and across all web browsers. George has been able to perfect the technique for a series of Berenstain Bears online games for a credit union client of his. Lemons into lemonade. If anyone out there would like to use Flash on mobile devices to do animation and effects, talk to me. The answer all began with a conversation at another highly effective marketing technique — a dealers conference.

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Last week, my family went on a New England road trip and I brought along my laptop and iPhone to stay connected with the office and clients. It is the norm for many businesspersons these days (and not much different from typical weekends). The downside of technology is that you are always connected. Fortunately for me last week was quiet and the digital side was a huge help in managing projects in progress.

I mention all this because my family’s trip was a wonderful educational trip mostly along the coast of New England. It underscored for me how much life, especially working life, in America has changed over our relatively short history. It was humbling on many levels.

The Morgan docked in Mystic, CT is under major restoration but still tourable.

The Morgan docked in Mystic, CT is under major restoration but still tourable.

In Mystic, we had a chance to tour the Morgan, the only remaining wooden whaling boat left and currently under major restoration. On a hot AC-less day, its cramped quarters underscored that a long time at sea was a very long time. Especially at a time deodorant wasn’t invented yet.

The Breakers, the Vanderbilt mansion in Newport, RI, is a glimpse back to the Gilded Age.

The Breakers, the Vanderbilt mansion in Newport, RI, is a glimpse back to the Gilded Age.

With class warfare in full political mode, a visit to Newport, RI and the summer homes of the Vanderbilts and others underscored that at times the gulf between the haves and have-nots was much greater. The American middle-class didn’t exist yet. It is a testament to capitalism and free-enterprise that a middle ground evolved and thrived in the last century. Even if it feels like we are at another tipping point.

The whaling museum in New Bedford, MA tells the amazing story of whales and the men who hunted them.

The whaling museum in New Bedford, MA tells the amazing story of whales and the men who hunted them.

The whaling museum in New Bedford, MA is a treasure chest of knowledge and exhibits about what was New England’s principal livelihood for many years. I learned why every whale hunted was such a vital collection of valuable resources, principally oil used as a fuel for lights, which extended American’s day on average by an extra hour after sunset. However, the hard work and danger to successfully hunt, kill, and bring back a whale was beyond daunting. It must have taken a certain kind of bravado or crazy to sign on for this duty. Ironically, it was the discovery of oil in the ground in Titusville, PA that signaled the beginning of the end for whale-hunting as an industry in New England.

Up close and personal with a humpback whale from the deck of the Seven Seas tour boat.

Up close and personal with a humpback whale from the deck of the Seven Seas tour boat.

Happily, the whaling industry is thriving in a new way now — tourism. Whale sightseeing boats out of Gloucester are doing an amazing job of introducing landlubbers like me to these amazing creatures. On the Seven Seas, we saw a dozen humpbacks during an afternoon voyage off Cape Ann. And as these awesome natural wonders put on a show on the surface of the Atlantic, they are unaware they are helping to support all the shops, restaurants, and motels in the area that depend on summer vacationers. There were close to 150 on our ship, times twice daily, times many other similar tour boats. Talk about an unlikely ecosystem.

A Lowell textile mill reimagined dollhouse size.

A Lowell textile mill reimagined dollhouse size.

On the way home, we headed inland to Lowell, MA for a different take on the New England economy of yesteryear. The once thriving textile mills there are now a working museum run by the National Park Service. They have done a terrific job of presenting the relevant-today story of cheap labor in service of manufactured goods. The Lowell mills were populated by a steady stream of ever-cheaper-to-compete labor pools. Ironically, most were women. First, farm girls from New England. Then, immigrants were brought in, from one nationality or country at a time, always in search of remaining competitive. Lowell went from being one of America’s brightest stories during the Industrial Revolution to finding itself fighting for its economic life, first against other cities in New England, then in the southern US, and finally, in countries around the world. The work in the mill was hard, loud, monotonous, long, and often dangerous. In those early days, there was no OSHA and there were no unions, although both would come later.

The Lowell lesson is an instructive one — if America wants to compete in today’s global markets, we face tremendous challenges in terms of costs, regulations, worker/union expectations, technology, and governmental cooperation with the private sector. With Lowell’s mills closed in the early 90s, the city is now retooling in another direction — tourism. I encourage you to avail yourself of this instructive link to our past (and hopefully, future).

The late great Ron Rotelli (center) helping to manage a Time and Parking Controls seminar at the National Constitution Center.

The late great Ron Rotelli (center) helping to manage a Time and Parking Controls seminar at the National Constitution Center.

My vacation ended on a very sad note with an email from Kevin Elsesser, GM of Time and Parking Controls — his longtime associate Ron Rotelli passed away in his sleep during a family vacation. Ron was a man of many talents, he made friends instantly with everyone he met, and he balanced work with a love of family and a long list of personal interests, especially music. He was one of the least likely people to have his life cut short in such abrupt fashion, which just underscores the age-old Carpe Diem message for the rest of us. That he will be sorely missed by so many was brought home by the endless line of friends, family, and co-workers inside and outside the Donoghue Funeral Home Thursday evening.

 

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Over the past two days, I’ve spent a lot of time on the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76), which naturally makes me think about parking. Thanks to its legendary jams, the Schuylkill is purported to be the inspiration for The Soul Survivors’ regional hit, “Expressway to Your Heart.” Yesterday’s standstill on my return trip from the city was due to a regatta and a lot of rerouting along the river drives. Tonight, after picking up my son from the Bolt bus, I got stuck in traffic leaving the Sixers and Phils games.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQpTEaPFHXQ

 

However, it was all worth it because on my way into the city this evening, I passed one of the all-time great advertising icons — the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile. Definitely a sight that commands your attention, even in the dark. Guess I can cross that one off my bucket list.

Hot dog! I passed the Wienermobile on the Schuylkill Expressway!!

Vehicles of all sorts have been on my mind ever since Thursday when I attended a seminar put on by one of our clients, Time and Parking Controls, at the National Constitution Center. Spend a day with these guys, the manufacturers they represent, and their clients, and you realize how critical parking solutions are — to municipalities, to hospitals, to private city lots, to companies with secured employee facilities. We all drive. We all need a place to leave our cars, day and night.

The Constitution Center has its own underground lot off Race Street. When I came up on the elevator to the lobby, there was a car parked IN the lobby. It was the classic Corvette that Bruce Springsteen purchased when he could first afford one following sales of Born To Run. The Bruce exhibit, “From Asbury Park to the Promised Land,” is featured at the Constitution Center till September. In the words of a certain California governor, “I’ll be back.”

As it turns out, the Constitution Center, besides being a great place to learn about the namesake document, and its amendments, that have served our nation well since colonial days, is also a terrific site for hosting an educational event. Time and Parking Controls lined up two excellent speakers to address very different concerns under the banner of “Parking Operations – Internal and External Threats That Affect Your Business.”

Time and Parking Controls is one of many VARs of Lenel, the leading provider of access control and security software. Mick McDaniel provided an excellent overview of the United Technologies owned industry giant, which works with just about every major government agency and large corporation you can think of. Its impressive suite of solutions puts tremendous monitoring and control capabilities in the hands of key security personnel (and always just two mouse clicks away). Access control points and CCTV cameras, coupled with a variety of enterprise databases, enable amazing response time and instant decision-making, with parking lots being a critical first line of activity and defense.

Larry Donoghue, Parking Fraud Consultant Zen Master

Larry Donoghue, Parking Fraud Consultant Zen Master

Following Mick to the podium was Larry Donoghue, a member of the Parking Hall of Fame and a one-man consulting dynamo for parking lot operators with automated revenue control equipment who need to detect fraud and prevent it. Larry’s 65-year career puts him at a very youthful 93 years old. This man came from Chicago, loaded with case histories that stunned me and other audience members with the ingenuity that parking lot patrons and parking lot employees employ in figuring ways to cheat business owners out of recurring revenue. There is big money to be made in parking. And also big money to be lost in parking. Larry has made a career identifying the ingenious ways in which people game systems and line their own pockets.


Capping off the seminar was a visit from a Philadelphia mystery guest whose knowledge of parking seems stuck in the horse-drawn carriage  era, although his kite and key experiments are finally helping spur development of electric-powered, rechargeable cars. If you ever need to hire Ben Franklin to add colonial authenticity and wit to your next event, he is a personal friend of this marketing agency and he knows how to party like it is 1776.

Last night gave me plenty of time to ruminate on the importance of having a good, safe place to leave your vehicle whenever you venture into the city. Parking on the Schuylkill Expressway has that effect on people .

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The term event planner conjures up images of someone who micro-manages the flowers, cake, band, and myriad of other details for a wedding. Or the swat team that stages major corporate sales meetings and user group extravaganzas with elaborate video, music, pyrotechnics for senior execs who secretly long to be rockstars.
Lately, however, more and more of our clients have been discovering events of a less intimidating nature and scale as an under-appreciated marketing method. Some thoughtful planning and new tools provide ways to interact with existing customers and new prospects in settings that lead logically to sales.

Museums like The National Constitution Center are great places to hold corporate events.

Museums like The National Constitution Center are great places to hold corporate events.

When you have new facilities or processes to show off, it only makes sense to hold an open house and invite interested parties, including the press. But sometimes an outside location is part of the attraction. Earlier this year, systems integrator Time and Parking Controls held a knowledge seminar for area parking companies at the National Constitution Center, giving attenders advance access to the exhibits prior to lunch, an afternoon of guest speakers on PCI compliance, new high-tech parking technologies, and energy-saving opportunities. ROI isn’t always instant, but if the presentation content is worthwhile, the participants will remember and likely reward you for inviting them.
You don’t need to make your event a teachable moment either. Sometimes a fun evening out is a great customer appreciation method. Companies who can afford suites or luxury boxes at the stadiums understand this and budget for it. However, these opportunities are worthwhile whenever and wherever they occur. World Café Live is a terrific venue for corporate outings, built around live music (although they have other quiet space and catering for more traditional events). Next year, they’ll be opening a great second venue in Wilmington. The historic Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville does lots of film and entertainment events, but recently renovated a more intimate community room for smaller gatherings.

Eventbrite is a terrific web-based tool for e-marketing your event.

Eventbrite is a terrific web-based tool for e-marketing your event.

If you’re going to hold an event, you may as well avail yourself of new tools for making it a success. Later this month, one of our PR clients, the Quietmind Foundation, is hosting an international Alzheimer’s researcher and inventor for two days of presentations. We have them using EventBrite.com to handle promotion and RSVPs. Eventbrite gives you a web-based dashboard for easy e-mail invitations mailing and tracking with printable coded PDF tickets.

Webinars are a great way to reach audiences in real time, in multiple=

Finally, the next best thing to being there in person is the under-appreciated webinar, especially if your customer base is global and technical. Last month, we worked with a great team at Advanced Materials and Processes magazine to help materials testing systems maker Tinius Olsen present an overview of extensometry technologies and an introduction to its new multi-camera video-based system. By conference call, web linkage, and PowerPoint, Tinius Olsen was able to reach a well-targeted technical audience in multiple time zones for just an hour of everyone’s time.
The next time someone at your company asks how you’re going to improve sales, quote the great Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, who’d retort, “Hey, let’s put on a show!”

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