The Kern Group - Security Integrators Reveal Their Favorite Brands, How to Earn Their Business

Updated: Nov 22, 2019

January 03, 2018 Scott Goldfine

Wonder what makes a security integrator pledge loyalty to a particular product brand or what sways that same company to jump ship? SSI’s 2017 Top Market Leaders reveal their top 5 access, fire, intrusion and video brands. Only about one-third (32%) of installing security integrators and dealers believe the prices their manufacturers and wholesale distributors charge them for products are generally fair and reasonable. Almost half (49%) say certain items are overpriced and more than 17% contend all products are too expensive. That according to Security Sales & Integration’s most recent Operations & Opportunities Report (August 2017). And yet price was seldom mentioned and never the No. 1 factor when several of the industry’s leading security firms were asked why they select or discard brands. The much more subjective and broader term of value is referenced much more frequently. While price naturally plays into a value assessment, typically much more impactful to integrators and dealers are qualities such as support, features, reliability, loyalty and compatibility.

As part of selecting 2017’s Top 75 Market Leaders in October, SSI asked those high profile and proven integrators to identify their preferred brands in the major product categories of access control, fire safety, intrusion detection and video surveillance.

Those results were compiled to determine the top five vendor listings featured in this article. As a follow-up to the initial Market Leaders process, those firms were subsequently asked to respond to two questions. They were: 1) What are the three most important reasons your company chooses a product brand? 2) What are the three leading reasons your company might change brands?

In all, 17 Market Leaders stepped up — offering varying degrees of detail — to share how they judge their supplying technology partners. About the Market Leaders program: The selection process was based on integrators’ percentage of total revenues measured against vertical market concentrations.

The majority of those making the cut submitted entries during 2017 with the balance being chosen by SSI’s editors based on their significant standing in the industry.

The 75 recognized firms spanned the 12 vertical markets of education, financial institutions, gaming/hospitality/arenas, government, healthcare, houses of worship, industrial manufacturing, mass public transportation, office buildings, residential, retail/entertainment, utilities/infrastructure, plus an other category.

At the end of the day, integrators rely on their suppliers to help them delight their clients and turn a reasonable profit. Just as end customers are looking for painless, hassle-free solutions to their needs or wants, so too are the security professionals that serve them.

They have found the sources to fulfill that in the manufacturers included among the top five lists presented here. Congratulations to them! Now take a look and see if the Market Leaders’ make-or-break criteria match that of your business.

Top 3 Reasons a Market Leader Chooses a Brand

Kern Group Solutions Scott Kern, Managing Partner

1. When we select a brand to offer to our customers for their security requirements it’s paramount that the brand be trustworthy, which conveys to our customers peace of mind when buying through our recommendations. We tend to remain loyal to our core brands for years once we have established that they deliver and have passed our trust standards.

2. The manufacturer of the brands we sell must have solid, reliable inside & outside sales and technical support. They should offer ancillary resources such as certified training, registered pricing, discounted demonstration equipment, etc. As an example, one of our video brands, Axis Communications, has some of the finest presales and postsales support in the industry.

3. The brand has to fit within our design and sales process. We only carry and specify two or three brands for most of our core business categories of video, access, intrusion and fire. We can’t be everything to everybody and have no desire to be. When we select a brand to carry we are very loyal and invest our time and money to learn that product. This allows us to offer our customers real value and expertise in relation to the product and its real-world capabilities.

Intec Security Solutions Danny Soileau, Consultant

1. Because the product is solid and reliable, which lets us go in with confidence that what we spec is going to work and make the client happy for years to come. That in turn creates good faith word of mouth, which of course leads to more and better business.

2. Name recognition is important, but not the most important.

3. Dealer service is paramount. If a manufacturer stands behind their product, it really makes our life a lot easier.

Kratos Public Safety & Security Solutions Jim Henry, E.V.P.

1. Proven track record of delivering products and services that meet advertised claims and specifications.

2. Proven track record of adhering to VAR policies and agreements.

3. Support! Support! Support! No manufacturer/supplier is perfect. It’s how they address problems that separate the best from the rest.

SI Technologies Joe Masciocco, President

1. Dealer loyalty or limited distribution.

2. Quality in products received; zero out-of-box failures.

3. Support.

Vigilant Platforms

Mindy Marvel, Director

1. Equipment performance and open standards.

2. Support from the sales and engineering staff.

3. U.S. manufacturing rather than Chinese or foreign-owned; lack of vulnerabilities.


Daniel Prochnow, President

1. Excellent product quality/reliability.

2. Superior customer service/technical support.

3. Ability to meet end user requirements

Convergint Technologies

Tony Varco, V.P., Security

1. Is the solution already proven in the marketplace; does the solution have a history of success in terms of installation and performance?

2. What makes the product/solution uniquely different, such as unique selling points, from existing products/solutions that we already carry?

3. Can the manufacturer physically and technically support our locations as well as their product/solution?

Low Voltage Contractors

Robbie Danko, Marketing Manager

1. Brand relationships we have formed, and the overall levels of support they give us in providing service to our clients.

2. Open infrastructure, giving our clients choice of provider.

3. Innovation, having partners who are looking for what is on the horizon for technology.

Vision Tech

Rick Stuart, V.P. of Security Practice

1. Product quality.

2. Open architecture, i.e. plays well with others.

3. Strong local/regional pre- and post-sales support.

Dowley Security Systems

Mark Davis, President & CEO

1. Brand reputation in the marketplace and fit with our existing product lines.

2. Their distribution model, in that they don’t sell direct and try to compete with us, and have a good distribution model through reputable suppliers.

3. Training/certification/support costs of technical and sales staff in order to support the brand.

DynaFire Ken Hoffman, CEO

1. Training is standardized for technicians; more techs are trained, techs can tap the mind space of other techs.

2. Accessibility and warehousing of the product are improved. Total inventory is reduced, which frees working capital, less space is required, vendor responds quicker to emergency requirements, able to meet most of the client’s needs because we have most of the necessary product on the shelf, in a vehicle, or within next day if necessary.

3. Vendor standardization results in lower costs to us and ultimately to the client because we move more.


David English, Sales Manager

1. Features.

2. Support.

3. Customer demand.

American Digital Security

Buddy Mason, President

1. We are all about choosing brands with dealer direct channels. Cuts out the distributor competition.

2. Brands based on stability and longevity in the market.

3. Loyalty and longevity with the brand to build a true partner and purchase enough volume annually for deeper discounts.

The Protection Bureau

Matthew Ladd, President

1. Quality.

2. Price.

3. Support/integration.

Worldwide Security Network

Elie Ribacoff, President

1. Performance of the product.

2. Reliability of the product, or mean time between failure.

3. Technical support.

Securitas Electronic Security

Felix Gonzales, Sr. V.P. Strategy & Business Development

1. Product Quality – When selecting a technology product brand, the quality, reliability and longevity of the product line is a top consideration. SES customers are most often regional, national and global companies who see security as an investment in the reduction of risk. For their investment to provide a strong ROI for their security program, the security equipment installed must operate at the highest level, every day and over the expected lifetime of the product.

2. Service Reputation – The service and support reputation is another top consider when SES selects a technology product brand. Our customers are security professionals responsible for the security of the people, assets and businesses of their companies. They require outstanding service and support at the same high level as the initial project installation. We select product brands that match our commitment to service quality, response and communication.

3. Product Value – Selecting a technology product brand with a high product value is a top priority. The value of a product is made up of a number of components, including: ease of use, integration compatibility, quality, functionality and price. To assist our customers in their selection of the best technology solutions, we often use the SES Technology Evaluation Lab to provide in-depth evaluation of the quality, operation, compatibility and overall value of different brand products for our customers’ unique application or project.

Custom Alarm

Melissa Brinkman, CEO

1. Quality of product offerings such as functionality, reliability, ease of use, return and warranty policy.

2. Support and relationship with the manufacturer.

3. If it will help differentiate us from others and bring value to our customers.

Top 3 Reasons a Market Leader Chooses to Change Brands

Kern Group Security Solutions

Scott Kern, Managing Partner

1. Manufacturers that perform a “disappearing act” from remaining in contact with us is the main reason. Brands should not assume that an integrator will always be buying their product regardless of the level of support they receive. When we fail to learn about new products, systems and technical procedures from our sales point of contact we begin to look elsewhere for a similar product and brand that keeps us in the loop as a dealer.

2. Long holds for phone support is very frustrating to integrators. A technician in the field can’t stay on hold for long when they have several appointments to keep during an average day. Time is money. Extended hold times are something we keep track of and could be an influencing factor if we change brands.

3. Brands that don’t have reliable sales staff that won’t answer their phone or return emails will get us looking for new avenues quickly. Our customers don’t like to wait long for specific information that we may not readily have available. Information we must get from the brand itself. Losing a customer because we can’t get brand information in a timely manner is a big reason for us to change products.

Custom Alarm

Melissa Brinkman, CEO

1. If we don’t see a manufacturer staying up on technology and trends to the point where we feel like we are lagging behind with our offerings to our customers.

2. Ability to tie together something that we are offering in another sector of our business that might work better with another brand.

3. Many out-of-box failures, poor warranty or don’t stand behind their products or they are costing us money and reputation with their product we sell.

Low Voltage Contractors Robbie Danko, Marketing Manager

1. Lack of support for the territory and/or lack of support for our people. We view our vendors as partners and expect the same from them.

2. A competitor has a more comprehensive solution that addresses the current and future technology needs of our clients.

3. A change in strategic focus which dictates different partners.

Dowley Security Systems Mark Davis, President & CEO

1. Brand requested by a key existing client.

2. If a new product comes out that is a significant technology advancement beyond a current product.

3. If relationship/support from a current brand is not good we would consider changing brands.

Intec Security Solutions Danny Soileau, Consultant

1. Changing brands would be hard for us to do because we are loyal to that brand if that brand is doing their job right.

2. Price is not always the issue. Just because something is less expensive doesn’t mean we must jump ship and change partners.

3. We might change if we get poor service, and product fails too much.


Steven Hatch, President

1. Manufacturer’s product falls behind the competition in offering innovative solutions and cannot compete with the changing market. This includes feature/benefits and costs.

2. Offering becomes obsolete because of code changes or raw material availability.

3. Quality control falls off the cliff and does not recover. If our mission statement, “Protecting lives and property through leading technologies and quality services while creating valuable relationships,” does not ring true, we must change vendors/brands to one that will help us meet the standard our clients have come to expect.

Convergint Technologies

Tony Varco, V.P., Security

1. General lack of ongoing technical service support from the equipment manufacturer.

2. Beyond providing great technology, we’re looking for manufacturers who also understand the value of business development. They days of they make it, we sell it are gone. We are looking for manufacturers who can also help us generate new leads and customer opportunities to grow our business.

3. Manufacturers need to have the infrastructure and bandwidth to be able to create a relationship with our field office locations. They need to be able to get out to our locations and develop a relationship with our sales and operations teams and colleagues.

Vigilant Platforms

Mindy Marvel, Director

1. Potential or actual breach of equipment.

2. Lack of or poor support from manufacturers.

3. Inability to keep up with new technologies, such as analytics.

Securitas Electronic Security Felix Gonzales, V.P. Strategy & Business Development

Technology Change – For security equipment, our customers value a strong balance in proven reliable technology with new emerging technology. A product brand partner that overlooks technology changes or under-invests in R&D would be a potential key reason for SES to make a product brand change.

Service Change – Providing outstanding service to our customer 24 hours a day, seven days a week is top priority for SES. Achieving unparalleled customer service response every day requires our product brand partners to provide the same level of service commitment to SES. A product brand partner that overlooks the importance of service support for their products would be a top reason for SES to make a product branch change.

Partnership Change – Being a committed long-term business partner to our customers has been a key component to the business growth and continued success of SES. Product brands that value a long-term business relationship and work in partnership with SES to deliver the best solutions and service for our customers are part of our success story. A product brand partner that overlooks the value of partnerships and collaboration for the benefit of our end-user customer would be a reason for SES to make a product branch change.

Worldwide Security Network

Elie Ribacoff, President

1. Superior product performance.

2. Better quality.

3. Better tech support and/or warranty.

SI Technologies

Joe Masciocco, President

1. Dramatic change in dealer loyalty.

2. Degraded product quality.

3. Poor grasp on technology innovation and/or cybersecurity.

SSP David English, Sales Manager

1. Lack of support, reliability and loyalty; loyalty to things that we have agreed on.

2. If the manufacturer not reciprocating leads when we are leading with their solutions.

3. Not delivering on promises for product advancements, new feature adds and product updates on time, oversaturating regions, etc.

The Protection Bureau

Matthew Ladd, President

1. Better features.

2. Integration with other systems.

3. Price.


Daniel Prochnow, President

1. Product brand is not updated to meet new, evolving end-user requirements.

2. The location of the manufacturing plants for the product brand is changed to a country that does not meet the Buy America Act or Trade Agreements Act.

3. Product brand is purchased by another company and the product brand is no longer maintained to the previous company’s set of standards.

Kratos Public Safety & Security Solutions

Jim Henry, E.V.P.

1. When a chosen brand fails consistently to meet any of the three considerations for why they were chosen in the first place with no evidence that those shortcomings will be corrected.

2. When a chosen brand fails to keep up with competitors that meet the three requirements listed for why they were chosen at a much lower price with no evidence that deficiency will be corrected.

3. When a chosen brand fails to keep up with technological advances to the degree that the solutions can be better deployed by a different architecture.

American Digital Security

Buddy Mason, President

1. Too many dealers using it to chase the projects we generate.

2. Stability, product failures and tech support issues.

3. They fall behind in technology that others might have to fit the needs of our customers better.

Vision Tech

Rick Stuart, V.P. of Security Practice

1. New, disruptive technology.

2. Failure of present product manufacturer to keep ahead of market trends.

3. Failure of present product manufacturer to provide sufficient engineering/technical support.

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Illinois Licensing Requirements

For your protection, the State of Illinois requires person(s) or businesses that engages in the installation, service and repair of: Alarm Systems, Fire Alarm Systems, Camera Systems (CCTV) and Access Control Systems to be licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation. The Kern Group recommends to always insist on State Licensed Security Contractors and Security Professionals. The Kern Group is licensed by the State of Illinois: Illinois Alarm Contractor Agency License: 127-001223

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