Honeywell First Alert: Sohovich sets sights on “Never”-land

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11/12/2010

Here, at the Honeywell First Alert Professionals Convention in Boca Raton, Fla., I found I had a little something in common with JoAnna Sohovich, president of Honeywell Security & Communications: Neither of us had attended a First Alert conference before.

The Connect to Success 2010 Convention, with some 700-800 First Alert dealers in attendance, is running from Nov. 11 to 14. I’m new to writing about the security industry, so hadn’t been to the conference before.

Sohovich has been in her new job just a few months, so this was her first conference too. In the address she gave this morning as sessions got underway, she noted that a First Alert Professionals program has been ongoing for 21 years. Some of the dealers in attendance this year have been part of the program since that time, Sohovich said.

“I want to start out by thanking all of you for your business, for your partnership and for your loyalty to Honeywell,” Sohovich said.

But after acknowledging the past, Sohovich devoted most of her talk to the future…to how to capture that part of the market she called “the nevers,”—people who don’t have security systems and say they will never want one.

Only about 20 percent of the approximately 100 million households in the U.S. and Canada have security systems, she said. Sohovich said that “the nevers” are in that other 80 percent of households, “the Holy Grail…that we’ve been trying to penetrate for years and years and years.”

She said, “Security and life safety has a prime position for delivering technology to homeowners and to building occupants. We’re positioned physically in the space in a way that we can deliver information, we can meet needs and we can generate a lifestyle that’s based on technology.”

She said some people say “technology is evolving in such a way that will leave…the security dealers behind” … and that the “Cisco’s and the Google’s of the world will own technology information and systems in homes and commercial buildings.”

However, Sohovich continued, “I would say: Don’t count us out of that.” She said that the dealers working with Honeywell are not only entrepreneurial, but also innovative and will be able to deliver security, safety and lifestyle solutions for customers into the future.

She gave video as an example of  “a natural outcropping of our existing portfolio.” Currently, she said, it is sold as an upgrade to Honeywell security customers.

But she urged dealers to think about video as “a stand-alone option to capture customers that we’ve never had before and to invest in the future of our businesses.”

Such customers include “the nevers” who would not want to invest in anything they think of as an alarm system, she said. “They don’t even have watches… because they can tell the time on their cell phone,” Sohovich said.

However, she said, those same people would be interested in watching what their pet does at home during the day, or would like to know that their teenager got home on time, or if a package got delivered to their home without their having to type in “a 37-digit number on the UPS web site.”

Sohovich said: “There are things that people value today beyond safety and security that are really more about lifestyle and technology, information and connectivity, that you can access even if they don’t want a security system today.”

She said that Total Connect Video is the answer, “with video events pushed to your smart phone.” She said that would enable customers to see everything from “Fluffy” wandering around the house to children arriving safely home to packages being delivered. And they can do that with secure encryption to protect their privacy, Sohovich said.

All they need, she said, is a video camera, a wireless access phone and a Total Connect account.

Sohovich said that promoting stand-alone video will not only grow RMR for dealers, but provide them with “future security customers” who might want security systems at other points in their lives, such as when they get married, have children or take on the care of aged parent.

“They’ll turn to you because they’ve already got a security provider,” Sohovich said.

In other words, they would leave “Never”-land—and sign up for a security system.