Professional contractors normally develop their marketing expertise with their technical expertise. Typically, a contractor’s marketing experience comes from observation of successful marketing techniques. This works well for the contractor’s base market of electrical contracting, but what about growing other niche markets like fire alarm system installations? What can you use to sell your expertise in this growing field?

In order to convince potential customers you must demonstrate your knowledge of fire alarm system applications and installations. If you want potential clients to consider you proficient in the fire alarm systems field you must develop a solid familiarity with both local codes and the National Fire Alarm Code, NFPA 72-2002.

Develop a strong relationship with the fire officials and the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) in your area. This is one way to multiply your marketing effectiveness because fire officials get to see the quality of your work during acceptance testing. Do well and they will recommend you often.

Having the correct test equipment and right number of personnel present for the test will go a long way to garnering the AHJ’s approval and recommendation. In fact, many fire alarm systems installed in your jurisdiction never reach a competitive bid stage because the owner believes that if he or she uses the contractor recommended by the AHJ, the system approval will happen much faster.

Teaming-up with a well-known and accepted fire alarm system equipment supplier will also boost your reputation. Before developing such a relationship, check the supplier’s references and ask around for the supplier’s qualifications and reputation. Although you may have a concern regarding competitive bids, you can monitor other supplier’s prices to ensure your equipment costs remain competitive.

By teaming with an established and aggressive supplier, you gain the benefit of their contacts and marketing to the potential buyers of installed systems.

Commonly, design engineers, who specify particular fire alarm equipment suppliers for the projects they design, will ask those suppliers for recommended contractors to install those systems.

Using a single-source supplier for fire alarm system equipment is also beneficial. This will allow your technicians to thoroughly know the products they use and become proficient in their installations. As a result, your customers will perceive that competent technicians are working on their systems.

Stressing your competence with marketing literature and backing it with professionally installed system examples will impress your customer.

Extensive knowledge of the industry is the key to selling to a niche market. Dabbling in the market, or rather, performing fire alarm system installations when it suits your purpose, will not cut it. If you wish to create a presence in such a high-profile market as life safety and fire alarm systems installation, you must fully commit yourself.

In addition to developing your marketing material, you must have dedicated, properly trained fire alarm technicians. First, ensure technicians have received the necessary training. They must thoroughly understand the equipment and know the requirements of the local codes, including the National Fire Alarm Code.

Such training will allow them to install systems professionally. Part of your marketing can include the details about the thoroughness of your training to show potential customers both your commitment and your expertise in the fire alarm field.

As a professional electrical contractor, you can use various apprentice programs as an indication of your training commitment. But, you can add to that impression with third-party certification.

Look at your competition and decide what extra steps you can take to increase your stature in the eyes of your potential customers. Investigate certification of your technicians using the National Institute of Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) fire alarm system certification program.

This certification procedure also helps to ensure that your technicians become proficient in the applicable codes relating to fire alarm system installations.

To fully explore any niche market—like the fire alarm system installation market—you must find your comfort level. Determine what size fire alarm systems that you wish to focus on and become proficient in their installation.

Market to your strengths. Show your customers why choosing your firm for their fire alarm system installation needs will reward them with the most efficient and cost-effective decision they can make. EC

MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and an expert in the life safety field, is a co-editor of the current National Fire Alarm Code Handbook. Moore is a principal with Hughes Associates Inc. at the Warwick, R.I., office.