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The Evolution of the Vendor-Client Relationship

Sponsored by Security100 Summits Retail

Everyone loves a good party. For that reason alone the traditional trade show will always have a place in our industry. But a need has also arisen for more intimate experiences—one that facilitates more strategic conversations between high-level security executives and senior-level representatives from leading industry solution providers.

A rapid advance in security technology is one force driving the need for more strategic client-vendor conversations. Security systems today can do more than simply fulfill strategy—they can help formulate it. As such, loss prevention department strategies must be crafted with the capabilities of technology in mind. To limit one’s research of new technology to specific areas of known vulnerability, is to potentially miss solutions that enhance security—and the business—in ways that a loss prevention team didn’t know were possible.

- Digital Partner -

This transformation has several implications. For example, when selecting a consultant, it may mean giving less weight to his or her history of achievement and more weight to their knowledge about current technology trends. A retailer may also discover that it’s simply insufficient to have a LP chief go to an occasional trade show to see what’s new or get a lead on systems or devices that may fill a particular need. Because security strategy and security technology has become inextricable, loss prevention teams may find they need additional ways to monitor product trends and to more actively educate themselves on the range of available security technology and where it’s headed.

One step in that education process may be a new type of security conference—one that goes deeper than the hit-and-miss booth visits at large trade shows and is focused instead on building a foundation for strategic partnerships between the vendors and customers. “A think tank is probably the best way to describe it,” said Lisa Carroll, chief community builder for Focus Media, producer of the Security100 Retail Summit, which is having its second annual event July 18-20 at Chateau Elan in Braselton, Ga. “People come to talk about best practices, learn about solutions, network, and engage with other people in the space.”

The summit hosts delegates—LP decisionmakers with a budgeted project in the works—and puts them in a room (literally) with leading solution providers. For both, the discussions that emerge can be eye opening. “It comes down to the fact that people don’t know what they don’t know,” said Carroll.

For solution providers, it may mean learning the true extent of their brand penetration or gaining insight into how they can tweak their solution to make it more attractive to customers. For LP executives, it’s an opportunity to bypass a middle man and learn directly from vendors, as well as from same-level industry peers who are looking to address similar or even identical problems—and to possibly expand their circle of trusted vendor partners. “I see it happen a lot that a customer may already have a vendor they like but might be missing one element,” said Carroll. “It’s important for them to discover they can work with other vendors who can integrate with what they have.”

Carroll has been the voice of the customer for more than a dozen security summits in different vertical markets, including education, healthcare, stadium/arena and public safety, and was at Reed Exhibition for several years prior to landing with Focus Media. She says she’s seen an evolution in the relationship between customers and vendors, born from a desire among organizations to be more strategic in their approach to security. “In the end it’s all about solving problems, and that’s made possible when you form a true partnership,” she said. “It’s the transition from just selling someone something to partnering.”

LP Solutions

The Security100 Retail Summit aims to further those partnerships with more interactive general sessions than large trade shows can deliver, as well as pre-selected one-on-one meetings between vendors and end-users and 30-minute vendor “boardroom presentations” for an audience of a dozen or so prospective clients. “The more you get these strategic decision-makers to talk—in a meaningful way—it really changes the nature of the relationship,” said Carroll. Jim Mire, vice president of LP for DSW, praised the format for that reason. “It enabled us to collaborate at a higher level with our solution providers,” he said. “I’ve loved it.”

Still, it may take a little time for some loss prevention executives to get used to the conference’s concept. “The old guard is used to doing things a certain way, playing in the same sand box,” said Carroll. “And they’re used to getting a lot of invitations,” whereas, Security100 Summits require filling out an application. But there is a payoff. If selected, delegates have all their conference expenses covered—and they get a leg up on forming partnerships that can drive the success of upcoming projects.

For vendors, this new conference concept could be welcome news, by putting them in front of vetted buyers who are actively looking for solutions. Large trade shows are critical for brand exposure but some solution providers have found that the quality of connections made inside large expo halls have deteriorated, explained Carroll. “Vendors really put in a lot of money to participate in the trade shows: booth space, furnishings, marketing collateral, attendee promotion, staff, airfares, hotels, and so on. Many are now questioning the return they are getting on that investment,” she said.

However, as with end-users, some vendors may find the new conference model takes getting used to. “As much as they want to come and sell solutions, they discover it’s also about the learning experience. It’s an approach that encourages listening to buyers and understanding how their solution can be used to the customers’ benefit,” said Carroll. The model also guarantees delivery of something that big trade shows can’t—the elusive “real customer.” Carroll noted, “It puts them in front of people who can both make decisions and are actively looking for answers to problems.”

- Digital Partner -

In order to adopt a more proactive approach to security—a central challenge facing retail security organizations—it is imperative for loss prevention teams to forge closer, more consultative relationships with the companies that make the products that are now at the core of security strategy. The Security100 Retail Summit provides a platform that facilitates customers and vendors becoming partners in solving real loss prevention challenges.

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