Industry sector: Consumer services

Burglar alarm fitter: Market research

It's a very good idea to try to establish how much competition there is in your area and the level of local demand for security alarm fitting services.

The level of competition

Check out the level of competition in your area by identifying how many other businesses are already offering security system installation services locally. Some of these may be branches of large organisations such as ADT or Chubb, but others will be small businesses, perhaps with a single self-employed proprietor. A look on and similar directories - both printed and online - should help to give you an idea about the number and type of security alarm fitting firms in your area. You could also use the searchable directory on the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) website to find out how many BSIA members there are in your area.

It may be that you will only be competing directly against some of the businesses that you identify because you will be targeting a particular sector of the market or concentrating on installing specialist devices and systems that are not widely available.

Have a good look at existing firms to establish:

  • what types of system they install
  • what prices they charge
  • the range of services they offer
  • whether they specialise in a particular area - for example, CCTV systems
  • whether they have a shop or other premises open to the public
  • if they are members of a recognised trade body

If any of the businesses have premises that are open to the public, you could visit to get an idea of the type of work they undertake, the products they fit and the customers they serve.

The level of demand

A strong housing market is good news for the security sector as new purchasers will often install or upgrade a security system. Conversely when the housing market slumps there are fewer housing transactions and homeowners are less likely to spend money on installing new security systems. The number and type of houses in your area will affect the level of demand. Large houses in upmarket areas are more likely to have sophisticated systems fitted, although cheaper alarms and security lights are popular everywhere. It's worth bearing in mind that residential landlords are required to fit their premises with smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, potentially creating demand for the services of the specialist alarm fitter.

Industrial and commercial properties are often fitted with security and fire alarm systems. The number of businesses in your area will determine the potential level of demand and whether commercial security systems are likely to be a big source of work for you. Demand from commercial clients can also be affected during times of recession. Although the number business failures tends to rise (which can restrict the number of potential customers) existing business may look to strengthen their security to protect themselves against a perceived increased risk of theft during a recession.

Why will customers choose your business

You need to make sure that enough customers will choose your business rather than existing ones in your area. Your market research might indicate that there is a gap in the market that you can fill. For example, perhaps no one in your area specialises in installing electric security gates or access control systems.

Regardless of the extent to which you specialise, you'll be looking to do everything you can to make your business attractive to potential customers. An in-depth knowledge of security systems, fitting techniques and so on will be a great strength when trying to attract customers. Make sure that people are aware of your ability to provide them with the appropriate security system for their needs. You should always be willing to discuss security matters and offer general advice. If a site visit is carried out and you are asked to draw up a security plan, make sure that you take note of the customer's requirements and discuss details with them. Let them know that you will test the system after installation and provide them with instruction on how to use it. The offer of a guarantee and a 24-hour emergency call out (if the system should develop a fault) will help to provide peace of mind.

Check out future developments

The location of your business is important as to begin with at least, much of your work is likely to be local. Ideally you will have premises that customers can visit, although this is not essential. Try to find out if there are any developments planned in your area. New housing or commercial premises have the potential to provide a lot of work.

Use the record sheets to note down the results of your market research.