Promoting Your Business for Profit

Jan. 1, 2009
Don’t assume your customers already know what you do. Remember, a few of these same people will walk in your store, look around at the walls holding 127,000 key blanks hanging on pegs and ask, “Do you cut keys?”

Advertising and promoting is not the same thing. Some security professionals think that if they hand out business cards, place an ad in the Yellow Pages, and paint their name on their truck, they are promoting their business.

Advertising is telling someone who you are or what you do. Promoting is telling them how what you have to offer affects them and convincing them to buy your products or services.

Self-Promotion in business is the best way to tell your customers what products and services you offer and to impress upon them how they can benefit from using you as their security source. They also get to know what new products and services are available.

If you don’t make the effort to tell your customers all of the areas in which you specialize, no one else will. By constantly promoting your business and yourself, the word will spread. When the day comes to an end, a happy customer is good, but an informed customer is even better.

Your promotional efforts will work in two ways - direct impact and indirect impact. Since you deal directly with customers on the phone, over the counter, in the showroom and on the truck, think of all the opportunities you have! Every customer you speak to at the counter and on the phone is a direct impact, and so are the customers you deal with on a job.

Indirect impact occurs when someone drives by your showroom and sees the signage or safe displays. Indirect impact also occurs when your clean, professionally lettered service vehicle pulls up next to them in traffic. Your vehicles are rolling billboards promoting your business. Also think about the negative impact displayed when your tech runs a stop sign, cuts someone off or vocalizes his displeasure to another driver or pedestrian.

For the overall bang for your buck, the more signage, color, images and information on the service vehicle, the better. But make sure it is readable and informative.

Another indirect promotional item is flyers, handouts, brochures, bids, quotes and other material that you hand out or mail out to someone. These items are usually seen by a number of people. These items also generate an image of your company and may be used to make a buying decision by someone who has never been to your store or seen your trucks. 

From a customer who buys a simple duplicate key to a large job survey, you can enlighten all customers so that not only will they return to you, but also they will tell their friends about you. Don’t laugh; it really works.

Three primary segments of your business lend themselves to the promotional effort: Vehicles, Showroom and Material. In this article I’ve chosen three professional Midwest locksmith companies to serve as examples.

Tri-Color Locksmiths of Urbana, Ill., is a progressive locksmith company with a lot of great ideas for self-promotion. A great showroom is stocked with a variety of product, but this business is a shining example of vehicle promotion.

For a number of years, owners Ric and Mary Ohmit have used the slab sides of their one-ton vans to promote their business. Painting and vinyl lettering was getting the job done, but they wanted something more eye-catching and durable.

Because they also own Tri-Color FastSigns, they took further steps that resulted in a fleet of striking, bold, dynamic vehicle promotion. This involves vinyl shrink-wrap. A special computer and special printer are used to print almost any image, photo, message or idea on a durable heavy-duty vinyl. It is printed in long sheets of varying widths. The vinyl is then lined up and cut to fit around the contours of a truck or car and molded into place with a heat gun. This results in a unique message board for your business. It also protects the original paint so that at the end of its promotional career, the vinyl is simply removed with the help of the heat gun, leaving the original paint in great condition.

Although gas prices have recently settled down, outrageous gas prices and fuel economy have been on their minds. They recently purchased two new vehicles that not only sip gas compared to the big vans, but also  offer a perfect way to promote the business.

The 2008 Scion mini-van has been modified to be a mini shop on wheels for most basic locksmith jobs. This unit gets more than 30 miles per gallon. The workbench replaces the back seat and storage racks for products are set inside the rear hatch. Basic re-keying and installation jobs can be accomplished with the Scion. Note the message along the door top, “We’re going green for you,” alerting the observer that the company is committed to conservation.

Mary Ohmit’s 2009 Smart ForTwo is eye-catching without the promotional message. This 58 mpg unit is used to do house and car unlock jobs, go to a site survey or present a bid. It’s also used for errands, drawing attention to the message at every turn and stoplight. The combination of a unique look, bright yellow and black format and mileage create what would be a promotional asset to any business.
Tri-Color’s big trucks are still in use, just fewer of them.

You don’t have to own your own sign shop to get these results. Almost any large sign shop has the ability to generate the shrink material in solid or see-through formats. The see-through is peppered with tiny holes so it looks solid from the outside but can be seen through from the inside. It is currently used on a number of city buses.

Metro Lock and Security Inc. in Belleville, Ill., is set in the left rear of a U-shaped group of buildings in a small shopping center. Although the shop gets a good amount of walk-in customers, it doesn't have the advantage of being super-visible on a high-traffic street.

Many lock shops sell some safes but repeatedly tell me they can’t compete on gun safes because the gun shops give them away.

Metro Lock sells more gun safes than most of the St. Louis area gun shops combined. So, how does Metro sell so many gun safes? He promotes them!

Manager Brian Reese has a knack for selling safes. He knows that by promoting his safe selection, he can generate a lot of business. Metro not only has a full showroom, but also utilizes a billboard on a local freeway off-ramp next to a large truck stop. This sign gets seen thousands of times a day by a variety of potential customers.

The Metro showroom has dozens of safes on display. Gun safes range from basic to elaborate. Highly polished safes with attractive lettering and gold-plated handles and dials mix with standard duty gun safes with a variety of interior options. When a gun collector comes into the showroom, Reese can meet his needs. Because the customers see a wide variety, they know they’ll likely find what they want in stock.
Special orders are welcome. He can match your new safe to your Ferrari red if you’d like. These safes sell safes. The packed showroom gives the customer the confidence that this company will take care of their needs no matter what type of safe they need.

The showroom is clean, well lit and informative. Good signage outside draws the customer in. Once inside, brochures and literature detail the features and benefits of different makes and models, detailed specifications and options.

Although the main focus is safes, dozens of mounted working samples help promote the lock and key side of the business. All samples are clean and have working keys, with all parts present. Push button locks have strong batteries (that are regularly tested and replaced) and easily visible basic operating instructions (To open, Press 6, 4, 5, 3).

Demos with missing parts or dead batteries will reduce a customer’s interest in a given product. So will dusty or dirty samples.
Other showroom promotional items include specialty keys, a mounted (working) exit alarm, door closers, rim and vertical rod panic bars and more.
Reese said the continued growth and success of this company is directly related to its ability to successfully promote itself to its current and potential customer base.


Goldy Locks Inc. is a Chicago area security company with three locations. In addition to the normal locksmith list of services, Goldy provides replacement decorative wood and hollow metal doors, full frame installation and a door & frame fabrication shop. In addition they offer CCTV and access control systems. Continuous hinges, power door operators, armor plates, thresholds and weather stripping complete the full service package.

Owner Jerry Griffin knows the importance of promotional material. He pointed out that personalized key rings and Push/Pull door stickers are one way to keep your name in front of the.
As a Medeco Authorized Service Center, Griffin shares the information on the product through handout flyers and a continuous-loop video on the counter at each store. While customers wait for keys to be duplicated, they can view the latest Medeco promo on bump proof high-security locking hardware.

A selection of tri-fold brochures, hard card mailers, business cards and other promotional pieces all share the familiar bright yellow to reddish orange background. The showrooms all have a bright yellow décor and the store signage follows suit. This ties all the individual pieces together at a glance.

Along with features and benefits, these promotional pieces highlight phone numbers, credit card acceptance, basic services and Illinois Locksmith and Alarm Permit License numbers.

One piece offers a $50discount on any door replacement. Another piece highlights door and frame replacement with ‘before,’ ‘during’ and ‘after’ photos.

Another tri-fold handout shows a cut-away Medeco cylinder, panic bars, safes and exit alarms. Security systems, keyless entry products and electric strikes occupy another panel.

A different tri-fold focuses on burglar alarms, motion detectors, DVRs, Pan-Tilt-Zoom dome cameras and high-resolution night-vision cameras.

Griffin explained that because Goldy Locks has a wide variety of promotional material, they can choose which piece to use with which customer. Even more material is in production to further expand their choice.
He encourages his technical staff to utilize one of these eye-catching pieces every time they meet a customer. On a simple car unlock, they can educate a new customer on the various services the company offers.
Monthly statements mailed to commercial customers often include a current special or promotion. Each of these promotional items is on a card stock gloss paper. The slick paper is heavier than copier paper and promotes the professionalism of the company.

A heavy-duty presentation folder is used to present formal bids and quotes and is filled with the quote, specific cut sheets on the product proposed and the Goldy Locks company material.
A handful of other promotional items are used and some have come and gone. Promotional ballpoint pens, pocketknives, coffee cups and baseball caps are all okay, but the lasting message of quality promotional pieces carries a lasting message.

Griffin advises any locksmith just starting out with promotional material to start small with a tri-fold and single sheet pieces. Go to a local printer or copy store and ask for input on layout, design, and format. They’ll be glad to help you design it if they get to print it.

Also visit other service-oriented businesses such as plumbers and electricians. Ask them if they have any information on their company. Using these samples will give you ideas on how to develop your own brochures, flyers, etc. Look around, according to a study, the average person see approximately five thousand advertisements each and every day. Ideas are everywhere.

Effective promotion doesn’t have to cost a lot. It takes some effort and time. You’ll need to sit down and make some notes on what you want to promote and how.
This is truly a business building effort. The more you promote your business, the more potential there is for new customers and additional business. Take advantage of the tremendous benefits of desktop publishing, printing and sign making services and your imagination.

You’ve invested a lot of time and effort to make yourself a security professional. Now call upon your strengths as a business professional to promote your business.
Not even mentioned above is promoting yourself on the Internet. Web page design and email blasts are saved for another article.