Can Your Business Compete on the Web?

April 2, 2020
It sure can if you promote your customer service, expertise and convenience.

Many locksmiths today feel stuck doing what they always have done. Most have small shops or trucks and wait for the phone to ring and their regular customer to contact them.

It’s uncomfortable to realize this: If you want your business to survive — and particularly grow — you have to do business on the internet. This might not be your comfort zone, and it might not produce much money right away. But if you don’t at least devise a strategy for competing online, your business won’t make it.

Too many lock and security business owners believe the internet is designed for huge companies, such as Amazon. Many locksmiths have simple websites that were set up years ago, sitting passively for those who want to connect online. They aren’t designed for new customers and certainly not for selling.

Susan Ward, who is co-head of Cypress Technologies and a small-business IT consultant, writes on The Balance Small Business that because of the “convenience of online shopping and the increasing tendency of people to use their phones to comparison shop, you’re lucky if your small business doesn’t get left out of the shopping equation entirely.” (“Help! Online Businesses are Killing Mine!” May 30, 2019)

Be Interactive

Joey Dalessio, well-known in the locksmith industry because of his experience in locksmithing, distribution and manufacturing, advises locksmiths to learn how to market themselves far better than they ever have. One solution: He believes that a locksmith’s website and social media must be Interactive.

“You want to capture the viewer’s eye within a few seconds,” Dalessio says. A company history and story about your products won’t catch anyone’s attention. Instead, you should have, he suggests, a “button with a specific call to action,” such as “Need to buy an electronic lock” or “Need to change my locks.” These active commands take a customer to a backup page that has a few questions that the customer can answer and send for a reply, either immediately or the next day.

“It is difficult to sell online if you do not have a shopping cart,” Dalessio says. Online consumers search and buy locks, locksets and electronic security products every day, often at the oddest hours of the day, he adds. “They typically do not search for information or a specific product, find it, take notes, then call you tomorrow.”

It’s relatively simple and inexpensive to create a website for your business that’s far better and more intuitive than what you have. At, for instance, you can devise a living website that customers can find and buy from.

You answer a few simple questions, and Wix instantly will build a personalized website that’s complete with custom text, images, a layout and features for your business. This can include an online store or booking system, designed by you or one of Wix’s consultants. Wix is just one of many website builders, but it’s one of the largest, best, easiest to use and most affordable.

Assuming you have a good website or are creating one, what then can you do to compete on the web? According to Dalessio, “Your online ‘value-add’ is what differentiates you from other online sellers. What can you do that Amazon does not? Videos or links to how-to videos on your website showing proper installation, programming and troubleshooting gives a buyer confidence in you and your product.”

You can create quality videos on your cellphone, or ask your SHDA distributor if it can provide informative videos for you to share.

Something as simple as explaining benefits to customers can work as well. One good method of providing information is by writing your own blog on your website that includes FAQs. You also could ask your SHDA distributor for informational articles that might help a buyer decide what to do for their security or what products to buy. Your goal is to make it easy for your customer to research and place an order when they’re ready.

We all know that the internet is where people find products for less, regardless of whether it’s Amazon, The Home Depot or any other site. You shouldn’t sell “commonly traded products” for list or double dealer price. A 25 percent to 35 percent discount off list — sometimes even more — is common. 

Dalessio suggests that you consider getting paid upfront on every purchase. You can work with your SHDA distributor on drop-shipment orders, he says. “They win, too, when they sell to you. If you don’t touch it, you can just make your recommendation and list it.” The distributor then fulfills the order.

Dalessio and I agree that a reduced profit on an online sale is a lot better than no sale at all. And you can make additional profit dollars in installation, programming and service agreements.

Dalessio has a few more worthwhile suggestions about making offers that your customers can’t refuse. A few marketing messages:

  • “When you buy from us, we honor the manufacturer’s warranty on product. We handle returns and limit the hassle for you.”
  • “When you buy locks from us, we provide free keying service.” This could mean keying for free or hosting a keying conference for the large end user.
  • “When you buy electronic locks, readers, controllers or panels, we train you on programming and management.” These are winning hands: free setup, ongoing training as a service and preventative-maintenance agreements.

Another successful tactic on the web is “selling” a specific application instead of leaving the buyer to make a decision they might not be qualified to make. For instance, if someone looks for a gate lock, they're more likely to push the “Weather Resistant Exterior Gate Lock” button when they see those exact words than perform an extensive search. Or how about this? “If you want to control access to your business instead of 24-hour access by any keyholder, our electronic access control stand-alone product gives you the ability to control access by user, by definitive time and date.”

It’s a new era in online sales, Dalessio says. “Cheap price can be defeated if you package the right benefits.” The power of the local merchant is strong if you reach out. Present your case that if there's a problem, your customer can reach out to someone close by. Show your customers that you have confidence in your knowledge and experience. “All of that,” he says, “makes price less of an issue, increasing the value of doing business with you.”

Establish a Presence

Don’t give up fighting against internet companies, Ward writes. There are lots of ways to sell products online that don’t involve creating a website, such as Facebook, eBay or Etsy storefronts. You also can advertise or post items for sale locally through Craigslist or Nextdoor,com.

And remember to create a social-media presence. “The whole key is to connect with your small business’s potential customers online,” Ward writes. Many internet tools can help you to create a strong social-media presence.

At the very least, you should make sure to collect your customers’ email addresses and phone numbers. You can text them or send them weekly newsletters that include specials, related news and featured items new to your store. Email marketing applications that make newsletters simple to create include Constant Contact or iContact. Or you can try Feedblitz, which turns your blog into a newsletter and sends it to your clients, Ward writes. Remember, she adds, always use an opt-in system for building your list, and don’t deluge clients with too much email or information.

And give people extra reasons to come to your store. Instead of price, Ward writes, “give them other better reasons to shop at your small business.” These might include letting customers know that you donate part of the proceeds on every purchase to charity, giving them instant entry into a prize drawing or sending them a customer loyalty card — “something to make them feel the trip is worth it.”

Make sure you’re the locally connected small business of choice. Join groups where your customers hang out. Volunteer if you can. Put your business image everywhere you go, join local business organizations and, most important, ask for referrals. Even in the age of the internet, referrals and reviews are critical.

“Competing with businesses that are strictly online operations when you're not is not easy,” Ward writes. The playing field isn’t level: As a bricks-and-mortar small business, you always will have expenses that they don’t. It will take a consistent effort over time if your small business will retain and increase your market share.

Still, Dalessio and Ward believe in the power of small businesses to compete against large businesses online. Don’t give up. Use your resources wisely, be creative, highlight your expertise and experience and always think of how to bring new customers to your business.

Why can’t you make your business one of the most recommended on the internet? “It is possible,” Ward writes, “that you can beat those online businesses at their own game and become the destination of choice.” The only thing stopping you is you.

Arnie Goldman is president of IDN Hardware Sales, a Division of IDN Global and an Security Hardware Distributors Association (SHDA) distributor. Learn more about the SHDA at