Pay Attention to the Signs

TinersTakeDS-featuredAs a technology person, I love to peak at installed technology whenever I get a chance. However, most of the time it is not the technology that intrigues me, but rather the USE of the technology. Personally, I believe that is what a lot of salespeople miss. Why is the technology being used in the first place. Why make the investment? There are certainly stock answers to this, and that is what too many rely on. Saying something like “it is a value add” does not really tell a potential customer why they should be purchasing the technology. Especially something like a digital sign.

Recently, I have noticed digital signs popping up in fast food restaurants. Both Dunkin’ Donuts and Burger King have starting placing digital signs in their stores. As a salesperson, I would be looking at those signs and thinking about why they were installed. Places like Dunkin’ Donuts don’t just start these major investments without good market research and studies. In particular, I have noticed that at Dunkin’, one of its signs shows video, while the others show the menu. I have not spent enough time in the store to study whether these images and videos are on a loop, or are targeted. In particular, I think it would be interesting to see the videos relate directly to what the person at the counter is currently ordering. If it is 8 a.m. and someone orders a hot coffee, the video should show a breakfast sandwich in an enticing way that may make the customer decide to order a sandwich.

DunkinDonutsOfficial-0714What really has surprised me most recently is the proliferation of digital signs in smaller places. There is a local “country store” around the corner from my house. It is a small, family owned business, one of those where everybody knows your name. However, it also happens to be on a major route to a golf course resort and a casino. So, the store gets some traffic from non-locals. A couple weeks ago I noticed that the store added three digital signs for its menu board. For a small, local place, this is a significant investment. The interesting thing is that the install was sold to the store not by an AV company, but by one of its food vendors. These major food distributors are getting into the digital signage business.

Why are they being successful? I think there are a couple of reasons. First, they already have expertise, or partners, in the IT world. They have been selling Point of Sale systems for years, and have a good base in that world. Second, and most importantly, they know their customers. They understand the restaurant business, both the big shops and the little mom and pop shops. When they target a potential customer, they don’t try and sell them on something too big, too expensive and without a clear return on investment. They have studied what these shops want, and in the end can provide it.

I think this is another weakness of some of the work AV integrators are doing in the digital sign arena. We know that just about anything is possible. People are sold on the fact that just about anything is possible. Then after a couple of training sessions they walk away. Integrators often make the mistake of thinking that the hardware, and the install was where the money was made. Wrong. The money is made in the support and service of these installs. This is why the bigger food distribution companies are cracking into the market; they understand what others are missing.

The takeaway is that we need to do what our parents always taught us. We need to listen more and talk less. Then we need to begin to adjust our business practices and models to support what we are hearing. Let’s face it, any one can hang a monitor, and place a little computer behind it. Can they think through all the possibilities. Can they point to others who have done similar things? Can they provide case studies on the return on investment? No, they can not. So this gives the integrator an amazing opening, if they are willing to work at it, and change business models.