A couple times in this column, I have written about strategy. In those columns I have focused specifically on the strategy of the companies you are working with, and how to help them develop a strategy for digital signage. As I was clicking through some web pages over the past few weeks, reading up on digital signage, it struck me that so many of the products are the same. Essentially, digital signage products have become commodities. Some products have features that others don’t, but in essence they all do the same things. So, what are you selling then when you work with customers on their digital signage plans? You are selling them a service and a finished product, not a set of individual programs.
So, when thinking of strategy, have you considered what the strategy of your company is? Does your company have a planned strategy for digital signage? If not, then this column should help you get a head start.
First, consider what the experts have to say about strategy. Michael Porter is the expert on strategy and his work What is Strategy is often considered the final word on business strategy. This article is a good read if you have never have gotten the chance before. Strategy is commonly defined (and defined by Porter) as doing something that your competitors don’t do, and doing it in a way that can not be duplicated. Therefore, your strategy for digital signage in your company can not be selling a single unit, or even a system, and then walking away. Anybody can do that. It is likely that other people are willing to do it better and less expensive than you. You don’t want to get stuck in the death spiral of losing money on installs.
Instead, you want to develop a strategy that puts your company at the forefront of applying digital signage techniques and showing your customers how to use it. This will likely involve hiring, or reassigning duties among people in your business. Ideally, you will want a person who is a marketing person to be represented in this digital signage team. Marketers understand the goals and needs of other marketers. They can listen to needs and make suggestions that are real and believable. It is possible, especially for some of the larger AV firms, that you already have someone on your team who is a marketing expert. Leverage the skills and abilities of this person. It may mean reassigning some other tasks, or bringing on a new person, but remember, you have a strategy for doing it. You have a plan that will pay off. Second, you will likely need to bring in a designer. This is a person who can work as part of your digital signage sales team (including engineers, installers and the marketing person) to hear customers needs and desires and turn that into content that meets those needs. This is perhaps one of the most important aspects. Companies often buy full digital signage systems and then have no idea how to implement them. Think of how many banks, hotels and conference centers you have walked into that have monitors installed, but are either off or simply showing the name of the business. Because they worked with an AV firm that either had no strategy, or had a very poor strategy.
The worse part about either of those approaches is that you are leaving so much money on the table. With the correct strategy, you can sell and install the equipment for the same small margin you always have. In many cases, you don’t even need to talk in detail with your customer about the hardware product. The fact is they don’t care. They want to know how it will work and what it will do for them. If you have a strategy in place to show them this, you will also have a strategy for a steady revenue stream and repeat customers. While you will not be the cheapest firm going to sell the product, you will have a history of success and a clear value added product for your customer. So, now it is time for you to develop YOUR strategy before someone else does it first, and does it better.