The Digital Signage Insider

3 Ways That Pro AV Dealers Can Sell More Digital Signage Systems

Published on: 2011-06-02

With the InfoComm show coming up, there has been a marked increase in digital signage-related activity in the Pro AV sector. While traditional IT shops and distributors have historically commanded the lion's share of digital signage equipment sales, the Pro AV industry's participation is growing quickly -- particularly in high-growth areas like small networks and highly customized display projects. However, with this growth comes some growing pains, and every year at InfoComm we hear from expert panels and digital signage cognoscenti offering advice on how to be successful selling signs. Sometimes, the advice is good. Sometimes... well, sometimes I just get the feeling that some of these "experts" just like to hear the sound of their own voices. Fortunately, since I can go weeks without speaking and I had to use spell-check to simply spell the word "cognoscenti," I don't fall into this category. So, I thought the Pro AV dealers out there might benefit from yet another webpage full of free advice on how to sell digital signage systems.

Strategy #1: Lead in with content

My first piece of advice frequently falls on deaf ears, particularly with those who have no experience with content creation. However, anyone serious about putting together a digital signage sales business would do well to invest in some good-looking demo content. While those with a copy of Final Cut Studio or Adobe Creative Suite (and the skills to use them) certainly have an advantage when it comes to making customized content pieces for client demos and the like, a polished, professional and good-looking generic content loop can make even a digital signage newbie look like a pro. If you know you're primarily going to be making pitches to health care facilities, for example, you might pay a graphic designer to make up a nice demo loop of health-related content. A few pieces of well-crafted content, perhaps combined with off-the-shelf lifestyle videos from one of the growing number of digital signage content libraries, will help communicate the benefits of a digital sign far better than words alone (and don't even get me started about PowerPoint).

Image credit: aussiegall on Flickr
Normally, this would be the place where I'd tell you to go read about our best practices for making digital signage content. However, in this context I'm talking about content for selling digital signage. Your audience will be giving your content their (mostly) undivided attention, so it's a good idea to up the bling factor and make content that's visually stunning -- even if it doesn't necessarily translate to something that you'd want to put on the sign after it was installed.

The other upshot of leading with content is that it provides a good segue into talking about ongoing content creation services. While it's not for everyone, producing content (or sourcing it from reputable designers or other third parties) can lead to ongoing revenue opportunities for dealers willing to talk the talk.

Strategy #2: Don't sell parts, sell a solution

AV dealers, as often as not, are charged with looking for, buying and installing parts. For every project to outfit a conference room or build out a corporate lobby with high-tech gadgetry, there are probably a dozen to simply install a projector or upgrade a piece of audio equipment. So when it comes time to pitch a digital signage program or respond to an RFP, the natural tendency of many is to list out a bunch of parts. Now admittedly, to a certain extent this is always going to be necessary. After all, the client's going to need a screen to show the content, a player to play it, and so on. But these things should be items on an invoice, not part of a sales pitch. Instead, the pitch should focus on solving the customer's problem. And here's a hint: the customer's problem is never "Gee, I don't have an LCD screen in my store window." Instead, it's "How can I advertise specials in my store window in an eye-catching way?" That's another reason that I encourage everyone to lead with content -- in our business, content is the solution to the problem. All the rest of it -- the tech bits -- simply play a largely invisible supporting role.

Strategy #3: Sell what's easy to sell

If I were to pull a number out of thin air, I'd guess that around half of the smaller digital signage opportunities are lost because the non-techie end-users are too intimidated by having to take responsibility for yet another system. Whether it's explaining to a small restaurant manager how to update their digital menus or training a receptionist on how to update the lobby welcome sign, too many small deal opportunities are squandered because the product being used is too complicated for the simple tasks, too basic to accomplish the complex tasks, or both. I know most IT and Pro AV folks don't like carrying multiple digital signage players, software solutions, etc. since each option is just one more thing they have to become an expert on. However, even just separating all digital signage projects into two buckets -- simple and complex -- and having appropriate solutions on hand for each would help avoid losses caused by trying to shoehorn customers into a "one-size-fits-all" solution.

In fact, when it comes to smaller deals (which are definitely the bulk of them), I find that one of the most effective ways to really remove any last vestiges of fear is by making the user feel like an expert. After a 15-20 minute demo, I'll always say something like "Now, that was pretty simple, wasn't it?" The answer is invariably "Yes," at which point I'll follow up with "So don't you think you could teach it to your [boss/subordinate/coworker] now too?" Much more often than not, the answer to this question is also "Yes," and now my prospect isn't just unafraid, he's actually empowered. Sure, he might not actually want to train anyone else on how to use the system. But by pointing out that he could, I've given him a new ability. I'm not sure whether that makes him feel smarter or more important or more valuable, but whatever it is, it definitely increases the likelihood that he'll buy my kit.

Keeping things simple

Like anything else, digital signage systems and the content they display are just tools for meeting an objective. People like tools that are cheap, flexible and easy-to-use, but ultimately we have to believe that we can actually use the tool to do our given jobs. So when I hear things like "This will enable some new XYZ business model," or anything that leads off with "Advertising!" when neither the seller nor the buyer can even point to Madison Ave on a map, I feel like someone's being intentionally misleading about what digital signage is and what it can do. Digital signs are not some magic bullet, and they certainly shouldn't be pitched as a way to solve problems that don't yet exist. But by showing how they can help a customer solve a problem he already has, and by showing how your tool is the one to pick because it will do the job and the customer will actually use it as intended, digital signs can actually be quite easy to sell.

What's the best pitch you've heard about why a customer should use digital signage? Leave a comment and let us know!


0 # Richard D Smith 2011-06-03 13:15
Platform that enables an optimized customer experience
+1 # Kyle 2011-06-05 11:46
Extremely solid post Bill! I totally agree that while relevant & contextual content is important; the most attractive content trumps in demos (especially if the display is unique). The ease of use pitch is paramount and I'll borrow your advice question about teaching it to the team. The best ds pitch I ever heard was the case for those McDonalds single board coffee merchandiser. Because it fit a strategy that went straight to the boardroom. "figure out a way to bring Starbucks & Dunkin coffee customers to MCD". Keep up the great work; see you in Orlando!
-1 # Bill Gerba 2011-06-07 18:58
Hi Kyle, Great anecdote, and very true.
0 # Bredford 2011-06-10 07:57
Nice posting! i like the digital signage topic posts hier in this blog!

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