Selling a luxury commodity
A consumer buying a Rolex or a BMW has a set of expectations about their new purchase. They may expect it to deliver an experience they wouldn't have otherwise. Or perhaps they expect it to provide access to people, places or things otherwise unattainable. Or maybe it just satisfies their aesthetic sweet tooth. Whatever the case, products that aren't necessities still have to do something for the buyer. Otherwise, they wouldn't buy them. In business it's no different. Very few businesses truly need digital signs. For most, they are nonessential luxuries that hopefully bring along some added values and benefits. The expectations of what digital signage will do for them vary from reaching tangible goals (like increasing sales of advertised products or promoting the use of largely unknown services) to yielding intangible "improvements" (like enhancing ambiance within the venue). But if the client can't articulate their expectations in some form or another, they won't buy a digital signage system, because in essence they haven't sold themselves on the idea yet.
Selling a commodity luxury
Next, let's look at the flip side. As a product developer, my resellers and I are offering a product that is fairly similar to other products available on the market. Much like how BMW tries to convince their buyers that they have the ultimate driving machine (even though it's just a car), we work to demonstrate that FireCast is the best digital signage platform by appealing to customers' needs and expectations. If an enthusiast wants to take a test drive, we let them take a test drive. If he's a gear head, we let him pop the hood. And if he's searching for luxury and convenience, we show off the hand-stitched leather interior (yes, that last metaphor is a bit of a stretch). More often than not, a client who's on the fence about making this "luxury" purchase will need to do all three of these things before feeling comfortable -- not only with buying our digital signage system, but with the idea of buying any digital signage system.Every vendor's system has different bells, whistles, gadgets and doodads. Most of the time, prospective customers start their research without knowing that many of these things even exist. But over time -- and more importantly, with the experience of having compared several platforms -- they get a feeling of which features will make their operations better/easier/more successful, and which are truly unique amongst platforms (whether important or not). Interestingly, it can be useful to focus some attention on the latter group (the features the customer might not even need) simply because they allow the product to stand out in the customer's mind. When selling to customer "wants" instead of "needs," this can be a critical step toward winning the deal.
Even though a customer might walk through your door not "needing" a digital signage system, the skilled provider can turn it into a must-have item replete with newly mission-critical functions. Making the client wonder "how did I ever get by without this?" is absolutely an achievable goal, though it does typically requires a good deal of hand-holding, even after the sale is completed. For larger companies, or those whose business is selling the nuts-and-bolts, it might not be worth it. But for those who know they can drive incremental revenue, repeat business, and positive buzz towards their products and services, the payoff can be considerable.
Do customers still view digital signage as a luxury item? Do you think this perception is changing? Leave a comment and let us know.