Scenario #1: Digital signage is a technical solution to an existing content problem
If you're pitching a digital signage network to a prospective client, it's hard not to lead with a somewhat technical explanation. After all, saying "we put some screens in your venue and send content to them over the Internet" is an accurate, if not somewhat bland, description of the functional core of our industry's products and services. To boot, most VARs (and certainly most Pro AV resellers) are technical folks themselves, so any pitch is likely to start from their technical comfort zone. The problem is that this explanation doesn't really describe what the system does. It'd be analogous to describing movie posters as "every two weeks a couple of guys come to your theater and put some big pieces of paper on the wall." Accurate? Sure. Explanatory? Kinda. Descriptive? Not so much.
Technical descriptions of this sort are commonplace. And the Internet, and indeed digital signage itself, is ubiquitous enough that a one-sentence technical description isn't likely to scare anybody away. But getting much more technical, or focusing on the technical benefits versus the use case benefits, is only useful in certain situations. As usual, it comes down to knowing your prospective customer's pain points. For example, if you know a client spends a lot of time and manpower updating bulletin boards across their corporate campus, or if they have to get out a ladder every time they want to make a menu change, or if they have trouble coordinating content changes across multiple venues at once, pushing on the technical merits of digital signage makes sense. The "problems" here are centered around not being able to easily change content. Thus, the solution is to offer a way to make content changes easier. Either way, the benefits should be clear enough that you can encapsulate them in a short elevator pitch, and expand upon those benefits in a longer presentation or proposal once the customer has confirmed their interest.
Image credit: Mark Kobayashi-Hillary
Notice that in the examples above (which are admittedly the easy ones), digital signs are being pitched as a replacement for some other kind of existing signage or communications medium. In these cases, the prospective client has already found a compelling reason to have content in the venue. Now they just need a way to make that content better, easier to manage, or both. But what about cases where digital signs are being added into an environment, and not necessarily replacing anything? Generally speaking, proposals of this sort need to be focused on the benefits of the use of the signs, and not the signs themselves. Nobody adds a video wall to a corporate lobby because they found it too difficult to change a vinyl backdrop or lobby fixture. They add it, first and foremost, to inject "wow factor", and secondly to have a better chance of imparting some bit of information to people walking past it. Merchandising signs in a retail store indeed might augment or supplant some static POP displays, but they're sold on the benefit of being able to raise awareness (due to their uniqueness relative to other things in the store), and their potential for interactivity via touchscreen or mobile integration. For this type of customer application, digital signage might be treated as a luxury or discretionary purchase -- and understanding that perspective may be essential in making the sale.
In conclusion, I want to touch on one last argument that gets bandied about when pitching digital signage. The argument in question can be effective when thoroughly researched. And it will positively kill deals if not. I'm of course referring to the spend money/save money argument, which goes something like this: "You spend $X updating your vinyl menu graphics every month. If you spent $Y on a digital menuboard, you could amortize that amount over some period of time, make your content changes for free, and thus save $Z over the life of the system." Generally speaking, businesspeople are willing to make an investment when they see the real potential for savings. But any attempt to gloss over one of the key factors (e.g. the life of the system) or relying on any poor assumption (e.g. how much the client really spends on printing and shipping) will quickly scuttle the argument, making it very difficult to convince the client that you're the right expert for the job. The bottom line: if you know your numbers cold, you know your client's pain points, and you can make a bulletproof argument showing a real ROI, that's almost certainly the best pitch you can deliver. Whether you're talking to a technical person, a communications person, or a business person, the language of dollars and cents is universal.
Which other scenarios do you come across on a regular basis? Do you have a standard pitch for those customers, or is it customized for each one?