Do Digital Signage Right the First Time

Let’s Not Play Games
There is a lot of money to be made selling digital signage, but most integrators end up losing their shirts in their first few installations. So if you are looking for a warm and fuzzy article that paints the digital signage business as an easy sale, simple implementation and a way to make lots of easy money, this is not the article for you. This article is for integrators that are serious about doing profitable digital signage projects and bringing measurable value to their customers. For further insight on how digital signage produces value please visit industry expert/consultant Lyle Bunn’s web site.

Do Digital Signage Right — What Does it Mean?
Well sometimes it is easier to explain what is right by clearly defining wrong or failed implementations of digital signage.

* Here’s the big picture: Any digital signage deployment that does not bring value to the organization or business is a failed implementation

Doing digital signage for the sake of doing digital signage is a complete waste of money. Yes, I know we are in the business of selling digital signage, but so many have done this so wrong that organizations are now placing digital signage in the category of a box sale and bid out as a commodity. Lowest bidder wins. I assure you it is much better to bypass this type of business, than to win the bid and lose you shirt because of “gotcha’s” (unforeseen things you did not know you did not know). Above all remember that all business is not good business, and this could not be truer than in the digital signage world.

If You Build it, They Will Come
Nothing could be further from the truth today. Messaging today bombards every one of us from every conceivable angle. Most people today don’t even pay attention to digital signs because they regard their messaging as just noise and regretfully, many digital signage deployments have earned this degree of disrespect.  You are seeking ways to make your digital signage “sticky.” (Sticky = Content that keeps the audience engaged with the message even after they have walked away.) This can be accomplished many ways but it starts with content worthy of viewing the first time they see the sign.

Let’s Just Make it Bigger and Brighter
Maybe even throw in one of those big 4K screens… Surely that will make it successful.” Again, this just makes you like everyone else, unless you are focused on pertinent, relative and “dwell time” sensitive content.  It is easy for us (hardware experts) to recommend bigger and brighter displays, but without focus on content, the investment will just be more expensive noise generators.

We Will All Just Share the Responsibility
No skin in the game equals certain failure. It has been true from the start but even more so today. If your client does not designate a person of responsibility who is vested with skin in the game, the digital signage system is destined for failure. In such an instance, the digital signage demise will not happen all at once. It will be a slow death to irrelevancy. So look around the table, someone needs to be in charge.

Do it Right the First Time
Okay that's enough said about how many ways you and your customer could fail. Let’s talk about doing it right the first time as an integrator and end user. Well it is pretty simple, not easy, but our industry is mature, we know where the rocks are in the river, where you can safely step and guide your customers away from a big splash. It comes down to knowing the foundational essentials of the Digital Signage Ecosystem. The graphic below, originally created by my friends and experts in the digital signage industry, Alan and Jonathan Brawn ( spells it out very clearly.

I could write a book on each of these essential elements, but what you need to know is that if you are not touching and securing an answer for every one of these elements, you are likely to lose money implementing digital signage and what is even worse, your customer will only turn out to be a bad reference and bad references seem to talk a lot. So, carefully consider this chart, without skipping any elements. It only takes one missing component to produce a failure. Remember, you do not need to be an expert at every one of these elements. You just have to recognize the core need and build a team that can deliver on all of these essentials.

* Think about this: It is far better to have a small piece of a profitable project than total ownership of a failed digital signage implementation.

Build a Team
The good news is that today there are abundant resources to address each of these key elements if you don’t have expertise in-house. These resources include the manufacturer of the hardware and content management system as well as outside agencies. Also, many of today’s distributors have invested in expertise to support elements that you may not have in-house, like content creation.

Remember, having pertinent and “dwell time” sensitive content is the second most important foundational element. The most important factor is the business justification for investing in digital signage and defining the value proposition and metrics for success. Another great resource is working with an experienced AV/IT integrator that has a strong and successful history in digital signage. You may wish to consider putting into place a mutual non-disclosure upfront, any AV/IT integrator worth working with will likely volunteer to sign such an agreement even before you ask. I repeat the message, it is more important to have a piece of the pie and then no pie at all.

In the last few years, a new industry has emerged, which is playing a strategic part in successful digital signage projects of magnitude: The Roll Out Companies. These companies are masters of logistics and far more cost effective to the customer for enterprise multi-site deployments. A simple Google search will reveal a list of these resources. Just make sure the company you choose has expertise in similar projects and guarantees you a fixed price.

Find the Rocks
There is a proven and profitable path to implementation of digital signage for customers. The digital signage industry is mature and unlike the early years filled with companies promising everything and knowing they were misrepresenting themselves and their products. (Vaporware) I offer this very valuable insight: there is little to no profitable money in a single box oriented system. A quality integrator will invest more time in making a one screen, one player digital signage project, one worthy of a reference, than you could ever justify in price to the customer.

My suggestion is to let these projects go to the box-oriented online providers.  The location of the rocks are known, the path has been established, and if you want to be profitable selling and doing digital signage right the first time, you need to work with someone that knows where the rocks are located. At least do this for the first couple of projects, and you will then know where to find the resources and how to apply them.

Editor's Note: Author Mike White will co-present "Doing Digital Signage Right the First Time as an Integrator,” at Digital Signage Expo 2016 on Wednesday, March 16 from 9:00-10:00am at the Las Vegas Convention Center. For more information on this or any educational program offered at DSE 2016 or to learn more about digital signage go to