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Network Extensions - Adding Digital Signage to Your Portfolio

By Mike Strand, StrandVision Digital Signage

In this economy every sale counts. Prospecting is tough and everyone knows that cross-selling is more efficient than prospecting and cold calling. For networking and telephony VARs the challenge becomes: "How do I sell more equipment and services to my current customers?" One of the answers, inevitably, is to add new technologies that increase bandwidth needs, which in turn drive demand for additional hardware, software and services.

Clearly, the most logical extension – one that most every network VAR has already done – is to add VoIP. If you haven't done it, you should check out this up and coming technology that offers your customers many more options in this troubled economy.

You might also want to look at digital signage. These are the TV screens that you often see in large retail stores, banks and grocery stores that carry specific information or marketing programming – a technology that can help your customers make money in this tight market.

Traditionally, many of these systems have been proprietary and use specialized hardware, but there is a new breed of digital signage providers that delivers content over the Internet and then uses the same standard Ethernet wired networks and computers that you already sell and support to distribute the signage onsite. They may require some network upgrades and hardware, such as PC servers, hubs and routers, and Plasma or LCD displays – hardware and services that you can profitably sell to them.

However, if you're like many resellers, you are stopped cold by the prospect of holding your customers' hands on the slide design and content end of things. Comments like, "I'm not in the video business" or "I don't even know what graphic design is" are not uncommon. Yet, today there are options for that too that let you get into the game.

A new breed of digital sign

Some new digital signage systems are offered as SaaS. Resellers don't have to get involved with designing slides, hosting servers or even delivering the service to the customer's premises. That's all handled in the cloud by the service provider. You still get the Digital Media Player hardware and digital signage network services sales. And, you receive compensation from the service provider for the ongoing subscription service. Since the digital signage content is delivered over the Internet, you can easily add several locations (hardware/services) on a single license or multiple licenses.

Digital signs are great communications tools for a number of businesses:

Doctors, dentists, health providers

Patient communications

Fitness clubs

Gym promotions, sponsored advertising

Hotels

Promote restaurants, amenities, welcome groups, post scheduled rooms -- Can even feed into the cable TV head end for in-room communications

Shopping centers

Screens everywhere

Industrial distributors

Product promotions at the service counter

Large corporations

Employee communications, visitor greetings, menus, conference room scheduling

The list goes on to include social clubs and communities, banks, realtors, colleges and universities.

Here's all it takes to start selling digital signs:

  • Think about your customers and what they could do with a digital sign.
  • Research online digital signage providers.
  • Become an authorized VAR for a digital signage company.
  • Work with the company to develop a pitch. (Custom digital signage demonstrations are often most effective and can be done in minutes with many software systems.)
  • Sell the customer.
  • Install the hardware and network.
  • Hand the customer off to the digital signage provider for training on how to manage the system and update the pages.
  • Check in every now and again to see how things are going and for up-sell opportunities.
  • Once a year, or so, recontact the customer to renew the license and see if either expansions or new equipment are required.

Typically, customers manage their own digital signs by logging into a Web portal and selecting from a set of templates (time, news, weather, scrolling text and graphics, etc.). They can add background music, bring in a television channel and even mix in videos and Flash, schedule slides and take advantage of other features.

They can do as little or as much as they like, and they work directly with the digital signage company on all content delivery support issues. You only have to concern yourself with the customer's system from the high speed Internet connection to the display screens – kind of like the VoIP phone system.

If there's an easier way to make money, I haven't thought of it. So, I encourage you to take a look at digital signage. It's a natural extension of your business. It gives you something to talk about with your customers in these tight times, and it will deliver extra revenue for both you and your customers.

Mike Strand is founder and CEO of StrandVision LLC, an Internet-based subscription digital signage service that is distributed through resellers. Previously, Mike founded StrandWare, a leading bar code software and AIDC company.