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Selling Complete Digital Signage Systems

By Mike Strand, StrandVision Digital Signage

Resellers and systems integrators are problem solvers – and solutions are exactly what customers are willing to pay for. Without your help, customers must find the electronic signage technology, research compatibility issues, buy and install each component of the digital signage system. Most electronic sign solutions also need power/network installation, training and configuration, adding even more complexity to the puzzle. Some advanced prospects do go this route but most don't because they see value in the knowledge, access to equipment and business marketing services that you provide. This applies to your traditional lines of business, computer networks, storage, Point of Sale and IP phones, and it also applies to electronic digital signs.

Yet, some of you are reluctant to go into digital signage because you see it as a hybrid technology; it's not pure networking, it's not pure computing, it's not pure POS or display. You may think that the systems are complex and that you don't have the expertise or that they require cobbling together a number of non-compatible components and, as a result, won't be profitable. Added to that is the concern that you may be asked to support non-technical aspects, such as graphic design or content updates, after the installation is completed.

That was yesterday. Today it's different. Let me tell you how:

Building and campus-wide digital signage networks are typically delivered over installed Local and Wide Area Networks (LANs & WANs) and today's in-house networks have the bandwidth to carry the content of any reasonably efficient digital signage system. Generally, systems integrators with VoIP systems experience can set up an electronic signage system in his or her sleep – systems integrators with just networking experience may have to stay awake, but only for an hour or so. The installation is straightforward and has the potential to expand your business marketing service offerings and generate significant service revenue.

The second issue, pulling together seemingly non-compatible components into a complete system, has been a bit of a challenge in the past. Digital signage does combine networking with video and, in some cases, audio. Computing and video technologies did not grow up together but their convergence has significantly advanced in the last few years to the point that High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) video and audio outputs on new computers get digital content from digital media player PC platforms to flat screen displays.

For you, the challenge is to single-source or at least reliably source systems components so your engineers can design the systems and your installers can cost-effectively complete the electronic sign installation.

As a supplier, my company, StrandVision Digital Signage, has recognized that components specification has been a problem for our systems integrators. We originally provided just our digital signage Software as a Service (SaaS) thinking that a good Internet connection and a few pieces of off-the-shelf hardware would do the trick.

This is true for single screen installations, but we soon discovered that we had to do more for multiple screen deployments, especially for campus-wide installations. Now we offer access to compatible digital signage screens, pre-built digital media players and small-profile mountable appliances, high definition PC-to-TV converters, range extenders, display mounting brackets and other equipment. We even provide specific part numbers and installation documents so you can get the parts on your own and know that setup will be fast and simple. These components, along with live technical assistance, support the simple to complex installations that our systems integrators face.

Regardless of the supplier, your ability to specify complete digital signage systems gives you the information that you need to eliminate uncertainty in order to confidently estimate costs, profits and margins, just as you do with the other systems that you sell.

In regards to the question of providing server and digital media player support after the sale, electronic signage is typically a SaaS delivered over the Internet from dedicated servers run by the host provider, such as StrandVision. They handle the day-in and day-out content management and are responsible for delivering the service to the customer's port.

Digital signage content updating is also directly with the service provider. The customer's authorized system administrator(s), often a secretary or content provider, such as a marketer or human resources staff person, simply logs onto the host server to update the signage. As a group, digital signage providers have worked hard to make it easy using icon-based selection menus and lots of preformatted content.

Typically, templates include text animation and split screens, as well as photo, video and database options, even pre-set emergency and application-specific notifications, such as school-related announcements. They also provide gateways for access to outside information, such as weather forecasts and maps and RSS feeds. We recently introduced licensed content, including a specialized feed for banks and credit unions offering bank product advertising and promotions. Some of us also offer PowerPoint, photo and video conversion services and custom page design services.

It's easy and fast for your customers and virtually eliminates content-related questions that would come your way. However, you can decide to add content creation to your service portfolio and manage content updates for your customers for a monthly retainer or charge per update.

It's up to you. There are plenty of resources available to support you as you move into digital signage. The market potential is certainly there. It's easy to extend digital signage into your customer base. Contact the digital signage solution vendor of your choice and they will help guide you through the process.

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. Prospective resellers may contact Mike at mjstrand@StrandVision.com.