Challenges Marketing

Now is the perfect time to partner!

Partnerships are a way to expand your current offerings into new areas that support your core sales. Interestingly, with the tougher economy, most companies are quite open to creative approaches to working together.

Of course giving a piece of your business away often seems questionable in good times, much less bad. The tricky part is the cost of doing it yourself – and the potential for lower sales than you need to support a new product or service. Worse still, there is the risk of unhappy customers due to high cost, less than perfect implementation and slow turnaround. These can easily jeopardize your business relationship with them.

Of course you can never offer a product or service that your customer’s are requesting, but then you are forcing them to look for another vendor — a vendor that will probably try to undermine your relationship and take the rest of the business.

To me, it seems that the best option is to partner with a product or service provider that has the ability to deliver the system as specified — and as part of the relationship, you each agree that you won’t come after the rest of each others business. You each focus on your strengths, and are able to exchange customer leads back and forth as they come in.

So, if you are thinking about how you can refresh your business and give your customers another reason to buy from you, this may be a good time to step back and assess what your strengths truly are. Then, determine if the most efficient and cost-effective way to satisfy your customers is to continue to develop needed skills in-house, or expand or enter new markets through partnerships. With the slowdown of business today, it’s time well spent that can add more to the bottom line in a shrinking market and broaden your horizons when businesses loosen their purse strings.

Challenges Marketing

When is “Free” not good enough

The economy is taking it’s toll on all of us, and it is interesting how it impacts people’s thinking. Digital signage is one of those areas that actually makes money for a company that uses it. Our prices are low compared to most of our competition, yet I feel that in this economy, it would be good to help people out with a free digital signage software product.

I have been talking with several people about free or low cost products to have people talk about it and create a buzz. Since software has it’s cost on the front-end while it is getting developed and very little once it is completed, there is some flexibility. Of course a company cannot stay in business for long without some revenue stream. We would create a lower end version that offers enough functionality to have positive reviews, and limit some of the high end features that we offer to get revenue from the larger corporate accounts.

We have experimented a little with this. We offer a free 30 day demo that is initially setup in 5 simple steps. From there, it can be further customized and fully run for the trial period. This obviously is good to get a feel, but not good enough to create a buzz. We also have offered a free product for some companies that are on the edge of closing their doors to try to get their revenues up with the great advertising that digital signage can do. Some have taken part, but many do not. I suspect that everyone is so overworked and overwhelmed that something outside of their core business is just not something they want to deal with.

I was told to get the book “Free” by Chris Anderson. I have not started it yet, but I will report later on what I discover from the book. I hope that it offers insights into how, when and what approach helps gain a large customer base that also offers some revenue opportunities. If anyone reading this has insights into this subject, please let us know.


The future of digital signage screens

Although it has been around for almost 10 years, Digital Signage is still in the early stages of it’s evolution. It has only started getting involved in integration and standardization, which is typically the beginning of explosive growth. That combined with the poor economy, the changes in how “customers” receive their information and the poor performance of traditional marketing mediums will help fuel the growth – especially during the economic recovery in late 2010 or early 2011.

One are of evolution is the screens that are used to display the digital signage content. Since digital signage is a computer based technology, there needs to be some sort of computer processor in all digital signage systems. How it is packaged is another question though.

Traditionally, the screens have been flat LCD screens using existing cable tv wiring for hotels and theme parks or a direct connection to the VGA or DVI port of a computer. The prices of screens with embedded pc’s is coming down, so they will remove the need for a separate pc to drive the content, but tend to have lower processing power. There are also small pc’s that can fit to the back of the screen. They too are short on power. As processing power continues to improve, prices drop, and more Linux based signage systems go online, these shortcomings will soon be gone too.

The future holds amazing things for digital signage. With 3D movies and commercials being produced, it is only a matter of time before 3D becomes a standard feature of digital signage software. Although tricky to get through local government reles and regulations, digital billboards will become more commonplace. And of course everyone’s cell phone will become a mobile billboard with great money saving coupons sent to you right as you shop. It will probably even be tied to the Internet shopping portals immediately as you browse the product offerings.

After being in this industry for over 6 years, and in the software industry for more than 20, I eagerly await the exciting changes that we will see in the next few years. I am sure they will be revolutionary (again).

Lessons Marketing

Investments in Marketing

We recently advertised with USA Today after being covered in one of their editorials. Typically, we do not advertise in print medium, but this seemed like a worthwhile experiment since it was reinforcing the article.

Over the years, I have seen “what works” for marketing change dramatically. Twenty years ago, print media and trade shows were the best way to spend marketing dollars. The best (and perhaps only) electronic marketing was the fax and self-managed bulletin board system. We also saw great benefits in public relations efforts – which indirectly reaches most marketing mediums if done well.

As you know, electronic mediums (particularly through the Internet) are the way to go now. Most everyone is involved with computers and the Internet to some degree. Face to face communication has been supplanted by this medium often times too. Brick and mortar businesses have lost much of their foothold over virtual ones. The mail has been replaced first emails and next by tweets. Print marketing (including magazines and newspapers) have lost much of their impact that they once held. Even television has been impacted with DVR’s that let people watch what they want when they want – and skip the commercials. With the cost of travel (dollars, time and frustration), trade shows are attended by fewer busy buyers.

Obviously, the web site is an important part of marketing in today’s world. Unfortunately, you need to create your own traffic, which relies on new and old marketing mediums. Digital signage is probably one of the biggest potentials to leverage your existing marketing collateral to motivate your staff and communicate to your customers (in house and on your web site). I still believe in the public relations route since it can be seen as someone else talking about the product – which helps to build trust in the product, brand and company. When focused, trade shows are good to expand into a new market. It helps to get the “buzz” out about a new product. When combined with an article, I will let you know if an ad works. Taking time to be involved in your market (in non-promotional ways) is probably the best way to build traffic. Create (and update) a blog. Answer questions on industry forums. Offer your knowledge as white papers. Tweet about relevant topics. And of course, don’t plan on immediate results – unless you pay millions for it.

Lessons Marketing

Keeping Customers Happy

Do you ever wonder if you do too much for some customers? I sometimes do. We are a company that responds quickly to most every customer issue and request. It does give us a reputation of a great company to work with. Unfortunately, most of the time, this additional work does not create additional revenue and it also pushes back our revenue generating projects.

Thankfully, I have been running software companies where the customer (and employee) is the focus for almost 20 years. I know that going the extra distance with customers and employees not only keeps them happier, but also builds tremendous loyalty. There are many times when the things that we are doing for customers are actually problems that our development team has mistakenly created. If we were unresponsive, they would leave our product and go to another. There are other times when the requests enhance our product for the future. Even though the timing is not exactly as we had planned, the new feature usually helps close sales with new customers.

All in all, it appears that keeping people happy by being responsive to them has long term benefits that are not obvious in the short term. So if you have the option to help someone out, go ahead and take the time to do it.


Why Digital Signage

In this current economy, every sale counts. Prospecting is tough, and everyone knows that cross-selling is more efficient than prospecting. For any business the challenge becomes: “How do I sell more of my products and services to my current customers?” One of the answers is to add new technologies that leverage current customers, staff and assets, which in turn drives demand.

One up-and-coming extension is digital signage. These are the television screens that you often see in large retail stores, banks, airports and grocery stores that carry specific information or marketing programming – a technology that can help you make money in this tight market.

Traditionally, many of these systems have been proprietary and use specialized hardware. There is a new breed of digital signage providers that deliver content over the Internet and then uses the same standard Ethernet wired networks and computers that you probably already have available to distribute the signage onsite.

These solutions, combined with the falling prices of large plasma and LCD screens, make digital signage affordable for every size business. With all of the caution that this economy is invoking with cuts in staffing and most everything beyond the “core business”, it is difficult to think that a new technology is worthwhile. In actuality, it is these reasons that make a digital signage implementation more important than ever.

Digital signage is a passive technology that only communicates with those who look at it. Fortunately, it is very dynamic and draws attention because it plays on the familiar “boob tube” that we all grew up with. Best of all, it conveys cross sell messages mixed with entertaining information without making your overworked staff uncomfortable trying to up-sell.

Digital signage also has the benefit of calming the employee waters of concern. By communicating regularly and consistently with your employees, your staff will better understand why you made those cuts, and more importantly, that they were the right cuts and that their position is safe. Nothing cuts productivity more than insecure employees.

Take a look at digital signage with an open mind. Investing a little bit in this exciting new technology will help you get through these troubling times easier and will grow your profits more than the cost. Give us a call at 715-235-SIGN (7446) so that we can help you get the best system for your situation.


The customer and emotional marketing

I am the type that doesn’t like to do cold calling for sales. I just got back for a digital signage conference, and one of the key things that I was reminded of (again) is that customers prefer solutions, that the customer to target selling to may never buy a thing, and marketing messages need to tie into their emotions conveying a message that solves their needs. I know that I undervalue my talents and the capabilities that the company offers. I am going to focus my efforts on getting paid for solving the needs of the many rather than trying to sell. Having the right marketing to the right people will help bring people into the “door” so that I can talk with them rather than doing cold calling. Do you know who your real buyer is and what their top line need is?

For the Online-Kiosks digital signage product, I discovered that the end user is not my customer. It is the reseller channel. Although I am still digesting the last two day’s information, advertising agencies may be my best “customer”, even though they will never buy a thing (only recommend). They talk to the customer when they want to find creative new ways to market their product. Of course everyone wants to more sales, but the emotional thing for the digital signage product is happy customers who return again and again and employees who work flawlessly as a team.