During my career in start-ups and tech, I’ve spent a lot of time selling to IT professionals. The philosophy and discipline they bring to decision-making has always frustrated…I mean, impressed me. They focused on things like Return on Investment (ROI), measuring value and true cost of ownership.  They understand the challenges of owning and operating rapidly changing technology. They speak a concrete language of finance, logic and analysis: ROI modeling, TCO, capex vs opex and cost of capital. They demand product demos, pilots and proof of concept to validate and measure value of solutions. On top of that, they demand rigorous service level agreements.


Now I sell digital signage to the marketing crowd, and I have to say that the reasons they give for wanting our products and services, and the way they go about making decisions to purchase them, often leave something to be desired. Some of the mistakes I see are:

  1. Focusing on the cool factor, rather than strategic goals and objectives for a digital signage solution.
  2. Failing to establish measurements to prove results – which often comes hand-in-hand with a lack of strategy.
  3. Showing little or no concern for the true operating cost of a complex digital signage network. This includes the cost of capital and the expected ROI. It also includes little to no understanding of the total, long-term cost of operating a complex technology solution, let alone the cost of upgrades and obsolescence.
  4. Allowing signage placement decisions to be dictated by architects or general contractors – outsiders who only understand building aesthetics, not your business goals and objectives.
  5. Relying on an advertising or marketing agency that has no background in digital signage. Or worse, completely ignoring the ultimate cost of content production and management.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Planning and implementing a successful digital signage solution will be greatly enhanced with the inclusion of a few of these steps, including:

  • Setting goals. This is where you define the what, how and, most importantly, the why of your program. You need to clearly define your business objectives, desired results and expected return on investment. You are buying results, not just technology.
  • Defining measurements. Do you want to increase sales, enhance employee engagement, increase awareness of new products or drive higher margin transactions? There are plenty of ways to figure out if your solution is working, but you must define a process for measuring value.
  • Testing, validating, adapting and pivoting until you achieve the results you want. That means running a pilot designed to achieve your defined goals and validating that the solution is working – just like the IT guys do.
  • Implementing a scalable solution with long-term value in mind. If your pilot meets your objectives, you must make sure it can scale. That includes understanding the cost of content creation, monitoring and surveillance, performance analytics, on-site break-fix repairs and ultimately migration paths as technology evolves and becomes obsolete.
  • Holding your digital signage provider to service level agreements. Network monitoring, and service and support are big considerations, especially for a large deployment. How long is too long for a screen to be down in your store, restaurant, bank or office? Service level agreements should spell that out, but why not make sure your provider has skin in the game and can be held accountable. Why not raise the bar and find a partner who will truly partner with you to move the needle and achieve results – and be invested in those results through SLA commitments.

Now, I know I’m picking on marketing here. But I think all the points above about implementing a great solution are well within the capabilities and understanding of the marketing teams I know. So next week, I’m going to put the shoe on the other foot and talk about why marketing folks actually should make your digital signage buying decisions (with input from their friends in IT, of course).