Last week, I was pretty tough on marketing professionals and the reasons they give to justify a digital signage solution. Too often, in my experience, they rely on what looks sexy and sounds cool, rather than considering hard issues such as cost, ROI and metrics to show results. I gave a lot of credit to IT professionals and their focus on those and other concrete details that can lead to a successful implementation.

On the other hand . . .

IT folks also have a few blind spots when it comes to digital signage. In general, their focus is on buying and implementing technology, and their main inclinations tend to be:

  1. Engaging in feature-benefit bake-offs to compare vendors and decide which has more capabilities. (This thinking might also be why you likely have a phone system with a rich feature set, only 10 percent of which is ever put to use).
  2. Reading technology road maps to decide which provider has the more astute technology vision.
  3. Focusing on technology vendors that are already known to them regardless of their capabilities and experience in the space. Here’s a secret… most large, trusted technology companies are simply reselling other providers’ technology.
  4. Focusing on service level agreements that have familiar KPIs as opposed to those that should be used to evaluate a digital signage solution. It’s much simpler to determine whether your equipment, network or service is up or down than it is to figure out whether digital signage is impacting sales, engaging employees or increasing brand value.
  5. Talking about operating systems, form factors and coding details that have no impact on whether digital signage is going to elevate the customer experience or drive sales.

While some of that might apply to purchasing digital signage hardware or software, it’s a bit too much in-the-weeds to guide the buying decision. That decision should be strategic, not tactical, and based on a combination of business and marketing goals and the things that will determine the true cost of operating the ultimate solution. Here’s what marketing understands that IT doesn’t:

  • Branding and the customer experience. Digital signage needs to be consistent with your company’s brand and the expectations customers have of a visit to your store, restaurant, bank, theatre, hospital or other place of business.
  • Marketing strategy. Digital signage is just one part of a multi-pronged plan. Marketing is executing a highly evolved, complex messaging and branding strategy, and digital signage must seamlessly work in concert with all of the other channels to drive results.
  • Lead generation, sales data and customer surveys. These and other typical sales and marketing metrics can also be used to measure the results gained from a digital signage solution. What defines success for a website or sales promotion can also define success for digital signage.
  • Content is king and expensive. Content will be the priciest part of operating a digital signage network. How well your solution supports marketing’s content strategy, integrates with the various content contributors and data sources (which ultimately lowers the cost of content creation and management) will be the difference between a sustainable and successful solution and one that is destined for failure.
  • How to evoke an emotional reaction – and why that matters. We spend a fair amount of time in our blog reminding people not to get sucked into signage just because it’s cool. That being said, while the reasons to implement signage should be rational, the look and feel of signage can and often should play to the emotions. Your big video wall can tell the kind of story that will evoke an emotional reaction for some, while your kiosks can present concrete information that fills in the blanks for those looking for facts and details. How your signage platform supports these different goals matters.

The net is this: You want to focus on producing results, not on buying technology. You don’t worry about the TV network’s broadcast technology that delivers your ads or what kind of printing press a magazine uses. You do think about the audiences they reach and how to develop messages that will resonate with them. Why would you think about this communication vehicle any differently?

The strategy behind the signage comes first, and that is the purview of your marketers, not your IT department. Content, the “fuel” that drives the signage network, will also be a marketing responsibility, not IT. That doesn’t mean your IT folks shouldn’t be involved in technology decisions. They should be.  They can add value. It just means that marketing should lead the way.