Thursday, May 30, 2013

Why LED Signs: Common Misconceptions About LED Signs

- Scott Hofheins

I would like to talk about some common misconceptions about LED signs and some reasons people may avoid making the initial investment. The LED sign industry is not always the most transparent arena to get information from, and I believe this has only added to the confusion for many in the public.

LED Sign are Distracting
This claim may have made more sense in the past than it does today. Any new technology held against the backdrop of the old will stand out. However, LED signs are no more distracting these days than traditional signage was for over 100 years. We live in a country where businesses, for the most part, try to be responsible citizens of the community. Most do not “strobe” their LED signs to gain attention, or put up borderline offensive material to turn your head. This choice may not always be done out of goodwill, but because it just makes good business sense.

We are in an era where communication is so fast that it’s creating a “small town” environment on a national scale where everyone knows everyone, and a bad reputation can spread like wild fire. Most (but not all) businesses don’t want to risk a bad reputation by mis-managing their LED sign so poorly that they actually creating a negative blatant distraction. Personally, I find sign twirlers on the street corner more distracting than LED signs.

LED Signs Cause Accidents
This has been around since the infancy of LED signage. A significant number of studies have been done since the famous SBA “Electronic Message Centre (EMC’s)” paper was released in 2001. The recent studies continue to show that LED signs are safe and do not cause accidents. This has also included digital billboards, the sworn enemy of so many sign ordinances across the country. I remember researching sign code at the beginning of my LED sign career that specifically outlawed LED signs with Red or Green colors, because people might mistake them for traffic lights. Unfortunately these types of codes are still out there, not as common, but still out there. The fact is, it has been proven over and over again that LED signs do not cause accidents.

LED Signs are Too Bright
I wrote a bit about this in my last post regarding the responsible use of LED signage. Brightness control is standard on virtually every LED sign in the market. This takes us down a familiar path that we discussed earlier. Businesses want the public to read the content of the LED sign, not just see a big blurry flood-light at night. In the end, most businesses will understand that an extremely bright sign at night does them no good. Most local codes correctly prohibit operation of LED signs at full brightness at night.

LED Signs Turn Respectable Towns Into Las Vegas
This is a classic, and I’ll reference my last post again. To summarize: Broken LED signs look tacky. LED signs with poorly designed content look tacky. Cheap, sub-par LED signs look tacky. Good quality, well manufactured and operated LED signs look great, and function at minimum as a very much needed upgrade to manual changeable copy boards. Functioning at full capacity, they are a tasteful upgrade to traditional signage that allows better communication to both consumers and the general community.

LED Signs are Too Expensive
Yes, LED signs are more expensive investment than traditional signage. However, they are not as expensive as they used to be. Newer technology and the growth of the industry offer much more bang for the buck. There are also a growing number of financing options available for LED signs with some companies working exclusively in the LED sign market. These options help lessen the risk, while providing the opportunity to increase sales with a fully installed unit onsite.

Return on Investment
I’ve interviewed many LED sign owners and discussed this specific subject. In almost every case the owner received a complete return on the initial investment much quicker than expected. Many owners have used a portion (or in some cases, all) their advertising budget to invest in the LED sign. This was money they were going to spend anyway, re-directed to a sign in hopes of reaching a larger local audience. When the sign is up and running many businesses report a direct correlation to specific promotions on the sign, to specific sales increases and find that the money was well invested.  

Restrictive Sign Codes
Some sign codes ban LED signs altogether, others regulate the operation of the sign. Some areas may require messages play at least 10 seconds, others only allow “static images”. LED signs can still be a benefit in these situations. Static images can be just as effective as animations, especially if the content is professional and sharp. In the end, a sign that can change content for specific promotions, is better than a sign that can’t change at all or has to be changed manually.

LED Signs are Too Complicated
This depends on the quality of the product and support the sign company and/or manufacturer offer. LED sign technology continues to get better and more easier to work with. The software is 100% better than it was 5 years ago, and the hardware designs are getting streamlined and easier to work with. The key is to find a good sign company who provides a good solid product. Doing the research and using resources like this blog will help.

I know I haven’t covered everything, so please feel free to comment on any more items I missed or additional points of view. I would love to do another post on this subject. I’m a big fan of truth.


I hope this post has been informative and helpful. As usual, I welcome ALL constructive comments. Please feel free to comment and add anything I’ve missed, or additional tips you may have regarding this topic. Please visit for many other resources, white papers, and of course: Great looking LED Signs!

**All posts/thoughts/writings are strictly the viewpoint of me and me alone and do not reflect nor speak for Vantage LED’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically stated.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Digital Signage Need To Know: When comparing LED Sign solutions (EMC/EDS/CMS/Etc), make sure you're getting what you expect.

-Deacon Wardlow
It's not all apples and oranges in the Digital Signage world. With all the "geek speak" and "tech terms" it's difficult to tell the difference between good and gimmick. Comparisons used to be a lot more straightforward. What LEDs are you using? What's your software like? Now things are a lot more complex and many manufacturers will play a bit of a game with dealers and end-users. When manufacturers play games, the winner isn't likely to be the buyer. Here are a few ways to tell the difference between good and gimmicky to sort product in the right places and be sure the comparison is on equal footing or not.

Size Matters
As written in my blog last June be sure to compare the proposed solutions by not just size, but the active matrix. Different LED Sign manufacturers have different borders on their product (some have no borders). A 16mm 4'x8' sign can have VERY different active matrices. A smaller active matrix means smaller viewing area = smaller display. Some companies will promote the "low cost" of their system compared to other displays of the same size. Make sure the "same size" means the active viewing area and not the cabinet.

As Scott Hofheins explains in his October blog, "When looking for a good LED sign supplier, don’t trade short term value for long term headaches." Back-end support is critical for any system. This is not just limited to the techs available on the other side of the phone, but rather the complete package. Can you get in touch with your sales rep whenever you need them? Does the company have comprehensive documentation/guides on installation and service for the system? When you speak with the company reps, are they knowledgeable on the product and do they make recommendations when you're unsure of the best solution for a particular opportunity?

Zenith, RCA and others used to be leaders for in-home entertainment (TV/Radio/etc.), but they were quickly put the wayside by competitors who were able to take advantage of newer technologies and options in the market at a better price. New companies will come along all the time, the question is how long will they be around after the sale? Look for companies with a presence in the market and a strong background. We're not talking a century or so (Microsoft is a monolithic company and they've only been around for 22 years, Google for about 14 years). Make sure the company has a solid position in the market, experience with the product and they're in a place where they'll be around for another 5, 10 or more years. Age doesn't always mean reliability, but a company who's been in business for five or ten years is more reliable than one who opened their doors a year or so ago...

Quality Control 
As I wrote back in November, take a deep look at who you're working with and the alternatives and make sure the company is a solid partner. What makes the company different? When considering an off-shore alternative, keep in mind how quality control can be ensured along the entire build process through to delivery. With many off-shore companies you get what you inspect, not what you expect. With a domestic company, they (usually) have to answer to the authorities and there are remedies to be pursued when something goes wrong. With a non-domestic company, there are few options/remedies available and A LOT of trust required.

After Service 
As mentioned on support, don't let after service be an after-thought. What steps has the manufacturer taken to protect both you (the dealer) and the end-user in case something goes wrong? Does the manufacturer offer an insured/bonded 5 year on-site service program option along with the standard 5 year parts/labor? Are parts readily available at the manufacturer's factory and what's the fastest they can get a part to a dealer/end-user? Will the components come with a replacement guide or is the field tech reliant solely on phone support? Is the system capable of auto-diagnostics and reporting? For large-scale spectacular systems, can redundancies be built-in to the system and does the manufacturer have prior-experience with redundant data/power/etc.?

Change, in all things, is inevitable. Scott Hofheins wrote a blog last December where he points out a company which isn't moving forward is standing still and being left behind by the companies who choose to grow/change. Technology is constantly in flux (faster network connections, bigger storage, faster processors). It's important the manufacturer chosen as a partner is consistently looking to the future and working to ensure their product is changing to meet not just the needs of the present but the future needs ahead.

When a close look is taken at an "apples to apples" comparison, you'll start to see the difference show through. Two systems which look similar at first glance can be almost completely different depending on what the partner is bringing to the table.

*I invite you to comment here and/or email me directly with requests at Vantage LED has white paper resources and more educational material on the website (, please check it out when you have a moment. Note all posts/thoughts/writings are strictly the viewpoint of me and me alone and do not reflect nor speak for Vantage LED’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically noted.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Digital Signage, Need to Know: You Deserve to Make a Profit on LED Signs

- Mike Prongue

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. You read the title of this post " You Deserve to Make a Profit on LED Signs" and you asked the snarky question "Really, ya' think so Mike?"

Yes, I do, in fact. But how many of you leave profit dollars on the proverbial table?

Hey, I know it’s a tough environment out there in American business – still! It doesn't matter if you sell mums, straw, pumpkins or LED signs. Is this the new normal? No one knows for sure, but we all know that infinite multi-digit sales growth is impossible mathematically. So, what you do sell must provide profit- makes sense to me.

Competition for many LED sign dealers is intense. There’s a battle going on in the industry of the “imports” versus the “domestics”. However, this competition is not like the one that impacted the US automobile market when Japan produced a high-quality, high-technology, reasonably priced, value intense option with Honda and the Toyota and whacked the market share of GM, Ford and Chrysler.

The current war in the LED sign industry is a curious one where LED sign companies have sampled imported LED sign products and despite a documented record of poor performance and customer unhappiness the cost is compelling low. Never mind that the cost of the subsequent service issues, the loss of trusted customers and the hassle with every element of dealing with the importing process wipes out any net profit on the project.

Sadly, I think that some dealers are content with losing money on an LED sign project, then trying to make up for it on subsequent projects by doing exactly the same thing. Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Look, you have a right (if not an obligation) to make money on the sale of an LED sign and allow that profit contribution to enhance the profitability of the overall project- labor, static sign upgrades, permitting, whatever your project entails. If you’re not making some reasonable profit margin, for argument sake say 30% on the LED sign (cost is $7,000, sales price is $9,999) then you need a plan to regain what you are entitled to. 

Oh yes, I have one, a patented 5-step plan for your review:

  • Sell a product that works and does not drive your true profit margin to zero, or worse, with service calls and customer hassle. 
  •  Sell something that stands out (differentiated for you marketing elite)- technology, simple for the customer to understand and use, or has something that makes the customer want it. An electric seat warmer is one odd example that has sold many an automobile for those customers living in cold weather.  
  • Promote your company and stand out from the crowd. Does your office have an LED display outside? You have to “walk the talk”. Many domestic suppliers will offer price concessions for a display on your own wall or pole. Also, what about your Website? Sure it has vehicle wraps displayed prominently on it and that looks great, but what about the LED sign page? Does it need a little work? A better set of LED display images?
  •  Do you have a LED sign demo trailer? There are many awesome designs for compact trailers engineered for LED signs. If you email me at I’ll turn you on to a company I recently ran across that provides a compact trailer with LED sign lift capability for under $8000. There are countless examples but dollar for dollar this is the best one I've seen.
  • Promote LED signs in different ways. Participate in charity events, actually go to those Chamber of Commerce meetings, attend regional trade shows and rent a booth (some are affordable). Having a great Website is one way to attract customers, but taking the LED sign to the streets via a trailer or a portable display of some kind, allows you to market the old fashioned way – “eyeball to eyeball”. Not every customer appreciates your e-efforts as much as you do despite the planned upgrades to your LED sign page. They’d rather have the old “touch and feel and inspect” buying experience.

These ideas are not new. Very little is truly new, but rather a rehash or a recompilation of an old idea. But think over these five points.

What am I saying? You deserve to make a profit on LED sign, but if you're not, then you may have to "earn the right" to make a profit. LED signs are not a commodity, at least not yet. There are major differences, but sometimes, not unlike other major purchases, the customer needs a reason to pay more. They are paying as much for many LED sign projects as a new car. How many times have you purchased a new car by going to the Web and saying "okay, I'll take one of those, let me click here"?

You have to figure out what kind of dealer you want to be. If you want to be the “lowest priced kid on the block” then you’ll attract customers with the least money to spend. Not only will they have just $8,000 to spend, but they’ll try to spend only $4,000 of it. They’ll come to you and buy the lowest priced LED sign on the market, work an even lower price than your first quoted price then get you to promise some type of support and hold you accountable each and every time the LED sign hiccups. You know what I’m talking about.

On the other hand, if you are able to prove you have an LED sign product that shows a great return on investment by driving new customers in the door, installed by experts, with a “no fooling around” warranty, you will have proved  you are not just dabbling in the LED sign game. You’ll attract smarter customers who want a quality product and are willing to pay for it… hence, your 30% margin.

Your choice, but it’s your right to make good money on what you sell. If it’s a no-win, “toxic”, request for bid… run away, don’t try to administer CPR to a dead chicken.

These comments belong to me, Mike Prongue, and do not reflect the views, opinions, hopes or dreams of anyone else, anywhere else and this includes Vantage LED. I appreciate your constructive opinion which may be sent to me at  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Digital Signage Need to Know: Quality LED Signs Managed Responsibly Improve the Community

- Scott Hofheins

LED signs have been given a bad rap over the years for being “tacky” and threatening to turn peaceful towns into “Las Vegas”. Although progress has been made as local leaders realize this new technology can be regulated reasonably, the old “Las Vegas” stigma still continues to affect the industry. There are a couple of reasons why, and I would like to focus on the few here to help educate both existing and potential LED sign owners.

I saw a local news clip last week on LED signs in Florida. Unfortunately, some of the first words you hear in the segment are “tacky” and “distracting”. As I watched the clip, I was not surprised to see it go immediately to shots of Las Vegas with the reporter narrating about how you wouldn't want the place you live to look “like this”. It moved on to clips of LED signs, Hulk Hogan's new restaurant, and interviews with city leaders. It included some great examples of why LED signs still have a less than perfect reputation.

All but one or two of the LED signs in the clip had some sort of quality issue. This is a major problem for LED signs and it effects the industry as a whole. High quality LED signs that are working correctly do not look “tacky” or “distracting”. It’s the broken, sub-par signs that give everyone else a bad name. Even if a sign is physically working, it doesn’t mean it looks good. The news clip showed modules issues, color inconsistency, LED binning issues, missing pixels, etc... 

No LED sign is perfect, but many of the signs in the story looked like this wasn’t the first time they had issues. Surprisingly, one of these was a sign for a Hulk Hogan restaurant. It illustrates the fact that expensive and big, doesn’t equal higher quality.

I know I speak for many in the industry who would plead with anyone getting an LED sign to Do Your Homework. Your business image is counting on it There are great manufactures right here in the USA that can provide you a quality sign. You may pay a little more, but it’s worth it. I’m not saying that every single US manufacturer is guaranteed to be great, but your research is much easier to do when it’s domestic and you can talk directly to the people making your sign.

Poor content is almost as bad as a broken sign. People expect more from LED signs these days, and the viewers will only get more picky as the technology improves. The content must be clean, readable, relevant and beautiful. Showing a 30 second long firework animation won’t get people into your business anymore. You need real content, with real information. People are looking to LED signs as they would look at their smart phone: quick, relevant information that they can use.

If you’re doing your own content, make sure it’s on par with the other signs out there. Having talent in house is good, as long as they keep the sign fresh with updated content. If you don’t have your own designers or time to do the content yourself, use a content creation service. It’s worth the investment.

If you have an old or lower quality sign, don’t be afraid to experiment with colors and fonts that DO look good on your display. White backgrounds are usually a bad choice for a low quality sign. Keep it simple and strong with dark backgrounds, thick text and deep colors. Blues and greens work well, but stay away from light blue, light green, light yellow, etc... Find what works with your display and stick to it.

This is a big one for me. I still see a number of signs out there that are way too bright at night. I believe most of this is due to a lack of education on the subject, but there are still some out there who think that brighter = better. This is simply not the case at night.

When a sign is too bright, your audience will have less time to read the message. They may see the beacon of light from 5 miles away, but they will not be able to actually read the text until much closer than normal. If your sign is lighting up the freeway it’s too bright. It may be cool to say “hey our LED is so bright it lights up the street”, but that’s about all it’s doing. This is one of the bigger reasons for negative attitudes toward LED signs.

Take the time to really look at your sign at night. Is your audience spending their time seeing just the sign, or the actual content. You want them to see the content. Compare the brightness of the LED sign to the brightness of other lighted signs in the area. The LED sign should be just a bit brighter, but not much.

Most LED signs give you the ability to change the brightness settings. Some use automatic sensors, and others use scheduling or a mixture of both. Sensors are not always the best method, as they can be affected by ambient light, and their own values (how much it dims according the light value) can’t be set for every situation. If you can set these values, do it.  If your sign utilizes a brightness schedule, adjust it. Every time I see these signs, I feel bad for the business because they may be unknowingly losing potential customers at night because they can’t read the sign.

Reasonable Regulations
I’ve always been a proponent of empowering the people, but I’ve found that it’s not always smart to directly confront the city code. If you want reasonable regulations, you have to be reasonable too. Being a good example, and using an LED sign in a reasonable way gives you much more power than if you drop in a huge sign, and literally try to run it like “Vegas”. You’re only hurting yourself at that point. The Hulk Hogan sign in the news story was a good example of what NOT to do in my opinion, but not for the reasons you may think.

If you’re going to fight a battle, you need to have the best weapons to ensure victory. The quality of the sign in this case does them no favors and only supports the notion that LED signs are “tacky”. The discoloration and module issues on the sign detract from the content, and even though the content is colorful and attention getting, it loses significant power on a broken sign.

I have a better scenario. Imagine a high quality 12-16mm with great color balance, and deep high contrast colors. The content is classy and tasteful with smooth fades between the messages, and subtle but effective animations supporting the content, but not overdoing it. This is much better for the operator, the community, and the reputation of LED signs. Instead of people saying “hey that’s a cool looking sign, but it’s kind of cheesy”, they will see the quality and say “that’s a really good looking sign, I wonder why our city doesn’t like these”.

Quality Hardware, Effective Content, Visibility at Night, and keeping it Classy will improve the look of your LED sign and your business. If you are on the lookout for an LED sign, please do your research and make sure you're getting the best quality you can, at a reasonable price. There are good resources out there (like this blog) that will help you with this. Remember, sacrificing quality for a cheap price is a short term plan in a long term game. Lead by example, and look good doing it! 


I hope this post has been informative and helpful. As usual, I welcome ALL constructive comments. Please feel free to comment and add anything I’ve missed, or additional tips you may have regarding this topic. Please visit for many other resources, white papers, and of course: Great looking LED Signs!

**All posts/thoughts/writings are strictly the viewpoint of me and me alone and do not reflect nor speak for Vantage LED’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically stated.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Digital Signage Need to Know: What does Web App/Cloudware mean for Digital Signage/LED Signs?

-Deacon Wardlow

Digital Signage (DS) and LED Signs have gotten somewhat easier to implement over time, but they're still very complex and daunting and the means of controlling the DS Solution can be the most frustrating component. Whether it's a few LCD screens in a building, an LED Sign on the street or a network of interior and exterior LCD and LED displays nationwide, the solution needs to be scalable, easy to access and (ideally) easy to use. 

For a long time, the only way to access and control the systems was through a network of computers running software which connected everything and made it all work. With the development of Cloudware and Web Apps (which one could argue are one and the same thing), software is going to the wayside just like pay phone booths and "rabbit ears" antenna on a TV. 

Cloudware/Web App
It's very likely you've accessed a web app/cloudware recently. Have you logged in to email on the web via Gmail/Yahoo/Rocketmail/Hotmail-MSN (now Do you have Netflix/Hulu? Watched a YouTube video? These are all examples of web apps running on the cloud. When the five year old at home decides to be helpful and wash their parents' laptop with a sponge and hot soapy water, all is not lost. The email can still be accessed from the web as well as many documents the parents likely edited using Google Apps, Microsoft's 365, documents saved to Dropbox or a similar online "Storage" site, etc.

The cloud means universal access to the programs and information which are important to you without being locked-down to a single computer/access point. These days, web apps can be run on just about any device (smartphones, PC, Mac, tablet, etcetera). If a computer is broken or the smartphone's battery dies, grab another computer someplace and logon. Public terminals (PCs, Macs, other) are being almost as accessible as payphones used to be back in the day.

DS systems now often come with a component which is web app or cloud-based. Many manufacturers are completely moving over to the cloud. End-users no longer have to worry when their computer crashes. They won't lose the content, schedules and programs as it's all saved to the cloud (data storage centers in various locations which are usually backed-up frequently). Once the end-user has access to another computer, the programs, schedules, content and such are there waiting for them to get back to work with. The systems themselves are no longer reliant on a single server or computer to run them. In the past when a server went down, the player were nearly useless. Modern independent controllers/players can "check-in" with the cloud systems and update content, handle schedules and information without relying on a server which may or may not be available.

There are some disadvantages to the cloud (i.e. the network goes down, the customer forgets their login information, a display can't communicate for some reason) but these same problems exist with software on a computer. The biggest difference, when the network is down the players will still run, the customer can request a new password which will often automatically be emailed to them, many cloud-based systems have auto-reporting so they'll alert you to a device not communicating or playing. The advantages far outweight any  concerns raised when making the move.

When you look to the cloud, what do you see? Is your DS solution shaping out up there or is it all a jumble? Feel free to write-in with requests/questions/desire for more detail. We're happy to dig as deep as you need to go to understand the new technologies out there and how to take advantage of them. These days it's a good idea to firmly plant your feet on the ground with your head in the cloud.

*I invite you to comment here and/or email me directly with requests at Vantage LED has white paper resources and more educational material on the website (, please check it out when you have a moment. Note all posts/thoughts/writings are strictly the viewpoint of me and me alone and do not reflect nor speak for Vantage LED’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically noted.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Digital Signage, Need to Know: Value Based Selling Is a Win for Local Sign Companies

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that 
gives everything its value.      – Thomas Paine

In the “bad old days” of the mid 1980’s an early dent was made in my car stereo business by the giant retailer Wal Mart. They sold Jensen and Pioneer and all the brand names that we sold and we swore we could never win against them. I saw my brother gesticulating wildly across the installation bay screaming “Run Chicken Little we are doomed- the sky is falling!”

The sky did not fall because almost no one buys on price alone. Most customers wanted installation and technology and Wal Mart could not deliver! New product reached Wal Mart about 2 years after it was introduced by the manufacturers, so while we received the new high performance gear and the "411" in about 30 days, so they never had a clue. The staff at Wal Mart was replaced so often that the car stereo department became totally self-service to the customer.

We used a three step program to ameliorate the price impact of the National Giant.

1)      Communicate, educate and partner with your customer.
2)      Demonstrate a huge service and technical advantage.
3)      Never say “no” to your customer.

You have to walk the talk to compete and if you need to become an expert, like your business card claims, well… today is the first day of the rest of your life. And tomorrow is the second!

Today, 2013, many local LED sign companies fear the National LED Sign Companies operating in their market. There are several and I won’t call them out by name, but you know who they are. 

Some blow into town and make a quick sale and promise a $200 install of the LED sign by the business owner’s electrician, only to disappear into the proverbial woodwork once the deposit is collected. Then like rising smoke- gone for good. Others operate with good product, a project management team and competitive price. But they too have many disadvantages, as compared to the local professional.

If the customer can see you “eyeball to eyeball” and shake your hand and go fishing with you (metaphorically speaking), why would they care about National LED Sign Company #1 or National LED Sign Company #2? The sign industry is really not an e-based phenom, or a "dialing for dollars" experience as many National LED Sign Companies try to make it out to be.

Customers want to know you, see the product, and discuss their requirements. They also want continuity where the person writing the sales order either is, or personally knows, the person installing and servicing the LED sign. These are all extra "values" that a local sign company can provide.

Value-based competition is the way successful local LED sign companies operate. When value improves, the end-user customer and the sign company benefit. The local LED sign companies that find creative, reassuring and unique ways to deliver superior value win. The local LED sign company is then rewarded with more business from the same customer and their referrals. Customers win too, as they receive an LED sign that continues to operate with near-zero down time.

Here’s what you must do to win against the National LED Sign Company:

1)   Carve out an uniqueness. What is your niche? Do you specialize in attorneys, schools, churches? Client uniqueness is just one way to separate your company from the rest of the pack. You need a unique selling/marketing point. I can’t make one up for you, but you probably already have one, even if you've never called it by name.

2)   Create an identity that warms you up to the customer and truly represents the service level you plan to deliver. GM had “Mr. Good Wrench” several years ago. What is your "street name"?

3)   Become a technical guru. At first, there seems to be an endless amount of technology to learn when dealing with LED signs. False! Most of the technology has nothing to do with LED sign itself. Simplistically stated, they are an aluminum box with "flashy lights". The technology requirement comes from the wireless communication, the computer controller and the network it’s installed on. You need to have someone who is more than comfortable here- someone who likes it! The guy running the printer in the back room may not be your LED guru. Also use a manufacturer who can support you with more than excuses and platitudes.

4)   Service, service, service and service with urgency. This means you must be empathetic to the customer, but more importantly- don’t sell junk or your life will be pure misery keeping up with service calls and trying to explain to new customers why their LED sign will work when many of the others don't.

5)   Don’t sell junk. Nothing destroys your credibility more than a city full of LED signs that work ½ the time. If you sell an unreliable product and make a small profit, your profit will be spent many times over on service calls.

In short, by doing some variant of 1-5 above, you are engaging in value-based competition. Add to that the personal attention you provide and the assurance that your customer will see you in church or “on the lake” and competing with National LED Sign Companies will be a non-issue.

If you are selling on price alone, you are in a death spiral. Look at the instruments and try to pull out while you can. No one wins in a price war. Again, as I've preached across many blogs- "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" and every customer ultimately gets exactly "what they pay for"!

Reality-101 says you won’t win every bid. If an organization does not seek quality, is willing to install an imported LED sign that will look terrible from day 1, does not want your sage advice and thinks LED signs are like turnips- all the same… run. There are toxic deals where you are more profitable if you lose. I question whether or not any National LED Sign Company can truly sell a similar product cheaper. Do they or when the the extra costs for permitting, installation, electrical are added to the core price they lose their edge? Focus on what you do. Know what "they" do, but don't be intimidated. Many times a detailed explanation that LED signs are not turnips is all it takes to shake off a National LED Sign Company from your customer's door.

If you look at the enormous market that is the USA, there is no way any “National” LED Sign Company can do much in your town to take your business unless you let them. 

Not unlike David, the the biblical David (of Goliath fame), everyone reading this has “Giant Killer” juice coursing through their veins. Those alleged “Big Boys” are trying to be like you but they can't get it right and they don't know your customer. They are the ones who should be afraid- very afraid, of you!

These comments belong to me, Mike Prongue, and do not reflect the views, opinions, hopes or dreams of anyone else, anywhere else and this includes Vantage LED. I appreciate your constructive opinion which may be sent to me at  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Digital Signage Need to Know: US Based Support for LED Signs is More Than Phones and Technicians

- Scott Hofheins

Having access to local support is important for any electronic device, including LED signs, but getting good support requires more than just being able to call and talk to someone in the US. There are many aspects to supporting LED signs that aren't always just technical. Component control, manufacturing location, software development, documentation, representation, and marketing support are all factors that will affect a manufacturer's performance in this area.

Component Control
Having good quality components is obviously a must in this industry. But maintaining the design and quality control is key to a successful product. No technology is perfect, but how fast can a manufacturer implement a solution to a module design, or driver system? This depends on how much control they have over the components. Skilled in-house engineers and designers will be able to provide better solutions than those who rely on third party support based overseas.

Manufacturing Location
Where is the manufacturer building their systems? Systems that are built entirely overseas will typically take quite a bit longer to produce and deliver to the site. Information about the status of production can be slow and often inaccurate because of the distance, communication barriers, and little oversight of the actual production floor.

Manufacturers who produce in the US and balance their component sources correctly will be much better equipped to provide accurate information. They can also react and improve production processes much quicker than a company who is working with a third party.

Software and Documentation
In-house software development is one of the most underrated aspects of LED signs before the sale, yet becomes a top priority when the sign is installed and ready for use. Unfortunately many end-users are stuck with poorly designed software that is unlikely to ever be improved or updated. This can be avoided when a manufacturer develops the software in-house. The ability to innovate quickly and respond to the market with real solutions like cloud based management, customized solutions, and easy to use interfaces are what help separate the good from the great.

Documentation designed by the same people who manufacture the signs and work with the product directly in real world situations will always be a step above the rest in usability and accuracy. The long term support of an LED sign will often rely on the quality of the documentation.

The factory can’t be located everywhere at once, so good manufacturers will have skilled representation across the country to support their dealers and partners. Having a local representative gives you a direct link to the manufacturer, someone you can talk to face to face. This helps close the gap between the manufacturer and dealer, and fosters a better partnership.

These representatives should be able to support you in sales and demonstrations, and be your “go to” people to help close LED sign projects. Having a factory rep and a demo on-site can really make a difference and promote a greater comfort level with potential buyers.   

Advertising Support
Local support means that your manufacturer knows the needs of the US market because they operate in the US Market. They can give you the tools to grow your business and help educate the public to make your job easier. This industry is full of mis-information, but there are good manufacturers out there who can provide you resources that will combat myths and mis-understandings; not just for the good of their products but for the good of the industry in general. Your manufacturer should be your partner in building your business, not just a supplier.

Support is so much more than calling a tech on the phone. The ability to provide quality support is directly related to the control the manufacturer has over their product, software, and people. The business culture of good manufactures promotes the health of their staff, dealers, and partners. They speak your language and have the ability to act quickly to address product, sales, or resource needs specific to you. Always remember, good manufacturers should be just as interested in your success as you are.


I hope this post has been informative and helpful. As usual, I welcome ALL constructive comments. Please feel free to comment and add anything I’ve missed, or additional tips you may have regarding this topic. Please visit for many other resources, white papers, and of course: Great looking LED Signs!

**All posts/thoughts/writings are strictly the viewpoint of me and me alone and do not reflect nor speak for Vantage LED’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically stated.