Thursday, March 28, 2013

Digital Signage “Need To Know”: Professional Content is a Must!

Robert Smith III, was a young lawyer in his third year with a big law firm in Houston, Texas. Today had been on his calendar for months- a chance to play golf with the “old man”, the President of the company. Robert wanted to impress his boss and he had the time and the money to do so. His strategy was to buy the most expensive golf club set in the world- a Japanese brand HONMA “5-Star custom fitted set”.

Sure, they were made out of platinum and gold and Donald Trump and Jack Nicholson each owned a set. But Donald and Jack typically made their investment pay off by utilizing them with an ample amount of golfing skill!

Robert’s Honma clubs caught the attention of the President and so did his score of “65”. Unfortunately for Robert that “65” was on the front nine holes!

The moral of this totally fictional scenario is that sometimes people invest in a product, spend great amounts of money, buy the best and then sabotage and devalue the potential of their investment by failing to spend a just few more dollars to “put it to work”! In Robert's case, an extra $100 for a golf lesson might have helped.

In our world, not Tiger Woods' world, where do we see this? LED signs are sold by many sign companies by stating that “the investment will pay for itself by driving new business through the door”. Is this true?

It can be. But when they buy a $40,000, full-color, P-16 resolution (with virtual technology) LED sign and run content made at home using MS Paint they are doing a huge disservice to themselves!

On the other hand, when a business with a small LED sign uses professionally produced animation and content, they squeeze every nickel out of their investment. This is a perfect contrast- one business unaware just how important content is turns a $40,000 investment into a $10,000 “flashing reader board”; while an astute business transforms their smallish $10,000 LED sign into an attention-getting, brand-building, digital marketing center.

How many small LED signs in your community “pop” visually with correct color choices, animation, proper text size, short ads and proper slide timing? Perhaps you have many! Okay, now, how many larger LED signs look terrible? Wrong color choices, slide timing wrong, too bright at night… and you name it! Many LED sign owners will not make an additional investment in professionally produced content. 

What does a graphic designer worry about? I’m not a graphic designer. I thought it was one of my many self-proclaimed fortes’ before I met a real graphic designer. Then I immediately decided that my design skills were similar to the first caveman with the first chisel on the first rock. But here are a few compelling reasons that very few amateurs “get right”:

  • Color- A dark blue background with a bright yellow foreground does not make the display “pop”.  Also, many amateur designers confuse light coloration with paint coloration. There is a difference as one uses an additive approach while the other employs a subtractive approach to achieving a color mixture. Here is a color theory link COLOR
  • Rule of thirds: Many designers just do this. They don’t think about it, and it comes naturally. But the canvas (physical or electronic) is divided into 9 equal squares- 3 rows of 3 squares. Using this rule directs the eye to the center point of attention. Take a look at this link for an easy explanation THIRDS
  • Technical design using popular software packages is a bottomless pit of learning, massaging and mastering the rules. I’ve used Adobe Photoshop for years, and still have not scratched the surface on the capability and complexity of this package. There are 4-year degrees offered on this software package and it truly has the capability of creating wonderful visual products. Just owning and using  the Adobe Photoshop software package does not guarantee an effective slide for the LED sign however. Using it as a tool, with learned skill, not unlike a paintbrush in the hands of a talented artist is the key here.

I’ve listed a few realities of producing your own content. At the end of the day, doing in-house content is expensive, time consuming and just not worth it to maximize the performance of an LED Sign for most small business owners.

Don’t let your customer run poor content on your watch! As a LED sign expert you can significantly influence the success of your customer’s LED sign marketing program. Discuss this early with the customer and let them know that even the best set of golf clubs won’t create a winning return on investment (ROI) scenario without being used correctly. For an LED sign, that means spending a proverbial extra nickel to harness the advertising power of their LED sign investment.

In an ever-expanding LED sign industry there are extremely cost-effective options available  for businesses to put their LED sign to work with professionally produced content. Put the "Googler" to work to learn more!

Consider attending the ISA  Sign Expo in Las Vegas next week, April 4th, 5th and 6th to learn of exciting new content options coming to the LED sign industry. Here is the ISA link to learn more ISA EXPO 2013

I’ll see you there!

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, March 26, 2013

Digital Signage Sales 101: Objection Handling Part 1 of 2

- Deacon Wardlow

Sales is a roller-coaster. The inevitable ebb and flow of opportunities which fade as quickly as they appear, sales which close and those which don’t are going to happen regardless. The best we can do is make sure we have as many tools as possible and make the best use of them as the situation allows. 

We discussed overcoming the Sticker Shock Syndrome in a previous blog (click here to read the article). I’ve discussed Customer Centered Sales (here). Mike Prongue has discussed closing techniques (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). What do you do to overcome objections (or even figure what the objections are)? Here comes another fun acronym. LACE.

With Digital Signage (DS), one would think it’s often an “easy” sale. DS offers a way to communicate better with customers and the community. ROIs (Return On Investment) can be proven as well as ROO (Return On Objective). Why would anyone object to something which will help their business or community? Objections are opportunities. They are the potential client testing the waters to see what you can come up with and if your product/solution meets their needs. By taking the time to vet objections, we are given a great opportunity to not only learn more about the client, but about ourselves, our business and our product/service.


Listening helps to not only understand the objection, but the emotion and reasoning behind it. If you’re talking more than the person you’re with, you need to ask more probing questions to get to the main point.

-Find the objection

When someone is objecting, it’s important to listen to more than the words they’re saying. Read between the lines and find out ‘what else’ they’re objecting to. ‘How come’ the objection is there and what do they see as hurdles to overcoming the issue at hand?

-Find remaining objections

Just when you think you’ve overcome the objections, dig deeper. There may be more being left unsaid and it’s best to get it in the open. Ask, “are there any other objections?” Once all the objections are out in the open, you’re that much closer to the close.


It’s important to not only acknowledge the objection(s), but the person making the objection(s).

-Accept the person
Here it’s time for show and tell. Objecting can be a difficult for many. People have been trained throughout their lives to help and be kind/considerate. Surprising as it may be, the person on the other side of the table/phone doesn’t want you to feel rejected or create negative feelings. By accepting the person, you build both their trust and their sense of identity with you. You also set up a exchange dynamic where they feel a sense of obligation to repay your acceptance.

-Accept the objection

Accepting the objection means understanding how it is reasonable, at least from their current viewpoint for them to object to what you may believe is an excellent offer.
It also means accepting the work that addressing the objection will require of you. Objections can be frustrating and if you object to the objection, you will have a mutual stalemate.


With the increased trust you’ve created by listening to the person and being open to discussing any objections they have, you’ve created an opportunity to test the waters on closing.

-Get their commitment

Get a commitment from them; if you can satisfactorily address their objections, they will give your product/service a chance. This is also a good method of identifying further objections. If they say no, then loop back and elicit whatever is holding the potential client back. Eventually, they will run out of objections.

-Make your commitment

In order to receive, you have to give. There’s a balance to the conversation which must be maintained. This doesn’t mean crazy “favors” or special pricing, simply your word to work with the client/company until they are completely satisfied you’ve delivered the best solution for their problem(s).

Explicit action

Now it is time to address the objections, to take explicit action on the commitments made.
There are two types of objection: real ones and accidental ones. Accidental objections are where the objection is due to a misunderstanding. Misunderstandings are usually easy to address, with an apology and an explanation. Real objections take work, but if they can be resolved, you've got the sale!

This is the theory behind the practice. In the next blog, I’ll cite specific techniques and examples to help overcoming objections. At the end of the day, we are solutions specialists. Problem solvers. Sales isn’t as much about pushing a product or service as much as it is about making a solid connection with another person and finding an answer to a question they may not even know they had until they met you. Find the problem, offer the solution and the sales will follow.

*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 stated.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

LED Sign Tech & Spec: Real World Effects of LEDs per Pixel on Outdoor Digital Signage

-Scott Hofheins

An image on a full color LED sign consists of thousands of individual pixels. Each pixel consists of individual Red, Green and Blue LEDs; the three primary colors for light. Why three? Because the human eye has three types of color receptors. Technically you could mix other colors, but Red Green and Blue provide the widest range of colors to our eyes in the most efficient manner. If this is the case, then why do some manufacturers use more than three LED’s per pixel?

There a many reasons, some technical, others theoretical, and some are driven by marketing needs. In my experience adding a 4th, 5th, or 6th LED to the pixels does not have a large effect on the actual end-user experience.

Color Space
Technically, you can increase the view-able color range by adding an extra LED like Yellow (you may have seen this advertised in the LED TV market). However, any real visible effect this would have on an LED sign would be minimal.  It also requires a bit more power to drive the thousands of extra LED’s.

Most four LED configurations add an extra Red LED to the pixel. This is sometimes marketed as a way to increase the brightness of the LED sign. It doesn't quite work that way, because you cannot drive each of the Red LEDs at the same level. If you did, the sign would be brighter....but also tinted Red.

Some use a four LED pixel configuration because they are not able to provide Virtual Pixel technology without it. This has only added to the somewhat jaded view many have of Virtual Pixels and if they really make a difference or not (Deacon had a great post on VP here). Generally speaking, you don’t want to add unneeded components to an LED sign to produce a technology like Virtual Pixels that can be done without them.

The fact is there is nothing inherently wrong with 4+ LED pixel configurations, but the benefits they provide are not as large as some may claim and the electrical trade off’s are not always great. As I mentioned before, it’s really about the end-user experience and what they will actually get from the technology.

The human eye can physically see a massive number of light wavelengths, but we do not perceive these in exacting measure. Our brain gives us just the right amount of data that we can handle. In my opinion there are far more important items to clarify with a potential sign supplier than the number of LEDs per pixel...this blog is packed full of them!


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, March 19, 2013

LED Sign Sales- Closing Technique Suggestions- 3 of 3

This is the final of 3 installment posts where I share with you suggestions on how to close an LED sign sale. So far, over the past couple weeks I’ve suggested 6 closing techniques and today I will meet my stated obligation of providing 3 more. Never being one to under-deliver I’ve upped the ante’ today with a 4th suggestion to provide a nice round number of 10 total!

From these 10, pick a couple and practice them. If you don't care to use these suggestions just search online on "closing technique" to see dozens of others available to you! Continue to practice and look for new ways to influence others and share your ideas.

If you stop and think about exactly how involved an LED sign sale is, it’ll blow your mind. Perhaps we shouldn’t do it, but here goes:

  •  A business opens through someone presumably having a skill or some product that they want to sell. Seed money is provided for start-up, a facility is acquired, licenses and legalities are muddled through and viola, a new member of the business community appears.
  • Talent is required so associates are recruited.
  • Competition is fierce so a solutions-oriented advertising method is required.
  • You, the sign dealer is called. Also perhaps some of your competition.
  • Sign options are discussed- sizes, colors, communication, functions.
  •  Pricing is negotiated and terms are finalized.
  • The LED sign contract is inked and the product ordered.
  • Permits are obtained.
  • The LED sign is built, shipped and received within the stated time.
  • The LED sign is installed, tested, while the customer is trained. And the sales cycle is complete.
It is truly incredible and this example above has been “dumbed-down” considerably. But somewhere around number 6 or 7 above, the actual close comes into play. This is the “great meeting of the minds” where the wallet comes out and the marriage actually occurs. Perhaps these 4 suggestions will help deliver the LED sign sale to your company:

7. Harmony Close

Be empathetic. Try it, feel how they feel and spend a day in their world. Understand their situation and relate to it.

They will start to empathize with you and suddenly you are on their team!

Talk about the situation using “us” instead of “you”.

Become a match-maker by providing your excellent product to a most worthy customer.

Two examples:

I get it, I really do and it makes a lot of sense for us to buy this LED sign today with this financing plan.

You know what? This solution will work great for us!

This close works by relating to them. When you feel what they feel it’s likely they’ll come along with your ideas. Wait for the right moment and try “sharing the love” and that is why this close is also called the “Love Close”.

8. Opportunity Cost Close

Demonstrate the cost of not buying the LED sign and show them the actual out-of-pocket cost is not as high as it appears from the price.

To do this use the word: 'cost' in an expanded sense: hassle cost, customer cost, service cost, missed opportunity cost, time cost.

Two examples:

If you keep your existing static signs and the radio advertisement program what will be the costs? You have the high cost of radio ads that you can’t instantly update and you still have the faded sign. The cost of not changing your ad program up looks much higher than getting on board with an LED sign.

This LED sign really highlights your business and puts you on leading edge here on Main Street. Think of the other businesses with their old reader boards and how they must feel seeing your LED sign.

Every choice has some cost associated with it. In finance, business, advertising the frequently used phrase is “opportunity cost” for not taking action.

Make the word ‘cost’ your friend. It’s not just ‘cost’ as in money!

9. Specifications Close

Make a list of their stated specifications and requirements. Then promise to deliver each of these, item by item to close the sale.

Keep the document and revisit it. Amend it as required throughout the negotiation process.

Two examples:

Let’s talk about all your specifications! If we can find a way deliver this, it'll be ideal, won't it?

I’ve made a list of what you stated your LED project required. Let me show you how we can deliver this and more.

Make the conversation an open conversation but write down what they say as it helps define the document as being more formal rather than just verbal wanderings.

10. Trial Close

A Trial Close is a test to see if the person is ready to complete the sale. It really isn’t a closing technique in itself.

Try it after a presentation or after you’ve made a strong point or use it when you have answered objections. 

Pose the Trial Close as a tentative question.

Ask 'If...' questions that assume they’ve already purchased the LED sign.

After asking the Trial Close question be quiet, watch and listen carefully for their response.

'ABC' means “Always Be Closing” but you must be cautious because ABC can become annoying if they are nowhere near ready to buy!

Three examples:

You seem very interested in my proposal. Is that true?
Have you decided on full color or grayscale?
How would it look installed where the reader board is?

The Trial Close works by putting the idea of closure onto the table and  person's response will tell you how close they are to buying your great LED sign project!

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, March 14, 2013

LED Sign Tech & Spec: Don't get screwed, modern module securing systems.

-Deacon Wardlow

Technology is constantly in a state of change. Not only are new technologies developed almost daily around the world, but innovative engineers and entrepreneurs envision new applications of existing technology. The driving factor behind the change is a need for something better than what's currently in place.

When I first started out learning about LED Signage, I started on the ground level (quite literally, on the ground with some of the oldest Digital display systems in the field). I enjoyed taking systems apart and, when putting them back together, seeing if there was a better way the system could work. When I noticed an improvement, I'd note it and try it out until it was 'just right.' One of my biggest pet peeves was dealing with the LED modules themselves.

Different methods have been used to achieve an "ideal" module design. I've seen fully encapsulated LED modules which snap in place like a giant Lego(tm) blocks. The encapsulated modules were great, but failure rate was somewhat high because of heat which wasn't removed from the system. The standard response was to put a rubber gasket around the back of the module and secure the module to the face with 8-10 screws.

The problem with the screws:
-If the factory workers didn't 100% tighten the screws, there's a small gap which allows for water intrusion.
-When factory workers tighten screws 100%, some of them have the threading stripped and they can't easily be removed for later service.
-When servicing an LED module with screws (often from a bucket or lift 30-80ft in the air), the screws can easily be dropped. If the tech is lucky, they drop in the sign and can (maybe) be retrieved but often they're as lost as a rogue sock in a commercial laundry dryer...

Companies have tried several different fixes, the more popular is screws which are inset in the module (so they can't be lost). The problem with screw tightening,stripping and a service tech not totally fastening all the screws still remains.

The best overall approach is a latch system with two locking/unlocking points. No screws to strip, a simple and quick lock/unlock mechanism to turn for easy service. The best solutions are often simple, but unfortunately this means retooling an assembly line which may not be receptive to change.

How flexible is the company you're working with? Can they affect change quickly in their manufacturing process to resolve an issue/flaw in the product? Does the company LISTEN to their partners and end-users and take action on reasonable requests? The module was a small example of how businesses get screwed frequently. At the end of the day, make sure everything is secure and the manufacturer you're dealing with listens and addresses issues quickly. If you're not careful, you may have bigger issues to deal with than a manufacturer with a few screws loose.

*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 stated.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

LED Sign Tech & Spec: Front Access Design Considerations for Digital Signage and Hinged Faces

-Scott Hofheins

Last year I wrote about the different access options for LED signs, and my opinions based on direct experience with each method. Today, I would like to focus on the "Front Access Face" (Hinged Face) method specifically. There are many ways to do this wrong, and only a  few ways to do it right. Poorly designed systems will cause long term safety, service, and warranty issues for the lifetime of the sign.

At first thought this seems like a great idea. Why not make the entire face open up for service? You can open the sign faster, access the component layout on a large scale, and replace parts more quickly. All of these things can be true but there are definite trade offs to be aware of. Some of these are small, but there are many potentially large factors that must be taken into consideration.

Full size hinged faces will ultimately have a size limitation. Doors that are too large will “bow” leaving the door seals away from the cabinet, allowing water entry and in some cases a skewed image. The exact size limit depends on the design, and what the manufacturer has found works best. The problem is that many manufacturers haven’t found the sweet spot, or do not care to. They are more focused on the short term sale, then the long term support of the sign. Be very careful of over-sized hinged face systems.

Water Entry
This is one of the most common failure points and a huge factor when designing and implementing a hinged face system. There are few designs in the market that address this issue fully, and most systems will have problems in the long run, if not immediately after installation. Manufacturers have found this out the hard way. The good ones have implemented solutions or moved away from hinged faces altogether. The bad ones continue to use cheaper outdated designs to hit a low price point. This has been a major issue with many of the hinge faced units designed and/or produced overseas.

Door Lifts
Something has to hold these massive doors up and it’s usually gas lifts, typically called “Gas Springs” (similar to the cylinders that hold up an SUV’s rear hatch). When the doors are too big, you have to supply a lot of "push" to safely lift them up. This means constant pressure on the door frames, pushing the faces downwards or outwards depending on the design. In some cases, the lifts have been so powerful that they can push a service tech off the ladder or bucket truck.

Hinge Strength and Design
This is another critical item in the design, and another failure point for a high number of systems. All the weight for the doors rests on these hinges, and as I mentioned earlier the gas lifts are putting a lot of pressure on the doors. When a hinge breaks, simple gravity and the power of the lifts combine to present a significant safety hazard for service crews. I've talked to service personnel in the industry who have experienced this first hand. The consequences can range from being stranded in the bucket for a couple of hours, to serious long term injuries. The quality of the hinge and the design cannot be sacrificed to save costs. Unfortunately this does happen, all too often. It’s not worth the risk in my opinion.

Bucket Access
Maneuvering a bucket underneath a large sign face is difficult, and sometimes impossible. If you have to reach components in the top portion of the sign the bucket has to be almost directly under the sign, or placed to the side to get the lift arm away from the open face. If you're working on multiple parts of the sign, this constant re-positioning can add quite a bit of time to the service call.

Internal Cables
Longer power and data cables are required to connect the internal components on the back of the sign, to the LED modules on the hinged face. Instead of running directly from the component, straight across to the LED module, they have to be run up to the top of the door, then back down on the inside. When this isn't accounted for, the wires can suffer voltage drop, and the data signal can be weak and susceptible to interference.

LED Module Replacement
While accessing the internal components might be a bit easier, replacing the LED modules can be more difficult depending on the design. In many cases you have to remove screws (or hopefully latches) from underneath the face, then awkwardly push the module out, then back through the hole. If the manufacturer has used screws to hold the modules in place, this becomes a fight against gravity and gathering dropped screws from below the sign.

In my opinion, the hinged face design has limited applications, and should be used for smaller signs and custom applications.  Although easy access to sign components is important, there is a balance to be drawn between functionality, and serviceability. When a sign is designed to function well on a consistent basis, it requires less service. I would rather have a sign that is simple to access that doesn't break down as often, than a super accessible sign that has the potential to break down more often.

I still believe that the front access design with a solid cabinet, and latched LED Modules is the ideal method for most applications. It draws the best balance between functionality, simplicity and serviceability that will support the greatest variety of applications.


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.