Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Digital Signage Sales 101: The Gold Rush Continues

As a guy, I have to admit that I’m addicted to reality TV shows on the Discovery Channel such as Gold Rush and Bearing Sea Gold.  What red-blooded American male does not want to see if Parker Schnabel , the 18-year old gold mining prodigy will make his season quota? His 93-year old Grandfather has taught him all the secret stuff the “old timers” knew, so I’m sure he’ll win!

The introduction of LED signs to the outdoor advertising industry has been called a modern day gold rush by some due to large amounts of new revenue being driven to independent sign companies. Just look around your town to see those shining golden nuggets going up on walls and poles all across your town!

Gold Rush, the TV show, focuses on several groups of small gold-mining operations, all with their own unique quirks and curiosities but despite the show’s cheesiness it reveals that Murphy’s Law is alive and well. Mr. Murphy said that “whatever can go wrong will go wrong at the worst possible time.”  I restate Murphy Law common knowledge just in case you’re coming back from a “flat earth society” meeting and may be the last person on earth who never heard of Murphy and his "law". 

For the gold miners, bulldozers get stuck in the swamp, large gold sorting machines get knocked over by errant excavators, personalities make it even worse and then you have the “know it all” experts leaning on the mining operation.  For sign companies- LED modules burn out, controllers fail, signs burn down and computers fail. The similarities between the two businesses are real.

Sign Companies remind me of the separate teams of gold miners on Gold Rush. Most sign companies are relatively small business operations, have invested in expensive equipment and have trained personnel familiar with a hands-on job. And, like the Gold Miner in Alaska, many cold climate sign companies have a “season”. Cold weather in the northern parts of the USA makes it nearly impossible to dig a hole in frozen soil. If the ground’s not frozen, then the snow might be blowing so hard that it makes life on the street miserable. So some sign companies have to make 12 months of revenue in 9 months just like the miners in the frozen north or the ones in the jungle facing a rainy season.

The winners on Gold Rush seem to share one common characteristic- they focus on digging and capturing the gold and avoiding mechanical and operational disasters.  The winners win because they’re “in the game” more and they stay as focused as a reality TV show allows!

What are the winning characteristics of LED sign companies “out in them thar hills”? How do the best LED Sign companies make it every day? The top 10 common tactics and strategies:

  1.   A solid relationship with a LED sign manufacturer who delivers custom built, reliable product quickly.
  2. Product that is differentiated from other brands and models. 
  3. State-of-the-art control software that is powerful but easy to use so your customer can take complete ownership for the operation of their LED sign. 
  4. Professionally made, exciting LED sign content that can be easily ordered by the end user. 
  5. Long-term on-site service with every LED display sold. This reduces out-of-pocket service expenses and makes for happy customers. 
  6. Select an LED manufacturer who does not take your sale and then pay you some token amount to install the LED sign sale they grabbed from you. 
  7. Customer education- say it, explain it, teach it, help them, say it again and again until they understand. 
  8. Keep promises, keep all promises all of the time. Do not make statements that can’t be verified. Write it down, provide written quotes and have any work order additions or subtractions signed by the customer. 
  9. Charge fairly. It’s not necessary to retire on one sale. Charge the customer fairly and they’ll use you again. Over-charge them and they’ll be a “one-shot wonder”. 
  10. An intelligent, creative, and sustained advertising effort is essential. You are in the advertising industry but that does not mean you don’t have to also advertise!

Whether your company needs to mine 1000 ounces of gold or sell 100 LED signs for a successful season you need a good team, a solid strategy, and a way to differentiate yourself from the other miners. For an LED sign company that differentiation is working with a manufacturer who is a partner, not just a seller of LED signs. Do your homework, ask the manufacturer some tough questions and call others who buy from them.

The LED sign ‘Gold Rush’ is still very young. There are some great claims to stake and millions of LED signs to sell. Go for it!

These comments are my personal perspective and do not reflect the opinion of Vantage LED, Inc. or SignVine, Inc. or any other person or organization. If you have constructive feedback please email me at

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