- Scott Hofheins
For many, the search for a good LED sign is a new experience often filled with confusion, ambiguous terminology, and uncertainty. Our industry is frequently compared to the car business, where consumers don’t buy directly from Ford or Chevy, but from a Dealer who is authorized to sell those brands. While our industry is similar, it doesn't take into account some important differences that significantly affect the consumer’s experience. Here are some tips on finding a good Dealer (sign provider) who will deliver product from a quality manufacturer.
The auto industry has been regulated and standardized over the course of many years, unfortunately this is not the case for the LED sign industry. Although this situation is improving, we’re not there yet. The responsibility of vetting potential providers and understanding the terminology is still the main responsibility of you, the consumer. There are associations and organizations that help with this, but it’s never a guarantee that your chosen provider will be satisfactory.
Do your research, and take notes. This is a theme we push constantly, for good reason. Learn as much as you can about the product you are looking to purchase. What is pixel pitch, what is pixel matrix, and how do they affect a sign’s viewability? What is the difference between an embedded controller, and an IPC (PC Controller)? Research online and talk to existing LED sign owners. Get your information from multiple sources, and dig deep. You will start to see some common themes. Some of these may include:
- Avoid buying from direct overseas suppliers.
- Signs need a good long term warranty.
- Good content is important for a quality image.
- When used correctly, LED signs will increase business.
- Poorly manufactured LED signs may look good at first, but decline quickly over time.
- Broken LED signs make you look bad.
- Everyone does not use the same measuring standards.
- Some specifications are used purely for their marketing value, not because they are important.
- The sign control software should not be overlooked.
- LED signs are proprietary by nature, with virtually no “aftermarket” hardware providers.
This is just a brief list, but there are many more that you will find. Write these down, and apply the lessons learned from your own research and the experience of others.
Education and Truth
Quality providers are not afraid of the truth. They want you to be an educated customer because they know that the more you know, the higher the chance it you will purchase from them. They care about your specific installation, and want to provide you want you need, not just fill a sales quota. Good providers expect to be involved with you for the long term, after the sale. They choose manufacturers who will do the same.
How responsive are they to your needs and questions during the sale? Do they answer questions clearly, and and in a timely manner? This can be a key indicator to how you will be taken care of long term. A well organized sales staff usually means a well organized support staff. This is not a guarantee, but something to take into account.
Referrals and Previous Work
Sign’s are by definition, a very visual and public product. Quality providers are proud of their work, and are happy to show it off. Ask for customer referrals, and/or recent examples of work they've done. Ask for pictures, or places you can drive by for a look.
Documentation and Support
Can the provider back up their product with documented information like white papers, drawings, spec sheets and brochures? Domestic manufacturers provide this documentation to their dealers, in a clear and concise manner, written in standard English. This makes it easier for them to provide the information to you directly, or through their own media and publishing.
Providers who use overseas companies, or direct distributors for these companies often have documents that are outdated, disorganized and poorly translated from another language. Make sure your provider is using a domestically engineered, manufactured and supported LED sign product.
Take the Time
Don’t get rushed into a purchase. Stay calm, and make sure you’re getting the quality product you need, from the right provider. Give yourself enough time to do the research, ask the questions, and understand the product. Trust the facts, and go with the provider who will is willing to be your partner in the process.
The bottom line is, quality providers take care of their customers and partner with them to provide support in the following areas:
- Education on the LED sign industry and products.
- Guidance on the right product for you.
- Documentation to back it up.
- Utilization of a nationally recognized, preferably domestic, high quality manufacturer.
- Warranty and Support after the sale for both Hardware and Software.
The internet has changed the way we do business. It’s bringing us closer together and gives us access to an impressive amount of information about products and companies. Utilize this medium, and learn as much as you can about your potential LED sign investment. It may seem overwhelming at first, but the truth has a funny way of cutting its way through the mess if you keep your mind and eyes open.
Support your research with direct contact with existing sign owners, and the providers themselves. Ask questions that focus on the areas above, and make sure the facts support your feelings and always remember, an LED sign is a long term investment, not short term purchase.
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 www.vantageled.com 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.