Thursday, October 30, 2014

Digital Signage, Need to Know: Solving Problems and Raising the Bar

- Scott Hofheins

One of my favorite things about the sign industry is the creative problem solving required across the board. Static signage, outdoor LED signage, indoor digital boards, manufacturing, fabrication, installation, design, artwork and many more all demand a certain level of creative problem solving. The way in which solutions are found and  implemented can make a big difference for the end user experience.

A Platform
Having a good platform to provide solutions is very important. Some platforms, software, hardware, or otherwise, can be more workable than others. For example, a printed encyclopedia is a great resource and can be very useful, but it’s limited to the ink on the page, it cannot change unless re-printed, or minor notations made in the margins. A smartphone or tablet on the other hand, is an open platform for terabytes of encyclopedic information via the internet, apps, and local programs. Users can use, hack, and manipulate these platforms to do what they need, providing fertile ground for innovation and creativity.

There are many types of platforms. How do you keep track of your leads, quotes, support tickets? How do you educate and provide resources to your staff so they can in turn help existing or potential customers? Manage logistics for your trucks and crews? When these platforms are open and efficient, they empower you to make faster decisions and execute solutions much more effectively.

Balanced Approach
Finding a solution that a customer needs and what they want is sometimes hard to do. A customer may want a sign installed on an existing structure that may not be large enough to support it, but matches their branding or style. The professional knows the limitations, and will be able to suggest an alternate solution that still fits their design wants, but doesn't sacrifice on what’s needed.

Another good example is pricing. There is a certain level of “Sticker Shock” in the sign business that may be a bit more common than other industries. This can make it even more tempting to lower the pricing and component quality to compete. While some amount of flexibility is needed, educating the customer about getting what they pay for tends to work out better for all parties in the long run with a quality product at a fair price.

Providing education in tandem with an effective solution generates powerful results. What is the fundamental purpose of your signage solution? How do you integrate it with existing branding, physical location, target market and demographics. Experienced sign providers can help guide their potential customers through these important variables.

Even a simple static sign on a pole will have site and size restrictions, budget considerations, fabrication options, and artwork needs. Helping a customer not only understand what solutions they should consider,  but why they should consider it is key. This speaks to not only your perceived authority on the subject, but your actual expertise and professionalism.    

The Team
Many start alone, but few finish alone. Having a solid team that can rely on each other is a significant factor in the success of any venture; personal or business. Growth is dependent on it, and problem solving is almost certain to be expedited with the combined knowledge and perspective of others.

While any team is bound to get on each others nerves, it helps when they are all in it for long term success. It helps to see the goal, the light at the end of the tunnel that everyone is striving for. A solid sales team means more business. A solid design/artwork team means more efficient sales, and better manufacturing/fabrication. Good manufacturing means a better product and experience for the install crew, project management and support team. A streamlined support team working with a quality product and platform, mean happy customers, more referrals, and more sales.

New technology, better materials and better communication are all making it easier for people to solve problems, and provide solutions in our industry and countless others. This doesn't necessarily mean problems will go away, but it does mean a continual increase in our expectations as end users, solution providers, manufacturers and business leaders. I have no doubt, the industry and the people and individuals who comprise it, will rise to the challenge.


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.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Digital Signage Sales 101: 10 Behaviors, Making LED Sign Manufacturers Great!

The LED Sign Industry is a comprised of many manufactures all with unique strengths, weaknesses, and product offerings.  There are many choices for sign companies to select from, depending on their individual company’s needs.

Not all companies are alike, not all product is alike, not all warranties are alike and it takes some work and trial and error to find the best relationship.  Just like a first date does not mean marriage is imminent, neither does the order of one LED sign project, or two or three. It takes time to determine the true nature of the supplier for your LED sign.

Also, over time, it’s possible to glean the truth about your current LED sign manufacturer. How do they behave when the pressure is on? What kind of choice do they make when someone will win and someone will lose- do they sometimes take the proverbial “hit”?

Regardless of who supplies your LED display projects, there are 10 awesome characteristics that a sign company should consider:

1.       They are open and available and you can call them up, visit their factory and meet their team.
2.       They support your sales plan and do not compete with you for retail sales in your area.
3.       They constantly “push the envelope” on new technology and innovations, sometimes challenging the industry status quo.
4.       They have great software engineering capabilities.
5.       They recognize “Content is King” and can provide customized solutions.
6.       They have a responsive sales team that answers your questions, usually immediately.
7.       They provide flexible solutions for your urgent production requests.
8.       They find a way to always say “yes”.
9.       They provide a “rock solid” warranty on their product minimizing loopholes.
10.   They are focused on educating you, your customer, and giving back to the community.

With all the great possibilities that exist why would you settle for any LED sign manufacturer who did not conform to these ideals?  LED manufacturers have you as “their” customer, they are not your customer. Consequently, it is okay to expect more from them. It is okay to ask more from them. It is okay to seek out and select the best possible choice for your sign company.

In the early days of LED sign technology with limited manufacturing choices, you were restricted and had to settle for a “less than perfect” fit. Now with some “due diligence” you can find exactly the best LED sign manufacturer "fit" for you.

Remember too, that there is a difference between a business "partner" and just a "vendor". Referring back to my earlier metaphor of "marriage", it applies here as well. Your spouse is your partner, your administrative assistant at work is more like your vendor. Your partner stands beside you and helps you as part of a deeper and more intense commitment. Your assistant supports you to a point. At your workplace that point may be when 5PM rolls around or you've fallen into organizational disfavor.

When you find a LED sign manufacturing "partner" that can boast many of the 10 aforementioned characteristics, then you will rest easier, live a less complicated business life and  make more money by way of happier customers.

Do it, you’ll be able to tell the difference immediately and your customers will support your choice.

This blog post and comments represents my personal perspective and do not reflect the opinion of Vantage LED, Inc. or SignVine, Inc. or any other person or organization. Thank you to Vantage LED for allowing me to pen a guest blog every 3 weeks. If you have constructive feedback please email me at  - Mike Prongue

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Digital Signage Need to Know: Future-proofed DS, how future friendly is your Digital Signage?

-Deacon Wardlow
Future-proofing is a popular concept with construction and architecture. With the advancement of technologies and the ever-changing materials which go into making a building, companies are looking to the future and designing new construction to allow older technology to be readily and (easily) upgraded and leaving room for advancements buildings may need for future tech (i.e. empty conduits for cabling, space for controls, and other options). The future-proofing concept isn't only for architecture.

I don't believe most Digital Signage manufacturers design their systems around planned obsolescence, but it definitely feels that way to end-users after a few years. While lower-cost digital signage systems using an embedded controller are great, what happens when the client wants to integrate a third party application or product? Embedded controllers and proprietary equipment mean the end-user has to use whatever the original provider has available. If a new technology comes along, integration often means scrapping the control solution and/or a lot of additional work to integrate. Systems which are "future-proofed" are built using technology which can accomodate change down the road. Here are a few things to be wary of and some things to look for when evaluating how "future friendly" a Digital Signage system (LED Signs, LCD indoor, HD control systems, etc.) really is.

Control Solution:
Embedded controller running Linux/droid or Windows-based IPC?

Embedded controllers definitely have a place and function in the market. Their reliability is excellent and they're great at specific tasks. Unfortunately an embedded control solution is basically a stripped-down system created to perform a very specific task, When working to integrate newer tech or a 3rd party system, it's difficult (often not possible) to do anything without replacing the system. While a windows-based IPC (industrial PC) will cost more, the flexibility and ability to readily upgrade a system to integrate new features/functions lengthens the lifetime performance of the system available.

Third Party Options:
Will it work with X?

While we all like to believe we're delivering the best system available, times (and tech) change constantly. It's hard to know if something bigger and better will be available in 6 months or 6 years. Ask the manufacturer/vendor you're working with what's required to integrate new third-party technology (software and/or hardware) into their system. Does the system currently available/on the table have the ability to easily/readily integrate third-party hardware and/or software? Can the manufacturer/supplier team work with a third party company to integrate a feature the client may see as a "must have" option when it's available? If the response is skepticism or, "you'll need a different control system" - you may want to look elsewhere.

Investment vs. Purchase

I've covered this topic in the past. Digital Signage is definitely an investment by an organization and/or individual. The best investments offer growth and a substantial return for the investor. Whether the system is $2,000 or $2,000,000 - the investment an end-user is making with digital signage should set them up with a solid foundation which allows the end-user to take advantage of new opportunities and technology down the road. Don't be the one selling a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). Be the advisor who delivers an investment the end-user can feel happy with for years to come, a solution which delivers time and again and is as "future friendly" as possible. Don't be "that person" who is sticking with the "same old" tech - expect more, deliver more and you'll have clients coming back to you time and again.

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. Direct emails can be sent to for queries and/or assistance.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Digital Signage, Need to Know: The Evolution of Communication, How New Digital Signage Technology Brings Us All Together

- T. Scott Hofheins  

We live in a world of information, innovation and communication. We can instantly communicate to a worldwide audience through the web, or video chat with our loved ones thousands of miles away. Through technology, we are able to make the world a smaller place, learning better, helping better, and sharing better. Indoor and outdoor digital signage is playing a key role in this evolution of communication using new technology and “the cloud” to play an increasing role in both our commercial success, and even help save lives.  

The Beginning

In the beginning, signage was a static call to viewers that you existed. More eye catching and dynamic mediums like internal illumination, neon, rotating structures and changeable copy provided organizations a way to make a bigger impact. While this held steady for many years, thanks to innovators and the human desire to constantly improve, things got even better.


Enter the electronic message center, eventually integrating LED technology. We could communicate multiple messages at different times, and target our message directly to the viewers. This opened doors for both outdoor and indoor communications. Networked indoor message centers showed us flight and gate information, movie times or event information. Televisions displayed custom channels and programming, continuing to give the viewers targeted information, but this was still just the beginning.

Technology then gets smaller and more efficient, and we exchanged our tube TV’s and indoor message centers for full color flat screens powered by computer media players. Low res single color outdoor LED signs are replaced with high res full color displays, able to keep up the expectation of quality viewers now demand. But arguably the important improvement is moving from our localized network of information and content, to the virtually unlimited resources of the internet.

The Cloud and You

With devices now able to connect to “the cloud” we can connect with our viewers in ways we never dreamed of. From a central location, organizations can take the power of their social marketing, targeted advertising campaigns and provide it to audiences across their national or worldwide network automatically, manually or conditionally. Even outdoor LED signage is getting online and connected to this massive database of information giving operators the ability to sync their indoor strategies with their outdoor exposure. We are just scratching the surface of what’s available now, and in the future.

Saving Lives

We can all appreciate the commercial and advertising benefits of this evolution, but what about the community and public well being? By connecting our signage to the larger community in the cloud, we can do some amazing things, including the potential to save lives. Cloud connected digital signage gives us the ability to display public service and emergency alerts immediately and automatically to those who need it most. The more devices we can display important information like weather warnings, and amber alerts the better. People can react quicker, and tragic events can be minimized or avoided completely.

This is what makes the mixture of technology and the communication medium of the web so effective. The cloud gives us the ability to take a potentially large database of public alert data across the country, and automatically filter the information through the use of smart hardware and software. This greatly enhances the speed of message delivery when minutes can mean the difference between tragedy or safety. I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved directly on the development of projects integrating this technology, and have seen first hand how important it can be.

The Community

Emergency alerts aren’t the only benefit communities see with this evolution. Better, higher resolution displays mean better readability. Information can be understood more quickly in an pleasant way. Better hardware means outdoor displays last longer and look better, keeping the streets looking good. Indoor digital signage provides an outlet for creativity and aesthetics that let’s to visitors to your your local airport, town center, or business that your community believes in quality and style.

This evolution of communication will continue to evolve inside and outside the sign industry. I personally look forward to being a part of the process, and seeing new technology and ideas come to life. Whether it’s digital menu boards, interactive kiosks or outdoor LED boards, digital signage will continue to be an important communication tool for generations to come.


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.