When David Keene asked that I rejoin Digital Signage magazine to be a contributing writer, I agreed with the caveat that I be allowed to write about the business of digital signage. Lots of our industry bloggers do the curmudgeon/pundit routine quite well– with controversial stances and lots of gossip about personalities and personnel changes and such. Not for me. I am interested in the business drivers of our industry, and I intend to write about– and hear from you about– the issues that are critical to the success of a business.
As we mature as an industry, and focus on the business models at the heart of successful digital signage strategies, it’s important for us as the professionals in the industry to understand and share how the landscape is shifting and changing. When we ask questions like “Is digital signage an Industry?” or “Are we in digital signage or are we in place-based media?” I think we are asking the wrong questions. It would be nice for everything to be neat and tidy and to have all those answers lined up but at the end of the day most of that line of thinking does not advance market success.
More important to the professionals in the industry – the integrators, installers, designers and suppliers – is “how do we get better?” Unless you have a patent on some critical component of the supply chain, or your reputation is so strong that you are pushing business away, you probably need to spend half your time keeping customers happy and the other half finding new ones (and all the while, reducing your operating costs).
The bottom line: your time is critical, and is short supply. And you should only spend valuable time in conversations outside your company walls, or with the trade press, if that conversation advances your business goals. I don’t know about you but I don’t have the time to debate about things like whether I prefer the DSA or the DSF. What I care about is DSO and ROI, and EBITDA.
My intent with this and other articles to come is to start a forum where the real world business problems of digital signage are discussed, debated and solved. I want this conversation to be with dialog; a conversation with the industry – both the solution providers and their customers, the end-users of digital signage. This is the most powerful aspect of today’s internet-connected media environment: the ability for someone like me to speak to you directly and for you to provide your feedback, whether you agree or (more likely) disagree, “and here’s why…”
If you have read this far, you are probably as interested in these real-world business issues as I am. If you are, please go the rest of the way and contribute to the conversation. We are going to start the conversation, on Twitter: @DigiSignageMag or @OnPathDigital
… with the hashtag:
What are the critical business challenges facing digital signage professionals in our industry today? What keeps you up at night in your business and what are the priorities that drive your business to stability and profitability and, hopefully, growth? Let me kick around a few possible answers…
• “It’s the economy, stupid!” – While we have certainly been through a pretty rough patch over the last three or four years, business in the first part of 2013 seemed to be booming. Others I speak to say that while business slowed somewhat, they haven’t really seen a significant swing up or down due to the macro-economy. What has your experience been? It the worst over or are you still feeling strong economic headwinds?
• “Funding, funding, funding” – Whether we are talking about funding for your business to market and expand, or funding by your customers for digital signage network projects or expansion, is access to capital slowing your business?
• “Too much competition” – One industry CEO blogger recently expounded on the fact that there are only a dozen real digital signage platforms worthy of consideration by corporate customers. But the actual number of signage platform competitors continues to grow. Whether it’s your direct competition or just the confusion and delay caused by too many suppliers and choices, do you think excess competition could be hurting the industry and your business? [AH1]
• “Customer expectations are unrealistic” – One thing I have heard a lot recently is that customers are getting educated about opportunities in areas like social media integration, NFC interactivity, zero-bezel videowalls, and other cutting-edge digital signage capabilities and they expect all the bells and whistles, yet their budgets haven’t kept pace. Besides that, getting decisions is harder because these technologies are still new and unproven and not yet optimized with proven ROI models. Or maybe they just want everything better, faster, cheaper and it’s really pinching your profit margins. What’s your experience with customer expectations?
I could go on for another dozen examples, and I am sure I haven’t hit the one hot button that you are experiencing in your region and business. So what is it? What is the one or two things that if you could get these issues out of your way, would allow your business to close more projects, grow and expand? What tools and processes are you using to overcome these obstacles? Are you curious what others in the industry are seeing and doing to capture the most business they can right now?
We’ll be curating conversations and mapping trends. Where to start? Let’s start with that big elephant in the room: the selection of Digital Signage Content Management Software. Is the “market speaking” in terms of there being some consensus that indeed a small number of those Digital Signage Content Management Software providers get the most market share? Which signage platforms make up your “short list” of viable solutions/companies? Let us here from you on Twitter. Include the hashtag #DSBigQuestion in the message.