Guest Post: Luis Villafane, Maler Digital Signage
So, if you are reading this article, you must have something to do with digital signage.
We read articles that go on and on about how digital signage systems can do this, or can do that. We listen to podcast about service providers, content providers, hardware providers. We use valuable time to go over countless software demos, read about new technologies, how easily they are integrated into solution, blah blah blah …
So I am going to write about something that nobody has taken on yet, because they are probably afraid. Well, no more.
I have always sat on the wrong side of the table. I have always been the provider. “The solution expert.” Even in 2001, when I was no expert at all.
I´ve never sat on the other side, the buyer side, making weird requests and expecting someone to come up with a simple and free solution, or expecting a “sure we can do that” answer without thinking.
So, yes. I am going to write about what, as a solution provider, as a managed service company, we expect out of those meetings. Do note that I have a “kind of weird” sense of humor, so please don’t feel offended, all in good fun with a fine touch of reality.
The first thing I do is ask “Why?”
Yes, I need to know why. I need to understand why you want to create a DS network. It is really important. Part of our first meetings is helping the client realize it is not a good idea when the first reason they give us doesn’t follow the correct path. Just by listening very carefully, I will know if your DS idea will die by itself within a couple of years.
In the early days, the most common mistake I see is a spreadsheet exercise. Some Excel Formula concept states that with little under half a million dollars investment, they can create a revenue return of $17 million. They have called me to find out what it really takes to run it, as those costs are still to be calculated …
Ok, I am exaggerating a little, but just a little. I have seen this.
Now and then, we get a prospect client who is shopping around. But not really.
They have already been sold an idea by a DS sales person. A brilliant idea. Such a good idea that they don’t really know why they are still looking. My job then is to bring them back down to earth. To make them understand the harsh reality of what they are trying to do. The costs involved in the operations and management of such a brilliant idea.
Of course, they never call me back. “The high” they were on from the sales pitch was too much for my pessimistic reality check.
Here’s how it often goes …
“So Luis, as the client enters the store and smiles, all the cameras detect the face and understand that he/she is happy and ready to buy. So, the system “reads” the phone, checks the profile and shows all the great things they are about to put on the credit card. So Luis, can you do that from a $200 Atom-based computer running Android, that we are going to buy somewhere cheap, along with a TV and a USB camera, and then piggy-back off a commercial ADSL line?”
The truth is, we could probably make it work, but thank God we can turn them away, because that is one of those networks you do not want to manage.
The companys “sales guy” will make the sale, and the prospective client will come back one year later asking us to take over, because nothing is working. Then we tell them again the real cost, that harsh reality they ignored, and the project goes down the drain.
Ok, I am exaggerating. But you get the point.
My point: A solutions provider needs and wants prospect clients to understand what’s really involved with starting and running a DS network.
The reasons must be the correct ones:
- to “try” increase your sales;
- enhance your corporate identity and send corporate messages;
- to be able to train the personnel;
- to reduce paper.
There are so many good reasons that we can embrace, that giving us the incorrect one is just a real downer.
Solutions providers want prospect clients to listen. Let yourself be taught, even opening your ears a little bit to new ideas and new ways of doing DS will do wonderful things. Let expertise and experience be the channel to your creativity.
Use veterans, throw crazy ideas at people like us and we will put them to work in the correct manner, so that at the end of the day, your DS network is not only stable and truly manageable, but also nice to look at.