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Posted Date: 5/18/2010

Wholesale/Industrial Market is Fertile Ground for Digital Signage

By  Mike Strand, Founder & CEO, StrandVision LLC

Wholesale and industrial distributors have become quite sophisticated in their approach to marketing. They regularly use the Web, newsletters, events and in-store promotions, especially at their service counters, to inform and cross-sell/up-sell customers.

These distributors sell wholesale building products, cleaning equipment and supplies, electrical, plumbing, construction, trucking and farm equipment and supplies, auto parts, and products and supplies for other industries. We have found that plumbing and construction/farm equipment dealers are particularly active in point-of-purchase promotions.

Many are ready to move beyond point-of-sale posters and tent cards and take advantage of the electronic advertising, graphics and even videos provided by the companies that they represent. Generally there is a wealth of attractive materials from these suppliers that are, in themselves, sophisticated marketers with well-known Fortune 1000 brands.

Now that the economy is beginning to show signs of life, many of these distributors (and manufacturers providing product to these distributors) are willing to invest in marketing to take advantage of increased demand.

Advertising Potential
In the past, many distributors have tried to take advantage of the electronic promotional materials available to them by showing repetitive video loops or cobbling together slide presentations. But it is difficult to create an attractive display, incorporate videos and manage distribution to multiple sites. With the plummeting price of technology, coupled with advances in the Internet, these standalone video merchandising units can now be upgraded to become full-fledged digital signage displays -- and this presents opportunities for resellers.

Digital signs hold several advantages for distributors. They demonstrate that the distributor is technology savvy and future oriented. Digital signage is less expensive and more entertaining and responsive than traditional advertising and reaches the target audience at the perfect time -- when customers are in the showroom ready to buy. It also shortens customers' perceived wait time, which can be important for busy times at the sales counter.

Distributors can feature promotions from selected vendors, as well as highlight specials and high margin items. They can also announce customer events, business hours, delivery schedules, training classes, highlight employees, etc. We've found that local news, weather and traffic, and industry-specific news or RSS feeds, such as agricultural news or commodities prices, are extremely popular. In most cases distributors can even sell advertising to their vendors to turn their displays into profit centers.
Digital signs are especially valuable for multi-location businesses. By using Internet-based Software as a Service (SaaS) connection, distributors can centrally manage all of the displays. This self-service approach lets even non-technical administrators manage the system, simplifying the process and making it easy to integrate the digital signage system into other marketing efforts.
Finding Prospects
It's actually pretty easy to find industrial distributor prospects. For starters, many industrial distributors already use resellers and system integrators for computer, network and audiovisual support. They are comfortable with using service providers, so it makes sense to start by looking at your customer base for prospects.

Also, many distributors are already experimenting with digital signage by using PowerPoint. That means that they want to do something but have not yet found the right solution. They quickly discover that it is difficult and time consuming to prepare the slides since the application is not optimized to include graphics, borders and scrolling text, much less have them scheduled to appear at designated times. It is also difficult to include dynamic information, such as video clips, local weather and news, and industry feeds. The real barrier that they hit, however, is when they try to expand the signage to more than one location. They then run into a physical distribution problem that is all but insurmountable without excessive manpower.

So, if you see a PowerPoint presentation or digital photo frame at a parts counter, you can be pretty confident that they will be interested in moving up to an Internet-based digital signage system. This type of self-service system is low-cost -- in fact, we just introduced a free service that has everything that most distributors could ever need.

Resellers can still profit by selling the hardware, networking and setup services. Some resellers even do the preliminary design and handholding at startup until the customer feels comfortable doing the periodic signage updates themselves.

We've found that initial customer sales presentations using a personalized demo digital signage presentation on a laptop that is connected to the service provider's server makes buying hard to resist. It's best to include the prospect's own sales and service information (from their Web site) in order to show the potential of digital signage for them. It takes a couple extra minutes, but is worth the effort.

During your presentation, you can focus on some key concepts. The most important is that digital signage is a tool to increase sales and generate a direct ROI; that they can also increase customer loyalty and brand recognition by promoting training classes, contractor sales days, open houses, or other events; and that it differentiates them from the competition.
Industrial distributors are a huge market that reaches into every community around the world. It is a largely untouched market with plenty of potential for digital signage.
 

Mike Strand is Founder & CEO of StrandVision LLC (http://www.strandvision.com), an Internet-based subscription digital signage service that is distributed through resellers. Previously, Mike founded StrandWare, a barcode software and AIDC company. Mike can be reached via email at mjstrand@strandvision.com.

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