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Breaking Into Digital Signage

Digital Signage Group fields national team of integrators to boost signage business.

The Poulsbo, WA-based Digital Signage Group and its members hope to provide a robust approach to designing, engineering, and implementing digital signage.

The Poulsbo, WA-based Digital Signage Group and its members hope to provide a robust approach to designing, engineering, and implementing digital signage.

SINCE ITS launch in February, the new Poulsbo, WA-based Digital Signage Group (DSG) has recruited “a dozen to 20 integrators” nationwide as affiliates, according to Scott Stanton, the group's director of product and technology services. Both DSG and its members hope it will provide a robust new approach to one of today's hottest but most complex market niches.

“The Digital Signage Group will bring us opportunities that we probably wouldn't even have prospected for,” says Don Mastro, vice president of AV systems integrator SPL Integrated Solutions in Atlanta. Mastro says SPL is participating in the signage group because it will be “a clear source of new revenue,” in a market segment in which SPL doesn't currently have an established business focus.

That's one way to use DSG, its organizers say: as a ready-made sales channel and source of technical expertise. Other integrators will use it to deliver digital signage design, engineering, and implementation to local and regional clients who might otherwise fall between the cracks. And still others hope DSG will be their means of entrée into national business opportunities that would otherwise be closed to them.

“Our intent is to be a project consultant and management service as well as a source for products and services for the digital signage marketplace,” says DSG Executive Vice President Jill Miller. “We can partner with content and satellite providers, companies that do hosting, network operators, and providers of some very custom products for digital signage. We can make our affiliates look much larger than they are.”

DSG's ancestor was the ActiveSource division of Poulsbo, WA-based display solutions distributor ActiveLight Inc. The new company was founded in February as part of a reorganization that also saw ActiveLight itself acquired by Hauppauge, NY-based display solutions distributor Electrograph Systems.

The goal, DSG says, is to help member integrators turn the huge current buzz about digital signage into solid business opportunities. DSG, of course, stands to sell more hardware and services the more deals it can help its members close. The group hopes to receive referrals from members for installations it can perform itself, as well as link members to opportunities in their own areas.

Stanton says the business has been booming for some time. “Every hour a new phone call comes in with a new opportunity,” he says. “We just don't have the people or the time to handle them all. We'd like to be able to call an affiliate and say, we have something in your neighborhood, go check it out.”

With DSG behind them, individual integrators can not only say yes to more incoming jobs, but can beat the bushes for new business without fear of exceeding their own resources. “They can really build the market, knowing that once they get a foot in the door, they have our support to bring that project to closure,” Stanton says.

On the other hand, DSG can call on its affiliates for services missing from its own portfolio, enabling it to provide “turnkey solutions,” says Richard Spiegel, director of media services at API Services Inc./Visual Incite (API), a $25 million systems integrator in Denville, NJ.

“We offer services they can't provide in-house,” he says. For example, one of API's specialties is what Spiegel calls “guerilla marketing,” a very fast, flexible strategy for turning vacant store fronts into venues for ad displays.

Moving quickly enough to seize such opportunities in local markets would challenge a national organization, but DSG can match the need to API's capabilities. “We can use each other in a reciprocal way,” Spiegel says. “We get the benefit of using DSG as a distributor, and they refer business directly to us.”

Spiegel says the relationship with DSG is still very new, but he expects it to be significant. “It gives access to customers you might not have otherwise,” he explains. “It reduces the need for you to have an in-house sales team.”

Because digital signage is “a new space” for SPL Integrated Solutions, Mastro says, DSG is a logical avenue into this market. “They can subcontract to SPL for engineering, integration, and maintenance support,” he says. “And they're driving the content end, which we don't do.”

For the client, Mastro adds, “you can be best-of-breed in both signage and content and engineering and integration.”

Stanton says clients will also benefit from having a simple, one-contact resource they can mobilize for their digital signage needs. That's particularly valuable in a niche that's chock-full of products, jargon, and vendors.

“It's not the individual team member who's providing everything; it's the team,” Miller says. “We're not afraid to say we're working with other people. It's very important for our customer base to understand that we've made the choice to work with people we know can work with others.”

Stanton notes there's no cost to integrators to join DSG, though an application and evaluation are required. Other financial details remain unsettled. “If we provide an opportunity for an integrator to work on and that opportunity comes to closure, there may be a commission or a performance fee based on that,” he says. “But nothing up front.”

DSG is actively seeking new affiliates, as well as exploring alliances with other organizations to develop educational opportunities and marketing programs. In the long run, Miller says, the effort “could open up huge doors for integrators.”

John McKeon is an independent consultant and writer based in the Washington D.C. area. He can be reached at jjmckeon@comcast.net.

 


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