After looking at the multitude of digital signage vendors at the expo, I started to wonder how they were all doing. If you were there, you may have had similar thoughts. And rightfully so. Over the last few months I have read countless articles about how digital is going to outlast the recession, replace traditional mediums, and make me breakfast in bed. I have a sobering question: do you really think if we added up all the viable industry sales leads that we would be able to feed all the companies present in the industry? Viable, in this case, means leads from places other than Nigeria. I don’t mean to be doomsday-er, but the answer to the foregoing question is an overwhelming no. I realize there are many different segments, where different business models will suit a specific end, but once you go through ten demos, you’ll realize the differentiation between products is minuscule. And even in the event of wide differentiation, lack of marketing and branding can cripple even the best solution.
And, with so much industry hype, it seems we’re still seeing industry entrants. I still receive an occasional call wherein someone who has recently lost their employment (which I always hate to hear) is looking into how they may leverage past relationships by selling digital signage solutions. This is a great route, but it won’t fill the necessary lead pool of every industry Johnny-come-lately. I think those in the industry can’t not afford to ask themselves a few more questions regarding their sales lead pipeline:
- Where are you getting most of your sales leads?
- What type of marketing efforts are you implementing to glean leads via the Internet? Google/Yahoo/MSN pay-per-click campaigns? Banner ad buys?
- Do you have partners handing you leads?
- Are you gaining leads from Networld Alliance (The Digital Signage Association and DigitalSignageToday.com), partners, distributors, and/or tradeshows?
- From which of the aforementioned sources are you gaining the highest return on investment? Have you even calculated those numbers?
- From what source do your MOST qualified leads come from?
And, if you are competing for the same leads, I think it is important to ask yourself the introspective question: what makes one software company more qualified than another? Is it experience? Is it product? It’s most likely a healthy combination of the two. If so, what does your organization lack that would put you up to snuff with other lead-hording industry leaders? Unless you have an active sales team, combined with an experienced marketing arm you may be left in the cold, regardless of how effective your app is. In this age much of our business is done via the Internet, and that percentage stake is ever-increasing. What’s leftover can generally be traced back to tradeshows, salesmen, and channel partners. I wrote an article about a week ago, commenting on how there are not enough valued added resellers to go around. This is also painfully true of industry sales leads. Maybe you received between 30 and 200 leads from the badge scanning done at the expo. What percentage does that represent of your overall lead gen for the entire year?
I’m asking these introspective questions, not to be a smart-alec, but to sincerely open the eyes of industry hopefuls. Yes we’re growing, but some at the expense of others. Digital signage is certainly here to stay, but companies will come and go. The next time I hear a press release touting the elasticity of our industry, I’ll probably stand up as the pessimist and say, “yeah, but not for everyone.” Such releases are often only aimed at creating industry buzz and driving traffic. Which they do a good job of, but they also futilely attempt to paint an all-too rosey picture. If a “self-fulfilling prophecy” is what you’re after, find ways to squeeze more leads from your partners and marketing dollars. Don’t rely on hype-creating industry press releases. They’re simply used as placebos for the poorly equipped marketer.