Welcome to Creating Margin


How Digital Signage Builds Trust

Maybe the title of this article is a dead give away. But, in a world where messages are constantly flung each and every direction, it’s comforting to know that digital signage has become a very established form of communication. Digital Signage owns the “catch your eye” factor of marketing while communicating more effectively than any static ad you’ll ever see.

So why does digital signage build trust with customers?

1. It embeds in the mind of the viewer as a good source of information

Take digital menu boards for example. Although it might be one of the simplest forms of communication, it has already established a ‘mental handshake’ with the viewer. It states what the restaurant offers, and the viewer turns that into a course of action and orders a burger. Even digital signage located inside light rail cars become an essential source of information. Stated upcoming stops and the current stops for the people riding the train are vital for shuttling individuals across a city. Again, it establishes that “you’re taken care of,” feeling for the viewer.

Digital Signage building trust on the light rail.

2. Digital Signage fills the gap of a knowledge dependency

You’re lost in the middle of a huge airport, and you’re running late. Suddenly, you see a giant touch screen right next to the escalators! You to find a map of the airport, and you’re off in the right direction. Digital Signage can show people when flight times are, or what is delayed. It can even be helpful in educating people on something they may not have experienced before, like an EF5 Tornado in New York City. Digital Signage can help your customers know what new promotions are happening in a bank branch. The list goes on, and digital signage can be useful in spreading any type of knowledge.

A woman at an interactive kiosk in an airport.

3. It re-affirms your brand image

Sure. The marketing and communications world is obsessed with brand consistency and brand image. But, it makes a huge difference. Digital signage builds trust like a bridge to the viewer and makes an introduction. Whether it’s the first time or the hundredth time, customers can be reassured by consistent messaging in a small area. Familiarity and positive brand experiences build trust. This might be anything from a company lobby to a Nike Store where viewers can interact with the brand in an uplifting way. With technology like that, it’s hard to forget a tactile experience.

Five traits of a Digital Signage consultant

Do a quick search for ‘Employee Communications Consulting’ on LinkedIn and you’ll find people with degrees from Hooters to Harvard. “Oh, you’re a ‘chest’ consultant? I see…” Well, I suppose there might be an opportunity there.

So when I suggest that consulting might be helpful to customers exploring new digital signage applications, or expanding their existing network, I do so with a hearty nod to those skeptics who didn’t even open this article. Here at Creating Margin, we think implementing digital signage warrants an investment in Employee Communications Consulting to determine how that implementation will work.

Here are five traits to look for in any consultant for digital signage customers.

An Employment History In Digital Signage

An expert in any field should have first-hand knowledge of the digital signage landscape. While the age of the digital signage industry (perhaps more than 15 years) may give the impression that it is mature, in fact, the landscape is very pre-consolidation. Indeed, while revenues are at all-time highs and growing as the world economy improves, there are few industry standards in place to establish terminology, common do’s and don’ts, as well as consolidate to the true industry leaders. While some entities offer industry certifications (consider www.DSEG.com, which offers a valuable primer and expert courses), rarely can one replace the knowledge acquired from implementing a solution from conception to installation.

With these first-hand insights, your consultant will be better able to steer you in a particular, reasoned direction based on successes and failures of past implementations. In a variation of Wayne Gretzky’s famous quote “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been,” Robert Koolen of Koolen & Associates advises that “in order to skate to where the puck is going, you still need to understand where it has been.”

Deep Technical Knowledge Of Solutions

A non-technical consultant in digital signage may be nothing more than a grizzled sales veteran with a sack of industry catchphrases. While strategic or managerial guidance is no doubt helpful to many organizations, to me management consulting rings too much of McKinsey and Company, and too little of “let’s get this piece of glass displaying the right content.”

At the end of the day, implementing a successful digital signage network requires some very specific technical input, well-defined requirements (a business problem to solve, let’s say), and a steady, confident hand in execution.

An Independent Outlook On Hardware And Software Options

Perhaps finding an unbiased consultant is intuitive to some, but many digital signage customers rely on insights from persons with a financial interest in selling a particular hardware or software product. Instead, look for an expert who is deeply familiar with all elements of a digital signage solution (from pricing to support functionality), and lean on their recommendations.

Put it this way, if you ask that CUTCO knife salesman at your door about the best way to prepare your favorite meal, do you think he’ll recommend using anything from competing WUSTHOF? No, you can be sure that all the components of that meal will be sliced, diced, and cooked with CUTCO tools. Not surprising; that salesman may never have used anything else!

The reality in this fragmented world of digital signage is that each product or service provider excels in a particular niche. Even the best software providers may lack competencies in their order fulfillment processes. What we’re suggesting is a sort of best-of-breed selection process, and to ensure that these pieces are compatible you’ll again need to look to your consultant. To be clear, we’re not suggesting that you should use 5 different software platforms to meet your requirements, that is impractical. Even so, you’ll be better off finding someone with knowledge of those 5 platforms, and no commission incentive, to speak with about your project.

A Broad Network In The Field

We’ve agreed that buying recommendations without rollout is like throwing coins into the ocean thinking it’s a wishing well – your execution will start and end a bit off target. One of the most important traits of a reputable digital signage consultant is a broad network of associates – spread out both in expertise and in a geographic area- around the world.

Once ideas have been wire framed and networks have been diagrammed, the rubber has to meet the road with a network of A/V installers to realize the vision and get the hardware mounted and displaying content. Your consultant should be connected enough to offer specific names of companies that can play a part in the rollout in each region. Mike Shanley of Denver-based KonektId (pronounced “connected”) says that “in our global economy where even the smallest villages can be accessed remotely through the internet, the core of the international business is still based on strong personal relationships.” Shanley continues that “you can learn about a new market through Google, but it is not a replacement for established local relationships.”

A Global Outlook And Background

It goes without saying that the world is shrinking, that social networks and company cultures cross borders, and that languages may be the last frontier of truly global enterprises. But there will always be peculiarities in our “cultural norms” and different contributions from team members based on background and origin.

In their book “Building Cross-Cultural Competence”, Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars speak to the difficulty of delegating work across different in-country teams. Figuring out who is best positioned to succeed in a given assignment (whether short or long term, local or foreign) is a subjective measurement.

Each team member’s contribution must be evaluated from experience. A global view of cultural strengths can move us in the right direction in this analysis. Take the Dutch speed skating team in the Sochi Olympics for example – clearly, they have the special sauce when it comes to their sport. Do the Dutch have particular strengths in content creation or a unique software offering? For that, you’ll have to ask a digital signage consultant!

Lean on a consultant with these traits, and you’ll find digital signage to be an integral part of your IT and communications systems.

How can Creating Margin help you with your Content Creation?

Content creation is a critical component of the implementation and maintenance of any digital signage network. As that first sentence suggests, it’s not a one-time requirement at kick-off, but an ongoing responsibility in order to ensure that a company’s investment in digital signage pays off.

At Creating Margin we regularly work with companies on all points of the spectrum – networks that are floundering and need a ground-up content creation project, all the way to networks that are in good shape, in need of some tweaking of the content update process. Many healthy digital signage networks can still benefit from a Digital Signage Audit, which Creating Margin can perform in addition (and often prior) to our content creation services. Learn more about our Digital Signage Audit services here.

Let’s consider our approach to content creation for a network that needs a restart. Creating Margin always begins with a needs assessment to be as specific as possible about where a network is succeeding and where it’s failing. While each project is different, a Needs Assessment is normally accomplished through a series of conversations to define a strategic vision for the digital signage investment.

The next step is to plan phased updates according to reasonable delivery times and budgetary constraints. For example, does the client require 6 or 10 content updates each month, and can they afford them? In our experience, digital signage projects are iterative and take time, and customers prefer payments based on delivery, so planning phases of the project are natural.

Now resources can be assigned and the work of creating content commences. During the creative kickoff call, we discover the customer’s brand identity and their creative vision; if these factors are still foggy, we make sure to document this clearly and lend our experience to sharpen the vision. From here we create User Interface (UI) wireframes to plan the method of interactivity, the layers of interactivity, and to facilitate a discussion of the User Experience (UX). Digital signage is influenced by web and mobile UI/UX design, and the CM team often draws from our experience in those projects.

As the engagement evolves from wireframes to creative design, to mockups and then development, we engage the customer team early and often. We have seen that delays can occur when decision-makers are late in getting involved, because new input may alter the creative direction. As a result, we encourage all decision-makers to be involved as early as possible in the engagement.

Hand Drawn Wireframe

The development of the working applications can begin once sign off on the design is received. Having agreed on the placement of buttons, the look, and feel of the template, we can break down the pieces and build in transitions, triggers, timings, and more. This is where our experience shines again, as we specialize in digital signage.

For example, have you considered that the majority of users of digital signage are right-handed? Statistics show that 90 percent of the greater population is right-handed, so we factor that into our work with digital signage. Not a problem that you’d normally think about with mobile or web applications, but on large format screens for digital signage, where you place interactive buttons and triggered content can have a huge impact on usability.

Or have you considered ADA accessibility of your digital signage for those in wheelchairs, or with color blindness? We understand these concerns and always factor them into our design concepts and working applications. You’d be surprised how many end-users we speak with who have visual content and even hardware not created to accessibility standards. Failing to meet accessibility standards can expose companies to legal liability and we encourage all of our customers to take these standards seriously.

After completing the working build of an application, we give end users an opportunity to observe, interact with, and otherwise test (QA) the solution. We ask for the end user team to write a list of changes they’d like to see, along with any bugs they have found (unlikely, as we have QA’d the solution ourselves before passing it along). This process may repeat one more time before we implement the software and content solution along with any hardware that may be involved. As discussed, we partner with A/V Integrator partners nationwide. While this may be our first time to mention them in this article, we involve our integrator partners as often as possible during projects to prepare them for what to expect on-site and to be very familiar with the hardware solution that we’ll jointly put into place.

Project completion allows Creating Margin to transition our involvement to ongoing Managed Services, where we provide a bucket of hours on a monthly basis to help in a variety of ways. Continued training at the customer’s pace, help riding out staff turnover, tier 1 and 2 support, and support for content updates are a few of the benefits included in Creating Margin’s Managed Services. Read and learn more about our Managed Services.

In this extensive article, we have walked you through the steps that we take to ensure a satisfactory experience for each and every one of our customers. “It sounds pretty standard” you might say. What really differentiates our services? It is our depth of experience in this industry, our focus on digital signage, and our ability to communicate throughout the process in order to mitigate problems that can all too easily arise in these types of projects.