I’ve had a long and enjoyable career as a marketer, engineer and product developer in the graphics, sign, display and menu board industry. During my career one of the things I’ve enjoyed most, and been best at, is developing new products or systems that solve my customer’s problems, cuts cost and/or increases sales. This has allowed me to develop many new products and several are significant in my industry and are still being used.
I have never enjoyed going to a customer with a product already developed and trying to show them why they need it. That was too much like being a salesman pushing a product and less like the useful problem solver I wanted to be. I’ve always believed it was best to meet with the customer to learn their problems and see the actual situation for myself. That made it much easier to provide them with the best product for solving the problem. If the product did not exist I would do my best to develop it. I can give you many examples of that.
As a result of the many years of work I have put into the development of digital menu boards, displays and new technology communication tools I now consider myself an expert in that field. As a result I started relying too much on telling my customers what they needed because I knew they didn’t know. I recently learned the best product is not always the best for their situation.
Recently someone came to me and told me they were opening a new concept restaurant/game-room type of establishment and were planning on opening several more. They said they wanted digital menu boards and displays but knew very little about them. After gathering information on what they would display on them I visited the site and determined they needed three 48″ and one 55″ display mounted on two different walls with simple copy, mostly menu items.
I met the operations manager at the site and he asked me many questions about digital menu boards and how to use them. I also spoke to the owner on the phone and he had several questions. I would normally recommend a fully functional digital system with all the latest capabilities; something they could learn and grow into as they added more sites. However, after learning as much as I did about the company and their lack of knowledge and experience in that area I recommended something very simple. Also, they wanted to do everything themselves.
The system I recommended and sold them was something I would have laughed at years ago. It was what experts used to refer to as a “Sneaker-net” system. It was very simple and easy for them to use. They put their simple content on a USB drive and plugged it into the displays. They even used PowerPoint software to lay out the menu.
I have learned that when most customers first start using digital menu boards they tend to be very uneasy with them and think they are complicated and difficult to use. As they get more familiar with them and learn their capabilities they start doing more with them and begin to learn and use their full capabilities.
I am happy I sold my customer the simple system because they were very happy with it. It was easy for them to use and in the middle of trying to open a new concept site they had many other important issues to resolve. As they start using and getting more comfortable with it all they have to do is add media players and software to make it a full capability system. These new capabilities were planned for.