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Is It Just Lights or Your Best Friend? Maximizing Efficiency and Profitability in Your LED Displays

When you arrive at work and see your LED display catching the first rays of early morning light, do you see just another set of lights in the parking lot, or your best friend for driving sales and building your customer base? Your answer will make a measurable difference to your bottom line.

By Dan Vinton

Electronic displays have the power to encourage consumer behavior. In the wake of recent events, it’s been inspiring to see the number of signs put to the task of supporting our country. With images of waving flags and lines of “God Bless America” and “United We Stand!” local businesses illustrated the powerful motivating effect of their electronic displays.

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  • As I drove down the main street of our community, I listened carefully as the passenger in my car began pointing out the businesses that had used their displays to show support. Those without a hint of support were promptly crossed off her list of businesses that would receive her future patronage. As she named the offending businesses, I found myself wondering why some locations weren’t taking advantage of their display’s flexibility to create timely messages, while others made a strong impression and added to a collective community presence.

    The people who view your sign day in and day out are a marketer’s dream: these passersby are your audience-- and then some. Better yet, this audience has been influenced from childhood to follow the suggestions of television. Surveys show that television advertising increases brand recognition among the public by about 7%.

    Your LED display is saving you thousands of advertising dollars with its low power consumption, but fine-tuning its TV-like programming attracts new business and dollars to your bottom line. So how do you maximize the potential of your display? The answer is a simple formula that can be adapted to any venue:

    1. Know your audience.
    2. Know your equipment.
    3. Establish goals.
    4. Build programming modules.
    5. Evaluate and reevaluate.

    Developing customized, attention-grabbing programming for your electronic displays will increase your revenue by attracting the curious, tempting viewers, and prompting ancillary sales. As the “face” of your business, an electronic display establishes the personality of the facility, solidifies your place in the community and is critical to interacting with your audience.


    Record numbers of business facilities are recognizing the importance of electronic displays and are incorporating them into their marketing mix. Just having a display, however, isn’t enough. With your customers being bombarded by a constant media blitz, standing out has become more important than ever.

    To interact with an audience, you must know your audience’s desires. Content that keeps an audience’s attention must be:

    1. Fresh
    2. Relevant
    3. Broad in scope

    Fresh Content

    Without fresh content, your audience, and those would-be audience members, become conditioned to ignore the displays, assuming the material playing is what they have seen before. With the exception of a few programming elements that may become business or community traditions, your display content should be continually changing to maintain your audience’s attention.

    Relevant Messages

    To maintain audience interest, your display programming must also be relevant to the audience’s interests and current needs. While nothing beats good marketing research in refining your understanding of your audience and what is relevant to them, there are many things you can immediately implement without a single survey.

    By keeping a finger on the pulse of your customers, you can encourage observed tendencies with a well-timed message to motivate the undecided and push up sales. For instance, when are customers generally coming in to the store? Commute times? Lunch breaks? Weekend mornings? What motivates them? Is it seeing price reductions and promotions on your sign as they drive by? Is it community loyalty? The message should enhance an immediate need. When drive by traffic is heavy, an ad promoting the weekends sale or a “pick me up” message as simple as “TGIF” can relate to the passersby. An ad with the weather forecast, followed by the mention of warm food, sweaters, or the benefits of all wheel drive on a cold snowy day even more effectively focuses attention on both need and solution, driving consumer behavior.

    There are products available on the market today to help you manage the complexity of this type of programming. One such product, Smart Scheduling, offered by Trans-Lux, monitors all of the data coming into the controller. When certain user-defined criteria are met, it launches a pre-programmed set of messages. Criteria can include time, temperature, and a variety of other factors. Some examples of ways these products can simplify and automate operation include:

    1.) Display a special “drive home” promotion or message when the clock reaches 4:45.

    2.) Display “Beat the heat with…” ads twice as often when the outside temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

    While use of some of these products require advanced planning to establish the display sequences, its use enables you to focus on the audience, ensure the relevance of the display content and use the tools at your command to interact with the audience.

    Broad in scope

    Another important feature of display content is that it includes not only store-specific information, but also details on other information that interests your audience. The live information on your displays attracts more attention when it includes not only the details of a particular promotion, but also live action occurring in real-time around the world.

    To provide this connectivity, you will need a control system that connects with various information feeds to display out-of-town scores, stock prices, late breaking news or sports headlines, Internet pages, and a host of other information.

    With subscription and company websites posting instantly updated information at breakneck speed throughout the world, the Internet provides all types and formats of new information. The new Trans-Lux WebPlayerTM allows you to bring this content into your facility through ProLine. With an interface and look familiar to Internet users, WebPlayer is able to incorporate any aspect of a live web page into a field for display on the system as part of its regular operating schedule.

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    The right tools and staffing are an indisputably important aspect of making your display perform for the audience. How user-friendly is the system? For what kinds of programming is it best suited? How can technology help streamline programming your sign? Becoming familiar with the strengths and, if any, limitations of your system will enable you to maximize its potential.

    Knowing the type of programming that best suits your display and its control requirements are key factors in determining how to meet your performance goals.


    As with any business model, planning stands at the forefront of success. When putting together your marketing mix, remember the motivating power of your display. It provides a catalyst for reaching facility revenue targets through direct promotions and by building community recognition and loyalty. You may have a goal to increase sales of a particular item or service, or to increase store traffic by 10% on the next holiday. Appropriately promoting these target items on your display will influence your audience’s buying patterns. Setting specific goals as part of your planning also gives you a benchmark for evaluation and ammunition data when hunting for timing hot spots.

    A good way the display can be used to boost sales is through interactive promotions. Using your displays for interactive promotions also provides better opportunities for sponsors than static ads and increases their interest in advertising at your venue. For example, discount particular merchandise items when a local team wins a game, or a landmark event is reached. Try advertising a “bounceback” program where receipts shown at the next visit result in a discounted rate. This type of incentive not only encourages repeat buying, it is also an excellent way to gauge your display’s effectiveness.

    As with all elements of your display, advance planning of your promotions improves their quality by providing ample time for creativity and craftsmanship to create an appealing presentation. Keep in mind that the best presentations often involve a variety of elements and take time to put them together. It is not something that can usually be done on the spur of the moment, particularly in an automated format that can easily be reused.


    As discussed, to keep an audience focused on your display, it must be fresh and interactive. Achieving an apparently effortless sign flow is actually the result of planning for as many situations as possible. How would you like your display to influence the customer’s reaction? With a little experience and brainstorming, the majority of events (drive home, holidays, weather, etc.) that occur can be predicted and appropriate responses determined.

    Blend marketing savvy and creativity to create as many situational responses as you can. Organizing these responses into logical sequences allows you to respond immediately. Setting up categories in advance also relieves the business day workload, provides a cohesive display “personality,” and allows you to focus on providing a great customer experience.


    To ensure you are meeting your revenue goals, incorporate evaluation of your display’s performance into your marketing research. Customer surveys give you a good idea of the perceived informational and entertainment value.

    Comparing programming schedules to sales receipts is a good way to track advertising effectiveness. To assist with this analysis, print out a time-stamped list of messages in order of their appearance on the display. A simple correlation of sales and advertising allows you to determine the most effective ads and pinpoint where the programming needs refinement.

    This evaluation data is also good for co-op sponsors. When you can show a potential client or product line the effectiveness of your promotion results, getting them to sign up becomes an easy sell.

    So next time you pull into work, take a look at your display in a different light. Get to know your hard working friend better. A well-run electronic display influences customers. With the right formula of equipment, goals and preparation, the customers’ experience as they drive by and visit your business will surpass their expectations—and you will find their response to your presentation financially rewarding as well.

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