Let’s face it – digital signage looks easy from a distance, but on closer inspection, people tend to realize there’s actually a lot to it.
Though we’ve often seen marketing by companies that suggests they offer full end-to-end solutions, the truth is very few companies can provide full services on their own. They are sub-contracting some of the work, or they have partners.
How partnerships are defined can often have a big influence on their value and impact. There are lots of PR-driven partnerships – with press releases issued and logos appearing on websites – that have no material impact on day to day business. The companies barely know each other, and the partnership is just a loose notion of sending business over if and when the situation arises.
Some end-user customers see their commercial deals as partnerships, in hopes that means the vendor will actually give them the time of day once the contract ink has dried. The end user wants some sense the vendor is actually with them in building up a business. Certainly, a good vendor helps drive a client’s success, but is that a partnership or account management?
Real partnerships involve much more, and can be critical to the success of companies in a sector that is hyper-competitive, constantly evolving, and characterized more by immense potential than by actual profits.
We develop partnerships with companies in this sector for several reasons.
First, we know what we do well and we stick to that work. We have software and display panel partner companies who know their part of the business very well. The knowledge and experience is all complementary.
Partnerships give technology companies far better insight into marketplace and vendor demands. We can develop and test new products in the lab, but partner feedback and testing is essential as we prepare products for release. Often, partners are either closer to understanding market needs, or they can offer new perspectives.
In tight economic times, partnerships stretch sales and marketing dollars. It can make the difference in being at one key trade show alone, or being at several – in different ways – through partners. Joint booths and partners co-located with us at trade shows give more presence and feet on the trade hall carpet, but it also means that booth is showing and talking about product in the context of how it can be used. Partners are there to jump in and help explain features and benefits that aren’t part of their core product. You start to see team selling.
Partnering casts a wider net. When it’s really working, the sales teams of partners are making you part of the pitch, overtly or just as second nature. Great partners make you part of projects as they come together, and pitch you as hard as their own products … often because of that established trust and respect.
It’s also about shared knowledge. Organizations invariably have strengths and weaknesses, and partnerships that are really thriving offer balance. The great technology partnerships start to see lines starting to blur, and people and resources shared across companies when the need is there.
The partnerships that truly work are those that have both parties sharing a point of view. They respect and trust each other. And both sides reap the benefits, whether that’s knowledge, insight or bottom line results.
Beyond direct commercial partnerships, there are industry partnerships that matter. As digital signage has matured, we’re starting to see companies evolve their mindset from competition or collaboration.
In hardware, the best examples are the open pluggable specification being adopted for integrated PC/displays. Advantech has been actively involved with OPS since its early days.
Software companies have steadily been working on industry partnerships that will lead to guidelines on things like file formats and privacy.
For media companies, we’ve seen a transition from companies who operate in isolation to industry organizations like OVAB and the US-based DPAA that are pushing for standards on audience measurement and reporting.
Operating in isolation slows an industry. Partnerships help it grow and prosper.