Restrictions On LED Signs, How Short Is To Short?

I just read an article which said that LED Signs are now allowed in Minooka, IL (www.heraldnewsonline.com). However, the village has placed restrictions on the programming to limit how often frames can change, animations are not allowed, no flashing, no blinking, no scrolling. Is it still financially worthwhile to have an LED Sign in Minooka?

I would answer that question with a loud YES! That probably won’t surprise anyone as I am in the LED Sign business but I do have good reasons. Let me explain.

LED Sign Showing Time And Temperature

LED Sign Showing Time And Temperature

LED Signs have only one purpose: To Make You Money. Anything else they do is just a means to that end.

They accomplish this goal by by getting drivers to read timely, relevant, targeted sales messages on the displays.

The purpose of the animations, flashing blinking, scrolling on programmable LED Signs is to get people to look at the sign where they will read those messages. Whether you are trying to put up an animation which will keep people looking and asking “what will they do next” or just trying to make your sign stand out from the crowd, all that animation on the sign is just to get attention.

Are animations, flashing, etc. the only way to get attention for your sign? NO!!!

If you use a careful mix of time/temperature messages, community messages, and sales messages you can still get people to read your sign. Remember, most of the people who are driving past your business live in your community. They probably pass your sign on a regular basis. They only have to notice your sign once and if you have given them information they want or need, they will look each time they pass by.

In the case of Minooka they also placed a 5 second minimum on the interval between frames. If this is the case in your city as well, it is okay. You just need to carefully consider how many lines of text and how many characters per line you will need to display an entire message in one frame.  That is still 12 messages per minute and 720 message per hour.

In an environment like Minooka it is even more important to keep your LED Sign content fresh. Make sure there is new information on your sign at least once a day and preferrably twice a day.

If your city has even longer intervals between changes you will want to take a look at Outdoor Color LED Signs and consider if using images might help your LED Signs effectiveness.

Sometimes you have to be creative but LED Signs make sense.

The 3 Ways LED Signs Are Manufactured – And Why You Should Care

In a nutshell here how you make LED Signs:

  1. Make a circuit board to control the LEDs
  2. Connect The LEDs to the circuit board
  3. Provide Electricity

Obviously there is more to making LED Signs. But those technical details are common to ALL LED Signs. In this article we are focusing on the the differences in manufacturing as that is the critical information someone looking to invest in LED Signs needs to know.

The 3 different manufacturing methods all stem from one issue: Protecting the sign from the elements.

Each of the three methods has its advatanges and disadvantages. If you understand these you will be able to make a much more informed purchasing decision.

Method #1

The first way to manufacture LED Signs is to solder the LEDs directly to a circuit board.  Then an Acrylic or Plastic face is placed over the sign the seal it and protect the circuit boards. Take a look at this illustration to get an idea of what this would look like:

LED Sign Using A Soldering & A Faceshield

LED Sign Using A Soldering & A Faceshield

I am not going to spend a lot of time on this method as I just posted an article titled Faceshields, An LED Sign Saver? last friday. You can click the link if you missed the post and would like more information. Let me just provide a quick recap here:

  • This is cheapest way to manufacture LED Signs
  • These savings are rarely if ever passed on to the consumer
  • The faceshield creates glare which reduces the visibility of the LED Sign during the day
  • In my opinion, the effectiveness of the faceshield in weatherproofing the sign is questionable.
  • If there is a problem with an LED an entire circuit board must be replaced which leads to a ‘quilting’ effect in the LED Sign because the newer section is brighter
  • I do NOT recommend this manufacturing method

Method #2

Method #2 is a step up from the shield method. In this method the LEDs are still soldered directly to a circuit board BUT the entire face is weatherproofed. Take a look at this illustration:

LED Sign With Soldered LEDs & Fully Sealed Face

LED Sign With Soldered LEDs & Fully Sealed Face

This method is far superior to using a faceshield. For one thing you instantly eliminate the glare created by the faceshield increasing the visibility of your LED Signs. Also, this method of weatherproofing seems to be much more effective. If you knew which brands to look for you could drive around your town during a storm and you would find very few signs made this way having any problems.

There is however still a drawback to this method.

If there is aproblem with any of the LEDs an entire circuit board must be replaced. Again, this leads to a quilting effect on your LED Sign with the newer LEDs being brighter than the older ones.

Method #3

With the third, and last, method the LEDs are placed in a sealed, removeable pixel which has pins which plug into the circuit board. The face over the circuit board is also sealed. Look at this illustration:

LD Sign With Removeable Pixels

LED Sign With Removeable Pixels

Obviously there is no faceshield with this method which eliminates the glare issue. Again, if you knew which brands to look for and you drove around your town during a storm you find no weatherproofing issues with this method.

One of the big advantages of this manufacturing method is the elimination of the ‘quilting’ problem. If one of the LEDs has a problem you simply pop out that pixel and pop in a replacement. You don’t even have to turn off the sign to do this! That means instead of an enitr circuit board sized section being brighter, only the LEDs in the newer Pixel will be brighter.

This is, in my opinion, the best method of manufacturing. LED Signs. It has all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of the other methods.

If you would like to read more about LED Sign technology check out this link.

Faceshields, An LED Sign Saver?

First let me explain what a faceshield is.

One of the ways to manufacture LED Signs is to put a piece of Acrylic or plastic in front of the the LEDs to seal the LED Sign. Take a look at this illustration:

LED Sign With Face Shield

LED Sign With Face Shield

Manufacturers who use this method of sealing their LED Signs tout it as protection against vandals. Is this true? Should you make sure you invest in LED Signs with a faceshield? Let’s think about it.

If you were a vandal would you spend your time in front of a sign that was flashing, blinking, and attracting the attention of the all the drivers going by? I think you would be more likely to spend your time in dark areas where you could cause your mischief unnoticed.

Out of all the LED Signs my company has sold we have NEVER received a report of one being vandalized. Not one.

If faceshields don’t really help to protect the LED Sign why use one? I have only come up with one answer: cheaper production. Soldering the LEDs directly to a circuit board and then sealing the whole thing with a faceshield is the least expensive way to manufacture an LED Sign.

That should result in a price break for the consumer but somehow it never seems to work out that way.

My company brokers LED Signs which means we can sell anybodies products. We will not sell LED Signs with faceshields and here is why:

LED Signs with faceshields seem to have more problems. This is just observation on my part, driving around my town and seeing which signs seem to have problems on a consistent basis. My guess is that faceshields are an inferior method of sealing LED Signs as I notice the most problems during inclement weather.

The next problem is that faceshield produce glare. As the sun shines on the face of the sign a certain amount of the light is reflected back, off the faceshield, at the observer which reduces the apparent brightness of the LEDs behind the faceshield. If there are LED Signs in your town, drive around and take a look at them. Compare the brightness of a sign with a faceshield and one without a faceshield **during the day** (pretty much all LED Signs look good at night as there is no daylight to ‘outshine’).

So, in my educated opinion, faceshields are not the way to go. Find a brand without a faceshield and you will be happier in the long run.

If you would like to read more information on LED Sign technology, I have written a ‘technology summary’ at hubpages.com/hub/LED-Signs-LED-Displays. Or just wait and I will write more in depth articles on the technology side of LED Signs here on this blog.

If you have questions you can always send them to me at keith*at*icatchdisplays.com (just replace the “*at*” with “@”).

Will LED Signs Increase Your Business?

If you have been considering investing in LED Signs or LED Displays you might have heard a sales pitch from a salesman already, promising massive increases in sales. I have heard sales people quote anywhere from 10% to 150% increases. The question you have to ask yourself is “will a set of LED Signs REALLY increase business”. After all, the salesman makes his living from selling.

As I have nothing to sell on this site and have no way of knowing who reads this blog you can trust the answer I am about to give you.

There are a certain number of people who drive by your business everyday. Lets refer to that number as X.

Of the people who pass your business a certain percentage will notice your business. Lets call that percentage Y.

Now for the last part of the equation. Of the number of people who notice your business, there will be a percentage who actually pull in and buy something from you. Let’s call that percentage Z.

There is nothing you can do to increase X, it is what it is. That is why businesses put themselves on the busiest streets they can afford to be on.

Let’s take a look at an example (these numbers are made up and only for the purpose of illustration):

  • Traffic Passing A Business Daily (X) : 5,000
  • Percentage Who Notice The Business (Y) : 10%
  • Percentage of Y Who Actually Buy Something (Z) : 20%

Okay, if we do the math ( (X * Y)*Z ) this is what we find:

(5000 * .1) * .2 = 100

That is 200 people of the 10,000 passing everyday who actually pull in and buy something.

This is where LED Signs come in. Imagine an LED Sign in front of this business blinking and flashing highly targeted sales messages to that traffice.

There are 2 things which will happen. More people will notice your business (increasing Y) and more people will pull in and buy something (increasing Z).

Let’s assume a 20% increase in Y (the people who notice the business) and a 10% increase in Z (the people who actually buy something) and then rework the formula from above:

(5000 * .3) * .3 = 450

That is an extra 350 people who pull in and buy something everyday or 10,500 per month.

Now here is the magic, if this hypothetical business owner leases the LED Signs and has a payment of $1200 a month, they only need the extra people to buy an extra $0.11 in profit for the sign to pay for itself.  Every penny or dollar of profit the additional people buying from the business spends is pure profit. After the five year lease is up, it all becomes profit.

Now, back to our original question: “will a set of LED Signs REALLY increase business”

The simple math says yes. The more you attract attention to your business, the more people will pull in and buy from you.

Get Your Outdoor LED Signs & Displays – For Free?

I don’t know any business owner who would not like a set of free LED Signs, do you?

The problem is most companies want you to give them some money before they will give you LED Displays.

So how can you get them for free?

OPM – The Path To Free LED Signs

Okay, for those of you who don’t know, OPM stands for Other Peoples Money. If you can use someone elses money to pay for your LED Signs than allow the LED Signs to work for you generating additional income, they will pay for themselves and you will not have to use your own capital to pay for them.

The question you should be asking  now is:

How do I get someone else to pay the initial bill for my LED Displays

There are a few ways actually.

The first method is to get a loan from a bank.

The second method is to finance the cost through an equipment lease. These are usually a 3-5 year lease and at the end of the lease you pay $1 and you own the equipment.

There are quite a few advantages to leasing LED Signs and it is surprising how few business owners know those advantages. I am going to hit on a few of the advantages and disadvantages to leasing as well as one of the biggest things to watch out for.

Advantages to Leasing LED Signs & Displays

One of the biggest advantages comes from the IRS if you can believe it.  When you get equipment leases you are allowed to write off the entire amount of the lease in the first year. That can add up to a considerable tax savings. Of course you will want to talk to your tax consultant to make sure this applies to your business.

The second advantage is that it does not tie up your working credit or capital. You never know when you will need a little extra money so it is best to leave your working capital available for emergencies. Leasing does just that.

A related benefit is that leases are unsecured meaning you will not have to give up the deed to your house to secure the lease.

The third advantage to leasing is security. Because the funding comes from a third party you can be sure the company you buy from will deliver and install your LED Signs because they don’t get paid until you sign off on the job! You are in control. Also, companies don’t want to jeopardize their working relationship with the leasing company adding another layer of security for you.

Disadvantages to Leasing LED Signs & Displays

There is really only one disadvantage I am aware of, the interest rate.

Equipment lease have a higher interest rate than bank loans because they are unsecured making them riskier for the funding company. But don’t let that slow you down.

Remember, LED Signs generate revenue. They are a profit center. This is not like leasing a vehicle that will never increase your revenues. LED Signs generate business for you. As they bring in new customers or get old customers to spend more, they are paying for themselves.

What To Watch Out For

Some companies like to use leases as a way of increasing their profit on a deal. What they do is have the lease company add points to the deal. Here is an example of what I mean:

Actual Equipment Cost (Cash Price) – $15,000

Total Cost of Lease – $18,000

Cost of Lease with Points Added – $19,000

Additional Profit To The LED Sign Seller – $1,000

These are all arbitrary numbers I made up to illustrate what I meant by adding points.

Make sure you ask the company you are buying from if they are adding points onto the lease. They shouldn’t be. They have a right to a profit, but it should not be hidden in the lease, it should be in the equipment they are selling.

That about wraps it up. If you would like to learn more about the Advantages of  Leasing Electronic Signage, the Disadvantages of Leasing Electronic Signage or the Process of Leasing Electronic Signage you can click any of these links.

As always feel free to take a look at my business website to learn more about LED Signs and LED Displays.

Programming Your Monochrome LED Signs & LED Displays Effectively

Today I am going to spend some time on how to effectively program your Monochrome LED Signs and LED Displays.

There are two major categories for programming LED Signs, Color LED Signs and Monochrome LED Signs. Grayscale LED Signs follow the same basic rules as Color LED Signs.

The way you program Color LED Signs and Monochrome LED Signs EFFECTIVELY are different. If you want to get the most bang for your buck you need to be sure you are using the right techniques.

I will cover Color LED Signs in a later article.

Start With The Basics

This might seem to basic, but:

  • Make sure your whole message is visible

You would be surprised at how often I see LED Signs with letters clipped off. This not only reduces the effectiveness of your message but it makes your business look bad. Remember, not everybody is going to buy from you today so part of your purpose of your LED Sign is to create Top Of Mind Awareness (TOMA) so when they need your product or service they will think of you. If you have left a bad impression with them, they will not think of you the next time they need what you offer.

Next, make sure your message makes sense. Don’t be clever, be clear. Make your messages easy to read and understand. If your prospects can’t read and understand your message ** at a glance ** you have wasted a message and maybe lost a sale.

Mid Level Programming Steps

Your messages should be in ALL CAPS. You want to do this because it maximizes the size of the letters on your display which maximizes the readability of your message. Burn into your brain right now that your main objective is to get your messages read and understood. Anything you do with your LED Signs needs to be done with this in mind.

The next thing to do is use the boldest font you can and still fit your message on the LED Sign. Just like with the last tip this is to maximize your readability and hence your effectiveness.

Which font is best? I can’t give you the name of a specific font to use because people have different fonts on their computers. What I can do is give you some guidelines for selecting which font you will use.

First, NEVER use a script font. These are almost always hard for your prospects to read. Remember, make your messages clear and understandable for your prospects.

Second, use a Sans Serif font. Arial Black is an example of a Sans Serif font and Times New Roman is an example of a Serif font. I recommend this because it adds a slight edge to readability.

Third, make sure your messages stay up long enough to be read but not for to long. The rule of thumb I use is: read the message out loud, if you can read the message before the frame changes, it has been up long enough.

Top Level Programming Steps

To scroll or not to scroll, that is the question.

I personally recommend staying away from scrolling messages unless they are absolutely necessary to get the whole message out. Here is why. Can you read the following:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.

The human mind is an incredible computer and can figure things out faster than you would believe. Scrolling a one line message will take longer than using 3 lines to display the same message all at once. For the same reason your able to read the scrambled paragraph above your prospects will be able to read a message at a glance.  That means you will be able to get more messages in front of your propsects by NOT scrolling messages.

Make sure you include Time/Temperature and community messages. These types of messages are what train your prospects to look at your sign every time they pass. Obviously they have to read your sales messages while they wait for the time/temp and community messages. You should have a mix of (1) time/temp, (1) community message, and 6-8 sales messages.

To Sum Up

Here are my programming tips in a list (this is for the Anal Retentive people like me):

  1. Make sure the whole message is visible
  2. Make your messages clear and concise
  3. Use ALL CAPS
  4. Use a bold Sans Serif Font
  5. Do NOT use a script font
  6. Make sure your message is up long enough to be read
  7. Avoid scrolling messages
  8. Mix in time/temp and community messages

There it is, my top 8 programming tips.

If you would like to see some well programmed LED Signs and LED Displays check out these links:

If you would like more information on Outdoor Monochrome LED Signs, just click the link!

If you have any questions please leave a comment and I get you an answer.

Are Color LED Signs Better Than Monochrome LED Signs?

Definitely yes!

Definitely no!

Confused? That is because it is not that straight forward of a question. It is a bit like asking which is better a truck or a car. Both are vehicles, both will get you where you are going. To answer “which one is better” you need to consider what you need it for.

It is the same with LED Signs. Which one is better depends on your business.

When is color better?

If you sell a product or a service that can be visualized, color might be right for you. Which is truer for your business:

  • A picture of my product is worth a thousand words
  • It takes a thousand words to describe my product

Color LED Signs are designed for and work best with the first scenario. Motorists can see a picture of a car, a meal, or a house and know instantly what you are selling. If the picture or video is enticing and they pull in, the sign has done its job.

On the other hand, video and picture capable LED Signs cost about twice as much as single color LED Signs.

So, if you are not sure you can sell your product or service with a picture or video, a monochrome unit might be better.

When is monochrome better?

A Monochrome Sign

A Monochrome Sign

A monochrome sign uses only one color of LED, usually red or amber. While they have some graphics capabilities, they are used primarily for text based messages.

In situations where a picture or video is not helpful in selling your products or services, monochrome signs offer a better Return On Investment. It is the text sales messages that will get the job done.

For instance, pictures will probably not help a financial services company, or a mortuary, or an insurance company. However, text based messages are very effective for these types of products and services.

When you are relying on text messages you need need a high contrast, bright display. Red on black with a high LED concentration (ie the number of LEDs in each pixel) will get you the most readable message.

As an added ‘bonus’ monochrome LED Signs cost about half of what color LED Signs cost.

The key with monochrome LED Signs is making sure it is big enough without being to big.

If it is too small you will not be able to put effective messages on it. If it is too big, it will still work but you will have spent more than you needed to.

The Correct Answer

My recommendation would be to make sure the company you purchase your LED Sign from takes the time to really understand how you can most effectively advertise on it. They also need to take the time to survey your location or they will not be able to make accurate recommendations on the optimal size.

With LED Signs there is no such thing as ‘One Size Fits All’. If you are talking with a company who is pushing you towards a particular sign without being able to tell you why it is the best type and size sign for your business, run. They have their commission in mind not your business.

Talk to an expert who will take the time to learn about your business and location BEFORE making a recommendation.

In the end that is the only way you will be able to answer the question we started with and get the best Return On Investment.