A growing number of ministries are looking for cost-effective ways to improve communications with their congregation and to attract new members. Since keeping the faithful informed about church activities strengthens the congregation, many houses of worship are deploying digital message centers to deliver fresh, timely and eye-grabbing communications.
Since digital signs require an investment, it’s important to understand what to look for and what questions to ask of your sign dealer. Selecting an LED sign should be driven by your communications objectives. An informed buyer knows the right questions to ask and what features to consider. While it might seem that the process is complex, it’s really not.
A few basic guidelines can help you make the decision with confidence. Following is a “Top 10 List” of things to know before buying an LED sign.
1: What is an LED sign?
An LED (light emitting diode) is an efficient, effective and ultra bright alternative to incandescent light bulbs. Unlike traditional light bulbs, LEDs do not burn out; they just slowly dim over a long period of time (about 100,000 hours or 11+ years). An LED sign is made up of individual modules of about 12 inches square each with LEDs mounted on them. The modular design allows the signs to be configured to almost any size. LED signs are typically double-sided and are available as monochrome or full color. A common size for commercial LEDs is 37” high x 8’ wide. Messages are programmed and scheduled on the signs using software installed on the computer that controls the sign.
2: How does an LED sign work?
The graphics and animation on an LED sign are programmed through a standard PC that connects to the sign via one of these four methods:
• Radio Frequency (RF) connection
• Phone modem (similar to a dial-up Internet connection)
• Fiber optics
• Network (LAN or other)
The software allows the user to program and change messages on the sign. The person who programs the sign chooses from a menu of text and animation options and creates a schedule of messages, sometimes setting a schedule weeks or even months in advance. Prepackaged graphics, web graphics and your own original graphics all can be part of the messaging mix.
3: Should we consider investing in an LED sign?
If your house of worship is visible from the highway or a busy street – whether it’s vehicular traffic, pedestrian traffic or both – you should consider communicating with an LED sign. In addition, if you already invest in more expensive advertising to reach your audience, you should consider an LED sign.
4: How do LED signs compare to other forms of advertising?
LED signs cost less than newspaper, radio, television and yellow page advertising in terms of cost per impression. In addition, LED signs allow you to change your message instantaneously, so they can be used to announce time-sensitive information, promote fundraisers, attract attendance to special events, provide schedules for church services, introduce new clergy or honor volunteers or other lay people.
In fact, many organizations that deploy LED signs instead of newspaper or radio advertising find the sign has an immediate return on investment.
5: How do I choose the right LED sign?
You’ll want to consult with a sign professional, but here are a few items to consider:
• What will be the typical viewing distance?
• Will your LED sign fit into an existing sign?
• What is your need for detail in the images you will display (pixel pitch)?
• Color or monochrome?
• Will the products or services you want to advertise work best in color?
• What is the environment of your sign?
• How will color or monochrome stand out?
6: How much should I budget for an LED sign?
There are many options in size, color, depth, detail and more, so your budget for an LED sign will depend on the specific priorities and needs of your house of worship. Price is primarily driven by LED quantity, quality and color, and can range from $10,000 to $300,000. It’s important not to buy on price alone since cheaper, lesser quality signs typically are made overseas and can leave you without service and support when you need it.
It’s best to consider an LED sign purchase as an advertising expenditure, rather than a capital investment. Put in these terms, the monthly investment of an LED sign compares very favorably to other advertising options.
7: How do I choose a local sign partner?
Before asking “How,” you might ask, “Why?”
Here’s why you should choose a local sign partner:
• They should be familiar with your local sign ordinances
• In the same spirit, they’re probably also familiar with the local political structure
• Your local partner can handle every facet of installation and service
Just a couple more things to consider when choosing your local sign partner: LED sign installation experience and LED sign service experience. If you find either of these lacking, keep looking.
8: What are the next steps once I decide with whom I want to work?
The following is a brief overview of the process:
• Determine the specifications of your size, color, position and pixels.
• Coordinate price quotes with your local sign partner.
• Consider a manufacturer factory tour. The knowledge you gain can be invaluable.
• Seek references and check them.
• Take job site photos. This will help your internal sell and mock-up.
• Finalize the sign design.
• Place your order.
• A 4-6 week turnaround is typical for American manufacturers.
• Your local sign company installs the sign.
• The sign manufacturer provides software-training basics.
9: How do I choose the LED sign manufacturer?
An LED sign is not only a smart advertising investment; it’s an investment in your connection with your congregation. Choose a company that has a proven record in maximizing the return on your investment. Ask the following questions about your sign manufacturer:
• Does the company vertically integrate the manufacturing process for the highest quality sign?
• Does it have an in-house art production team and has it maintained longstanding relationships with the top local sign dealers?
• Is its sign-programming software intuitive and easy to use?
• Does it offer a warranty?
10: After gathering all this information, the next question is “how do I move forward?”
Your sign manufacturer will refer you to a trusted local sign dealer and as a team they’ll work together. You’ll be provided guidance on your initial budget and sign specifications. The sign company will conduct a site analysis while the local dealer will help firm up the project specs, provide sign-design expertise and finalize the details on price and installation.
Following installation, your designated staff and/or volunteers tasked with programming the messages of your sign will receive training and support to make the transition to operating your new sign as easy and pleasant as possible.