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Small businesses are the cornerstone of the economy, employing nearly 60 percent of the private workforce and generating 39 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. That's why it's so important to the future of our economy to have healthy small businesses.

Unfortunately, some small businesses still struggle to compete in today's economic landscape. According to the Growth–External Factors report by the National Federation of Independent Business Research Foundation, economic uncertainty and weak sales are the two primary impediments to small business growth.

While small business owners have little say in the shaping of national economic policy like the "fiscal cliff" talks, they can greatly impact the growth of local economies. Cities and towns are where growth lies in 2013, and at the center of it all is digital signage.

Targeted advertising encourages customers to buy.

One of the most important features of digital signs is the ability to grab the attention of potential customers every single day. Since advertisements on LED or LCD signs can be changed easily and frequently, they help small business owners drive customer traffic and boost sales. Advertising can be tailored to the weather, for example. A hardware store might promote generators when a snowstorm is on the way, or a local clothing store could advertise buy-one-get-one on boots or outerwear.

Digital signs also allow owners to daypart messages, customizing their ads to run in the morning, afternoon and evening. This allows business owners to target messages to a particular demographic or to increase traffic during typically slow periods. For example, a salon can offer customers a 30-minute lunchtime manicure, or a restaurant could promote early-bird specials in the morning and their dinner takeout menu during evening rush hour.

Digital signs make it easy to highlight uniqueness.

A unique business model can go a long way to making a business successful, and digital signs make it easy to communicate what makes a business special, helping it stand out in a crowded marketplace and build a strong local customer base. A high-end restaurant could use digital signage to highlight signature cuisine or award-winning dishes. A computer store might promote tech training or gamer events on their LED sign. An auto dealership can showcase vehicle specialties, extended hours or repair services. Small differences can be a big deal for customers looking for a particular product or service. When called out with a digital sign, these differentiators will help customers beat a path to a business' doorstep.

Digital advertising can create local loyalty.

Small businesses thrive on customer loyalty, and digital signs offer a convenient way to build a loyal local customer base. Digital signage messages that support community and school events help to build relationships with local families. When a business owner adds personality to digital advertising (or even provides something as simple as providing an accurate time and temperature on their sign), the sign can become a community landmark that passing motorists will notice. When they mix in messages that showcase products and promotions, they will give customers even more reasons to stop in and eventually become loyal shoppers.

Across the country, some of the largest brands use digital signage. Next time you're passing by a franchise location of your favorite restaurant chain, drug store or financial services company, you might ask why so many are putting digital signs to work to build their businesses. The answer is simple: Digital signs work. And as we turn the corner on 2013, local small business owners just might find an investment in digital signage is the growth tool they've been looking for.

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