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Deb Tracy is the COO and Founder of SIGNPROgrammers, a digital marketing agency that creates digital sign content, video ads, and digital billboard graphics. She works with a range of clients, helping them capture their audience’s attention with unique designs and calls to action. With over two decades of experience, she believes in the power of personalized content, working closely with clients to understand their needs and creating tailored solutions. Before SIGNPROgrammers, Deb worked with Watchfire Signs as their training artist.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [3:05] Deb Tracy’s insights into the evolution of digital sign marketing
  • [4:36] Successfully planting new ideas in clients’ minds
  • [5:04] The underutilization of digital sign boards by businesses
  • [7:18] Understanding the direct response potential of digital signs
  • [10:05] Creating a unique hook as part of your digital sign advertising
  • [16:54] Common mistakes in digital advertising
  • [19:42] The strategy of entering the social media realm during the pandemic
  • [21:37] What prompted SIGNPROgrammers to enter the social media realm
  • [24:22] The importance of a client-centric approach in business
  • [26:34] What Deb might do differently based on her current business knowledge

In this episode…

In recent years, sign boards have evolved from simple informational displays to engaging, interactive mediums. How do you create profitable direct response content that stands out?

Digital signage pioneer Deb Tracy illustrates the power of digital sign content marketing and its potential in driving direct responses. Starting from its inception in 1999, she walks us through her transition into the digital sign industry from newspaper content, highlighting the untapped and highly-profitable potential of digital signs. Deb offers insights into her work with clients, showcasing how she effectively educates them about maximizing their message to customers.

On this episode of the Inspired Insider Podcast, Dr. Jeremy Weisz sits down with Deb Tracy, Founder of SIGNPROgrammers, as she shares her expertise in digital advertising. She dives deep into the importance of creating engaging and unique content that grabs potential customers’ attention.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Special Mention(s):

Related episode(s):

Quotable Moments:

  • “Creating video content for a sign isn’t as easy as it looks.”
  • “We need to stand out.”
  • “It’s not always easy to keep continually coming up with new content and new ideas that are fresh and invigorating.”
  • “A bad-looking sign is like having a rusty door in front of your business.”
  • “You always stay in your own lane — and that’s what I was doing. But now that we’ve kind of jumped, we’re developing this whole other aspect of everything.”
  • “Turn your sign off, save the life of the LED, save the electricity until you have a real solid ad to put on that sign because it’s not doing anybody any good. And actually, when you turn the sign back on, you’ll get more views than you will when you had the flag flying out your sign, put a flagpole next to the sign and put a real message.”

Sponsor for this episode

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We make distribution easy. We’ll distribute each episode across more than 11 unique channels, including iTunes, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. We’ll also create copy for each episode and promote your show across social media.

Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPOEOLending TreeFreshdesk, and many more.

The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.

Podcast production has a lot of moving parts and is a big commitment on our end; we only want to work with people who are committed to their business and to cultivating amazing relationships.

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:01

You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.

Jeremy Weisz  0:22

Dr. Jeremy Weisz here founder of where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs leaders today is no different. I have Deb Tracy of SIGNPROgrammers. And before I introduce you formally, I like to mention other episodes people should check out of the podcast since this is part of the top agency series. I’ve had, let’s see Jason Swenk on a few times, he talks about how he built up his company to over eight figures and sold it and now he’s buying companies. We had Ian Garlic on who does video case stories, he helps capture amazing stories from people’s customers. And they use those to get more customers. We had Todd Taskey on who pairs a company agency with private equity. And he’s got the second bite podcast. Sometimes people sell it for more, make more on the second bite than they did when they sold it because it gets sold again by private equity. So those are all great episodes, check them out on Inspired Insider.

This episode is brought to you by Rise25 and it Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships. How do we do that? We actually help you run your podcast, we are an easy button for a company to launch around a podcast, we do accountability strategy and the full execution. Deb, we call ourselves the magic elves that run in the background to make it look easy for the hosts in the company. So they could just, you know develop the relationship and run their business. So you know, for me, the number one thing in my life is relationships, I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I found no better way than over the past decade a profile of people and companies I most admire and share with the world what they’re working on. So if you’ve thought about podcasting, you should if you have questions, go to

And I’m excited to introduce Deb Tracy. She’s a pioneer in the digital sign content marketing industry. I love direct response. I think Deb loves direct response. Because she’s about it’s probably one of the toughest direct responses, but like they’re driving, and you get them to take an action. Right? Yeah, I you know, with all the busy stuff people have, hopefully they’re not texting and driving me hell, but they’re on the phone, whatever. They’re listening to music, they’re making sure their kids are behaving in the backseat. And Deb has to help these companies get attention from people. So we’re going to talk about direct response.

She got started back in 1999, with Watchfire Signs, as their training artists, and after realizing the digital sign was a powerful marketing tool, she started SIGNPROgrammers, and she did it to help small businesses get leads in the market to audiences driving by their businesses every single day. So, Deb, thanks for joining me.

Deb Tracy  3:03

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Jeremy Weisz  3:05

What was the opportunity you saw at the time? Because people were not doing this. Well, we’re talking ‘99. And I don’t even know if people are on the computers. At that point.

Deb Tracy  3:15

There weren’t even LED signs that said, how old was it. So that is but yeah, when I was training people, it was very exciting to go into the sign industry, I’ve never dealt with that when I wrote headlines for newspapers in the newspaper layout. So going into the sign industry was very exciting. And when I was training them, it was they wanted to know how to put time attempts on their sign how to do holiday graphics, and I thought you just paid $50,000 for a sign immediate board in front of your business, all we need to do is get someone now to turn in and get your pizza or get your tires from you.

And what they were more worried about was getting the American flag waving. And I like to put a flag pole up next to the sign and put a real message on the sign. And so after five years of working for Watchfire and dealing with sign companies and going out meeting with the end user, I saw they had this and they didn’t even realize what they had just purchased. It was the best marketing tool I believe that they had. And when you look at dollar for dollar and marketing and advertising, I think it’s probably one of the most cost effective ways to advertise.

Jeremy Weisz  4:36

Talk about that, what were you so how do you educate them? Right? Because they’re coming up with one idea. And this happens in every industry, like anyone listening. We know if you have clients or customers, they come with one idea and you’re the expert. You’ve been doing this since 1999. How do you get them to actually listen? How do you explain it so that they kind of see it from your perspective? Because you’re only trying to help them.

Deb Tracy  5:04

Right, right. So I will inject an idea. I said, what if we did an ad like this? You know, I know you want to put the time and temp. And I’ve actually got kind of a funny video that I created on YouTube about the ‘80s wanting their signs back, because in the 80s, that’s all signs could do. They did, they did the scrolling ticker, and time and temp, and every bank and Main Street had one. That was what they did. So now everybody gets to signs and they think they have to do scrolling text or a time and temp or a flag. And we’re so far more advanced than that. And I have to get them over that. It’s like, I know, everyone down the street does it. But you need to stand up for yourself. And let me help you. And I’ve talked people into it.

I had a dentist in Cincinnati, who didn’t want to do this. And I said, I’ll give you the first one free. And then after that you’ve got to at least buy one a month. So he did. And he called me about a year later, he said I gotta tell you. I didn’t tell you we had hired a marketing company. And they wanted to tear the sign down. And I said, let’s just try this. So they did a separate phone number for all the ads just on that sign. And after one year, he had made $22,000 off all the ads, just those one ads a month 12 ads, he had made an extra $22,000 in profit from those ads. He paid us $700 and $900. It was very little. And he was like I had no idea. So he went and bought a better sign. Yeah.

With carwash. So I have to kind of get them over that comfort zone of everybody else doing it this way. And it’s like, no, let’s let’s do this. So now you see more people doing the signs at a higher depth, they’re more video quality. But you still can’t just copy and paste, it’s not as easy as, as maybe the salesperson led you to believe when you’re buying the sign there. After all, selling the sign. My job is to get that sign to make it profitable for you.

Jeremy Weisz  7:18

Yeah, and I wanna put it in the context. So even if someone’s like, I’m never gonna do a billboard or whatever it is. We’re talking about direct response. And we’re talking about what’s messaging on your site, or what other people are doing in your industry, that maybe it’s not working, and that to think about the direct response piece.

And I think Deb also from that dentist standpoint, I want to have you talk a little bit how it works? Right breakdown? How do I spend $900 and make $20,000? What were the things that you were doing? How did you put it in place, you know? But there’s also an authority piece that is just trackable by the phone number. There’s probably people that saw the person’s information. And maybe they’re like, oh, they drove them, you know, they looked him up some other way. Right? So that’s just attributed to the phone number, there’s an authority piece to being on a billboard. Right.

And some people don’t even have a call to action on their billboard. And they do it because of the brand building and the authority. Do you remember what the messaging was? Obviously, the phone number What was there like an offer or something? Or what was the message for the dentist?

Deb Tracy  8:28

Yeah, sure. It was just a monthly special this month special is you know, free cleaning in this. And so that was why it was tractable and they used that phone number. So that’s what we always try to do, some kind of call to action, it’s no different than any kind of marketing you’re doing right now. Almost even you could even almost do a drip campaign or a funnel through it, just by educating people little by little as are you most of the people we’re targeting is the people in the neighborhood or in their local you’re going to work they’re coming back they see the sign two four times a day. We want them to see that sign and each time they go by get a little different piece of something that’s going on inside your business.

So the longer you stay with us the more we can grow these campaigns and we know what’s going on. we subscribe to their social media channels, we subscribe to newsletters, we know what else. There are times we say what do you want to put on your sign this month? What we got going on? And oh say oh nothing nothing. And so we have to go dig we go and dig and it’s like, ah, you know what your Facebook says you gotta keep the ad going on. So let’s do date night. Let’s do something fun.

So I tried to take it from just, you know, $5 off your pizza to hey, it’s date night, Tuesday night, bring your girl in or something like that. And just try to make it something a little bit different that you wouldn’t get from another restaurant down the road.

Jeremy Weisz  10:05

Yeah, so kind of the way you think about it is, you want something special, it could be an actual special or it could be just a hook that makes it unique. Why to bring it in, you always want to make sure there’s a call to action there. I’m curious, your thoughts on numbers, versus emails versus websites? How do you decide on what the call to action should be?

Deb Tracy  10:32

That just depends. What’s the business we have everywhere from foot doctors to you know, chain restaurants. So everybody’s different. Unfortunately, I just don’t have, you know, a specific template that fits everyone. I guess that’s why we’ve been a little more successful is because when you call, you get a real person. And we work these ads out together. And we don’t template these we don’t, of course, you know, some we can reuse for if it’s an auto dealer, and we can kind of flip them over.

But everybody is a little more customized. It’s more boutique feel. And I think that’s why small businesses like us, because they’re not getting a form. They’re not telling us what they need. They’re just calling and saying, I don’t know what I need, can you help me and we have to go out and be that person to create it for them.

Jeremy Weisz  11:36

There’s different categories of businesses and people that use you. So I like to just discuss those we can kind of because like you said, it depends. If it’s a dentist can, it be different from a carwash, different from a Dairy Queen, different to a bomb Evans, because you’ve helped all these types of businesses, what types of companies use you?

Deb Tracy  11:56

We have manufacturers, so those who make these signs, we have various manufacturers all using us. And we keep everybody’s information private. And we’re very discreet that way. Sign companies all over the country are using us because they sell the signs and then their users don’t have anywhere to turn. And they don’t love that the people now are learning they don’t want to use the canned graphics that come with the sign software or design software, it’s hard to use. Their sign company refers them to us.

We can actually come up with the ads, we upload the files, we manage their sign, they don’t have to do anything. We’ve got clients who’ve never even looked or installed the software or looked at a sign software. They just, you know, I have had the same client since 2005, I still have them every month, every month, contacting us. So I think that speaks that they just need this help.

Jeremy Weisz  13:01

You have manufacturers, you have signed companies, you also have the small businesses themselves.

Deb Tracy  13:05

And the end users themselves. We also have chains. You know, we create the Culvers content. Every month, we get several of their orders that their marketing team lets us help them with because they’re fine with their static ads, and whatever. But when it comes to the boards, you know, doing video content for a sign isn’t as easy as it looks, everybody seems to think it is. But it’s not the same as a web video or any other kinds of videos, the LEDs will wash out certain colors. So there’s combinations we have to use.

I drive my people crazy when they first come on because they you know, you think you’ve got a big four by six sign, it’s actually a one by three sign inches and inches. So we’re creating videos in very small matrices and to get fonts to work. And it’s not as easy as it seems. And anybody who’s created content realizes that. Yes, sometimes they just don’t look so good once you get them off your computer monitor, you put them on the sign, they don’t look the same.

Jeremy Weisz  14:15

Yeah, you really have industry experience because like you’re saying the colors may be different when you throw it up on this huge sign or the font.

Deb Tracy  14:24

Yeah, they get all washed out or blurry or yeah, certain things, certain fonts won’t work on a digital sign. And we do have sign companies that will resell our product as well and we offer that. So if you were to like the sign animations that we offer that they can link to that website, and they can offer that right on their own, you know a sign company can offer that right on their own page. And we have a lot of different programs for signing companies that want to partner with us.

Jeremy Weisz  15:01

Let me see if I understand. I want to walk through the small business example but from a sign company perspective. So let’s say, you know, like you said, Culvers, uses the same sign company. And, you know, then that company is going to be like “Great Deb we need to have you manage the ads every month” and you don’t want to keep them the same. So you’ll like to swap them out, whatever you work your magic with the actual, the creative, and then actually uploading it to the different signs across the different locations.

And then same thing with manufacturers, they may be contracted with a bunch of Dairy Queens or something like that. And you will help manage the digital content on those signs. How does it work with the end user like the dentist, because obviously, they’re advertising on someone else’s sign somewhere, right? Because in the Culvers example, it’s in front of their actual location. Right?

Deb Tracy  16:00

Right. Now with the dentist that was in front of his own business. Now we do billboards, which would be a client of the billboard owner. So yeah, it goes up on the billboards. But, you know, a dentist can own his own sign.
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