The idea is so obvious as to almost seem silly to discuss. Your business needs a sign, right? Where all too many small business owners fall short is in not pondering the importance of signage much more than that. There are so many variables that should go into erecting a sign: branding, function, upkeep, marketing, etc. What we’re saying is don’t just throw something up there because you know a business needs a sign. Put some thought into all the ways this apparently simple decision could affect the ultimate profitability (and success or failure) of the business.
Branding: This is the basic, and maybe most important reason for your sign to exist. Branding is all about setting your business apart from the competition in the mind of consumers. It’s hard to make sales if 1) a buyer doesn’t even remember you exist; 2) can’t find you due to poor or non-existent signage. Your brand should be memorable and instantly recognizable, and the sign is a big part of that strategy. Think of all the brands that call to mind certain logos, colors, or images – Coke, Pizza Hut, Apple. These are companies that have a firmly established brand.
Function: Royal Sign said, “A sign in front of your business is essentially a silent salesperson that never takes a break or annoys you with idle chatter.” Its job is to draw attention from passersby and serve as a beacon for people who are trying to locate you. A properly designed and located sign is the first, best connection between a business and customer. Don’t neglect inside signage when considering the concept of function. They make it easier to find particular items and encourage impulse purchases. And with the Internet Age firmly underway, don’t neglect to incorporate branding into your business’s website. Consider it a cyber-sign that serves the same function as its real world counterpart.
Marketing Cost: When creating a marketing plan, don’t forget that a good sign out front is, by far, the cheapest form of advertising you will find. When measured against other mediums like newspaper, television, radio, and Internet, it’s not even close. According to the Small Business Administration, the cost of reaching one thousand customers (a common advertising metric) is considerably less than with other alternatives, making it the most cost-effective marketing you’ll ever do. This is not to say you should ignore other options but let a great sign out front be the anchor of the business.
Appearance: Once you have a sign in place, don’t make the mistake of letting it go to pot. When lights burn out, replace them. When colors start to fade, paint them. The minor costs associated with keeping a sign in tip-top condition pale in comparison to the damage to your reputation in having a deteriorated sign advertising your business. Never underestimate the negative power of a bad-looking sign. Even long-time customers are likely wincing internally every time they enter your establishment, while thinking subconsciously, “Why don’t you take that poor sign out and shoot it?” Good question? A sign is a reflection of your identity.
Design: Sign design should incorporate your logo if possible and tie-in colors if size restrictions make that impractical. Considering the reality that lots of people will be trying to read it while they whiz past at 45 miles-per-hour, a simplification might be in order. Think about fonts in this vein also. Highly stylized letters are sometimes impossible to read. If passers-by can’t read your sign, you might as well change it to read, “Don’t stop here no matter what.” Don’t forget that signage can extend to a nearby (or distant) billboard. Once again, the cost is often reasonable when compared to other media.
A final bit of advice. Explore local zoning regulations before spending too much time and effort in designing and mounting signage. Individual communities have all kinds of various regulations that might apply. Better to find out in advance so you don’t end up having to tear down that beautiful work of art you just mounted too close to the street. You also should get in touch with your building’s landlord. He or she may have specific policies in place that apply to signs. Don’t get yourself booted out for failure to follow orders. That’s usually bad for business.