- Why do I need a sign for my business?
- What is the most effective signage for my business?
- Do I need a lighted sign?
- What should my signage say?
- How do I effectively “brand” my business location?
- Is signage expensive?
- How can I determine whether my current sign is effective, or what should be changed?
- Should I buy or lease a sign?
- How do I choose a sign company?
- Legal Rights: What are my legal obligations?
WHY DO I NEED A SIGN FOR MY BUSINESS?
- Signs are the most effective, yet least expensive, form of advertising for the small business.
- A sign is your introduction and handshake with those passing by, identifying your business to existing and potential customers.
- Signs are always “on the job” for you, advertising 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- People often judge a business by how it looks on the sign.
- Many merchants increase their business measurably just by adding a good sign. Conversely, many have gone out of business because they simply were not identified well, so not enough potential customers knew of their existence. As one sign industry professional put it, “A business without a sign is a sign of no business.”
- We live in a mobile society. According to the United States Census Bureau, 18% of households relocate each year. As your customers move, you need to replace them by attracting new customers.
WHAT IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE SIGN FOR MY BUSINESS?
- The best sign for your business is a sign that will attract the most customers and project the image you desire.
- Your sign must be visible and easy to read for people who are driving and walking past your business.
- Your sign must be attractive and appropriate for your type of business.
- A sign will serve to remind existing customers of your business and location, and provide new customers with a valuable visual indicator about the products or services you offer.
- Your sign should be as large as allowable for your location.
- The answer here will vary somewhat depending on your business, location, and other factors. In general, following these guidelines will increase the effectiveness of your sign.
DO I NEED A LIGHTED SIGN?
Yes, we no longer live in a 9-to-5 society, and people will drive past your business location 24 hours a day. With a lighted sign, you have an opportunity to communicate with your existing and potential customer, even when your business is closed. Large corporations create “top of the mind awareness” when they constantly and consistently present their name, corporate logos, and products until their name becomes a household word and their corporate logos or graphics become synonymous with the corporation’s name. With a lighted sign on display 24 hours a day, the small business owner has the opportunity to create a “top of mind awareness” in their local community. (See the related question about ‘branding’ a location.)
WHAT SHOULD MY SIGNAGE SAY?
- In as few words as possible, clearly communicate what you are selling.
- A picture depicting your product or service adds impact and clarity.
- Present the image you want to project that will attract customers and entice them to stop, shop, and buy.
- Determine the best sign type, size, colors, and placement, keeping in mind what the sign will look like from the street and sidewalk. The proper design of your sign is critical to its effectiveness.
- Crowding the sign with too many words or lines of text makes it impossible to read from a distance. Use as few words as possible. In general, not more than 5-7 words, with 3-5 being ideal.
- A successful sign will communicate effectively and concisely. Therefore, here are some general guidelines: People are looking through a windshield, in traffic, day and night and in all types of weather. Help your customers both see and read your sign easily.
HOW DO I EFFECTIVELY “BRAND” MY BUSINESS LOCATION?
As a business owner, one of the primary goals of your signage is to create “brand” recognition for your business in the community. National companies use their signage, architecture, and logos in every type of advertising they do, thereby reinforcing their corporate image and creating a “top-of-the-mind awareness” with consumers worldwide. To do this, use your company logo or graphic on all of your signs, stationery, uniforms, company property, vehicles, etc. Repeated viewing of your company’s logo, especially on your sign, will help “brand” your business and location, and create “top-of-the-mind” awareness for your existing and potential customers.
IS SIGNAGE EXPENSIVE?
- Signage is the least expensive, yet most effective, form of advertising for independent and national retail businesses.
- You pay for the sign once and it works for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for years. Use of other media requires paying month after month and you never have the benefit of ownership. You also have no assurance that you’re reaching potential customers.
- From a business owner’s perspective, a sign should not be viewed as an expense, but as a capital investment. When you factor in your return on investment, signs are not expensive. An effective sign will most likely pay for itself many times over.
- The price for signage will vary greatly depending upon the size, design, style, manufacturer, and mounting type.
HOW CAN I DETERMINE WHETHER MY CURRENT SIGN IS EFFECTIVE, OR WHAT SHOULD BE CHANGED?
As with measuring a new sign’s effectiveness, evaluating your existing signage will require assessing readership. Sign companies often offer this service, however you can also conduct simple “customer surveys” in which you ask your customers a series of questions about your existing signage, such as the words, colors, and size, and whether they can even recall what it looks like from memory. Open discussions like this, with your customers, will provide valuable insights. You may discover that customers remember the graphic or image on the sign, but not the business name, or maybe it’s the color that stands out in their memory. Listen closely and carefully, because these are answers that can help you determine not only the effectiveness of your existing sign, but also suggestions about what you might do differently with a new sign.
SHOULD I BUY OR LEASE A SIGN?
- As a business owner, consider all of your options, which may include cash payment, financing, or leasing.
- Some business owners prefer leasing to purchasing to reduce their cash outlay. Leasing enables you to preserve your working capital for inventory, labor, and other normal costs of doing business. A normal lease will result in perpetual monthly payments, you never own the asset. There are leasing options structured with a final large payment to “buy-out” the lease and gain ownership of the asset.
- If you have the available cash, you could purchase the signage and avoid the additional expense of paying interest, and you avoid any monthly cash flow requirements.
- Bank financing, particularly if you include other assets, will result in the lowest monthly cash flow. Signs are assets eligible for inclusion in SBA loans.
- The decision to buy or lease is a business decision.
HOW DO I CHOOSE A SIGN COMPANY?
- the quality of the signs offered
- the sign company’s ability to design and deliver a sign that fits your needs
- the product knowledge and experience of the sign company’s personnel
- the price, quality and value offered
- the follow-up and ongoing service provided
WHAT ARE MY LEGAL OBLIGATIONS?
You should be aware of several legal obligations that may affect your sign, including, among other things, permits, copyrights, patents and trademarks, building and electrical codes, local zoning or sign codes, and perhaps other regulations. These will vary depending on many factors. Due to the nature and detail of legal obligations, be certain to ask your sign company to review city codes and permit requirements.