The ABCs of Quality Signage

Think about it - there are thousands of people who've never been to your door. The sign on your premises is your handshake with the public, and that handshake is the first impression being made on potential customers. Often, people judge the quality of your business on that first impression.

  • What is your sign saying to them?
  • Is it a blur of crowded text and graphics, illegible to drivers as they motor past your store?
  • Does it readily and effectively tell passersby what you offer, or does it make sense only to you and your employees?
  • Is your sign illuminated effectively?
  • Is it being regularly maintained?
  • What role is it playing in your business?
  • Ideally, signs should perform at least these three functions:

Attract New Visitors

Research indicates that 85% of your customers live or work within a five-mile radius of your business. But according to the U. S. Census Bureau, 18.6% of the population relocates annually. Which means every year you're losing customers that you must replace with new customers, just to break even. Who's in business just to break even?

If you only want to sustain your business then just maintain your customer base. But if you want to grow your business, you must increase your customer base. The quickest, easiest and most economical way to attract new customers is with signage. If you'll recall from the previous section a small, 7% increase in sales produced over 124% increase in profit. It is for this reason that attracting the new customer is essential to your profitability.

Brand the Business

When your business is the first one that comes to mind as a place to find a product or service, you have achieved what is called "top-of-mind awareness." Top-of-mind awareness is built and reinforced through repetition. As mentioned, 85% of your customers live or work within a five-mile radius of your business. When driving to and from work, school and shopping, they pass your location some 50 to 60 times a month. Your sign should be designed so that it commands their attention every time they pass.

That's how signs help build top-of-mind awareness and brand your business. To further this effort, make sure your sign is included as part of your overall marketing strategy. For example, a Volvo dealership in Portland, Oregon always includes in its radio ads its address, followed by the phrase "under the big blue Volvo sign." When people see the big blue Volvo sign they remember the commercial.

Additionally, the name of your business, your logo, company colors, catchphrase, etc., should be consistent on your sign, your letterhead, business cards and print ads. All these coordinated efforts build recall and recognition and help brand your business in the mind of the consumer.

Create Impulse Sales

ABCs of Quality Signage

Even though many of today's consumers have the financial ability to spend money, few have the time in which to do that spending. They're certainly too busy to search for you or wander around comparison-shopping. They are more likely to stop at the first convenient place they see that seems to be selling what they need. Who hasn't been driving down the street, stopped at a store and made a purchase, merely because they saw the sign? Best Buy discovered that about 17% of its customers were people who did not intend to stop there but did so specifically because they saw the sign.

Another example of how signs can be very effective at influencing a customer's buying habits is the Belmont Auto Spa in southern California. The business was profitable but not as much as expected. Unfortunately, the original sign, although expensive and well placed, was poorly designed. Its lack of color contrast prevented it from standing out from the background and it couldn't be seen or read at a distance. Further, since the sign didn't have any of the characteristic visual features one would expect for a car wash, drivers didn't recognize it as one and drove right on by.

The owner invested $15,000 in a new pole sign that was well-designed. The strong, first-read pictorial graphic immediately identified Belmont as a car wash and the colors were contrasting and lively. A reader board was also added to highlight specials such as detailing. In its first year, the new sign produced a 15% increase in overall business, which translated into an additional $135,000.00 – nearly nine times the cost of the sign.

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