Thursday, June 4, 2009

Seven Steps To Signs That Pay


Many business owners buy signs as an afterthought. They wait until their budget is nearly cleaned out and then buy the cheapest sign possible. These are signs you can’t afford. If you are not confident that your new sign will pay for itself then you are wasting your money.

The purpose of a sign is to attract new customers, brand your site in the minds of consumers and create impulse sales. A sign is often the only visible cue that a business exists! Therefore, it should be the predominant feature of your building.

Consider the case of Frenchy’s Bistro, opened by a husband and wife in the mid-1990’s. It is located on a four-lane road with lots of traffic in Southern California. After healthy growth, revenues leveled off at $250 thousand and wouldn’t budge. They attracted a local clientele from the immediate neighborhood and were known as “that restaurant next to the paint store.” Their signage was so poor that they were not bringing in hungry passing motorists.

A friend suggested investing in a better sign. They selected a V-shaped sign, internally illuminated, to mount to the side of their building. The result? Their sales grew 16% in the first year. Sales in the second year increased 32%. By the fourth year, Frenchy’s Bistro had expanded into space available next door and had grown a total of 322%, with revenues over $823,000.

TIP # 1 Spend time and money to ensure you have a sign that makes a positive impression on your marketplace. Your sign should be conspicuous, reflective of your company’s look and feel, and remain easy for your customers to recall.


Business signage should be your first consideration in any marketing and promotion plan. Why? Consider the following facts. A group of 488
Southern California businesses began to collectively poll their 7,200 first-time customers in 1997. They wanted to know how these customers had found out about their businesses. Here are the results:

  • Business Signage ------46%
  • Word of Mouth ---------38%
  • Newpaper Ads -----------7%
  • Yellow Pages -----------6%
  • Radio Commercial -------2%
  • Television Commercial - 1%

The conclusions from this survey are very clear. 1.) The signs on these businesses effectively speak to potential customers, and 2.) Signs are the most effective form of advertising for the small and independent business person.

TIP #2 The most important concern is bringing in more paying customers, not how much you can save on your signage costs.


Your sign should be of a sufficient height and size to be clearly seen and unobscured by trees, lampposts, etc. Its content, both text and logo, should be legible. It should also stand out from its background. Keep this chart in mind when selecting the size of your sign(s):

TIP #3 A sign has less than two seconds to capture a consumer’s attention. Consider simple and direct messages, highly visible letters, easy to read type styles, illumination and contrasting colors. The most readable background colors are white and yellow. The most legible letters are black, dark blue and red. Using a border can help a viewer absorb information 26% faster.


That’s “too much information” and “too many messages.” We are overwhelmed by thousands of messages daily. Not only have we become adept at absorbing lots of data, we have also become skilled at tuning out obnoxious messages. Often a good, crisp presentation is best. You don’t need to inform your customers of everything you can do, you just want to capture their interest enough to have them call or come in. Maximum length of your message should be three to five words. Then leave 30 - 40% of your sign area blank.

TIP #4 Make your point with as few words as possible. If you can’t fit your message on a bumper sticker, then your message is too long.


A well-placed and attractive sign communicates to your ideal customer the true flavor of your business. Well-designed indoor signage reinforces your image. Sure, you want to stand out from the crowd, but be sure to temper the information on your signage by maintaining harmony with your setting. You don’t want to look like a pair of brown shoes in a tuxedo store! Consider the other signs near your business. Some beach communities prefer the look of sandblasted wood signs. An area known for its restaurants can be characterized by lighted dimensional signs. Often you can make your business stand out by having a simple but elegant sign, by incorporating a great design or by featuring materials no one else is using.

TIP #5 Select a design for your sign that reflects the key strength of your company—the service or product that your customers most value. Using an outside designer or good sign company can help you achieve this goal.


Now that you are ready to have your masterpiece produced, there is just one more gating factor: municipal codes. It is always wise to find out what is required by code enforcement before requesting a sign permit and/or creating your new sign.

Usually there are two sets of codes that will affect your signage decisions. Often business parks, historical areas and other developments will have their own sign criteria and these can be stricter than city codes. Be sure to check with your property manager or the city itself to find out if there is a sign criteria or “architectural overlay” before relying solely on the city’s requirements. Part of the approval process may even include sign off by your landlord or property manager.

The second element is the city code itself. You can avoid wasting a lot of time by calling your city planning department in advance to find out what is required. You do have the option of appealing the local sign code, to request what is called a “variance,” but be prepared for long waits and a frustrating appeals process.

TIP #6 It is vital to plan ahead. Cities are getting stricter about what types of outdoor signage they will allow. Find out what is acceptable before you make any other decisions that might cost you money.


Time and weather are the great enemies of outdoor signs. Imagine going to a restaurant and noticing that their sign is full of bird nests. Makes you wonder what else they are not maintaining, doesn’t it? There are many new materials coming on the market today that have superior weatherability. Some manufacturers today are guaranteeing their plastics for life against fading or cracking. LEDs are much more lasting than neon and use less power.

TIP #7 While a great sign will bring in customers, a poorly maintained one will drive them away. Make sure the materials to be used in your new sign will last as long as possible. Inspect your sign(s) regularly for cleanliness, aging and operability.

At Sign Art Etc “Good Signs=Good Business,” meaning that good signage can produce positive results for a company, and ultimately boost the bottom line. Sign Art Etc is built on Teamwork…Creativity… Reliability. Every Time. Call us today for a free quote.

Copyright 2009 by Doug Ellenberger