Small businesses: Make signs work for you
Sept. 27, 2010 at 4:27 a.m.
Updated Sept. 28, 2010 at 4:28 a.m.
NEED MORE HELP?Contact the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center, 3402 N. Ben Wilson St., at 361-575-8944, or visit www.sbdc.uhv.edu.
Who are you? Where are you? When are you open? You're on-premise sign should answer these questions.
Unfortunately, that is not the case with all businesses. Consequently, they lose potential revenue because of a lack of or poor signage.
The addition of new signage to previously unsigned buildings, and the replacement of existing signage - generally, with larger ones - resulted in average revenue increase of 5 percent, according to a study performed in the 1990s by University of San Diego.
How many of you could handle a 5-percent sales increase this month? Yes, it will cost money to buy a sign but if it attracts the most customers, and projects the image you desire, it's the cheapest asset you own that can give you the biggest return.
So what else should an on-premise sign do for you?
It should develop a location memory for customers and communicate the products/services available at that location. Your sign should work to reinforce a memory and extend recall of other advertising efforts. It's important to have professional signage because it can create assumptions of ambiance and quality.
Your sign attracts new customers by prompting first-time or impulse visits and purchases. If your signage is effective, it will get me as a new customer to stop and check out what you have to offer.
On the other hand, poor or ineffective signage can have a negative effect. Numerous times I drive by a local business and the signage just doesn't persuade me to enter. Others leave me with an assumption of what they sell, and when I visit the business, I find it actually sells something very different.
How can I determine if my current signage is effective?
Sign companies offer services that may help. You also can survey your customers and get their feedback on your signage, and if it is effective in bringing them to your business.
Ask your customers questions about your existing signage - questions about the words, colors, size and whether they can recall what it looks like from memory. You may learn they remember your logo, but not the words; or that the color is what stands out in their minds.
Listen closely and carefully because their answers can help you determine current effectiveness of your sign and/or what you might do differently with a new sign. Thank your customers for their time and input by giving them something that further reinforces your business' product/service - such as a discount for future use, or a promotional item with your business name or logo.
Signage is the central component of your marketing plan. It establishes brand identity - how you want to be seen - and brand image - how you are seen. When we need a product or service, our initial mental response is an image. A sign on display year-round may do more to communicate your brand identity than all your other marketing efforts combined.
Remember, your sign works 24/7, 365 days a year. Also note that 35-50 percent of the consumer population today shops outside their local area. But if you think everyone in town already knows where you are located even without a sign, look at the large percentage of potential customers you are not reaching.
Remember to check with your city's signage ordinances to make sure your sign will be in compliance. Do research to determine the right size in relation to the street speed limit and the most effective color contrast for its location.
To learn more about how to determine what sign will be right for your business, look for our upcoming free seminar called "Where are you located?"
Also don't hesitate to use professional sign makers that have the experience needed to make your signage work for you.
Lisa Barr is a certified senior business adviser with the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center. Tip of the Week publishes once a week.