Small Business Marketing: Business Signs are King

I worked at Nordstrom for years and moved from one of their product teams into their corporate marketing team. When I made the move into marketing, I remember the thing that shocked me most was that we had a full department focused on creating business signs. I thought, ‘Why would we need that much time devoted to signage?’ Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate that the company was focused on ensuring they were communicating effectively at every point possible, and it all started with signage.

What are business signs?

Business signs include everything from your sign on the front of your building to every aspect of how you communicate in and outside of your doors, including posters, yard signs, billboards, etc.

Why are signs so important?

Communicating clearly is a skill everyone should try to master, but it becomes even more important for small businesses. You want to make sure your customer understands your product or service, the value you bring, and why you are the right company to purchase from.

Where do I start?

First, you’ll want to outline what you want your customer to know. Are you offering a sale? Featuring a specific product? Donating profits? Launching a new product or service?

Make sure you’re giving the who/what/where/when/why/how as concisely as possible. Know that this isn’t going to be easy, and you may not need to address all of these details on one sign. Just make sure that you provide the most important details. I can’t tell you how often I see a sign or flyer that doesn’t include the date or clearly state the offer. It’s almost worse to have bad signage than to have no signage at all.

What kind of business signs should I have?

1. Exterior Signage

You will want to consider the type of company name or logo you want to use on your storefront. It could be as simple as describing the service you offer, or as elaborate as including your logo and business name in full color. You may also want to consider using a smaller format sign for walk ways outside of your business, so people can easily see when walking around. You wouldn’t want them to miss you because they didn’t know you were there.

Your exterior should also include your hours on the door. This is something not all companies think about but is mandatory. You don’t want to make your customers work hard to visit your store. If they come by and you’re closed, they’re more likely to come back if it’s easy to see when you’re open next. If you make them work for it, they are more likely to go down the street to another company.

To support a promotion, there are ways you can also add temporary signage to your storefront to draw attention. See the resources below that can help with different options for temporary signage.

2. Point of Sale Signs

When customers are paying for their products or services, this is the perfect time to tell them about current or future promotions or offers. You can do this with a sign where they purchase, notes on their receipt or flyers in their bag. This is also the best time for your employees to communicate what you have going on directly to the customer. This is an easy conversation starter for your employees who aren’t good with small talk.

3. Back of House

Don’t forget that signage for your employees is equally important to signage for your customers. You need to inform your team of the promotions, offers or events that you have currently and coming up. You can post your full promotional calendar so they have a long-term view, and then include the signage for each promotion as well. You will want to make sure you review these offers during team meetings, so your team is well versed on the talking points and can later provide feedback on how the customers responded to the promotion. You can empower your team to offer up suggestions on promotions based on what they hear from their customers.

4. Directories

Are you in a mall or neighborhood that has a directory or listing of companies in the area? This could be a website directory, station within the location or even a Facebook page. Make sure your company is included and work to build a relationship with the people who manage the directory. You want to make sure you are aware of any needed updates, promotions or other information that could impact your business.

Helpful Resources for Creating Business Signs

You will want to build a relationship with a company that can support your all your business sign needs. There are many great nationwide companies that can help. I’ve include a few companies below. Check them out and find the right company that can produce signs and even offer advice. I can’t say one company is better than another, as it all depends on the people they employ. You will find some extremely creative and helpful people ready to be a resource for your business needs.

1. Full Service (Design and Printing)

Minuteman Press – This company can help with design and printing, and they can do flyers, brochures, banners, direct mail and more. Find a location near you here.

Fast Signs – Another company that can help you from design to execution for all your signage needs. They are positioned to help a full gamut of companies from small businesses to small corporate offices. You can find a location near you here.

2. Printing Only

These companies have locations with experts in printing. You can call and request a direct email for the closest location and send your projects in with details via email. This is a very easy way for busy small business owners to manage different projects while still running their business.

FedEx Office – This is a good resource if you can do your own creative or you have someone to help you with the design of your business signs. The FedEx team will support you with the paper options and printing. You can view their signs and brochure products here or find your local store here.

UPS Stores – Another great resource for printing, and they have locations nationwide, so it’s very likely they are in your neighborhood. Find your closest location here.

3. Design Only

I’m a big fan of these easy to use sites. You can put in a design request (logo, signage, you name it) and multiple freelancers can view the request (you can view their work beforehand) and bid on the job. This is a great way to find creative resources, and once you find the right fit, you can continue to request the same person, so they get to know you and your company. Along with how easy these sites are to use, the cost is minimal, so it’s accessible to all budgets.

Fiverr – This is an online resource for freelance work and a great company to keep in mind. You will find more and more value in this site and the services these freelancers can provide. The site started with the services being $5, so don’t think all projects need to have a large ticket price. At Guidant, we use this site for video editing ($50), transcribing videos ($15) and the list goes on.

Upwork (formerly eLance) – Another online resource for freelance work. They have a more focused offering – marketing/ sales experts, writers and designers. We don’t use them, but hear that there freelancers also have reasonable pricing.

Considerations When Creating Business Signs

As you think through how you plan to promote your company throughout the year, you can start to outline the signage needs to support your efforts. It’s best to think about what you’ll need for the full year and get organized. You will also want to make sure that all of your signage is on brand and represents your company accurately. It’s easy to make a flyer that is simply designed and printed on a home computer, but does this represent your company? Be thoughtful about how you present your company in the design and writing style.

I want to reiterate how important it is to create a relationship with your local design/printing company. The more you have an ongoing relationship, the easier it will be on you to create all the different assets you’ll need to run a successful business without having to reiterate your brand guidelines every time. The perk is that it also makes it more fun to work with people you like and who understand your business needs.

If you’re just getting into small business ownership and thinking about signage is too much to start with, you can check out my blog on small business marketing here.

Bonus Tip: ‘Coming Soon’ Signs

Most companies don’t think about adding a “coming soon” sign to their storefront as they are doing construction. This is a great way to introduce that you’re coming to town and get people excited and interested in your company. Then you can transition from “coming soon” to “now open.”

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