Q&A: Business Signs

May 23, 2013

Q: My business is on a busy street. Since I get most of my new business from referrals, it seems to me that I do not really need to invest a lot of money in a big sign. My budget is limited, and I think my marketing dollars would go further elsewhere. But where?


Steven D. Strauss: I think you may be missing a golden opportunity. Sure, right now you may be getting most of your new clientele from word of mouth. Consider, however, how much more business you may get if, in fact, you have a big, bold sign.

Your question reminded me of when I went into a business that I hadn’t frequented before, although I had driven past it many times. Previously, I had no need for what it sold—pet supplies. (We have a new puppy.) But now I did. And when the time came for me to choose a company to give my business to, I chose this one. Why? Because of its sign.

One of the main benefits of having a great sign is that it creates consistent branding. Each time someone drives by your business and sees your sign, you get remembered just a little more. Not only that, a good sign generates impulse purchases and attracts new customers.

McDonald’s spends, on average, $40,000 on signage for every store. Why? Because studies have shown that that $40,000 can generate up to $600,000 in sales. A recent survey, over a 10-year period, of businesses that had installed a new sign looked at the source of new customers. Forty-five percent of those new customers said they came into the business for the first time because of the sign.

What you want is a sign that works day and night, that stands out, and that is not too busy. This last point is essential. As people drive down the road, they are obviously concentrating on driving—not your business or its sign. They don’t have much time to read a sign. So you have to make it simple, clear, and direct, and it has to relay the fundamental idea quickly. Here are some examples:

  • Western Pet Supply—“We have it all, for less!”
  • Carpet World—“Elegance Underfoot”
  • Tito’s Tacos—“Voted the best in town”

These signs convey a benefit to the consumer—simply. You could also add your phone number or URL, but the need for more than that is questionable. Remember, time is short. People drive by quickly. When I see a sign with too much information, I wonder who the owner thinks will take the time, or have the interest, to read all of it.

This article appears courtesy of SCORE, Mentors to America’s Small Businesses. Get free advice from more than 12,000 volunteer business mentors in more than 340 chapters across the nation at www.score.org. Steven D. Strauss is a lawyer and writer and is one of the country's leading experts on small business as well as an international business speaker. The best-selling author of 17 books, his latest is the all-new 3rd ed. of The Small Business Bible. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success Powered by Greatland, visit his new website for the self-employed, TheSelfEmployed, follow him on Twitter, and "like" TheSelfEmployed on Facebook. You can e-mail Steve at: sstrauss@mrallbiz.com. © Steven D. Strauss

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