A quality sign is one of the most important business tools you can buy.  Signage is the least expensive, but most effective form of advertising.  Studies have shown that signage can be responsible for up to 50% of your customers.

Purchasing the correct sign for your business can be confusing, especially if you’ve never purchased a sign before.  This article will discuss the different aspects of signage, the decisions you will need to make when purchasing a sign, and the questions you should ask your sign professional.

Choosing the Right Sign Professional

The key to bringing all the elements together in buying a sign is to select the right sign company.  If branding consistency is important to you, it is best to choose one sign company that can meet your signage needs.

Browse the prospective company’s website to see examples of their work.  (This may also help the design process if you find a sign that you love).  Find out how long they have been in business, and what their specialties are.  Finally, talk to a salesperson and explain what you’re looking for.  This conversation should be part technical discussion, part artistic brainstorming session, and part job interview.

Your prospective sign professional should bring up many, if not all, of the aspects of your project.  You should also feel comfortable offering feedback on the designs and construction methods suggested by the salesperson or designer.

Finally, your prospective sign professional should be willing to be perfectly honest with you.  If you are describing a sign that’s outside your budget, they should tell you, and offer a more budget-friendly alternative.  There are many levels of sign materials that will look the same on day one.  It’s what they look like after a year or two that makes the ultimate difference.  Discuss this with the salesperson or designer to ensure that you know exactly what you are buying.

Budget

The first decision you have to make is how much you are prepared to spend on your sign.  How long will it need to last?  Buying an inexpensive sign will be easier on your bank account in the short term, but it will need to be replaced sooner than a more expensive sign.  Paying a little more for a sign with a longer projected life span may be a better long-term solution.  Having a firm budget in mind from the beginning will allow your prospective sign professional to suggest the proper type of sign, speeding up the design/purchase process.

Exterior Sign Size & Placement

How big does your new sign need to be?  If this is an exterior sign, call your local municipality to determine how large a sign you’re allowed to have.  Your local zoning officer can also tell you about any other signage restrictions, height & setback requirements, and explain the permitting process.

Once you’ve determined the maximum size allowed by law, take a look at the property on which the sign will be erected.  How many lanes of traffic are there?  What’s the speed limit?  Your prospective sign professional should be able to tell you how tall the letters on your new sign need to be based on this information.

Placement of the sign is also a concern.  Is the sign going to be perpendicular to the road, or parallel to it?  Are there visual obstructions that will make the sign difficult to read?  Studies have shown that a commercial sign mounted to the front of a building, parallel to the road, needs to be at least 70% larger than a ground-mounted sign installed perpendicular to the road, to achieve the same readability.

Design

Successful signage involves more than creating an attractive arrangement of logos and slogans.  The ultimate marketing purpose of the sign should be taken into consideration, as well as the demographics of your target customer base.  Complicating this task is the fact that the viewer is normally moving as they see your sign, so the sign must be seen, read, and understood in an instant.  Partnering with a professional sign designer is key to creating a successful sign.  The rules for designing a sign are quite different than the rules for web or print media.  The graphic artist that designed your logo or business cards may not have the experience to design an effective sign.

Your on-premise sign should identify your business, mark its location, and convey the correct image of your company.  However, the most important thing it should communicate is what you are selling.

Different types of businesses have different signage needs, because they serve different purposes, and reach out to different customers.  To ensure that your signage is specifically marketing to your customers, you must first determine the category of your business.

Businesses that offer products or services that meet specialized or infrequent needs must develop top-of-mind awareness so people remember the business when those needs arise.  Examples of this type of business include veterinarians, appliance and electronics stores, locksmiths, medical and dental offices, and real estate offices.  These businesses must focus on branding their site.  The focus of this type of signage should be to project the right image of the business, and have that image easily recalled.  When a customer visits this type of business for the first time, it’s likely that they’ve already noticed the business sign, developed an opinion of the business, and remembered the business when it was needed.

Other businesses that are designed to meet frequent or impulse needs must reach out and pull customers in on the spot.  Examples of this type of business include grocery stores, gas stations, hotels, restaurants, convenience stores, and car washes.  These businesses must be noticed and recognized at precisely the right time by those ready to buy.  Therefore, their storefront signage should be eye-catching, with a brief, simple message that can be read and understood quickly.  Many of these businesses rely heavily on attracting tourists and need to be sure that those unfamiliar with the business can tell right away what is sold there.

Illumination

Lighting is essential for most exterior signage.  It allows your sign to be visible and legible day and night, in all kinds of weather.  Another benefit of illuminated signage is that it advertises your business 24 hours a day.  Even when your business is closed, prospective customers will see your sign.  That constant reminder will help build memory of your business.  Your local municipality may have restrictions on the type of illumination that is allowed, but rarely is it prohibited to illuminate a sign at all.

When you select the color scheme for your business, you should consider the type of illumination you want for your sign.  Certain colors, blue for example, are not optimal for an internally-illuminated sign.  Additionally, some types of illumination are much better than others at accurately reflecting the exact colors incorporated in your logo.

Making Sure the Sign is Up to Code

Before you plan your sign, it’s important to get a feel for sign codes and regulations in your township. Each area has its own rules in place for the type of signage it allows. Check out our guides for Chester, Delaware, Bucks, and Montgomery Counties.

You are now fully armed with the knowledge you need to design and purchase the correct sign for your business.  Happy sign-shopping!