Jeff Moore knows that when your store is located in one of the largest malls in America, you have seconds to engage customers and get them to walk in. That's why the partner of the shoe boutique, Stilettos, relies heavily on signage.
“Signs are the primary vehicle that bring people into the store,” says Moore, whose shop is in the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania. “As a small merchant, it pays to look like the big guys, and our signs help us do that. People often walk into the store commenting on the quality of our signage.”
Signs brand a business, promote sales and drive traffic, says Sruly Markowitz, COO of StoreSigns.com, a company that has developed signage for large retail entities like Zales and now offers signage services to small-business owners. “Studies have shown that signage has more influence over shoppers than social media, websites and e-mail marketing.”
Knowing the qualities to look for in effective signage helps you take advantage of this tried-and-true form of marketing.
Winning signs feature attractive, engaging photos or illustrations. Before your sign is printed, check artwork, suggests Carrol Caldwell, owner of Wall Words in Santa Ana, Calif. Her company creates business signage, including vinyl lettering for walls and windows, digital posters and banners.
“In the case of digital signs that contain a photo or illustration, if the sign will be viewed close-up, it's important that the artwork is 300 DPI, whereas a sign seen from a distance can be 72 DPI,” says Caldwell.
The words on your sign are equally important. Avoid confusion by using a maximum of three fonts on each sign, and make sure the letters are large enough to read from a distance. For vinyl window lettering, Caldwell says to use a light, bright color, as darker hues don't stand out. Avoid a cluttered look on the sign by aiming for brevity with your message.
Considering how important great looks are, Markowitz suggests that small business owners hire a graphic artist if sign design doesn't fall within your area of expertise. “Getting assistance is especially important if you are going directly to a printer for your sign, because printers specialize in printing, not design,” he says.
Not surprisingly, top-quality signs are made from high-quality ingredients. “It's important that the paper used is premium and the printers are properly color-calibrated,” says Markowitz, whose company uses products like 10-point durable premium paper stock and 13-ounce outdoor vinyl banner material.
“Cheap, thin paper crinkles and fails to hang well, although if the paper is too thick, it will curl up when hung, because it was rolled in a tube for shipping,” he says. “Ideally, the paper weight/thickness should depend on how much ink is used on the sign.”
Fortunately, a high quality sign doesn't have to cost a fortune. Brick-and-mortar and on-line sign shops usually charge by the foot for large signs, which varies by the materials used. Paper and vinyl are relatively inexpensive and static cling and one-way see-through signs like those found on buses are more expensive.
As a general rule, Markowitz says that large signs can run as low as $1 per square foot for banners and as much as $10 per square foot for small signs. Caldwell's 5- to 6-foot vinyl window signs generally run $100, including installation. If you require graphic design assistance, it usually costs between $75 to $200, plus the cost of stock photos at $10 to $50 apiece.
In today's challenging economic climate, it pays to know that you can inexpensively and effectively copy the large chains and reap the benefits of traffic-stopping signage.
A freelancer since 1985, Julie Bawden-Davis has written for many publications, including Entrepreneur, Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle. Julie blogs via Contently.com.
Photo credit: iStock