The value of signage

Take a trip with me down most main streets, in most cities, in most of the world. What is the one thing that is constant? Signage. It comes in all shapes, sizes and substrates. Some of it is good and some of it is pretty terrible, but it is there nonetheless. The best part is that it isn’t going anywhere!
Certain pundits will try to tell you that mobile and digital signage is dominating the marketing landscape. Fortunately, this just isn’t true. In fact, these media have so many barriers to entry that the majority of businesses (small ones) can only afford traditional signage. This presents a huge opportunity for those of us in the print and graphics industry.
It doesn’t matter if you are a printer, graphic designer or marketer, your goal should be to find products and services that add value to your customers. Signage adds value. Signs are everywhere and since many of them are temporary, they need replacing on a regular basis (e.g. a new “sale” sign, a new “grand opening” sign or a new “now hiring” sign). These are all opportunities for us to capitalize on buyers’ needs.
The key question then becomes, how does one take advantage of these opportunities? Well, here are three simple ways:
Talk to Customers – Successful marketing comes from knowing what customers want. As members of the graphics community, sometimes that is easier said than done. We can assume that a new business might need things like point of sale signs, or maybe a sign displaying office hours, but often the customer doesn’t know what he wants or needs. So, ask questions, but not just about signage. Ask about how he plans to grow his business and how he plans to market himself. What this does is identify unique opportunities for us as graphics professionals to meet those “unknown” needs. I guarantee, if you can help a client find a new or better way to market his business, he will return when he needs the staples.
Listen to Customers – This goes hand-in-hand with number #1, but many times we are so busy making sure jobs get done on time, that accounting is all ship-shape, and that our processes are running smoothly, that we neglect to see the opportunities right in front of us. At Signs.com, we call the purchase of signage a “To-Do” item. Basically, this means that most individuals or business owners have it on their to-do list, and will get around to it when they can. It is our job to help them move that purchasing decision up the list. Let’s use a local printer as an example. Customer A comes in and says, “I need some business cards right away for my new shop. I don’t have anything to hand out to people to let them know I am in the community.” As a printer, what you should have heard is, “Help! I have been so busy getting my store ready, I forgot about what I need to do to let people know I’m here.” By thinking in these terms, you stop looking at the business card job as a one-off project with a tangible result to looking at it as an opportunity to develop a long term relationship with a customer.
Partner – In any business, it is really easy as owners, executives and managers to develop tunnel vision when it comes to running our companies. One thing I learned early on is that I can’t be all things to all people. The reason I mention printers, designers and marketers in this article is because signage presents a unique opportunity for all three professions; just in very different ways. On the flip side, all three are symbiotic. Designers and marketers may design signs but they probably don’t print them. Printers may print signs, but they might not have a reliable designer to help customers get the exact look they need. So, seek out those partnerships that can be mutually beneficial.
By transitioning our thought processes from one of fulfilling orders to one of fulfilling needs, we can significantly impact the success of our businesses. Signage is a great way to expand your portfolio and create lifelong customers in the process. Although it might take a little rethinking and maybe a few changes in how you do business, doing it right can add a lot of value to your company.

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