How Can You Make Your Signage Stand Out?

By John R. Aberle | Sales and Marketing

Aug 05

Five years ago, Sally and Mark opened a boutique custom framing shop and an art gallery. Mark’s expertise is doing art pieces in stained glass, including stained glass windows. It’s still a small business with four part-time employees plus themselves. They are hoping to grow their business. Recently Sally realized that their size is looking old and tired, but what kind of a signage will stand out so as to help their business grow?

Picture showing signage with various stores and restaurant’s signs on Universal City's City Walk for John R. Aberle’s article “How Can You Make Your Signage Stand Out?”

Signage at Universal City’s City Walk

Their friend and small business consultant, Frank Robertson suggested she read Rieva Lesonsky’s article about signage on the SBA blog for some really good tips.

Effective Business Signage: 6 Factors

What’s the first thing that prospective customers see when they approach your business? Your signage tells them where you are, draws their attention and attracts them into your business (or possibly drives them away). Summing up your business brand for the world to see, your business signage creates that all-important first impression. How can you ensure it’s a good one? Whether you’re developing signage for a new business, or updating signage for an existing business, here are some things to consider.

  1. What are the constraints affecting signage in your area? Your city’s local zoning ordinances will typically govern the type of signage a business can have. For instance, there may be restrictions on the size of a sign, how it can be lighted and even the colors used. Your business location (such as a strip center, mall or downtown pedestrian area) may have its own restrictions. For instance, in one shopping center near my home, all businesses’ signs have to use the same font and a limited palette of colors to create a more uniform look.
  2. What do you want to include in your sign? Your sign is a 24/7 branding tool, so ideally, you want to include your business logo and use your business’s color palette so that your signage harmonizes with the other visual aspects of your brand. However, if you have a complex logo or can’t use it for other reasons (such as zoning restrictions), try to at least use fonts and colors that tie in with your brand.
  3. Think practical. We’ve all seen examples of the business whose store sign is in a beautiful script that looks pretty, but is impossible to read—especially if you’re whizzing by in a car going 45 miles an hour. Always remember that the purpose of your sign is 1) to help customers find you and 2) to get prospects to notice you. A hard-to-read sign might attract attention of prospects with time on their hands (“What’s that say?”), but it will only frustrate customers trying to find you. Make sure your business signage is large enough, contrasting enough and the font clear enough to be easily readable from across the street, across the parking lot or wherever else your customers may be coming from.
  4. Consider placement. Where your signage is placed has a big effect, too. A sign that’s easy to read when lit at night may be hard to see in the bright light of day, when there’s a lot of glare or when the sun hits it from a certain direction. Before investing in a permanent sign, try testing a banner with the same colors, fonts and font sizes in different places on your building. You may discover that you need signs on two sides of your building; that tall trucks parked nearby block the view of your sign; or that a neighbor’s awning obstructs it from the street. Best to learn this now before you spend money on permanent installation.
  5. Investigate additional signage options. Talk to your property landlord about options for additional signage to help attract more attention to your business. For instance, if your business is far off the street in the back of a big shopping center or office park, it may be impossible for customers to see from the road. In this case, see if the center will consider putting up directional signs at the center entrances listing which businesses are where. Strengthen your case by getting other businesses to ask for the same thing.
  6. Keep it up. Once your sign is up, spend the time and money to maintain it. Replace burned-out bulbs promptly and keep it clean. Nothing turns prospective customers off like a broken or partially burned-out sign. It tells people you don’t care—and when they see that, they won’t care to do business with you.

Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger. “Effective Business Signage: 6 Factors,” SBA, Blogs – Industry Word. Published: August 3, 2015, Updated: August 4, 2015.

Additional Considerations
While Rieva Lesonsky did a marvelous job with these size points, here are a few additional tips:

  • Consider adding your tagline if it’s short and descriptive, as opposed to just clever.

A couple examples are Chick-Fil-A’s “The original chicken sandwich” or Applebee’s “Neighborhood Grill & Bar.”

  • Keep it simple enough to be read quickly.

The only role of your signage, as Rieva Lesonsky said, is to tell them where you are, to draw their attention and to attract them into your business.

  • Whenever possible, have your sign lit even during daylight hours unless its position is such that the sunlight wipes out the lighting.

Light against a darker background tends to draw the eye. While not appropriate for all businesses, some, especially standalone buildings or commercial sites, can benefit from brightly colored awnings that are back lit so as to stand out more at most times of the day.

Lighting really helps people know you are still in business, especially if you have strong polarization on your window that makes it look dark inside even when you have your interior lights on.

To add to her point that you should “Keep it up,” when your sign is faded and in bad repair, it leaves the impression that you are either out of business or struggling financially.

Window or door signs

  • Include your phone number, your website URL, and your hours
  • A few simple bullets are fine but skip the catalog approach

Signs are much like any marketing “copy,” such as titles and subtitles in an article. Their purpose is to attract the prospect’s eye and entice them to look further. Signage often provides prospects their first impression of you and your business. Make sure it’s easily readable to someone driving by and that it looks attractive and fresh.

To read my posts on business and marketing, like these additional tips added to Rieva Lesonsky’s article, as well as various aspects of living a well-rounded life, follow me on Google+. When you comment or share, I will respond so we can begin a conversation. I am most active on Google+ so don’t always replay on Facebook or Twitter.

Building your profits through strong relationships,


John R. Aberle, Scriberle
Aberle Enterprises

You can find me on Google+ , FacebookTwitter or Pinterest.

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About the Author

I have a strong love for small businesses, especially brick and mortar companies. After an 18-year career in sales and marketing, I started my own service company, which I grew in both sales and profits for the first five years. In my sixth year, the bottom dropped out of the printer market such that it made more sense to sell my assets and return to Southern California. There I went to work for an international small business consulting company. I spent over three years on the road with them helping small businesses to become more profitable and better managed. I then started my own company specializing in sales and marketing consulting, coaching and training. My emphasis is on heart-centered, relationship selling that empowers prospects to make their own choices.