5 Steps for Finding the Perfect Sign for Your Storefront

A great storefront sign can act as a magnet, pulling in your perfect target, but a poorly chosen sign can actually drive potential customers away from your business.
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Your storefront is your invitation to customers to enter your shop. Make sure yours is up to the challenge with the right sign. (Photo: Monkey Business Images)

Choosing a storefront sign is one of the most important decisions a small business owner can make.

“Your signage says a lot about your brand,” said Eric Lanel, creative director for GWP Inc., an ad agency in Montclair, New Jersey. “A smart sign can be a huge attention grabber for your business and can act as a magnet pulling in your perfect target.” Conversely, a poorly chosen sign can turn potential customers off to your business.

Eric Lanel, Creative Director

According to Eric Lanel, Creative Director of GWP Inc, the signage of your business says a lot about your brand to customers. (Photo: Eric Lanel)

With so many different signage options available today, it can be tough to know where to start. Follow these five steps to help you find the perfect sign for your small business’ storefront.

Related: 7 Ways to Boost the Curb Appeal of Your Small Business

Research and refine multiple ideas

When getting started on your store’s exterior signage, it helps to first identify the styles and materials you like — and those you don’t, said Jim Morris, owner of digital printing firm Classic Colour Copying in Melbourne, Australia.

“Research what others have done, historical precedents and industry canons, and get inspired to do your own thing,” he advised. “Make a clear brief for your sign. Constraint when designing produces stronger ideas.”

Once you have a list of signage elements that you find appealing, develop and refine your ideas, he said. “Don’t get stuck on one idea. Get three good options to take to your meetings.”

Understand zoning regulations

Next, make sure you research and understand local zoning regulations, as well as any limits by the property owner, if your building is leased.

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Zoning regulations for signage can vary from area to area. For example, posting an illuminated sign in some areas involves acquiring a special permit. (Photo: Thoom/Shutterstock)

Related: Should You Buy a Building for Your Small Business?

For instance, some municipalities require special permits for businesses to install illuminated signs, and others may not allow them at all. If illuminated signage is allowed for your building, make sure you know the state and local laws around the times your sign can be on and how bright it can be.

Build a budget

The budget for your signage project will depend on a number of factors, such as durability, installation requirements and general maintenance needs.

Morris suggested asking yourself, “Does this sign need to last forever or is it temporary? Can it just be a low-cost solution to last a month, or is it worth investing in permanence?” This will help you determine what type of investment you should make.

Related: 6 Secrets to Creating an Effective Business Budget

Exterior signage can be made from a number of materials — from painted plywood or glass to printed fabrics and even metal or stone. Also consider local weather conditions and other environmental factors that can impact the longevity of your exterior signage investment.

Installation and maintenance costs are also important to think through. “Big signs might need a big crane, which may mean traffic management costs. Small signs may only need a ladder. Best to find this out now rather than later,” said Morris.

Ensure brand consistency

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“A business’s brand, value and attitude should be factored into the construction of a sign.” -Jim Morris (Photo: Jim Morris)

Regardless of whether you include your logo on your storefront, it’s critical to make sure your sign accurately reflects your small business’s brand.

“Your signage can help people get a feeling about who you are,” explained Lanel. “A smart logo becomes an entranceway to your brand.”

Morris said, “A business’s brand, value and attitude should be factored into the construction of a sign. For instance, if your business stands for quality, professionalism and robustness, then you would not make a sign out of a scrap cardboard box and three crayons; you would invest in the perfect sign that exemplifies your values.”

Also consider how you can best leverage your sign’s location. A prominent, eye-catching sign can increase your business’s exposure to current and potential customers.

“It gives your business a focal point and represents your business and its values,” Morris said. “Great signs can become a landmark and never stop working.”

Related: Outdoor Advertising Ideas that Work For Small Businesses

Partner up

Both Lanel and Morris advised that small business owners partner with an experienced vendor for their storefront project.

“Hiring a partner with experience in branding and signage can go a long way,” said Lanel. “They will be able to help you gain the proper permits, ensure that the look and feel you are going for is accomplished and will work within the rules and regulations of the city/state in which your business is located.”

Morris suggested vetting a number of signage businesses before making a decision. “Realize they all have different skills, ideas and technology. Pick whoever you feel understands your idea, meets your budget and is best able to distill your idea into a real item.”

Be sure to discuss in detail what you want with your signage company and provide them with clear written expectations, budgets and timeframes for your project, he said.

“Remember, a great sign can be a wonderful tool for your business,” said Lanel. “Based on your sign location and your goals, you have many options available to you.”

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