Signage: Important Marketing Tool for Small Businesses

09 Oct 2008

Trynka Shineman

Trynka Shineman is chief marketing officer of VistaPrint, the small business marketing company.  For more information on VistaPrint go to

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When thinking about small business marketing, the standard means of promotion such as newspaper ads and postcard mailings most often come to mind.  While these “tried and true” methods can be effective, they are not the most cost efficient for a business just getting off the ground.

Local newspaper ads don’t draw very much attention for the size and it is difficult to stand out.   Filming a television ad can be very costly, and a poorly made one can make your business appear unprofessional.

Small businesses need to immediately gain visibility and build brand recognition in the minds of consumers, but how?  This can be achieved in an easy and rapid way:  through the use of effective signage.  By putting a company name, logo, and contact information on things like window decals, car door magnets, and lawn signs customers are quickly introduced to your business for a very small investment.

But how and where you use these various products is paramount to success.

Location, Location, Location

A prime retail location can make all the difference for a new business.  Being in a high traffic area almost guarantees that people will be drawn into your store and at the very least aware of the products or services you provide.  Of course, these locations come with a price which often excludes a small business.  This doesn’t mean however that a business is out of luck if it is in a less-traveled area.

Building familiarity with a target market is as simple as displaying your company’s name, logo and message near a busy road.  A professional and durable way to do this is to use one of the customizable lawn signs that are now on the market, and very cost effective.  Many retailers offer these at low prices, so any small business can get 10 for well under $100.

Make sure to keep the sign simple so people can understand what you are advertising as they are passing.  Using your logo and message on the sign will also help to build your brand.  Someone may not be in need of your service now, but they will be more likely to remember you in the future if they are continuously exposed to your services.  Holding specials or sales on a regular basis give you another great reason to draw people into your store.  Displaying bright signs advertising the sale at the nearest busy road grabs people’s attention and alerts them of the event.

For service-based businesses who are often at different locations around town, a lawn sign is a must have.  Displaying your sign at a job site advertises your business to your target market.  Oftentimes you can enter into an agreement with a customer to display your lawn sign in exchange for discounts on products or services.  If one person needs a housekeeping company more often than not their neighbors will as well. The lawn sign will give an idea of what service you provide and hopefully encourage a customer to contact you.   For a landscaping business or painter, these signs allow potential clients to see firsthand the level of service you provide, which is extremely valuable.  Always be sure to include a phone number and/or website on the signs so customers can contact you or find out more information.

Moving Advertisement

Think about the amount of time you spend in the car and all the people and places you encounter even while just running errands on a Saturday.  Now imagine if you could tell each one of those people about your business and give them your contact information.  The truth is a car can actually be a moving billboard for your company.  Car door magnets can be personalized for your business and placed on either the door or back of your car.  This allows everyone you are driving by to be exposed to your company and contact information for a minimal cost.  Again, retailers are making these products more available, many offering them for as little as $10.

It is also a good idea to invest in smaller window decals.  These can be placed in your own car windows, as well as your shop’s window.  They can inform people walking or driving by of unique sales, discounts, or specials you are running.  They can be used as a moving or stationary advertisement, and another way to increase awareness about what your business is offering.  These small and simple marketing materials can turn into big visibility for your company.

Again, be sure to keep messaging simple so potential customers can easily tell what your business is, the service you provide and how they can contact you.  Having a good logo is also essential, especially when using it on signs.  Your logo is the image of your business, so keep it professional and make sure it reflects what you company does.  Using the logo on all forms of signage will strengthen your brand and help people to remember the service you provide.

Think Outside the Box

A small marketing budget can seem like a curse for a company just getting started.  In reality, this shouldn’t hold you back; it should just force you to be more creative.  Using signage in different ways can help set you apart from the pack when used in unique ways.  Some trial and error may be involved, but always be sure to ask your customers how they heard of you so you can get direct feedback on what works the best for your company.