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The Many Pathways to Signage Profits

Industry professionals outline the best forms of signage for awards shops.

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There are many different ways to profit from signage for awards retailers. The path that makes the most sense depends on the shop’s current skills and direction it desires to go. Here are a few wise considerations for shops looking to add profit through the signage market.

THE LOGIC

It’s hard to think of a company that doesn’t require signage of some sort, says Don D’Antonio, Innovative Plastics Inc., and most require more than one form. This means that awards shops adding signage services can diversify their business through their current customers in addition to any potential new clients.

From a broad view, that is the general logic that suggests every awards shop should add signage services. On a micro level, Kenan Hanhan, Gemini Sign Products, says the reasons can vary from case to case. “In many cases, awards shops already have invested in the equipment… that can also be used for various sign fabrication applications. In other cases, many customers prefer to deal with one source for their award and recognition and signage/branding needs.”

Hanhan continues, “If an award shop already has specialized machines and equipment that are similar to traditional sign company equipment, it simply comes down to whether the owner wants to commit assets to offer another product line. If not, a company owner can simply outsource its signage product line.”

Jordan Brown, Rowmark, adds to that point. “Awards shops… are in a great position because they already have the equipment to fabricate signage and access to the manufacturers and distributors that provide products for sign making.”

Ariel Wegner, Gyford Standoff Systems, turns to the numbers for reasons to add signage. “The signage and billboard industry brought in $12.4 billion in revenue during the five years leading up to 2015 with steady growth projected at over three percent for 2016, according to a report by IBIS World (2015).”

SIGNAGE AVENUES

It’s a good idea for awards shops to enter the sign industry, but similar to traveling through any city to any destination, there are a number of avenues along the way that, for one reason or another, one might choose to turn down or drive past.

Commenting on the best route to adding signage, Hanhan says, “Anything is possible, but it all depends on the ambition and entrepreneurial drive of owner. However, we’ve found… that getting into ADA and wayfinding signage makes sense, particularly for those shops that have laser engraving or routing capabilities.”

Wegner adds, “Wayfinding or wayfaring signage makes the most sense. These types of signs are typically small and would not require a large footprint in the awards store for manufacturing equipment.”

Another common path into signage, Hanhan continues, is through reselling cast architectural plaques for building dedication and identification. “If you think about it, building or experiential ‘place’ dedication is essentially a recognition of sorts, so it would make sense for decision makers who have a need for building dedication to come to their local awards shop to find a solution.”

For large undertakings, the time it takes to get a sign project, draw it, sell it and install it can amount to months, says Hanhan. In this instance, he recommends starting slow and small.

Brown advises a cautious approach as well. “If you are new to diversifying your business from being solely an awards retailer, start small by offering one new type of signage. Grow your business and expand into new signage markets when you are ready. Also consider what types of signage best complement the sign-making equipment you already own.”

For example, if a shop only has a laser, they could opt for wayfinding or informational signage. A laser is also great for cutting out uniquely shaped sign designs or for cutting out layered components that create sign designs that sell, Brown adds. If a shop has a laser and a UV-LED printer, she continues, the sky is the limit. “You can cut out uniquely shaped signage components and print vibrant imagery, graphics or text on signage substrates.”

FIRST STEPS

Once an awards shop chooses the type(s) of signage it wants to focus on, the next decision to be made is how to proceed. As with the types of signs themselves, there are a number of options.

Wegner suggests starting by contacting the existing customer base to make them aware of the new products. “This can be done very simply via email marketing, social media and in-shop signage. Create high-quality brochures printed to show the new product and include one with every quote or sales invoice,” she recommends. For wayfinding signs, meet with project managers or interior designers at architectural firms and drop off samples.

According to Hanhan, design is one of the first departments to address. Find a good sign designer or a graphic artist that has experience translating a graphic design concept into dimensional signage. “Then, find a reputable manufacturer that can take care of the manufacturing end,” he advises.

He also suggests that awards shops outsource medium to large projects for quality and time factors. All small projects can be done in-house to get hands-on experience. This way, an awards shop can get their feet wet and reduce possible waste and wasted time.

D’Antonio says education is among the first steps. Learn the qualities, strengths and weaknesses of the materials. Learn the applicable guidelines. There is a whole skill set that needs to be understood to really give the customer what they need. The person taking the order needs to know the right questions to ask.

WE SELL SIGNS

One of the best reasons to offer signs is that awards shops can sell to their existing clients as well as new ones, and there are a variety of ways to let them all know of your shop’s diversified services.

“An awards shop should first get the word out about their new sign making services to their existing clientele,” says Brown. “From there, they can easily grow their business with a referral program or by expanding their promotional efforts to social media, or try doing local direct or email marketing mailers.” Another way to get the word out is to join local clubs or organizations in your community.

The strategy chosen to introduce the new service, says Wegner, really depends on the market the shop is going after. If focusing on independent stores or shopping malls in a local market, use of an outside salesperson to drop off samples, marketing collateral, and to answer questions is a great start. “Email marketing and social media announcements are becoming more of a driving force in the advertising market,” Wegner adds.

THE SIGN SHOP’S SIGNS

Finally, any awards shop looking to create and sell signs should examine their own signage with a critical eye. “The best thing an awards shop can do to get started in the sign industry is to first update their shop with signs. Update all of your internal signage, with some of your best work, not your mistakes,” Brown recommends.

Never forget that the end is a good time to review where you started, and that is often with questions. “Ask the client, ‘What are you really looking for out of this sign? How does it need to perform? What does it need to do, not just now, but over time?'” says D’Antonio. “What gauge? Finish? If it’s outside, does it need to be able to be cleaned in addition to being UV resistant? Those questions need to be asked, and shops creating signs need to have answers in the form of options for the best material for the application.” 

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Kristian Steven Wieber

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