It's 4:45 on a Friday afternoon and I'm in my office closing up. Most of my employees have left for the day and I can't wait to start my weekend too. As I flip the OPEN sign to CLOSED and lock the front door suddenly it happens – the phone rings.
On the other end of the receiver is a panicked voice wanting to know if we are still open.
"Well..." I said.
They are having a Grand Opening tomorrow and they need signs. They just finished the store fit out, and they have a store marquee sign, but they need personalized outdoor signs.
I have been in the sign business over twenty-five years and I can't tell you how many times someone has called wanting to order new business signs as an afterthought. Signs are not an afterthought - they are an integral part of your branding and marketing message. Outdoor business signs and banners are your public personae.
An open for business sign is your first impression.
On my way home, as I approached her store's location I noticed I had no clue as to what she sold inside. I was uncertain neither where to enter nor where to park. There were no signs! Once inside it was a different story. Her boutique store was amazing. It was clean, well-lit, with all new fixtures and there were all sorts of merchandise to browse.
"I can't wait to tell my wife about this store", I told her. "And without any outdoor signage, you may have to rely solely on word-of-mouth advertising."
"Maybe I should just move my merchandise to the front lawn" she joked.
"I would love to help you, but on short notice I just don't have the time to work on the proper branding that I am a firm believer of. But if you stop by my store first thing tomorrow morning I can have ready five must have outdoor business signs and banners for any new company", I said.
We were already behind schedule, so we had little time to waste. Outdoor signs should be planned out. Having the signs displayed several days before the event allows potential customers to make time to stop in and also generates word-of-mouth advertising. Taking the time to plan a grand opening event allows a sign designer the time to incorporate any logos or graphics that are included in your media or in-store signage. This also gives you time to inquire about any necessary permits for temporary signs.
I then shared with her the five types of business signs that are inexpensive and readily available for any grand opening event.
Grand Opening Banners
Grand opening banners usually use big, bold eye-catching letters and bright attention-getting colors. I like the 36" x 96" size. Anything smaller doesn't make a BIG impact and anything larger usually acts like a windsock and blows away. The banners are usually made out of a temporary vinyl canvas material, which makes them inexpensive, but the material doesn't last very long outdoors.
The temporary banners are often attached with ropes and grommets, which are kind of difficult to make nice and neat. So make sure you get a grand opening banner that has the ropes hemmed through its top and bottom so it lifts the whole banner taunt when you tie it down and not rip at the corners. I don't like the double-sided banners because you can see the ghost image from the other side. I try to get two single sided banners and place them out by the road and angle them towards the passing motorists. It works every time.
Coroplast Yard Signs
Coroplast yard signs are a great way to get short temporary messages strategically placed in view of passing motorists. I use the 18"H x 24"W size and use big letters with contrasting colors. I don't like the larger size because they fold over or fall apart.
I keep these personalized outdoor signs very short and sometimes use them as 'Burma Shave' style. If you put too much on the coroplast sign then no one will read it. Don't try to write a book and include a phone number and all that. Just a big, bold easy to read (and remember) message, like a discount, a free give away, or a new product line.
Sidewalk signs can be a very effective form of outdoor advertising for small businesses, particularly in high-traffic areas. Sidewalk signs are portable signs that can display posters, chalkboard messages or changeable letters. They are easy to move so you can strategically reposition them.
Most sidewalk signs are double sided and come with seven lines of four-inch changeable letters. Change your sidewalk sign message every 3-4 days. People are creatures of habit and drive or walk the same route each day so use this opportunity to build readership. You will increase readership by displaying your sidewalk sign consistently and rotating its message.
Bright Vinyl Window Lettering
Bright vinyl window lettering is used to make people aware of your business name and what you sell. Vinyl window lettering is the most cost effective form of advertising because customers who actually walk into your store and make a purchase can see it.
Retail storefront rent is expensive because it’s valuable. Maximize that value by using the vinyl window letters to promote your business. I use white or yellow vinyl letters because it's the easiest color to read on glass. If you want to use a dark color like black, blue, or red then outline the vinyl with white to make it readable. I've tested different messages and learned that there isn't one best message. The best thing to do is run different sales and messages to attract a wider clientele. You can also use small vinyl window lettering for store hours, address and phone numbers.
Open Flags, Pennants and Balloons
Open flags, pennants and balloons are a great way to use motion to attract attention. Any event needs motion and energy to create an active atmosphere. Our eyes are attracted to motion and our brains manage by exception. Pennants are the triangular shaped flags that are sewn along a string. They are available in a wide range of colors and sizes and bring excitement to your location or event. I like the 12″ x 18″ Jumbo Poly Pennants because they are larger but still lightweight to jump around.
Message flags are those 36" x 60" red, white and blue panels with OPEN or GRAND OPENING spelled across them. I try to get the heavy all-weather 200-denier nylon material with durable lock stitch construction along the fly ends. The fly ends are where the flag takes the most wear. So have the fly ends reinforced with four rows of stitching to ensure your flag will be flying high for months to come.
Outdoor Business Signs to the Rescue
That next morning I arrived to my sign shop and fortunately had all of the items in-stock. I was able to create everything we had discussed. She arrived early to pickup her new outdoor business signs, then was off to grab some balloons and prepare for the grand opening.
On my way home later that afternoon I drove by and was happy to see the flags, balloons and signs out front of her store. The parking lot was full, and I noticed customers checking out the different signs. Thanks to the outdoor business signs and banners, you could easily tell that there was a grand opening event happening. This new business was off to a great start, and I took pride in the fact that I helped make that happen.
Photo Credit: Pricetag.com, Tumblr