Today we are going as low tech as it is possible to go with small business marketing…well, almost. Let’s talk about signs. Do you have one telling people about your business? Does you sign say what you do? I admit I drove past a kitchen goods store in Campbellford, a town located near me, called “In Season” for a couple of years before I realized it was stocked with tons of gourmet and quality kitchenware. Once I understood what the store sold, I got the name. But that didn’t help for those two years I was driving past the store.
Now I haven’t spent a lot of money there in the past six years, maybe $60.00, but I wonder how many other people were like me? Or how many visitors to Campbellford drove right past the store and then never came back to town enough times to EVER learn what the store was selling. In this case, a little subtitle under the stores name that said something like “Quality Kitchen Tools” would have done the job. When a business owner is trying to be as efficient as possible with their small business marketing they need to consider the obvious.
Something else I have noticed when looking at signs for small business in Campbellford, Hastings, Warkworth, Cobourg and Port Hope; the astounding number of signs that say “Something for Sale – And More!” Now it could be ‘antiques and more’, “tools and more’, ‘clothing and more’ or ‘fresh vegetables and more’ but I always wondered what the “and more” meant to the business owner. Did they thing someone looking for fresh eggs was going to stop at their “clothing and more” sign? When I see “and more” it doesn’t strike a chord with that restless adventurer in me that wants to stop the car and go exploring. It just makes me think that there is a business owner that doesn’t really know what they are selling and expects you to check out their store with x-ray vision while you are driving past.
Small Business Marketing – Signs Rule #1
So here is rule one about signs: Your business name should let people know what you sell.
Small Business Marketing – Signs Rule #2
Rule two is equally as simple. Your sign must be visible.
If the lettering is too small to read from a car driving by, or if it is on a window that reflects sunlight for half the day, or is obstructed by a tree the city thoughtfully planted in front of your establishment, or not lit up when it is cloudy or at night, then you need to do something. In the image above, the store name is clearly visible, but they have elected to add to their ability to attract customers by using a sandwich board. Great idea. Your sign shouldn’t be too high up on a wall to be seen from the driver’s seat of a car going by or low enough to be blocked by a minivan parked on the sidewalk in front of your small business. Marketing is a little harder for those of us working from home. It may be tough to convince a spouse to let you put up a business sign on the front lawn. There is an easy and inexpensive way around this. A car sign. I don’t currently have a car sign, but I have been building my brand for about five years now and have pretty much as much business as I want. When I was also more involved in selling used books online, I got a sign for my car…a nice vinyl lettering sign for each front door that had my business name, phone number and the statement “We Buy Books.” In no time I was easily recognizable around town and everybody knew “that book guy.” So if you can’t put your sign in front of your place of business, spend a couple of hundred bucks and put it on your car.
Small Business Marketing – Signs Rule #3
Here’s rule three. You must ensure your sign, or its equivalent, gets seen by as many people as possible.
What do I mean by equivalent. Well, what does your sign say? We agree it should be the store name and, if required to help explain what you offer, a subtitle. Anything that has your store name and the subtitle, in highly visible colour and font is equivalent to a sign. So a poster up on a local community bulletin board, a message painted on the side of an old barn, a billboard, a classified ad, a display ad, a brochure or a Facebook ad can all qualify.
I will admit I came very close to approaching some landowners on the busy highway outside the small town I lived in, while I was busy with my book business, and asking them if I could mount a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood on the side of their barns or nailed up on their fence saying “We Buy Books – 705-696-xxxx.” Two lines, with letters 18″ high would have been readable from the highway. And I bet I would have generated a lot of phone calls for $100 plus some modest monthly rental fees.
Almost any small town, or even not so small towns, have tons of opportunities for posters. When you are talking small business marketing, signs in the form of posters on bulletin boards in grocery stores, variety stores, community bulletin boards, libraries, community centers, laundromats, etc. are almost never used, but the space is frequently available. The tough thing is finding all the places willing to let you post. The easy thing is going out and refreshing those signs once a month with some new activity, event or promotion. Of course, this is easier to do if you are supporting some local non-profit event, or teaching or demonstrating something to people for free. Then most places are happy to have you post your news. Why will a business spend $500/month for a Yellowpage ad, or $1,000/month for a display ad but not spend nothing but two hours a month creating a poster and distributing it to a dozen locations around town?
Small Business Marketing – Signs Rule #4
Another favourite approach that I like that is seldom used is online signs, or classified ads. Think Craigslist.ca, Kijiji.ca, or Backpage.com. There are a ton of others. A great local option in my area is Northumberlandview.ca.
Check around online for “free online classifieds <your town/region/province/state> and see what comes up. Then do the same search for different towns and cities in your area. Then go onto Facebook and do a similar search in the FB Graph (search field). The great thing about online classifieds is that you write the ad out once and then the bulk of it is cut and paste. Many of these services (Craigslist, Backpages, Northumberlandview.ca and Facebook) allow you to use a link back to a page on your website, or to a YouTube video (Kijiji charges for website links but YouTube links are free). And these ads show up in google results. Especially if you are in a rural area or a small town, someone searching for <your service or product> near <your town> is very likely to see a kijiji or Backpage ad. Ideally your ad will include a graphic that essentially reproduces your businesses sign or logo as well as images representing examples of your service or products.
So there you have it; the critical four rules for small business marketing – signs. Not difficult to follow, but if you use them you will get a lot more mileage out of the money and time you spend to get your name out in public. And we are not talking an arm and a leg here. If you are a small business, you need to get the most bang for your marketing dollar. Using signs effectively is one of the easiest ways to do that.
I want to give a shout out to two of my favourite sources of signs and graphic design. One is local to Campbellford. Schelle Holmes of The Holmestead. They can help you out with signage and posters and displays.
The other is Jamie Littlechild of Beyond Signs and Design
Either on of these folks can help you out. And don’t be afraid to ask them how you can best use signage and graphics. That is their business. They are experts in their field. I recommend both of them highly.