How do you Maximize & Measure the benefit of your signage?

Living in the world of the 21st century, it seems EVERYTHING is expected to be measurable.

While this is not always true and definitely not always simple – for example, even in 2019, how does one measure the level of LOVE – there are many ways to evaluate and measure the ‘SUCCESS’ of your purchases and investments.

At SignForce we see signage as an investment, and in order to measure the return on investment, we believe that four fundamental questions need to be answered, preferably BEFORE the sign is purchased.

  1. What do you want the sign to achieve?
  2. What is the correct sign for the objective to be achieved?
  3. What is most important to you in measuring the success of your investment :

    (a) the cost of the sign and / or

    (b) the quality of the sign and / or

    (c) the importance of your deadline being met.

  4. How do you intend measuring the success of your signage?

If your sign is located in the middle of an open field, with the only thing competing for the potential reader’s attention is the vehicle instruments, the possible people in the vehicle, the road and nature, and all you want the sign to do is capture attention, measured by the number of vehicles you can get to respond to your signage’s message, then the main focus should be the SIZE and ATTRACTIVENESS of the message.

If on the other hand your sign is located in a shopping mall where, aside from the landlord’s approval, you are competing with a number of LARGE, FLASHY, 3D signs, best you either make something even LARGER, FLASHIER, 3D or alternatively, something TOTALLY DIFFERENT in order to STAND OUT. If your measurement of success of the signage is to get a specific response from the viewer of the sign, then before purchasing the sign, one should look at what about the sign will lead the viewer to respond.

While the above two scenario’s are greatly over simplified, it should already be clear that not all signage is appropriate or necessarily the best signage to achieve a desired objective. This leads to the next set of questions, as to the order of which is most important: (a) the cost of the sign or (b) the quality of the sign or (c) the importance of your deadline being met.

As custom signage is generally made or assembled by hand and thus labor intensive, the three questions above tend to be at odds with one another. If it is a ‘cheap’ sign one is looking for, that will generally mean a compromise on the quality of the sign, so the sign may be able to be produced pretty quickly. Being produced pretty quickly should not be confused with the sign being an ‘off the shelf’ item, and it should generally be understood that the speed of the signs manufacture will generally (but not necessarily always) have an influence on the quality of the sign.

If the deadline is the most important factor, followed by superior quality, then it should be fairly obvious (although it never is) that the cost of the sign is going to be higher, ESPECIALLY when the sign is ordered (in South Africa this includes the order being received, the artwork being approved and the required deposit being paid) at the last minute.

It seems that very few people who do not work with signage on a regular basis tend to understand the manufacturing process(es) that are required to get signs manufactured, decorated and installed, and thus often tend to have the erroneous belief that the wave of a magic wand will get the picture that they have in their mind, and possibly even the picture they have approved on paper, to suddenly appear in full life size. The best advise we at SignForce can give is if you have a specific deadline, and a budget, then make sure you get information on the time required to manufacture your signage, and give the supplier more time than they required, as this way there is less room for error – or surprises.

Measuring the ‘success’ of you signage could be by measuring how many viewers respond to the sign and / or it’s message. It could also be measured by an increase in sales or turnover, or the number of (additional) feet that come into your premises, or how much you paid for a sign that matched or exceeded your expectations.

Conversely the success of your signage could be measured by looking at what the sign cost and whether the sign is the correct sign for the task, whether it is what you expected it to be and whether what you got is what you were sold and how long the sign lasts and the total cost over the life of the signs. This is because in an industry where purchase decisions are generally made on a picture on a piece of paper, where the buyer seldom knows or understands the materials and processes that are used or whether the materials that were used match the materials that were sold.

As a buyer of signage, a purchase where price is ALWAYS a factor, often because the signage is the last item on the agenda which means the budget has long been blown, it is often understandable that what looks like the best sign at the best price is what gets purchased, especially when the buyer believes that all the signs that are being quoted are generic and identical, simply because the paper that holds the ‘picture’ displays the same picture.

It is more often than not important for the buyer to understand that unlike a purchase of a can of beans of a single brand which are all assumed to be almost the same, custom signs differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, with a lot depending on the integrity, design capability and professionalism of the sign maker.

It is for this reason that when a buyer of signage gets multiple quotes, and they are all ‘saying’ the same thing, but the prices have a great variance (in my personal opinion more than 30%), the buyer should be asking for samples of materials and probably asking for references. It is quite possible that the buyer is about to get a bargain of note, because there are many sign businesses who unfortunately, for their own good and long term success, do not quite understand pricing and margins, so the buyer could well get a bargain. On the other hand the buyer may believe that they are getting something they are not.

If you are intending to buy signs, and are interested in having consultants on what signs may best suite your needs, we at SignForce are available – simply call +27 (0) 11 440 7524 / 5 and ask to talk to Arnold or email arnold@signforce.co.za with the subject PLEASE CONSULT.

Secret #Signage

This post was sent as a newsletter on 27 May 2019. While it is already outdated – especially in light of South Africa’s poor performance on the international stage, the concept can still provide food for thought.

Sponsors are now, even at this late hour, threatening to pull out unless independent sign professionals act as sign umpires and declare the CWC signage free of ‘secret signage‘ or visual interference.

Whilst ‘secret signs‘ seems an oxymoron, ambush marketing is taking totally new direction with this new technique. Signage at events like the CWC form a large and important part of a sponsors investment in visual communications. So the possibility of having this offset by an ambush marketer is creating havoc behind the scenes..

The real nub of the problem is that the ambush signage can be done by a small ninja group who can do this in a very short space of time – even inside the sign company’s, or sponsor company’s, premises.

This ambush message will show up on fixed signage – particularly those large billboards that form an integral part of the stadium landscape. The technique has been to overprint the sign with a fluorescent ink that only shows up on the TV camera’s – in exactly the same way as the white cricket ball is treated to give it more visibility. The technology that was painstakingly developed for the white ball to solve the on screen visibility problems has now been hijacked. We are not yet sure what the revealed message will be – or was supposed to be – but you be assured that some sponsors are now very anxious. Stand by for some exciting viewing!

Calls have been made for all involved signage companies to stand by a new code of conduct that will ensure that they secure the signs from manufacturing floor through to installation.

You will be pleased to know that SignForce is a founder signatory to this new protocol. This was an easy decision for us, as we have always taken the greatest care of our work – from conception to installation.

Of course the above is just a spoof, but you never know . . .

Standing by to do some ‘innovative’ signage for you soon.

Regards

Thanks for reading, hope to see you soon.
The SignForce Team

http://www.signforce.co.za

contact us on info@signforce.co.za

Tel: + 27 (0) 11 440 7524 / 5

What makes a #sign expensive? Signs as an investment.

What makes a sign ‘expensive’?

Expensive is a VERY subjective word, so lets look at the input costs and how that could, would or should influence one’s purchasing decision.

#SignForce, as all sign suppliers, work in a very competitive market. There are generally many sign businesses in a relatively small area, especially as #signage is a low entry cost business. Because of the high level of competition, each sign business needs to have ‘something’ that makes our business ‘stand out’. For the person making the purchase, the high level of competition means one SHOULD be able to compare various options and get the best solution to fit your requirements, although COST, OUTLAY or INITIAL INVESTMENT is often the deciding factor, very often at the sacrifice of long term investment or long term LIFE of the sign.

Because COST or INITIAL OUTLAY is such a HUGE determining factor for many buyers, one of the easiest ways to stand out  is on ‘price’. It is easy for clients to choose the lowest cost supplier, as, generally, all suppliers will quote to supply the same LOOKING sign.

Often how this works is the potential client (or buyer) will send out a ‘tender’, which consists of a picture of how the sign should look. Sophisticated buyers will also supply detailed specifications – which they understand and can check – but this is less common than only supplying a picture and sizes. Also too often the person supplying the specifications does not gave a great understanding of what they are specifying so their ability to ensure that they receive what was quoted could be limited.

Because EVERYONE is quoting on the same OUTCOME (read that as picture), when the buyer gets their three or more competing quotes, they naturally assume they are comparing ‘APPLES’ with ‘APPLES’, but because #signs are not standard, off the shelf items, the design, makeup and materials can (and generally will) differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. As such, although all the signs may (initially) LOOK the same when installed, they could, in reality, be EXTREMELY different.

In order to explain I am going to use the example of a modular, internally illuminated light box sign with an acrylic face that is illuminated using energy efficient LED lights. I am using a modular frame as we can then assume that everyone that is quoting is using the same external frame, so all the quotes would have the same (or similar) input costs for the frame.

Now lets look at the make up of the sign, starting with ILLUMINATION. There are a number of LED’s that can be used on a light box sign. The difference can be anything from in how much light the LED emits (lumens) to the size of the individual LED units (or modules) to the angle of the light emitted from the LED module (especially if the module has a LENS), the expected life of the units and the COST. Because there are so many variables, for the purpose of this article I will compare cost that can vary from about R35 (US$ 13) per meter to about R500 (US$ 186) per meter. It would seem obvious there are a number of variables that affect the cost, but for #SignForce the important differences are (a) the LED’s are the correct LED’s for the job (meaning they will give equal and sufficient light), (b) the expected life of the LED and (c) the LED’s are sure to do the job (preferably guaranteed) so that the business will not have any unnecessary call backs which can be substantially more costly than the cost of the LED’s.

Other factors that can have a GREAT  impact on the cost include, but are not limited to, (a) the size of the sign (this has way too many variables to reference in this article), (b) the cost of the decoration (print versus cut vinyl versus ink versus paint) (we will only refer to PRINT where costs have a range difference that can easily exceed 500%, with the quality and life span of the print varying greatly), (c) the thickness of the acrylic face (this is influenced by the size of the sign and possibly the location of the sign, and will in turn influence the cost of both the acrylic (the thicker the higher the cost) and the beading that holds (supports) the acrylic face). (d) If the frame is to be painted the make up and application method of the paint can also have a great impact on costs, both due to the large difference in cost of the base paint as well the time and process differences between the various application methods which range from ‘dipping’ to using a paint brush to spray painting and powder coating.

At #SignForce we take our guarantee VERY SERIOUSLY, and as such we use materials which, while generally more costly, will have a higher likelihood of lasting and not creating negative comebacks from clients. This does tend to make the initial outlay slightly higher, (historically this is generally no more than 20%), but #SignForce’s logic is that having to redo a sign after three to five years could be substantially more costly than having a sign that does it’s job well for it’s intended life, which is generally seven years, even if the decoration needs to be replaced more regurarly.

For more information on why SignForce views #signs as an investment or on purchasing  quality signs that will consistently keep you in your prospective clients eyes for many years to come, please contact #SignForce at info@signforce.co.za

What makes up the cost of a sign?

What makes up a sign’s cost?

This comment could be viewed as a follow up to the article ‘Are All Signs the Same’, because it stems from a similar thought.

Not only are all signs not the same, even when they look the same, the materials used to manufacture the signs can vary extensively.

A client asked me to replace a fallen letter on a sign consisting of a number of cut out letters. He sent me a blurry photo (taken while he was driving past the sign) so I thought it would be best for me to go see exactly what needed to be replaced. I went to the site to take measurements and photo’s, and when on site I touched one of the remaining letters of the sign and it fell off the wall. I subsequently removed the sign to repaint and re-secure it. When I returned it to the factory the first thing that was pointed out to me was that the paint was pealing BECAUSE the Aluminium had not been primed. A simple oversight?

In general the cost of a sign consists of the cost of material plus the cost of labor plus a margin for profit plus a contribution to overheads and such.

While there are a number of factors that contribute to the material cost – one tends to pay more for longer lasting material, material cost is generally 30 – 40% of the final cost of a sign. That said, if the cost of material can be kept down – either by getting larger discounts from suppliers OR by using cheaper material OR by leaving out steps in the process (regardless of the long term consequences), the business can make larger profits.

Sadly the thinking of many (sign) businesses is that they need to sell one level of quality but deliver a lesser quality, and although the material costs are not the largest single contributor to costs, they are the first and possibly easiest to be cut back on, as the sign maker knows that generally, by the time the ‘omission’ has been discovered the guarantee (assuming there is one) would have expired.

While it is possible for oversights to happen in any business – the reasons for oversights varying from lack of supervision to lack of training to lack of time and many more – if the oversight is that, an oversight, then it can and should be chalked up to an avoidable error.

The difficulty for new clients is to determine how often ‘oversights’ happen, and if any necessary re-do’s have been costed into the original quote – if it is not in the original costing the chances are the supplier will never come back.

While oversights can and do happen, even with the best of manufacturers and processes, from the buyers side, while it is almost always tempting to choose the ‘cheapest’ supplier, the buyer should always be aware that when a sign seems like a bargain, as with almost everything in life, there could well be hidden costs that you will only become aware of later, possibly too late.

It can thus be seen that not all signs are necessarily created equal, not all costing methods are the same and not all material inputs are of the same quality. Here are an additional three reasons why sign buyers are encouraged to improve their understanding about the signs they require, and also to stick with sign companies that have a reputation, or at least one with references that can be checked, and one who is known to honour their guarantees. If a sign company is not prepared to offer any guarantee why are you even considering using them?

If you are in the market for professional looking signs that are made using the material that has been quoted, or simply require advice on what signs may best market your business, email arnold@signforce.co.zaor david@signforce.co.za using the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE

http:www.signforce.co.za