What Should One Know BEFORE Entering the Signage Industry?

What Should I know BEFORE I go in to the sign business?

While this SignForce blog space is generally focused on the benefits of signs, the pitfalls of signs and general selling of signs, this post will be different as the writer was recently approached by a family looking to get into the signage industry, and asked about it.

After my initial shock – wondering why would any ‘sane‘ individual – the mom who spoke to me looked and sounded VERY sane – WANT to get into the signage industry.

It is quite possible that I was stressed at the time and thus I was too quick to forget that this was me about 22 years ago. Someone looking to get out of the financial / consulting industry I was in and looking for a new challenge – they do say be careful what you ask for!

I guess that at a time when business is tough I had forgotten all the positive aspects of the signage industry that have served me well for the past two decades, and was more focused on the day to day challenges I was facing.

As a colleague recently mentioned, the signage industry is not for feint of heart, sane people ho want a boring, predictable, regular job where you have structure and know days in advance what your schedule – and life – will look like.

Signage is an extremely dynamic business where, if one is not disciplined, your daily schedule can change every other minute.

On the positive side the signage industry requires one to be a jack of many trades, possibly a master of one or two, with the ability to design, work with multiple materials and SEE (visualize) some things that don’t exist – in the sense that one has to be able to imagine what the end product (that does not exist) will look like AND be able to work backwards from what the end product looks like through the step by step manufacturing process – which may change when actual production begins, so lets add in that being in the signage industry one needs to be extremely FLEXIBLE – to the start which includes determining what materials will WORK to achieve the desired outcome. All this in the most cost effective manner.

While traditional sign writers in the 21st century tended to be artisans that came through the ranks of artists who did some apprenticeship and could go into a one man business, modern signage is more computer generated, and more business like than ever before.

For a modern sign business to be successful the head of the business tends to need to be a marketer and sales person with a BIG PICTURE mentality where one is able to talk to, motivate, lead, inspire and deal with the widest possible range of people – from the MD of a large publicly listed business to an ego driven politician who will never have done a days work in your industry but will always know how to do it better, to the slowest, lowest paid employee in a business who may be required to do the simplest and most important of tasks, without which the work comes to a sudden – not even grinding – HALT.

The need to be able to get all individuals to work together is possibly the second largest challenge, second only to the need to be able to turn off and take time away from work in the modern world where one tends to be expected to be online, on call and available 25 / 8 / 366.

On the other hand, if one possesses the necessary mind set and skill set and is prepared to put in some HARD WORK, working what can be insane hours with little gratitude or reward, then signage can be the most amazing and rewarding industry.

Working in signage can be amazing because it opens doors for a person with a flair for design to put their skills into practical operation. There are seldom two days in a row where signage wok is the same. Signage requires one to think out of the box a LOT more than one would expect, possibly because the industry is dynamic, and client’s can have some EXTREME expectations, from how long a sign will take to produce to what the sign will cost to how long the sign will last to what the sign may look like. 

The signage industry has almost ZERO limitations in design. This means that ten sign businesses – or ten estimators within one sign business – can quote the same sign and come up with 10 different designs, 10 different costs and 10 different structures. It cannot be stressed enough that all 10 designs will ALL look the same on paper, and they will surely ALL work – at least in the short term – but they can (and most likely WILL) be VASTLY different in design, (finished) look, appeal and cost. This is one of the reasons it is so difficult for buyers of signs to compare the offerings of one sign business with another if they do not have detailed specifications on EXACTLY what materials will be used in the manufacturing of the sign, as well as how they will be assembled.

Signage is also an ancient and static yet changing and dynamic industry. Signage is possibly the third oldest profession – ok, that is an exaggeration, especially as physical businesses needed to come first – because it has been around a LONG time. Some ancient techniques are still used to manufacture certain signs, yet there are also new and exciting developments, new materials and a lot more digital processes used in modern day signage.

BUT, even with the new materials and the -progress of digital signs, for the large part signage is still an EXTREMELY LABOUR – read that as PEOPLE – intensive and oriented business. Yes, machines can make a number of modern signs, BUT machines (and AI) have limitations that may mean the client’s reject the signage or the machines cannot make signs with certain materials or they cannot be used to DESIGN certain signs or processes.

This means that until AI can (a) design and think out of the box, (b) get on it’s – their? -hands and knees and climb ladders and drill holes that are nor necessarily ‘straight’ – people employed in the signage industry are sort of secure in the knowledge that like many artisans – plumbers, electricians and the like, the physical elements of the work will not be done away with in the foreseeable future.

SignForce believes that the market is large enough for all competitors, and collaborators, so we at SignForce work closely with a number of our competitors. Because this is our philosophy, we are glad to assist any folks that are as insane as we are and looking to enter the signage with information on the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of the signage industry as we see it.

For more information – or for signs – contact SignForce now on info@signforce.co.za or call +27 (0)11 440 7525 or WhatsApp +27 (0)82 558 6413

Find out more about SignForce by visiting our website at http://www.signforce.co.za

Surviving a Black Swan Event

SignForce 'invisible' sign

Partially Invisible Sign

How does your business survive and thrive a Black Swan Event?

Ever heard of a Black Swan?

Ever seen a black Swan?

Do you understand the concepr of a Black Swan Event?

For more on Bl;ack Swan Theory visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_swan_theory

In short, bl;ack swans do exist, but are more rare than white swans, and their arrival always seems to be a surprise. It is not a planned event.

Covid arriving in 2020 is one such event almost EVERY business in the world has had to deal with. For some it was a death knell, for others a Godsend.

From my research there doesn’t seem to be a common thread that has made one business succeed and another fail during these interesting times, in that some businesses do the same thing yet some have gone up while others have gone down.

Traditionally times like this call for a boost in one’s marketing. The greater one’s visibility in these times, the higher the likelihood of success and thriving. The more markets one can reach, the greater the chances of surviving and thriving. And from SignForce’s experience, the more one can collaborate, the higher the chances of success.

SignForce has always worked with our competitors in order for us all to do better. SignForce’s philosophy is that a cent earned from someone else’s work is a good cent. The theory behind this is that if you are a doctor, you almost always have to be at work to earn a good living. In industry, this is not necessarily the case. One can earn while being remote. This has been emphasized and highlighted in the modern work from home environment where unless one HAS to be face to face with your client’s, one can provide services from a distance.

At SignForce we believe in upliftment. Yes, we strive to be a profitable and sustainable business, so we believe in making sure the TEAM is always taken care of. Sure there are differences in take home pay but before anyone makes a profit the TEAM must be taken care of. SignForce operate on the premise that if you are hungry you will not give of your best, so we provide food. We have to cook it, but the food is there, and all our cooking skills are tested, and hopefully improving.

SignForce also believe in keeping the team happy. Yes, there are disagreements and people are not always happy, but we strive to make sure people are happy as much as possible. This leads to a work environment where people can strive, thrive and improve themselves – both financially and from a skills perspective. We believe in up-skilling, because we are never sure when a crucial cog in our tightly run machine will break down, be removed or stop performing. As such we believe EVERY PERSON should be able to do EVERY JOB.

This is not always easy, and often people resist being trained because it is beyond their comfort level, but we continue with training ALL THE TIME, as an insurance policy in order to maintain sustainability.

If you are looking to thrive in these interesting times, maybe some of the idea’s mentioned above will be of assistance. We hope so, and when you are expanding, allow SignForce to assist you with making your brand VISIBLE.

For an obligation free quote contact SignForce not on +27 (0)11 440 7525 or WhatsApp +27 (0)82 558 6413 or email info@signforce.co.za

WHY spend money on Vehicle Branding?

Image

Vehicle Branding

Vehicle branding = silent, mobile sales

When money is tight it is way too easy to cut budgets where logic says they should be cut – anything that is not showing (almost) instant return, so lets cut the wage bill and get rid of supposed dead wood, lets cut the marketing budget because – well, is it working? and lets get the staff to pay for their own tea and have limited access to loo paper.

OK, so I may be exaggerating, but sadly none of the above were my own ideas. I have heard examples of each of these cost saving measures over time. (For those who do not know the writer I have had some experience in business consulting (one of the reasons SignForce is able to offer solid business advice when it comes to signs as an investment – but I digress).

The reality is we don’t always get an instant  return on our marketing investment. A lot of marketing is about keeping our brand front of mind. Another reason is familiarity. When one’s branding is seen (hopefully often), not always in the same location, by people who do not know what you offer, if and when they do look for your services and find you listed on Google with a number of competitors, if it was you, who would you be most likely to contact? The absolute unknown business or one which for some unknown reason seems familiar?

If you are looking for advice on signs that make business sense, or wanting to get your name OUT THERE, SignForce can help.

Contact #SignForce  South Africa now on info@signforce.co.za or call +27(0)11 440 7525

http://www.signforce.co.za

What type of sign does my business need?

What kind of sign does my business need?

One of the most important decisions that you can make about your business signs is ‘What  kind of sign’ is going to be best for your business taking into account:

(a) what the sign is intended to achieve,

(b) your businesses location and

(c) your budget.

While it may seem ‘obvious’ that as your sign supplier I want you to spend as much as possible on your sign, it is important for me to remember that it is not about me, but rather what is best for your business and from SignForce’s perspective, our future relationship as your business grows and prospers.

I find it is ALWAYS best to start with knowing and understanding what your sign needs to achieve.

If, for example, your sign is intended solely to make a statement that YOU as a business “HAVE ARRIVED”, then an excessively large sign may work and do well to get your desired message across. If, on the other hand you want people to see your sign as an invitation to visit and come into your premises, then the said large sign may result in you spending more than was necessary, and may be costing you business by dissuading potential customers from entering your premises because the sign is not the correct type of sign for your intended target market.

Generally signs will be used to invite, inform, direct and persuade potential readers.

An example of a sign that ‘invites‘ could be a store front sign that is intended to ‘invite’ the reader into your store. Because the sign is intended to invite the reader into your store, the sign needs to be able to stand out from the surrounding signs and environment. For example, if your store sells fast food in the fast food area of a shopping mall, and your competitors all have beautifully decorated illuminated signs, unless your sign is equally beautiful and illuminated, possibly with an additional dimension like flashing lights or a lifestyle picture showing someone enjoying one of your meals, the chances are that your potential clients will overlook your sign and your business, thus potentially costing you money. While ‘invitational’ signs can be decorated Chromadek (treated metal), this is often not allowed by shopping centers, and may not achieve your desired effect. Often fabricated,3D signs are used for invitational signs.

 An example of a sign intended to ‘inform‘ is a street sign or a warning sign. These signs are intended to ‘inform ‘ drivers of impending dangers or of changes in road conditions or of upcoming situations, such as a guarded intersection, an unguarded intersection, a traffic light or hidden access to the road. Information signs are usually large and generally made from the most cost effective material that will achieve the objective of getting the desired message across while at the same time having the desired life span, which depends a lot on the climatic conditions where the sign is to be installed.

 Signs that are intended to ‘direct‘ include motorway and highway signs – such as directing readers to keep in the right lane to go to Timbuktu and keep left to go to Cape Town. Directional signs, like directory signs, also assist readers to get to where they are looking to go. Like information signs, Directional signs are usually made from the most cost effective material that will achieve the objective of getting the desired message across while at the same time having the desired life span, which depends a lot on the climatic conditions where the sign is to be installed. Directional signs, especially those that are indoors, also offer the opportunity for designers to integrate the signs into the aesthetics of the building and office environment, so the range of possible materials is large and could include wood, plastics, metal or glass, or a combination of all of these.

Directional and directory signs can begin doing their intended work when entering a premises – with say a sign reading RECEPTION with an arrow directing people to the reception, followed by a directory board in the reception – with the directory board informing the reader which wing, floor and room the reader is intending to visit.

Lastly an example of a sign intended to ‘persuade‘ could be a in-store poster or a billboard sign showing a product, such as a sign showing how a specific brand of washing powder will wash whiter and brighter than a competing brand. The message is intended to persuade the reader to buy and try the advertised product.

All of the above must take into consideration your budget as well as what return is expected – measured in terms of any of the following: number of feet, increase sales, decreased complaints, decreased incidents and accidents, or a combination of all of these. The most common upmarket signs that are used to persuade tend to have a metal (aluminum) frame with the printed message printed onto a gloss paper or vinyl. The material used would depend on the look and feel of the store as well as the intended target market.

By now I am sure you understand that while there may be a standard, off the shelf solution to your question as to “what type of sign does my business need”, there are many variations, answers and opinions to the answer the question. For this reason, as well as all the reasons given above, or if you are unsure of what sign you are looking for, or which sign would best achieve your intended objective, calling a SignForce sign consultant to get an expert opinion can reduce your stress and help you make an informed decision.

If you are in the market for professional looking signs at “FAIR VALUE”, and would like advice on how best to project your business’s image while considering any funds you spend on marketing and signs as an investment, please contact the writer at arnold@signforce.co.za or david@signforce.co.za and use the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE and we will gladly assist and advise you.

How to Illuminate a sign

How should my sign be illuminated – or How do I light up my sign

There are three main directions that a sign can be illuminated, namely FRONT ILLUMINATED, EDGE LIT and REAR ILLUMINATED.

1. Front Illumination – also known as front lighting – refers to the sign being illuminated (lit) from the front, generally either from below or from above, and is commonly used on advertising billboards.

Front illumination is most commonly achieved with bright, ‘spot’ light type lighting, although almost any lighting, including florescent lamps, can be used for front illumination, where the light is being ‘reflected’ off the face of the sign.

Front illumination tends to have the advantage that it can keep costs – both initial investment and running costs – low. This saving does, however, tend to be at the trade-off of clarity and possibly visibility, because one of the largest disadvantages of front illumination is that if the light source is not properly, or well, focused, the sign can become totally illegible at night – just when the lighting is supposed to make the sign visible – as the light reflecting at the incorrect angle can result in the full brightness of the light reflecting off the face of the sign directly into the viewers eyes, similar to the effect of looking into the headlights of oncoming traffic, and effectively blocking the sign’s message.

2. Edge Lighting – also known as side lighting or side illumination or edge illumination – refers to when a sign – generally for a framed glass type sign – is illuminated from one or more side (or edge). Edge illumination is commonly used for safety signs that are illuminated from one edge, as well as for smaller signs that are placed in poorly lit area’s, and ‘slim’ signs that are located in area’s with limited space.

The biggest advantage of edge lighting is that the sign can be extremely thin – from as little as 20 mm deep – so that the illuminated sign can be hung like a work of art or used in the place of a standard piece of artwork, such as a decorative painting.

While there are many advantages to having thin signs, especially when space is at a premium, it is worth remembering that edge lighting can only be used with ‘thin’ light sources, such as T5 florescent tubes or LED lights, so that, for now, (or until the technology improves), the illumination is often not very bright. This does not tend to be an issue if the area where the sign is to hang is poorly or not illuminated, but can be problematic when the area is well illuminated, or there is a lot a ‘other’ light in the vicinity of the sign, as the edge light may not be as bright as the competing light, and thus the most powerful effect of the illumination can be lost.

3. Rear Illumination – also known as internal lighting, back illumination and back lighting – is the most powerful, and most common lighting, used for business signs, building signs and ‘light boxes’. Rear illumination refers to the light ‘passing through’ the face – and illustration – of the sign, thus enhancing the picture, and / or message.

Because of the work involved in the manufacturing and wiring process, rear illumination does tend to be the most costly form of illumination, although the costs are coming down with all the wonderful developments being made in lighting technology.

One of the many advantages of rear illumination is that different types of illumination can be used to create different effects for the viewer. An example of this is when old technology florescent lights (running off magnetic ballasts and starters) are placed behind a picture of running water. Because of the flow of energy in the tubes, the water in the picture also gives the impression that it is moving. While the effect is wonderful, and old technology ballasts are inexpensive when first purchased, it is common for these ballasts to fail. They are also very eco-unfriendly and use a lot of energy because almost 80% of their output is lost to heat.

Modern, energy efficient florescent lights such as the one’s that SignForce use, run off eco-friendly electronic ballasts, and while their cost is constantly decreasing, the initial investment required for this type of lighting is still significantly larger than that required for the older technology, magnetic ballasts. That said, the increased initial investment is WELL WORTH IT, both because of the longer life expectancy of the modern ballasts and tubes, and also because of the lower running costs – both from a power consumption AND a maintenance perspective, as well as the fact that the sign box will not need to have all the ventilation required from the heat generating magnetic ballasts, contributing to a lowing of the manufacturing costs.

It is becoming increasingly common for rear lit signs to be illuminated with energy efficient, eco-friendly LED lights, because of the reduction in running costs, the extended life expectancy of LED lights and the ease of use.

Another advantage of rear illumination is that the picture and / or commercial message is enhanced when the lighting is from the rear, making the message brighter and clearer.

If you are in the market for professional looking, illuminated signs, or simply require advice on how best to illuminate your sign – and get a return on your illuminated sign investment – email arnold@signforce.co.za or david@signforce.co.za using the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

http:www.signforce.co.za

Would you employ this person?

Who represents you and your business

Would you trust this sales person with your future?

Would you employ this person?

Some of you may know who the person is, but WHO he is is not actually relevant for my point. in fact, you could quite easily replace the picture with one of any similar uneducated person who is know for making comments that make them look stupid!

But wait! For me, that is where the problem lies.

If you were the employer of this person, that person has thus de facto become a representative of your business, and thus an extension of YOU!

Imagine the impression that makes on your hard won client, when the employed (or elected if you will) person starts interacting with or talking to your client.

That ‘first impression’ is created on first sight (or sound), and if that first impression is a poor one, it could take forever to change that perception.

At SignForce we are very aware of the impression we create, and while we unfortunately don’t always get it right, we do continually work on making sure that our work, our products and our staff represent SignForce in a manner that we are proud to own.

If you are in the market for professional looking signs at “FAIR VALUE, and would like advice on how best to project your business’s image while making any funds you spend on marketing and signs an investment, please contact the writer at arnold@signforce.co.za or david@signforce.co.za and use the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE and we will get back to you.

http://www.signforce.co.za     http://www.signforce.co.za/blog

Are signs TRULY an important element in YOUR Marketing Mix?

In this modern, connected world of INTERNET, SOCIAL MEDIA, SMS MARKETING and FAST CHANGE is an OLD FASHIONED, STATIC sign still important.

The simple answer is a RESOUNDING YES.

While I understand this is a generalization and may not be as relevant for EVERY business, it IS important for ANY BUSINESS THAT WANTS TO BE SEEN and VISITED.

On Thursday I went to take advantage of a sale at a local butcher. I had previously received the MASS SMS informing me that they had ‘moved’. From a marketing perspective the sms was poorly worded in that it simply stated that they had relocated and gave the new address – no special offer, no call to action, simply an informative sms – which I figured was an error. They were a landmark where they were, and they had moved into a totally different area, so my thinking was they were advising of a new branch opening. It was only when I went past the ‘old’ premises that I realised they HAD MOVED – and I had deleted the ‘relocation’ sms days before my visit.

So the search began. I was eventually advised where they had moved to, and off I went. When I got to the location that I was told of, there was nothing to alert me to the fact that this was the new premises. I then called ‘info’, got the old number, had to dial it to get the ‘new’ number, then called that number to get directions, only to be told that they were where I was told they were.

At this point I figured I would pay more and go elsewhere. The saving was NOT WORTH the irritation. It was at that point that I drove past the shop – AGAIN, but this time with the attendant standing outside waving!

While inside I asked why they didn’t have signs up and was informed that they had been ordered and were ‘on their way’. (They were up two days later).

When I gave it some thought, this move had to have been planned weeks before I went there – I received the initial sms 10 days before my excursion. So WHY were there no signs up? Surely it should have been on top of the marketing persons list. Did they ever calculate the cost of NO SIGNS? How many people would felt just what I did, never to return as they are certainly not the cheapest supplier and are also not the only supplier within easy access. A simple banner (if the signs were running late) could have made a huge difference.

So YES. Signs are an important . As long as YOU EXPECT and / or WANT people to VISIT YOUR PREMISES, you would be well advised to make sure that VISIBLE SIGNS form part of your marketing mix!

If you are in the market for professional looking signs, or would like marketing advice, including on how best to project your business’s image, please contact the writer at arnold@signforce.co.za and use the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE and we will get back to you ASAP.  For more information visit http://www.signforce.co.za