Marketing 101: The Sign
Last updated: 9/11/2002; 6:40:30 AM
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Marketing 101: The Sign

Never Give Up! Never Surrender!

Tim Allen in Galaxy Quest

Note: Any high tech business is really a small business with a sophisticated set of goals and exit strategy. As such, the concerns of a small business, even trivial concerns, such as signage are relevant. Hence this essay.

Just before I left on my last trip to speak at Scoble's Web Builder 2002 conference, I took the time out to get my hair cut. As I always do before any type of public appearance. Anyway, I've been getting my hair cut by the same person since 1998 and you'd think that I wouldn't have a problem finding her salon, would you? And, while I do fall into that category of "directionally challenged" indviduals, I am NOT that bad. There's an easy explanation for this – the salon, London Hair Design in Swampscott, Massachusetts, has close to 0 external signage and a landlord that prevents them from adding signage.

All they have is a sign on the glass of their window – but not on the building or awning itself. And, when you drive by, looking for a place to park, your eye scans first across the top of the row of buildings looking for a sign. Now, when that fails, you look down at the awning itself for a sign. And, only when that fails, do you look at the glass for the sign – but it's shaded by the awning and always hard to read.

Now when I asked Debbie, the person who's been cutting my hair since '98, about this, she responded that the owner of the building wouldmn't let her put a sign up on the building. Here were my 7 suggestions for signage:

  1. If you can't put a sign on the building itself, why not get an awning with a sign stenciled on it?
  2. If you can't put up a new awning then why not get a sign maker to make up a vinyl / canvas / nylon banner sign that can be tied onto the awning.
  3. If you can't use an awning tie on sign, why not get a "sandwich board" style sign that can be placed on the sidewalk in front of the business?
  4. If you can't use a sidewalk sign then get a sign for the roof of your car made up and park it on street in front of the salon (think of a taxi cab style sign)?
  5. If you can't use a sign on top of the car then why not get a sign stenciled on the side of your car and park in front of the salon?
  6. If you can't use a sign stenciled on your car then why not get a magnetic sign made up that can be placed on the side of your car when you part in front of the salon?
  7. If you can't put any signage on a car (perhaps local zoning restrictions) then why not get a DISTINCTIVE car and always, always, always park it in front of the salon? Even though the car has nothing to do with the business, over time your customers will learn that "London Hair Design" equals "that wacky car" parked in front. While this won't help with new customers, for this type of business repeat customers are actually probably more important.

The subtitle to this article is "Never Give Up! Never Surrender" – and there's a reason for this. For any problem there is almost always a solution. In this case the problem wasn't the lack of a sign – the problem was a recalcitrant landlord who hampered the business. Now while the best way to solve this problem is just to avoid it in the first place, by getting a signage clause in your lease, you may not be able to do that. In this case then get creative, don't surrender and you can find a solution.

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