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Why Your Signs Matter

Why Your Signs Matter

To simplify complications is the first essential of success.

~George Earle Buckle

Signage plays an important role in every business. Not only do signs convey information to your customers, but they also bring new customers in. Clearly, spending money on great signage is a wise investment, but it is important to remember that not all signage is good signage.

For many businesses, signage is a form of advertising. However, signs can become dated in seven to 10 years. It is important to change them out occasionally. Doing so breathes new life into your signs, which can make a big difference.

You must also be conscious of how visible your signage is. How many times have you had a hard time locating a business, even with the assistance of a GPS?

That was probably because their signs were not visible. Either they were too small, they blended in to the color of the building, were parallel to the road or were blocked by shrubs or trees. Or maybe, even worse, the message on the signs was just not appropriate. Most of these issues are relatively easy to fix—trimming some shrubs or choosing a different color—but the business must be paying attention to their signs in order to have a sense of how effective they are.

Understandably, it is hard for a business owner to evaluate their own signage through the customer’s perspective, so ask a trusted friend who has never been to your office to come and tell you what they experienced. Was your signage easy to spot? Were they able to find you?

You can also ask your customers the same question. I promise they will tell you.

Recently I was in a doctor’s office and had a great visit, but when I went to leave the small exam room, I got lost in the labyrinth of halls. It felt like I would never find my way out until I stumbled across a nurse who showed me where to exit. Simple signs with an arrow and “To Exit” would be an easy fix for this problem.

Clearly, having too few or inadequate signs is a problem, but having too many is a whole other issue. Signs can be informational, but when the same message is repeated again and again, your customers feel like you are ordering or shouting at them.

For example, I was in a business waiting to see the owner. The receptionist was seated behind a wall with a sliding-glass window. On the window were posted not one but two signs—one high and one low—that said “Absolutely no cell phones.”

I understand people can be loud when talking on cell phones, which can be very disruptive to other customers. However, it would be much kinder—and much less obnoxious—to simply ask them not to use their cell phones when they check in. I know no one wants to repeat the same thing over and over again with every customer, but that is the receptionist’s job.

For another example, one doctor’s office had no less than 10 signs on their receptionist window. The messages varied from instructions about cell phone usage to details about co-pays. It made me feel that there were all these rules for things I could not do, which was not warm or welcoming.

Big signs with bold letters make patients feel as though they are being yelled at. That said, I understand these things need to be communicated, so an alternative is to hand each patient a list of patient expectations that outlines all these things in a very friendly manner.

Now go out and evaluate each sign you have. Make sure each is visible and clearly communicates exactly what you need it to. Again, you might consider asking your customers for help with this.

You can do this!

Published: January 8, 2016

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Jerry Osteryoung

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses—he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of the Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His latest book, coauthored with Tim O’Brien, “If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book,” is a bestseller on Amazon. Email Jerry @ jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com

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