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Great Business Signs: Why They’re Important, and How to Get One

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You are convinced that you are ready to open your first new business. You’ve got the product, chosen the location, hired the staff, and… completely neglected to plan for a compelling new business sign. No big deal, right? Just call your cousin – – who is taking a graphic design class at the local community college. Have your cousin work up a cool logo for you, then send the logo out to a handful of sign companies for bids. Good plan, right?

Probably not. On second thought… No. It’s important to start your new small business off with a great sign, and it’s pretty unlikely your lack of planning is going to achieve the result you want. So, how important is it that you get your new business sign right the first time? Well, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about half of all small businesses don’t survive more than five years. It’s best to get it right the first time.

Okay, so signs are a good idea. How important? Well, according to a study by FedEx Office, nearly 76% of consumers said they had entered a store they have never visited before, based on its signs. Moreover, over two-thirds (68%) have made a purchase because a sign caught their eye. Your small business sign can also lead to referral sales, with nearly three out of four consumers saying they have told someone about a store based simply on its signage.

“Obviously, signs are important, but what if I want to focus more of my advertising dollars on other forms of marketing?” It’s a good idea to invest in multiple types of marketing. However, on-premise signage should be a part of your overall advertising plan. Per the Small Business Administration, the cost-per-thousand impressions rate for signage is much lower than other types of advertising, including radio, television, and print media. And, your on-premise business sign just keeps working for you, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Now that we’ve established the importance of a great, new business sign, how does a small business owner go about actually getting one? Here are some key steps that will help guide you through the process, and help prevent mistakes.

Start with a logo.

Many of the small business owners we meet with not only don’t have a working logo, but they also have no idea what they want their logo to look. It’s relatively hard for a sign company to build a great sign for your new business if you don’t have a logo. What personality do you want your brand or logo (and therefore your sign) to portray? Healthy? Rugged? Stylish? Need some help? Talk to a sign company – – most have at least one professional graphic designer on staff.

Note: Consider also any space limitations. For example, if you develop a “tall” logo (think Portrait instead of Landscape), how do you build a great new business sign for a sign area measuring 36” tall x 180” wide? Hint: It’s a good idea to have a “wide” and a “tall” version of your logo.

Aluminum Pan Sign with Dimensional Graphics for Cupcake People – Lawrenceville, GA

Aluminum Pan Sign with Dimensional Graphics for Cupcake People – Lawrenceville, GA

Study the Sign Criteria portion of your Lease

Many lease documents contain provisions that are not current or are rigidly inflexible – – thereby limiting the type of sign you can install. For example, the sign criteria in many leases contain specifics that are now almost obsolete. For example, the sign criteria may require “channel letters with 9mm neon tubing,” when nearly all channel letter signs manufactured use LED illumination due to its energy efficiency. Or, the sign criteria may dictate that all signs are a particular color (such as white), or a specific type (such as front-lit channel letters). Read and ask questions before you sign.

Learn your local sign ordinance.

Nearly every municipality is going to require a sign permit for an exterior business sign. So, before you start planning the design of your new business sign, educate yourself on the local sign ordinance. Better to know what you are going to be allowed to do before you start design work, etc. For example, in the City of Johns Creek, GA, the allowance for a wall sign is 5% of the area of the storefront (height x width). So, a 20’ tall x 20’ wide building gets a 20 s.f. sign. [(20’ x 20’) x .05]. In Gwinnett County, GA, the allowance is based on the Gross Building Space. If your suite is 0-2,500 s.f., then you are allowed 36 s.f. of signage per building elevation.

If you are in the Atlanta area, go to the Resources page at for accurate sign ordinance information for a variety of local municipalities. If you don’t find what you need there, you can usually find this information on your city or county website. Look for a document called “Code of Ordinances,” often found in the “Planning and Zoning” section of the site. Another great resource is Municode, which is a reference library of ordinances (including sign ordinances) for municipalities from around the country.

The FIX channel letter sign.
These combination-lit channel letters stand out in any crowd!

Educate yourself on sign types.

There are many different sign types. Among internally-illuminated building or “wall” signs, there are channel letters (front-lit, reverse-lit, and combination-lit). There are also light cabinets, which can have flat faces with vinyl graphics, or pan faces (which can have either cut vinyl graphics, or embossed graphics). There are cabinets with metal faces that have been stencil-cut to allow for either pierce-cut graphics or push-thru graphics. If you want to illuminate your sign externally, or if you don’t believe an illuminated sign is necessary, dimensional lettering is a popular choice – – either mounted directly to the building/wall or installed to the face of a flat substrate or an aluminum pan. Regardless, it’s a good idea to spend some time studying your options before committing to a sign you might later regret.

Take your time choosing your logo color.

In the study called Impact of Color in Marketing, researchers noted that up to 90% of snap judgments made about products are based on color alone. In an article in, researchers also observed that it’s easy to make a mistake when it comes to color. Red is a highly popular color when it comes to business signs. For example, you want to open a dentistry office, and have chosen a sign with bold, bright red graphics. Good idea?

According to research posted at Smallbiztrends, red “creates a sense of urgency… encourages appetite… stimulates the body, raising blood pressure and heart rate.” Oh, and it makes people (who are maybe already a little queasy about going to the dentist) think about blood, which makes them think about… bleeding. Never a fun thought when going to the dentist. Ready for another example? What color do you immediately think of when you think fresh, healthy food, or earth-friendly businesses? Say, “Green.” Or, you want to open a salon, and you want your new salon to cater to a more exclusive clientele. You’ve always liked the color… yellow.

Per The Psychology of Colors in Marketing, yellow is “used to create a sense of anxiety that can draw in impulsive buyers and window shoppers.” Yellow is commonly used for “Going Out of Business” events. So, yellow might not be a good match. What might be a better match? Try purple, which researcher Joe Hallock claims in Colour Assignments is the second most-popular (23%) color (behind blue at 35%) for women. Researchers have found that purple is “commonly associated with royalty, wisdom, and respect…”, and that it “stimulates problem-solving and creativity…”, and it is “frequently used to sell beauty and anti-aging products.” Yellow, by the way, stands as the favorite color of 3% of women.

It’s important to note that color is too dependent on personal experiences to be generalized to the entire population. Elements such as personal preferences, experiences, and upbringing can affect how an individual perceives color. So, take the analysis with a grain of salt. At the same time, don’t entirely ignore it – – there’s a reason Harley Davidson chose black and orange, for example, and there is a reason so many fast food restaurants use red and yellow. Don’t just choose at random. Put some thought into it.

That’s five essential tips that will help you get a great new business sign! For more information on how you can jump-start your new business with a great sign, please give us a call at (770) 381-9300.

About Us

Big Mouth Signs is a full-service provider of all types of commercial business signs and school signs. Located at 40 Rockbridge Road, Suite 200, in Lilburn, GA, we specialize in building signs, facility signs, lobby signs, and office signs. Also, we are the #1 provider of electronic message displays for Gwinnett County Schools. We can be reached by phone at 770-381-9300, or by email at

Picture of Mark Kasson

Mark Kasson

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