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Getting Your Business Recognized With Building Signs

One things that we always say here in Pinnacle Custom Signs is that “a business with no sign is a sign of no business.” If you have a building that you’re doing business in, and you don’t have a sign out there to drive traffic to it, then you’re just asking for problems. It is an economic reality that a sign will bring in more business and pay for itself over six months.

There have been studies that have been done that show that 15-20% of business at a retail establish is driven by the signs. Now, that’s how eye catching they are, how they reflect your business, but 15-20% of all customers that come into food services, retail services types of businesses, are driven there specifically by the outdoor signs that you have out there.

A few years ago, we had a restaurant open up near us. I went to see the customer and asked them about their signs. They responded: “Well, we can’t afford the money on the sign. We’re spending money on everything else right now.” They didn’t put up a sign of any kind.  they were located in a high trafficked area with plenty of potential customers but, because they didn’t have a sign, no one knew exactly what their business was. Eventually, they went out of business.

“A business with no sign is a sign of no business.”

As you put together your business model, your business projections, as you’re opening up your business – do not scrimp on the sign because the sign will drive a significant amount of traffic to your business.

So, let’s talk about outdoor building signs – the building signs that go on retail establishments, brick-and-morter establishments, and other business building, the signs that get your business recognized. There are several different types of outdoor signs, which each type having a reason for being different and being used for different kinds of businesses.

Lighted Building Signs

First of all, there’s lighted signs. Now, if you’re a retail business that’s open after 5:00PM at night in some sort of area that requires your customers to come in to see you after night, a lighted sign is definitely the way to go. You need to be able to be visible. You need to be able to draw traffic into your location, whether it’s a retail or food or other type of a venue. A lighted sign would be extremely important for you.

Channel Letters

There’s two different types of lighted signs in general. One is channel letters. Now, when I say channel letters, it’s the type that you see on the sides of buildings, the ones that say cleaners or dentist or something else like that. It is basically a lighted sign that has letters and sometimes shapes associated with it, logos and things like that.

Channel letters today are made specifically out of LED lighting. LED lighting is important for channel letters because of two reasons. One, it actually makes the letters very much brighter than they were in the past with neon. Two, the amount of power used on LED is about 20% of what it was on neon. Not only on channel letters are the LED lights brighter, but they also reduce the power consumption on those.

A matter of fact, in recent years, we’ve been going out to customers who have old neon lighting in their channel letters and removing the neon lights, putting in LED lights, and saving them a ton of money on power. The payback for those types of signs from a cost benefit standpoint is less than two years. Plus they get a much better look and better visibility.

Light Boxes

There’s also light boxes. If you have a large sign that just needs to be on the side of the building, doesn’t need to be individual letters, we can use a light box for that. We see that all over the places. Light boxes are also popular choices for pylon signs on the sides of the road.

Light boxes use internal illumination – again, LEDs are the best choice – to illuminate the sign face, which is a partially transparent vinyl on flat acrylic, from within. These signs are not as dimensionally attractive as channel letters but they are far from boring. The acrylic face of the sign can be flat or embossed, allowing you to create some unique looks. It can also be cost effective because you can more easily update the sign face with new information or branding.

Those are the two different types of lighted signs. Now, with channel letters, there’s many different variations of channel letters. You have front lit, you have back lit, you have front and back lit. Again, it depends on the look, what your logo’s trying to communicate, what you’re trying to communicate to the general public. You can also combine light boxes and channel letters to create a unique look, like we did with Vapewares’ new location sign.

Unlighted Signs

Unlighted signs are also an option for outdoors. Now, you might say, “Why would I want an unlighted sign?” Well, a couple reasons. One is the cost of an unlighted sign versus lighted sign. Obviously, much cheaper if you don’t have electronics and electricity to it.

Two, if you are a business-to-business company located in an industrial park or something like that, you want to show people who you are and identify yourself on your building, but your business sign isn’t necessarily what draws people to you. You are not going to have many people come visit you after hours / when it’s dark out. An unlighted sign will best serve your needs.

There’s really two types of unlighted signs – dimensional letters and flat panels.

Dimensional Letters

When I say dimensional letters, think channel letters without the internal/external lighting. Those dimensional letters can be put together and stud mounted or fastened to the side of your building. Again, same impact as channel letters. but you’re not going to be lit up at night.

Flat Panels

Then we have flat panels. Flat panels come in many different varieties due to the types of materials and production methods. Flat panel aluminum signs with your logo digital printed on it is probably the least expensive option for an outdoor sign. You can also combine dimensional lettering with flat panels to create a multi-level sign.

Or you can go ahead and have a routed high density urethane or HDU sign. Yes, if you’ve listened to some of the things we’ve talked about before, HDU is the same material that we do for a lot of residential signs in the subdivisions and things like that. The benefits of HDU is that you can achieve many different looks, like wood grain, at a lower cost. Plus, it’s lighter than other materials.

So, as you can see, there are lots of options for outdoor signs, lighted or unlighted. Again, it depends on what you’re trying to do, what your budget is, and where you’re trying to go with this.

The Sign Process

What’s the process for obtaining an outdoor sign? First, contact a sign profession, whether it’s Pinnacle Custom Signs or someone else. Contact them because they’ve done this before. They know what to deal with. They know who to deal with. If you contact your sign professional, they can actually walk you through the process.

Sign Design

The next thing is to have your sign designed. Most sign professionals will design your sign, show you what it looks like on the building, in front of the building, and things like that. You can have it to your taste. You can have it to what you’re looking for as long as it fits within the other restrictions that we have. The design of a sign really says a lot about your business.

If you think about some of the outdoor signs we see out there, like McDonald’s and Starbucks, they all have the same consistent look and feel. However, depending on the governmental restrictions, they may not be able to have the exact same sign that you know.

McDonald’s is a great example. McDonald’s has the red McDonald’s logo with the golden arches. You know that worldwide. However, in Asheville, North Carolina, near the Biltmore Inn, there is a zone that does not like lighted signs or signs with color. McDonald’s had to adjust their standard to go ahead and have their signs made non-lighted and have their brand subdued to a certain extent.

Permitting, Fabrication & Installation

Then you need to approve the design and obtain the permit. Now, two ways, either you as a business owner can obtain that permit, or you can hire a sign professional like Pinnacle Custom Signs obtain that permit. Again, we know the ins and outs of doing that. It’s important that you know exactly what has to happen for you to obtain that sign permit. Once the permit is obtained, then we fabricate the sign, and then we install it. It’s basically a pretty easy process to follow, but the start of that process as always is to talk to a sign professional about what needs to happen.

Restrictions For Outdoor Signs

People always ask me, “Does this sign need to be permitted?” Yes, most outdoor signs do need to be permitted. Another thing that I’ve always asked is, “How long does it take to get it an outdoor sign?” Again, from a timing standpoint, outdoor signs probably take the longest to permit and produce of any of the signs that we do. Quick turnarounds, we can probably do, but not as quick as some other signs that we do.

Landlord Restrictions

First of all, there’s a landlord restriction. A lot of landlord will say in the lease that you sign for your space that you can only have specific types of signs. Some are very general. Some are very specific, specific down to the color of the sign, the color of the raceway, and the color of the return on it.

The first thing to look at is what your landlord will require. Depending on the look they’re trying to get at, some landlords require very expensive signs. Back lit channel letters are probably the most expensive outdoor types of signs. A lot of landlords in some of the fancier areas, like in Atlanta’s Buckhead area and similar areas, would require a back lit channel letter signs. Again, they’re trying to be consistent with the look of the area, but it is gonna put a little bit of a financial burden on the business buying the sign.

Development Restrictions

The other one would be the developer restrictions. A lot of larger mixed use developments are springing up all of over the country, like Avalon in Atlanta. The developers of these areas put restrictions on the signs allowed to maintain the look and feel that they want the area as a whole to have. They don’t want to have a bunch of signs cluttering up the area and making the area look like hodgepodge. They want it to look clean and upscale, with all of the signs have a similar look while still being unique in their own way.

Government Restrictions

The biggest restriction on outdoor signs is the government and what the governmental agency requires. It depends on what your address is. We sit here in Buford, Georgia. A lot of our signs are permitted by the city of Buford, so we know what the sign permit requirements are for that. Because we do permits across the country for our customers, we do our research to know exactly what the requirements are when we design and develop the signs for getting a permit across the country

Now, most of the government restrictions or regulations are dependent on what look and feel they’re trying to go at as well. However, existing signs can be grandfathered in. For example, here in Buford, you cannot have a monument sign that is larger than eight feet tall. It has to be encased totally in brick and be internally lighted.

Now, if you drive around the city of Buford, you’ll find a lot of signs that are bigger than that and don’t meet those requirements. The main reason is that these signs were there before the sign code was changed. Therefore, they are all grandfathered in. We’ve had to work with several of our customers in the area to ensure that our designs fit in with what the government will actually approve. Same thing across the country. There’s some interesting codes that are developed.

For example, Gwinnett County, Georgia, which is a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, they have a requirement that a freestanding sign, no matter how tall it is, must withstand a 150 mile per hour winds. Now, if you think about that for a second, that is a category five hurricane in Gwinnett County. Why would they make that requirement?

In 2008, a tornado outbreak in the Metro Atlanta area caused widespread damage in the downtown area. The strongest of which was an EF2 which has wind speeds of 111-135 mph. Plus, hurricanes/tropical storms pose additional threat with high winds and the potential for tornadoes to develop. Because of this, Gwinnett county now requires that each sign has an engineer sealed drawing saying that it will withstand winds up to 150 miles per hour.

There are a lot of in and outs of the outside signs. What I would tell you is that working with a sign professional is probably the best thing you can do from an outdoor sign standpoint cause most sign professionals will know what the codes are and what’s going on.

Get the most out of our signs.

Your signage highlights your brand. It’s very important to make sure that you optimize your brand and what you’re trying to communicate out there.

What is your brand? What are you trying to communicate? It’s really important. Some people go about and have signs that just say dentist or travel or cleaners. That’s okay if you’re not trying to establish your brand, if you’re a one location type of person.

I’ll give you an example. Dentistry for Children has 40 locations across the country. They are a dentist and orthodontist, but they have created a brand standard that are on all of their outdoor signs. You cannot miss it when you drive by one of their buildings. Because of that consistency in branding, they build greater brand awareness.

When it comes to getting the most out of your sign, it’s important to talk to a professional sign company. We are a one-stop shop for all of your signage needs. From being able to design a sign that matches your branding, your budget, and the restrictions to creating and installing the signs, we can help you with any step of the sign process. Contact us today for a free, no obligation quote!