5 Reasons Why Signs Work For Your Small Business

Why business signs work

In a square mile radius in Germantown, Maryland are about 6 Asian grocery stores. Yet I visited the one store whose location was way off the main road and was difficult to find. I saw a sign for the business in another Asian grocery store and knew that they stocked goat meat, which is a delicacy for meat eaters from the Indian sub-continent.

I can’t tell you how many countless times I have used a new business based on their business signs. Business signs work – and here’s why.

5 Reasons Why Business Signs Work


For a brick and mortar small business your sign is important as it acts like a  guidepost to guide customers to your place of business and attract the attention of new customers. If you are a new business, people driving by will be attracted to stop in and try your business. People moving to the area look for local businesses that they can start visiting.

Brand Promise

A sign should always be neat and bright and should convey the promise of your brand, convey the high standards of your business, your differentiation. A sign board that is damaged or smudged may fail to convey your brand.

business signs

Special Occasions

In the photo above, SXSW is a large event in downtown Austin and this small business is attracting event attendees walking by. Find local events and community gatherings like parades to create awareness for your business


When Groupon rented ad space outside Living Social’s offices in downtown Washington, D.C. it created some buzz. You see these signs often on highways advertising restaurants or gas stations just a few miles ahead of an exit ramp. Signage is important in a high traffic location as overflow traffic from other places can find your business and make an impromptu decision to use your business.

Online-Offline Connection

Take a look at the picture at the very top of this post from an Irish pub in the Cleveland Park area of Washington, D.C. that advertises their Facebook page.

Adding your website url to your sign is a good idea for people who don’t have time to stop and can check you out later. Adding a QR code is a good idea if your sign can be scanned easily.

In photos of your business on your website, it may be a good idea to include pictures of your businesses physical location, signage and neighborhood. So that when people visit, they are already familiar with how the business and surroundings look.

More and more people are finding your business online, but that is only half the story. If you have a great location, you can also appeal to new people who are walking past your business every day.

Do you have a success story about using signs for your business?

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Shashi Bellamkonda Shashi Bellamkonda is CMO of Surefire Social, AKA "Social Media Swami" at SurefireSocial. Visit Shashi Bellamkonda's blog. He is also an adjunct faculty at Georgetown University. Shashi is a regular contributor to the Washington Business Journal, DC Examiner and other tech blogs like Smallbiztechnology and Techcocktail. Shashi has been in the list of Top 100 Small Business Influencer Champions list for 2011 and 2012.

55 Reactions
  1. The whole premise of advertising is to reach the right people. If there is a location where you know your customers are, then a sign can very effectively reach them.

    • Hey Robert, a sign placed outside your business will be seen by every driver/passenger that drives by as well as any foot traffic that walks by. You can go to the dept of transportation and get a feel for how much traffic passes by your store. Price out your sign and divide by that number and it gives you the cost per impression of your advertising sign. If you know how much business you had prior to erecting your sign then you will have a great idea of how well your sign is advertising for you. Your sign could be an architectural sign or monument sign or it could be a banner or yard sign. Depending on your business, each one has it’s uses but they are all great for increasing the bottom line of any business. But you have to consider all the options and what’s best for your business.

      I agree with your statement if you’re a restaurant off the freeway and you put up a billboard to let people know if they’re hungry to get off at the next exit. I’m not sure for what other scenario putting your sign far away from your location would work. What sort of business did you have in mind when you made your reply?
      great discussion!

  2. Very well said Robert. Thanks.

  3. Signs are particularly useful for impulse purchases. Restaurants and bars fall into this group, particularly those that are in a popular entertainment/recreation neighborhood. Often people plan in advance where they’ll go to eat or to party. But often they will just head down to a popular neighborhood and wing it. The signs help lure them in.

    • I can tell you of the times I have chosen a business because of their sign, an impulse purchase. I remember a time I searched for thai food on Google maps and of course got confused with the directions but the sign was useful to point me there.


    • I was a sign maker for 5 years, you’d be surprised how many small business owners pay as little as possible to get a sign made, also not having their own logo. You can judge a book by it’s cover in this case, if a business sign looks small time, then it’s expected the product is as well. But then there are those outliers which break the test of time and just have great food in a dirty or bad location but people come from all around to stand in line.

  4. Great ideas, Shashi.

    Adding your website url to business signage is a definite plus.

    I have a rolling sign for my business; I had a small sign made for my vehicle that’s magnetized…with my url on it.

    The Franchise King®

    • Having a url on your car is a great idea. Keeps the business in memory and in the olden days we had the 800 number now having a memorable url is good.

      • If you put any form of advertising on your personal vehicle for your business, even just a website, be sure to inquire with you insurance company. Insurance companies usually increase your rates if you use your car as a billboard for commercial purposes. If you fail to inform them, you may have problems later in the case of claim.

  5. Shashi – Useful tips. A sign is a first contact of potential customer with your business. Even in these days of everything digital, physical signs still play a very important role in getting attention of potential customers and converting them to regulars. Like your idea about including additional information on the signs.

  6. An absolutely fantastic article! As somebody who works in a High Wycombe based signage company, I’ve had thousands of small businesses benefit, and while modern signage such as screens etc. can be generate a fantastic ROI traditional and affordable signage can work wonders.

  7. Very good points and traditional signs have most certainly proved themselves, and still do!

  8. I agree that there has to be an online-offline connection. If the website and signage don’t match up, it makes it confusing for a potential customer. Hopefully, by having a coordinated effort, a company can get its message across to all its customers.

  9. I like the idea of a lunch sign outside of a local shop to advertise the weekly specials. I didn’t realize it, but I feel like advertising in that way makes it feel a lot more personalized. A friend of mine works at a local pizza joint. I’ll have to offer that as an idea for business. Thanks!

  10. I thought that you made a good point about how business signs can be useful by attracting walk in clients for special occasions. It seems like walking past a sign would attract people’s attention. The SXSW sign seems like a good example of how this can work by attracting event attendees that were walking by informing them of their event by listing their specials. It seems like similar businesses would benefit by doing the same thing.

  11. Thanks for the post. I really like the idea to have a sign posted out front of our business. It definitely creates a visual for customers walking by or driving by. I think it also great for promotional that our business is having.

  12. I really liked how you explained, “A sign should always be neat and bright and should convey they promise of your brand…” I like the idea of a business sign conveying a message to customers. I’ve been taking marketing classes this semester, so these kind of ideas has been really interesting to me lately. Thanks for sharing!

  13. I really like the whole article on all the different way you can use physical signs to promote your business. You make a good point to put your website or QR code on them for the people who may not have time to check back soon. If I ever start my own business I’ll have to keep that in mind!

  14. I am one to always get distracted when I see a sign with a lot of color. I will most likely go and eat somewhere new long as the place looks appeal. The first thing I look at is the sign. So i have to agree the colors are the most important part.

  15. I like the idea of the sign acting as a guidepost for your physical location. I worked at an underground restaurant for a few years and the only way people could find us on their own was by finding the sign by the stairs. If you live in a tucked away place you may need a sign to direct people or your business could suffer. Great tips!

  16. Some great points mentioned here! Signage is a powerful tool for drawing in consumers. Strong, clear and creative signs reflects the qualities needed to produce a visually pleasing and eye catching display.

  17. Business signs do work, both outside of a store, and on the windows (window clings). Another good idea would be to create a banner sign or two and place them in prominent areas near your business. Especially if your business is tucked away in a shopping mall corner, a good colorful banner sign or two out in the parking lot would help to make your presence known.

  18. Great article! I have seen my own benefits from placing a business sign. If I were to add onto this article, I would also mention that you know your audience is a local and can stop by and visit your store, as opposed to a guy on the internet.

  19. These are great points as to why you would need a sign if you are a small business owner. After all, you want to be sure that your company is known to the world. Further, you want people to be familiar with what your company does. One of the best ways to be sure that people will know who you are and what you stand for is by having a great sign. Do you have any pieces of advice when it comes to writing a good sign?

  20. I like how you point out that maintaining a neat and attractive sign helps deliver on the brand promise. I can see why having an appealing sign would be important to a business owner to get more customers. My cousin is thinking of opening up her own restaurant. She might consider using signs to reach more people.

  21. I never thought about the ability of a business sign to help consumers connect to online sources or advertising; that’s a great idea! I know that nowadays, a lot of people are playing Pokemon GO, so I could see a huge benefit in talking about that online game with their sign. It shows people you’re an upbeat business that follows trends as well, which can help your reputation.

  22. The fact of the matter is that these signs work. These signs not only get noticed by pedestrians, but drivers passing by. I think this may be because drivers are paying attention to the road. The focus of their attention is on keeping the car where it needs to be. Just a small thing like bringing a sign closer to their frame of vision can bring your business attention.

  23. I appreciate the information on signs and why they work for your business. I agree that signs can really help brand a company and really help to get their name and image out there where people would not have been able to see them otherwise. If I remember right, it takes 7 times of seeing something for someone to really remember it. I know signs really help me to do that for businesses and their names.

  24. That’s a good tip that location is a great asset of physical signs. If you put a sign where people are more likely to see them, that can help your business. If I start a business I’d consider physical signs as part of my advertising.

  25. Zachary Tomlinson

    I like that you pointed out that adding your website, or, might I add, your QR code, to a sign really increases traffic to your website and increases you publicity even more. I think that it is important to realize that you don’t need to spend a ton of time and money on signage. It doesn’t need to be perfect; it will work either way.

  26. I like what you said about how a sign should always be neat and bright and should convey the promise of your brand. I’ve heard that sign architects always consider the question: how can I catch the attention of a passerby with just one glance? That’s quite the task! I’ll have to keep this information in mind if I ever am assigned to design and make a sign for a business!

  27. Adding a QR code to a sign is a great idea. I was walking down the street the other day, and I walked right by a sign the shop owner had put out. I was curious at what that shop had to offer, but there was no way to get that information. I could’ve really used a QR code.

  28. I had never considered that a sign could be used as a guidepost. After reading a little bit, it makes sense why this could be a way to inform the public about what you are offering and if any deals are happening. I often see signs when I am walking through outdoor malls. I’ll have to pay closer attention of what they say.

  29. Thanks! Good signage can help your business in a number of different ways. Signs provide continuous advertising for your business, and will work for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

  30. I like how the article compares a business sign to a brand promise. I’ve read in an article somewhere that people report making up to 25% of impulse decisions on where to shop based off a good sign. I know if I had my own business, I’d want to make sure my sign is attractive and well-set. And if it were ever damaged or broken, I’d want my sign repaired as soon as possible.

  31. In your article, you stated that for a brick and mortar small business your sign is important as it acts like a guidepost to guide customers to your place of business and attract the attention of new customers and if you are a new business, people driving by will be attracted to stop in and try your business. My wife and I were on a date and we saw a really funny sign that was attracting a lot of people. I wonder if there are certain sign designs that might be better for certain types of business.

  32. That’s a clever idea to add a QR code to a sign. That way people can learn about your business online when they have time. Signs also help businesses look more legit.

  33. Wow it’s interesting how much a sign can influence your business. Unfortunately.. many small business owners worried about their online business presence nowadays, many forget about or ignore their business’s physical presence. This article does a great job of pointing out just how important signage can be to the success of a business. Thanks so much for sharing!

  34. I appreciate that you mentioned that signage is important for big traffic areas. After all, it could be a great way to utilize that area for advertisement, especially if it’s prone to slow traffic. Having a monumental sign that stands out could really stand out to a driver as they are waiting to move.

  35. Yeah its a real fact that the signage design is a big influential in attracting or repelling customers, Make sure it is designed to attract, not just a fancy design signage.

  36. Making the connection to the visual aspect of your brand is very important. We think in images and image recognition comes far faster than language recall. So, make sure your offline and online branding match. Also, use your sign to advertise events that are coming soon. Even though someone may find your sign online or walk/drive by your site they may not have need for your service immediately. But, if they recognize your logo when they do have need, you have a better chance of them finding you. Since you really can’t search by an image, remember to always place your logo in a searchable form prominently on your sign. If your logo is a well known image, with no searchable text, use a QR code so customers can find you online.

  37. I like that you mention that a sign should be in good shape to better convey your business brand. It’s very important that a business takes the time to improve their visual branding. The better they look, the most likely that customers are going to want their products or services. It’s good to find a company that can provide you with the right signage to really make your business stand out.

  38. I like your tip to put your URL on any shop front sign you have so that people can connect with you online. The store I work at has been thinking about putting in a sign on their shop front, so they are wondering what they should put on it. I will be sure to tell my boss to put our URL on the banner so that people can look at our website too.

  39. I liked what you said about how a good business sign really helps when the business is celebrating a special occasion. My cousin is looking to gain some new business to his small store, so he’s considering his advertising options. Thank you for the information about how he could put signs outside the shop or advertise with local events and community gatherings like parades to create awareness of his business.

  40. I agree that business signs should always be neat and bright to attract the customer’s attention. It should also include your branding message. Basing from experience, I think this is more compelling in terms of enticing customers to try your products. In the event that I get to put up my own business, I need to make sure that the brand is promising by setting up clear business signage in front of it.

  41. If I had a business, I’d have some signs. They would let customers know where your business is. Plus, they are a cheaper way to draw them in.

  42. I never took into account that installing an outdoor lighted sign in your business can be interesting for people that are curious about knowing your products or services but don’t have time when they see it. My boss is always looking for ways to attract more customers. It would be a great idea to tell him about the advantage of having a sign outside the store.

  43. Thanks for helping me understand why business signs are an effective form of marketing for the company. I like what you said that a signage must appear presentable to potential customers, especially if the business plans to place it outside their shop. You noted that through a good signage, branding management of the company is conveyed. Since my boss is looking for ways on how to increase sales, I hope we can find a firm that offers custom signs.

  44. It made sense when you said that people who have just moved to the area will want to find small businesses they can support there. My sister just opened a small art store in an area with a moderate amount of traffic. I’ll have to let her know why investing in an exterior sign for the business would be worth the cost!

  45. I can understand how a business could really benefit from getting the right signs to increase customers’ awareness. Getting some help from a professional to illuminate the signs in the dark can help them be more effective. It was interesting to learn about how the sign shouldn’t be damaged or smudged to help them have higher standards.

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