Presidents Post | October
FUTURE PROOFING YOUR SIGN SHOP.
Most signees spend their days being creative and doing what they do best, it has been my experience that we generally don’t spend enough time working ON our businesses rather than IN them, especially smaller shops. Planning for our businesses future is of the up most importance to keeping any sign shop on the up. I have listed below some of the tools that have worked for my business and hopefully may help with yours.
Signage is all about promotion, marketing and advertising and yet a great deal of us don’t use any of these important tools at all other than a wrap on our trucks, a facebook page and a usually outdated website. Having a structured, targeted and “point of difference” based market plan is a must to protect the future of your business. Its easy to put these things aside when we are busy keeping our customers happy and generally its not until they start calling a bit less frequently that our thoughts turn to survival and we look at advertising. Being pro active rather than re active is the key. Create a point of difference for your marketing. How will you make your potential clients perceive you are different or better than your competition. If you don’t know your point of difference ask you clients…why do you use my shop. Generally you’ll find a pattern in their replies, whether it’s your speed in service, your creative edge, your friendly service or simply your bracingly good looks this is the point to create your marketing around. We all know with our industry the way it is now basing your marketing simply on cheaper pricing can be a recipe for disaster, so we need this point of difference in our marketing to give potential clients a reason to choose our quote other than price. Once you have identified your point of difference…promote it. Regularly updated signage, sponsorship of community events, social media and the most important good old word of mouth.
I have found that most of what I would class as successful shops are no longer just sign shops but have morphed into branding and marketing businesses offering a wide variety of business promotion, advertising products and services. Logo design, printing, uniforms supply, garment printing, website creation, social media management and many others are all areas that compliment signage services and can be implemented relatively easily into most sign shops. These additional services promote each other generating more work for each other as well. How many times has a customer ordered some door magnets and then asked if you print business cards or t shirts.
After 35 years in this industry I have seen a lot of change in the way we do things. I have also unfortunately watched a lot of talented passionate signwriters leave the industry because they are afraid of change. The call of “cutters and vinyl will kill this industry” echoed off the sign walls of the 80’s and 90’s, then it was digital printers were the traditional signwriters replacement. Technology is everchanging and not always for the better, but whatever new tech is popping up in this industry it is only ever as good as the person using it and is just a tool like a sign brush a cutter or a pencil. A good sign company uses all the tools available to create great work and if they don’t have the skills to utilize these new tools they get them through training and or employing those that do. Keeping up with technology and industry trends not only keeps your shop growing but also keeps your staff excited about what they do and we all know how important staff retention is to any business.
Now this one might stir up some feathers but I have found this worked for my shop. If we listen to the press and all those doom and gloomers out there we would just sit in the corner and rock back and forward muttering to ourselves. While economic conditions can strongly impact any business, staying positive and proactive in our day to day business activities can make all the difference. If we hear and believe all the negative we will draw the negative to us. Personally I think recessions are bought about by people hearing there is a recession so they change their way of operating and create a recession. I am not saying don’t keep up with economic issues and play the ostrich trick but when faced with making a decision air on the positive side rather than the negative. Risk is an important part of business and should be embraced.
Personally I believe all trades are struggling for good tradespeople. Somehow trade skills have become watered down. Whether its specialisation in production techniques IE: one person does only 1 part of the job, or lack of good training as we are all so busy, whatever the reason nothing is going to change unless we make it. Some shops believe in apprenticeships others in training a person to fill a set role, which ever you choose remember boredom is the biggest cause of staff lose in my experience. Training your staff to become well rounded signmakers with a diversity of skill sets will not only keep your business flexible and efficient in its production systems but it keeps the signmaker interested in their chosen work. Applying prints to boards day after day or doing install after install everyday like anything soon gets old. Keeping your staff learning and diversifying their duties as much as economically possible will not only save you money in not having to re train and spend valuable time recruiting but will make coming to work a pleasant experience as your staff will be happy and keen to be there.
The future is coming whether we like it or not so the old adage “Failure to plan is a plan to failure” is still as true today as its ever been.
BRING IT ON I SAY.