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Choosing the Right Sign Material for the Right Job

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to signs, right? One of the things that you probably never thought much about is the type of material that custom signs for your business should be made out of. Until you are in the process of having custom signs made, sign material does not matter much. The truth is that the material your signs are made from matters a great deal. Since we make lots of custom signs and offer a number of different types of material options, here are some of our best tips for you.

  • Acrylic: if you love the look of a shiny sign, acrylic is a great idea. Acrylic can come in a number of colors, and it can withstand weather when placed outside, though it’s also a great indoor sign option. A clear acrylic sign with standoffs make for an upscale logo sign. The correct white Lexan material helps diffuse the light inside your electrical sign cabinet.
  • Corrugated plastic: this is not a material we recommend for long-term outdoor signs or even long-term indoor signs, but it is a good choice if you are looking for signage for an event like golf tournaments, school spirit, real estate signs & construction site signs. Corrugated plastic is also cost-effective, so choose this material if you are looking to keep costs down.
  • Composite materials: most outdoor signs are made from composite materials. Your design team can recommend the type of materials that are the perfect mix for your signs, but this is a good choice for any long-standing outdoor signs. The best choice is ACM (Aluminum Composite Material).
  • Wood: who doesn’t love the look of wood? You may think that wood will chip or crack or fade over time, but the wood that’s used to make signs is protected, so it can withstand the elements. Choose wood for outdoor signs or for signs indoors that really make an impact as it can be shaped by cutting or routing.
  • Metal: a lot of really interesting art pieces are made from punched metal, and some signs can be created this way too. Metal is a good material to choose, too, if you want something that’s magnetic. You can place a metal sign on a car as well, if you don’t want to go the vehicle wrap route (though a vehicle wrap does look better!).
  • Unusual Materials: if you see something that you love and you want to make a sign from it, let us know. In most cases, we can find a way to make it work.

More Than Just Material

The material that you choose for your custom signs is important, but also think about the way that your signs look. Some materials, like wood, give off a warm and cozy feel while other materials like metal feel colder and more modern.

The other thing to consider is the durability of the sign that you choose. You may love the look of a styrofoam sign, but that material isn’t going to fare well when it’s placed outdoors, so do keep those things in mind as well. The best way to figure out which kind of sign material you should purchase is to work with a professional design company. At Creative Sign and Banner, we have many years of experience creating custom signs of all kinds of our clients, and we’re more than happy to work with any material that you love. We’ll also provide you with our expert recommendations while designing your signs.

We know that you probably have questions for us about custom signs, so feel free to contact us through our website or Facebook. We will make sure to get back to you as soon as possible with more information. Or just call us!

How to Choose the Right Tradeshow Display

Stop Traffic at Your Tradeshow Exhibit!

Dynamic trade show booths are professional marketing displays that present your marketing message in style. Stunning high quality printed graphics grab attention and attract traffic to your exhibit, winning you more business.
Our tradeshow booths are designed for easy set-up & take down. Compact storage and convenient shipping save you time and money.
We offer several styles of trade show booths to meet your needs and budget.

What are Tradeshow Booth Displays?

Booth displays can be setup as backdrops, back walls or center island booths. All our booths are stylish and offer the wow factor in your tradeshow exhibit. A booth display is a marketing teams best and biggest attraction source for stopping traffic at your booth.

The most compelling booths have graphic designs that feature big bold interesting headlines, contrasting colors and a creative graphic image for the wow factor. Regardless of the style you choose our marketing displays are designed to attract attention promote your marketing message to win you business.

Your marketing booth is the one customers will remember! Excellent for trade show exhibits, business promotions, schools, airports, retail stores, marketing events, exhibits, malls, chamber of commerce events or anywhere you need to promote your message in style.

TRADESHOWS WORK

Tradeshows are one of the best and most meaningful ways
to make business connections … face-to-face!

There are many reasons why tradeshows have been effective for companies of all sizes for the past 80 years. Face-to-face marketing accelerates the sales cycle and still represents the best dollar-for-dollar value versus other competing media/marketing vehicles.

When evaluating whether to exhibit at a show or not, consider how your presence or absence at important trade shows affects your business. Trying to save a few dollars today could compromise business tomorrow.

20 Reasons Why Tradeshows Work for the Exhibitor:

  1. Generate leads & drive incremental sales
  2. Solidify relationships with current customers
  3. Establish relationships with prospects, key target markets & the media
  4. Shorten the sales cycle
  5. Introduce & promote new products to a new or existing market
  6. Enhance brand & product visibility
  7. Educate & demonstrate new uses for existing products
  8. Obtain feedback on new & existing products
  9. Learn the latest industry trends
  10. Gain competitors insight
  11. Conduct competitor & market research
  12. Network with key industry contacts and key opinion leaders
  13. Learn more about the industry they support
  14. Have a presence in the industry
  15. Gain exposure in new markets
  16. Find personnel to grow your company
  17. Build sales force moral & foster camaraderie
  18. Demonstrate your commitment to a marketplace and your clients
  19. Identify new business opportunities
  20. Reinforce & test marketing strategies

Pricing Signs, Magnetic Signs, Banners, and Vehicle Wraps

One of the most important and often asked questions from new sign makers is how do I get my retail sign pricing right? What do I charge?

No other question has such potential for success or failure for a new business. No matter how well you know your equipment, no matter how good your designs are, if you fail in pricing signs right, you fail; period.

So in the interest of increasing your chances for sign making success, we offer this beginners guide to sign pricing. We’ll look at industry standard pricing for the most common applications, guidelines for design and labor charges, resources for managing costs, and tips for adapting to regional differences.

Let’s start with some basic guidelines for banners, vehicle graphics, and small signage.

Banners

Banners are a staple of the digital graphics industry and account for the lion’s share of most sign business sales. So it’s important to get this one right. For some kinds of signs, you can base your quotes on material and labor costs, then add your desired margin. For industry staples like banners, that’s probably going to lead to your quotes being too low. The standard for digitally printed banners is $8.00/sq foot.

So you could price a printed 3’ x 6’ banner at $144.00. For a simple, one color banner in “cut vinyl”, you can price it more economically, in the $5.00 – $8.00/sf range, then add a little more for two or three color designs. Speaking of design, be sure to add a design fee if your customer is starting from scratch and you have to create the layout. That is in fact the most important aspect of the product. More on that later.

Vehicle Wraps

When quoting vehicle wraps, it’s important to realize that, due to the degree of difficulty, this is a category that often gets compartmentalized. In other words, not everyone who sells wraps actually installs them. So if you’re competing for a wrap job and the other quote seems low, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. The competitor may only be quoting installation. Some shops do the full project, from design to installation, but many do only the design work, or only install wraps that are designed and printed elsewhere. If you want to start installing, but don’t have much design experience, you can outsource the design and printing to a local sign shop.

Conversely, if you’d like to design and sell wraps, but don’t want the challenge of installing them correctly, you can pay an experienced installer up to $800 per vehicle and pocket the difference. However you decide to slice it, here are the current norms.

The industry average for an installed vehicle wrap is $10.00/sf. This includes the use of two mil cast vinyl and over laminate film. For most vehicles, that’s going to put you somewhere around $2,500 – 3,500.00.

If your customer needs to start with a clean sheet of paper so to speak, you may need to charge extra for design. The standard fee is $250.00 for a simple design featuring customer’s existing logo. If they want you to create a logo as well, charge extra. Graphic design studios make big money on logo design. But again, be aware of the prevailing practices in your area. Some shops include the design fee in the installed price of the wrap. Do your homework and set your prices accordingly.

If a competitors’ quote seems too low, check the details. What materials are they using? Cast or calendared vinyl? A flat-sided vehicle like a trailer can be wrapped with a premium calendared film. Vehicles with compound curves should be wrapped in cast vinyl, which costs approximately 20 to 30% more. Does the competitor’s quote include lamination? Some sign shops sell car wraps without lamination. That’s not the industry standard since it exposes the printed vinyl to detergents and abrasion, resulting in shorter service life. If that’s the case, point that out to your customer and make sure he or she knows the difference in quality.

Speaking of competition, there are two very good reasons to get to know what other sign makers around you are doing. If most established sign folks in your area are charging $10.00/square foot, don’t come in at $5.00 just to get business. You’ll undercut your potential revenue growth and alienate the sign community. That second part is more important than you might think. Yes, the other shops are your competitors, but there is also a fair amount of networking and referral in the sign industry. You want to grow to become a member of that network. Starting by undercutting everyone in town isn’t the right way to go about it.

Magnetic Signs

Industry average for vehicle magnetic signs varies from $40 – $199.00 for vinyl only, one or two colors. That’s a pretty wide spread. Most shops charge less than a hundred, but well designed magnetic signs can bring $199 per pair, especially if they’re digitally printed.

If you’re just getting started, you might want to set your prices in the $50 – $75.00 range for simple vinyl graphics and charge more for extra colors, logos, or digitally printed graphics. These don’t bring in buckets of money, but they’re highly profitable jobs. And, since they appeal most to micro-businesses and entrepreneurs, they can greatly expand your customer base. The realtor you sell magnetic signs to today may have her own agency in two years and come back for aluminum signs and vehicle wraps.

Real Estate Signs & Bandit Signs

Speaking of realtors, aluminum real estate signs are another industry staple. The going rate seems to be in the $75 – $125 range for simple two-sided real estate signs in vinyl. Again, charge more for extra colors, logos and design work. For Corrugated plastic yard signs, aka “bandit signs”, average prices for 12” x 24” or 18” x 24” signs are $10 – $20 each. Keep in mind that these are almost always purchased in quantities, so a volume discount may be involved. For very large quantity orders, it may make sense to outsource production to a screen printer.

Sign Making Labor & Materials

For less popular signage for which isn’t a standard charge, you’ll have to come up with your own price list or devise a quote based on time and materials.

Labor: Remember to add a labor charge to compensate you for your time and or that of your staff. Charge for time taken to cut the vinyl, weed it, mask it, etc. The industry average is $60-$70.00/hour, depending on location. It should be higher if you have employees, since you’ll have to cover the cost of their hourly wages plus 50% more for unemployment insurance and other benefits. As good a manager as you are, you probably won’t keep them busy all the time. Build in some margin here. If you’re a one man shop, you’ll have more wiggle room here on your hourly rates, but you should be willing to pay yourself what you’re worth, considering the amount of time you’re investing in your business.

Materials: As noted in the section on vehicle wraps and banners, the formula for material cost is based on the area of the sign or substrate measured in square feet. If you’re quoting a vinyl graphic, remember that you should base this on the size of the substrate, not the size of the letters. This accounts for the amount of vinyl wasted by weeding and the amount of transfer tape used. So, for a double-sided 2’ x 3’ A-frame sign, compute the cost of 12 square feet of vinyl (or six linear feet of a 24” wide roll), plus the same amount of application tape.

Sign Pricing Resources

The Sign Contractors’ Pricing Guide is a good reference for national standards. National price guides tend to err on the high side to cover the cost of doing business in New York and LA, so you may need to adjust the information to suit local market conditions, especially in rural areas. The Guide comes in two sizes: letter size for desktop use or a portable pocket size for quick on-site quotes.
SIGNTracker is a great online resource for managing your business. It was developed by an Austin, TX sign shop that grew to be a multimillion dollar business and had to develop their own CRM software to manage it. It includes modules for material cost, sales commissions, production management, scheduling, job quoting and more. Click here for more SIGNTracker information.
Your design application may also help manage costs. Depending on the product you use, you may find it contains more than shape and font tools. Top of the line sign software products like FlexiSign Pro andLXi Master Plus also include features designed to help you manage your costs and customers. Both applications include Job Info and Job Statistics tools. Job Information has fields for storing purchase order numbers, customer contact info, terms, and more. Job Statistics keeps track of vital information like the number of colors used and total editing time. This makes it easier to charge for design time because you can see just how long it took to vectorize that low resolution customer-supplied logo.

And since we’re talking about design, it bears repeating that the single most important factor in getting good prices for your work is good, simple, and effective design. The design tools in your software can support your efforts to deliver the best possible product to your customers.

To paraphrase Papa John’s, ‘better design, better signs’. Better signs mean more success for your customers. More successful customers means more repeat business.
More repeat business means less pressure to lowball your prices, which means you make more money. Whether you’re using LXi, FlexiSign or some other design platform, a software upgrade can be help lay a strong foundation for a successful sign business.
The bottom line is to protect your bottom line. Pricing your work too low is an easy way to get started, but it can starve growth. If you’re selling but not making money, your success will be short-lived. Pricing too high will of course have the same unhappy effect. Design effective signs, and base your prices not only on what they cost to make, but what they’re worth to the customer. Aim for the sweet spot where you are competitive with the prevailing market rates, and build a network as you grow. It takes some work and patience, but getting this right will set you on the road to long term success.

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