8 Questions to Ask Before Purchasing a Sign

8 questions to ask before purchasing a sign

8 Questions to Ask When Buying a Custom Made Sign

When entrepreneurs start a new business there are so many moving parts to keep up sometimes ordering signage for the new venture gets pushed to the back burner. With all the electrical issues, plumbing problems, concrete situations, it’s all a little overwhelming. I’ve seen it on the faces of so many small business owners.

It’s impossible to be an expert at everything. And while I can’t help you with electrical, plumbing, concrete, bricks or mortar, I can help you a little bit with signs.

First off, please don’t forget signage. According to an report by the International Sign Association (ISA), business surveyed 30-45 days after their sign was installed said 50 percent of customers learned of the business because of an on-premise sign. The next biggest draw was word of mouth (33 percent), followed in a distant third by newspaper advertising (9 percent). Of course in today’s world, people find many new businesses through a quick Google search or some other online app (Facebook, Yelp, etc.) but customers still need help locating businesses once they find you online.

Check out this video of a sign transforming a business here

Signs are important. Mark Twain once said, “a business with no sign is a sign of no business.” Okay, maybe that wasn’t Twain but it still holds true.

So, when – not if – you get ready to order your sign, here are some questions to consider to make sure you get the biggest return on investment with your sign. First, you can take a look at the list that the good folks over at Angie’s List put together right here. Second, check out this list of questions I put together to make it easier.

Questions to ask yourself before ordering a sign:

  1. When do you need your custom signage?

Don’t wait until the last minute. Like a good latte, custom signs take time to produce. What happens many times is that business owners wait until the last minute and need it “tomorrow.” Like most products you can get a sign cheap, quick, or high quality, but you can only pick two. If you want it quickly, something will have to give, either price or quality. If you want a high quality sign, you can’t get it cheap and quick. You get the idea.

If you are going to open your shop in two months, start placing an order at least 6 to 8 weeks out. Custom signage can take two to three weeks to manufacture and install. You will want your sign up and running before the actually business opens, so it will create a buzz as people drive or walk by and see it every day leading up to your opening. So figure out your ideal opening date and start gathering bids and ordering a sign at least two months in advance.

2. Do you have a signage budget in mind?

Most small business owners have a budget for construction, marketing, overhead, supplies, etc. but don’t put together a budget for signage. It’s very important and here’s why. Most custom sign shops can do something to meet any budget from the elaborate signs with LED message boards and colorful logos designs to stripped down basics of a simple one-color logo and the name of the business.

There’s nothing worse than getting the sticker shock of a intricate custom sign when you just need something basic to let people know you exist. The opposite works too. If you want quality branding for your business and you get excited for your signage package and then realize that all your getting is a small sign with your name is red letters. It can be a real let down.

Like human beings, signage comes in all shapes and sizes. Make sure you have a general idea of what you need to spend, so that you get the right sign to meet your expectations.

Again, at least 50 percent of your customers will see your sign and visit your business.

3. Do you have an artwork designed or do you need someone to assist in design work?

A business card is not a design. This happens all the time in the design world where somebody just gives you a business card and says, “here’s my logo.” Yeah, it is your logo, but that is not gonna work when your sign is a foot, two foot, six feet or bigger. Scalable artwork takes some work and requires a specific file.

For vector files (text and logos), most sign shops require these file types:

  • EPS – Encapsulated Postscript
  • AI – Adobe Illustrator
  • CDR – Corel Draw

For Raster files (photos), most sign shops require these file types:

  • .jpeg or .jpg – Joint Photographic Experts Group (300 dpi or higher works best )
  • PSD – Adobe Photoshop
  • TIFF – Tag Image File Format
  • PDF – Portable Document Format

Files that won’t work

  • Doc – Word documents
  • RTF – Rich Text Format
  • Anything drawn on a napkin

If you don’t have any of these files, usually a custom sign shop can help you with design. Even if you have a concept drawn on a napkin, a good designer can help you bring that design to life. Just remember, design work will have to be a part of your budget.

4. Is your sign permanent or temporary?

Is your sign going to be permanent (up there for years), or temporary (anything less than a year)? Most business owners want their signs to be up a minimum of 3 to 5 years, hopefully more. The materials that make a quality custom sign are usually guaranteed up to 3 to 5 years so that’s no problem.

But sometimes you just need a sign to last for a couple of months for a grand opening, spring sale, Black Friday Blowout, etc. That means sign shops can use materials to save you money.

5. Will you need a permit?

Whether you need a permit or not will depend on the type of sign and the municipality where you business is located. Here in Texas, all electrical signs – whether a monument sign on the street in front of your business or a channel letter or cabinet sign on the exterior of the building-  will need permits in most municipalities. Also, in some locales temporary signs such as “Grand Opening” or “Coming Soon” banners, will require a special temporary permit.

Our company takes care of any permitting needs of our customers. It’s good to know whether you need a permit or not and who will take care of it.  

6. Installation or pickup?

Will this sign need to be professionally installed is another question that many small business owners don’t think about. Sometimes a sign can be picked up and quickly installed by the business owner. Sometimes – most times, probably – the sign will need to be professionally installed. Again, the price will go up when installation is figured in but it’s worth it to make sure the sign looks good and lasts for years.

7. Will someone come by for a site survey?

Sometimes it helps for a sign professional to take a look at the site in person rather than taking all the information over the phone or in an email. Being on site can help see problems that a business owner might miss because she is too close to the action. Ask if your sign company will conduct a free site survey consultation at your location. It just makes everybody’s job easier and makes sure you get the best signage package possible.

If your sign company won’t come to your site, maybe look for another sign company.

8. Will the final decision maker be available during the site survey?

Make sure somebody who can make the bottom line decision will be available during the consultation. Problems inevitably arise and sometimes those problems are hard to explain by a middleman. It’s better if somebody is on hand, who can make the final decision and has the vision for the business in mind.


I’m sure there are plenty more questions that will come up when you are ready to purchase a sign package, but make sure these 8 are at the top of the list.

If you need a sign package in the Dallas-Fort Worth and North Texas area, give us a call at Signarama of Plano at 214-473-8179 or visit us online at www.signarama.com/tx-plano.

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