By Matt Jordan
Signage is no small matter for a self-storage facility. A self-service business requires signs that provide clear if not “idiot proof” instructions for customers. Without clear signage on the interior of your property, tenants may be literally and figuratively lost. Without powerful signage on the exterior, all may be lost.
Let’s talk priorities. The signage on the exterior of your facility is far more important than that on the interior. The reason is simple: Your biggest priority is to rent your available space. Everything else will fall into place if you accomplish this goal. You need customers, which means you need advertise.
One of the most influential and productive advertising mediums for self-storage is an outdoor, LED electronic message center (EMC). This is signage beyond signage. Your exterior road sign will brand your facility and provide contact information, but what else can it really do for you? Save or make room on that pole for an EMC, and you'll quickly grow your business.
How They Work
EMCs are mini LED billboards promoting one thing: your business. They are the hardest-working employee any company can have. No vacations, no weekends ... They'll deliver constant, relentless promotion of your self-storage facility. For example, an EMC will display your calls to action, specials, promos, holiday messages, community spirit, etc., in 4 trillion bright and vivid colors. It can display text, pictures and video, all programmable through easy-to-use software. EMCs are impossible to miss and demand to be read.
In terms of properly targeting your advertising, an EMC is laser accurate. The people most likely to become your customers are those for whom you’re conveniently located. What can be more convenient than the facility people drive by on their way to work or other frequently traveled locations? An EMC knocks on the windshield of every vehicle that passes and says:
- Here we are!
- This is what we do.
- We are conveniently located for you.
- We have the following specials and sales.
- Do business with us.
- When you need storage, come here!
One of the greatest benefits of electronic boards is the ability to quickly and easily change the message. An operator can promote messages such as, “One Month of Free Storage to New-Home Buyers” or “Band Practice Rooms for Rent: No Band Is Too Loud!” Unlike those old beat-up marquis boards where you physically have to change letters, an EMC can display dozens of messages, one right after the other. If one doesn’t appeal to a consumer, the next one will.
These signs also allow you to display your community spirit, whether it’s congratulating the local football team on its recent championship or thanking veterans for their service on Veterans Day. Inserting the occasional nod to the community between your promotional messaging is a perfect way to be neighborly.
Other Signage Options
In addition to an electronic message board, many self-storage facilities have traditional exterior signs and several smaller interior signs. The ones along the road should be as big and easy to read as your budget and city permitting will allow. Go for an internally lit box sign if tolerated by your municipality. The most advanced light boxes are illuminated with long-lasting LEDs. The neon and florescent days are behind us. If your city doesn’t allow internally lit signs, go for the next most visible alternative.
Another option is an indirectly lit sign, which can still make a strong impact if it's clear and readable. In this application, direct as much light onto your sign as possible, but keep the content simple. Facility name, phone number and Web address are all you need. To ensure your text is readable, consult the guidelines in the last paragraph of this article.
When it comes to the signage inside the facility perimeter, think stupid. Seriously. You already know your way around the property, which could be a disadvantage when designing your navigational aids. Try to forget what you know and put yourself in the shoes of a brand-new customer.
Can you find your unit easily and efficiently? Can you find your way to the exit? Who would you call if your access code didn’t work? What if there's a random car blocking access to your unit? What if you saw something suspicious or criminal? Are there signs that tell you what to do in these situations? There should be!
Being able to see your facility from a consumer’s perspective is the key to properly creating or redesigning your signage plan. Your best advice may come from someone who doesn’t know your facility, so if you have someone willing to help, use him.
Depending on your facility’s size, you may need hundreds of small signs, including those that include a property map. Map signs with X-marks-the-spot, "You are here" indicators are widely appreciated. Plan your facility logically, and identify this logic to guide your consumers to their units easily and quickly.
Think about all the places customers will be when they visit the property and put the signs they might need in those locations. Consider the experience of getting off an elevator in a hotel. The doors open and there’s a sign directly in front of you indicating that rooms 300-350 are to the right, while rooms 350-400 are on the left. Use this clarity as a model.
Regardless of their content, all of your signs should be clean, crisp and clear. Here are some other key pointers:
- Keep colors to a minimum, but use juxtaposition so the content stands out.
- Use big, bold fonts that are easy to read.
- Avoid cursive or italics, which may make reading difficult.
- Use all capital letters when possible because they’re much easier to read than lowercase.
- Most people are able to read a 1-inch capital letter at 50 feet. To be read at 100 feet, a letter or character must be a minimum of 2 inches tall. However, always go larger than these minimums when possible, as there are an increasing number of consumers who can’t see as well as they used to.
Your facility’s signage is an important marketing and customer-service tool. When considering signage design, think about your marketing goals and the messages you wish to convey to tenants. Create memorable and informative signs that will attract new business and provide accurate directions and instructions for existing customers.
Matt Jordan is the director of sales at I.C.E. Signs, a global provider of LED advertising technologies. Based in Kingston, N.H., the company supplies electronic message centers in a variety of sizes. To reach him, call 603.347.3005, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.icesigns.com.