December 1, 2003

7 Min Read
Signs of the Times


In the storage business, signage is generally given little thought. But when used correctly, external signage can help you generate a lot more walk-in/drive-by traffic. Internal signage can help increase your profits and help you sell and promote ancillary products and services more effectively. This article is about helping you understand how to use internal and external signage to your greatest advantage.

External Signage

The purpose of any and all signage outside your property is to get people to stop in and visit or, at a minimum, call. That being the case, there are some important dos and donts to making signs work.

Dos of External Signage

Size matters! Use the largest sign youre allowed based on the zoning regulations in your particular area. Even if it costs a lot more, its always worth it. You make the investment once and it pays off for years. With all the messages people are bombarded with as they drive down the street, you want to do everything you can to stand out.

Get a quality sign. Want to save some money? Dont do it here. A good sign is a great long-term investment that will pay you dividends for years to come. Get a cheap one and youll end up having to redo it a few times when it falls apart or gets knocked over during a storm.

Use the right colors. The best colors to use for visibility and attention-grabbing are black on yellow. Surprising? Hardly. Check your local Yellow Pages! Although you may not like it, marketing researchers have found these colors work the best to be noticed. This doesnt match your color scheme? Thats not relevant. If you choose not to use these colors, however, make sure your type and background heavily contrast so people can read the sign clearly from a distance.

Consider an unusual shape. Just about every sign on the street looks the same. If you can, find a way to make yours different. If you are allowed to create an unusually shaped sign, do so. I recently saw sign in the shape of a lightning bolt that looked great.

Include your phone number. People who see your sign are often driving by. They are in a hurry, but they will almost always have their cell phones handy. This means you need to have your phone number listed on your sign. Theres no need to include the area code because everyone knows what it is; but it is essential to make it large enough to read.

It is preferable to get a phone number that is easy to remember. Do what you can to get a number with repeating digits to make it easier for people to remember at quick glance. If there is a familiar exchange in your area, try to secure that for your first three numbers. As to the last four digits, try and get them all the same (5555) or with two repeating digits (7788). And make sure you have an effective outgoing message on your answering system for those people who call after hours.

Keep it simple. The ideal sign will include the words self-storage in large letters on the top line. If you must include the name of your facility, put it in small letters underneath. Beneath the name, put the phone number. There is no need to put the words phone number or phone before the digitspeople will figure that out.

Donts of External Signage

Dont get your ego involved. When it comes to signage, leave your ego behind and put profits front and center. Successful signage often doesnt even contain the facility name. Yes, we all love to see our own names in print. This is followed closely by the desire to see our business name highlighted in our signage. Get over it. Frankly, no one cares what the name of your facility is. The vast majority of people rent from you because youre conveniently located. The main thing you need to do is let them know youre there.

Dont use colors or typestyles that are difficult to read. Subtlety is not your goal here. If youre looking to win design awards, you dont want to follow my advice. The only award Im trying to help you win is at the bank. Although some colors may blend well with your overall look, they may also go unseen by people driving by. Similarly, some typestyles are very hard to read. Stick to type that wont confuse people, old standards like Helvetica and Times. And watch out for thick lettersthey are frequently harder to read from a distance.

Dont listen to graphic designers. They are creative people, but they are not marketers. Dont let your graphic designer convince you that you need a certain kind of sign because it will help brand you. When you hear these words, run! Try depositing your brand at the bank. The last time I checked, it only took cash and checks.

Internal Signage

One of the primary reasons to have signs on your property is to get people to buy other stuff. If your only source of income and revenue is renting units, youre missing a big piece of the puzzle. Properly done, you should have your office set up like a 7-11 to sell all kinds of products related to storage.

Lets face it. Most people rent a unit and then rarely, if ever, come back into the office except when they are ready to vacate. We cant make any more money from these people if they never come back into the office. The goal of every sign on your property should be to drive people back where youll have the opportunity to sell them other storage- related products. Use the signs as a teaser to get them there.

Where do you put your signs? Everywhere. I would even put a small sign on top of your entry keypad, if you have one. This sign can change to reflect your weekly specials. If its cold out, offer people free coffee to come into the office. Is it close to Halloween? Seduce them with candy. Find any excuse you can to get them to come inside.

Put other signs everywhere you can find an available wall. One facility I know of used a set of numbered signs, something along the lines of 17 Reasons to blah, blah, blah. Each of the signs listed a different reason. The manager told me some people would run around the whole facility until they had found all 17. The key is to have signs visible in the most heavily trafficked areas. To be effective, signs must be seen.

How many signs should you have? A lot. More than you feel comfortable using. Most owners dont put up signs because they think they look obnoxious. If youre trying to learn how to be subtle, Im not the right guy to listen to. The only thing I care about for you is profit, not subtlety.

What should your signs say? Dont have the exact same sign everywhere on the property people will ignore them. Create different signs with pertinent information. Give people valuable advice and lead them to the office in the process. For example, one sign might say, NEVER pack with newspaper. Then explain why its not a good idea to use newspaper to pack. Tell readers the alternative is packing paper that you just happen to have for sale in the office.

Dont view your signage as an afterthought. Signs can be an incredibly important marketing toolif used correctly. If your signs dont fit the descriptions above, maybe its time to redo them. The time and money you spend on effective internal and external signage will be worth it. Create the signage based on the above recommendations and watch your profits soar!

Fred Gleeck is a self-storage profit-maximization consultant who helps owners/operators during all phases of the business, from feasibility studies to creating an ongoing marketing plan. Mr. Gleeck is the author of Secrets of Self Storage Marketing SuccessRevealed! as well as the producer of professional training videos on self-storage marketing. To receive a copy of his Seven-Day Self-Storage Marketing Course and storage marketing tips, send an e-mail to [email protected]. For more information, call 800.FGLEECK; e-mail [email protected].

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