CRE signs don’t get any respect. Everyone is chasing online advertising or social networking because you can measure results and target users. While it’s true that you can’t do that with signs, they’re still an advertising powerhouse.
Signs are a constant, visual reminder that reinforce awareness and provide name recognition. Consider the fact that the average person passes by at least 40 signs per day (66 per day in urban areas) and that 97% of the people in any given market will see a sign each day. You can’t turn them off. They just sit there as the market circulates around them waiting for the moment a consumer has a need.
For CRE purposes, they’re ideal since the best use for signs are in situations where there is a long transaction cycle and limited numbers of buyers/sellers. So I’m always shocked when I hear brokers (and many owners) eschew signs – and not just because of local ordinances. Some think they’re “tacky” or lend to “visual clutter.” But the argument that they cost too much or aren’t effective is wrong. Signs have the lowest cost per impression and highest awareness/recall than any other form of advertising.
I can hear you now. “I never get a call on a sign!” But maybe your signs aren’t performing because they don’t stand out, you have no strategy or they really are tacky. Here are some suggestions to get the most out of your signs.
1 – Design – KISS
Don’t jam lots of text onto your signs. Besides the listing type (sale/lease/available) your company name, logo and phone number are all you need. Most brokerages put a web address but it’s really not necessary. If they can read your company name, they’ll search for it online and get to your site.
Some brokerages feel it’s necessary to put the agent’s name/direct phone number on the sign. Unless the agent’s name is easy to remember (because the phone number sure isn’t) it may not be worth the extra cost. If you do want to add agent names, put them on a rider to not only draw attention to the name but so you can re-use the base sign.
2 – Contrast
Make sure your signs contrast with the background you intend to place them on. There’s a reason, for example, that there are no green residential brokerage signs.
You’ll also want to make sure your signs contrast with competitor signs – or that your competitors aren’t blatantly ripping off your design. If everyone seems to be copying your solid red signs, break it up. Keep the red prominent but put your logo or phone number in a white or other secondary color block.
3 – Consistency…and Change
There’s something to be said for consistency when it comes to branding so don’t go changing your signs or logo all the time. But you do need to be on guard for changes in style. Review your sign design to keep it visually up to date and distinctive enough to stand out.
4 – Placement
Billboard advertisers place signs based on traffic counts and demographics but you don’t have that luxury. The sign’s got to go where it’s got to go. For primarily foot traffic areas, you’ll want them at/near eye level. Signs viewable from highways should be placed facing traffic or multi-sided/multiple locations if you’re trying to attract commuters from both lanes. If the sign is on a building, place at heights similar to billboards so they’ll catch the eyes of drivers on the approach.
Also consider placing signs in areas where people tend to fixate their gaze such as bus stops or signaled intersections proximate to buildings you have listed or just for branding purposes.
5 – Help for the Location Impaired
One thing I notice from the many sign calls that come into the brokerage I work with – people have no idea where they are. Adding a rider with the address or listing number (no more than 4 digits) might help but it has to be large enough for drivers to see.
QR or bar codes are only useful for street level signs but still eliminate users without cell phones/software. Using a separate phone number, extension or special text code for street level signs might be a better solution for now.
6 – Measurement
Don’t just put up signs and forget about them. Set up a system with the address, alternate addresses, nearby intersections, highway markers and any landmarks for each sign so when people call, you’ll be able to determine which property they’re calling about.
There’s no way you’ll know who visits your website after seeing a sign, but do keep track of sign calls. And, make a note of deals that originated from sign calls. Because then you can see something like this 2011 data from a brokerage in small to mid-size markets:
Deals from sign calls – 112
Percentage of all deals from sign calls – 13%
Average transaction value – $146,000
I’m not going to disclose the house commission amount other than to say it more than covered the cost of the signs. Your results may vary, of course. But if you don’t have the data, you’ll never know – or be able to persuade owners that signs do work.