Are all Sign Manufacturers the same?

Are all #sign #manufacturers the same or is there a difference between one sign manufacturer and another?

As with all businesses, every sign business needs to maximize profits in order to survive.

Unlike many businesses, and because signs are custom made, and because materials differ, it sometimes happens that ‘cheaper’ short cuts are available. Short cuts can include using different – read as cheaper – (materials which generally have a shorter life span), or manufacturing techniques that are time saving, (but often at the trade off of longevity of the sign).

An example is a sign we recently inspected where the returns (the sides or part of the sign or letter that creates depth) of the letters had ‘popped’ so that the curves (around the O and a) had returned to their natural state and became straight. This means that over time the face of the 3D letter will fall off, which is what is happening with this sign.

Generally the returns of fabricated, #3D letters are heated and bent. They are then ‘chemically welded’ so that they retain the new shape. Saving time by not heating the returns can save money and get the job done faster. Using less chemicals may also result in some, almost insignificant, cost savings. Both will almost certainly also substantially reduce the life expectancy of the #3D sign.

While making the cheap initial purchase could possibly still be a worthwhile purchase, the adage ‘let the buyer beware’ is certainly worth remembering as in the long run (over five to ten years) the cost to replace broken or lost letters tends to be significantly higher than the cost to have it done properly up front. And that cost excludes the potential for negative press if, for example, an element of a sign breaks and hits someone or something.

For a quote on quality #3D signs by an experienced sign company that guarantee our work, contact SignForce at info@signforce.co.za or +(27) (0)11 440-7524 or  +(27) (0)11 440-7525

What makes a #sign expensive? Signs as an investment.

What makes a sign ‘expensive’?

Expensive is a VERY subjective word, so lets look at the input costs and how that could, would or should influence one’s purchasing decision.

#SignForce, as all sign suppliers, work in a very competitive market. There are generally many sign businesses in a relatively small area, especially as #signage is a low entry cost business. Because of the high level of competition, each sign business needs to have ‘something’ that makes our business ‘stand out’. For the person making the purchase, the high level of competition means one SHOULD be able to compare various options and get the best solution to fit your requirements, although COST, OUTLAY or INITIAL INVESTMENT is often the deciding factor, very often at the sacrifice of long term investment or long term LIFE of the sign.

Because COST or INITIAL OUTLAY is such a HUGE determining factor for many buyers, one of the easiest ways to stand out  is on ‘price’. It is easy for clients to choose the lowest cost supplier, as, generally, all suppliers will quote to supply the same LOOKING sign.

Often how this works is the potential client (or buyer) will send out a ‘tender’, which consists of a picture of how the sign should look. Sophisticated buyers will also supply detailed specifications – which they understand and can check – but this is less common than only supplying a picture and sizes. Also too often the person supplying the specifications does not gave a great understanding of what they are specifying so their ability to ensure that they receive what was quoted could be limited.

Because EVERYONE is quoting on the same OUTCOME (read that as picture), when the buyer gets their three or more competing quotes, they naturally assume they are comparing ‘APPLES’ with ‘APPLES’, but because #signs are not standard, off the shelf items, the design, makeup and materials can (and generally will) differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. As such, although all the signs may (initially) LOOK the same when installed, they could, in reality, be EXTREMELY different.

In order to explain I am going to use the example of a modular, internally illuminated light box sign with an acrylic face that is illuminated using energy efficient LED lights. I am using a modular frame as we can then assume that everyone that is quoting is using the same external frame, so all the quotes would have the same (or similar) input costs for the frame.

Now lets look at the make up of the sign, starting with ILLUMINATION. There are a number of LED’s that can be used on a light box sign. The difference can be anything from in how much light the LED emits (lumens) to the size of the individual LED units (or modules) to the angle of the light emitted from the LED module (especially if the module has a LENS), the expected life of the units and the COST. Because there are so many variables, for the purpose of this article I will compare cost that can vary from about R35 (US$ 13) per meter to about R500 (US$ 186) per meter. It would seem obvious there are a number of variables that affect the cost, but for #SignForce the important differences are (a) the LED’s are the correct LED’s for the job (meaning they will give equal and sufficient light), (b) the expected life of the LED and (c) the LED’s are sure to do the job (preferably guaranteed) so that the business will not have any unnecessary call backs which can be substantially more costly than the cost of the LED’s.

Other factors that can have a GREAT  impact on the cost include, but are not limited to, (a) the size of the sign (this has way too many variables to reference in this article), (b) the cost of the decoration (print versus cut vinyl versus ink versus paint) (we will only refer to PRINT where costs have a range difference that can easily exceed 500%, with the quality and life span of the print varying greatly), (c) the thickness of the acrylic face (this is influenced by the size of the sign and possibly the location of the sign, and will in turn influence the cost of both the acrylic (the thicker the higher the cost) and the beading that holds (supports) the acrylic face). (d) If the frame is to be painted the make up and application method of the paint can also have a great impact on costs, both due to the large difference in cost of the base paint as well the time and process differences between the various application methods which range from ‘dipping’ to using a paint brush to spray painting and powder coating.

At #SignForce we take our guarantee VERY SERIOUSLY, and as such we use materials which, while generally more costly, will have a higher likelihood of lasting and not creating negative comebacks from clients. This does tend to make the initial outlay slightly higher, (historically this is generally no more than 20%), but #SignForce’s logic is that having to redo a sign after three to five years could be substantially more costly than having a sign that does it’s job well for it’s intended life, which is generally seven years, even if the decoration needs to be replaced more regurarly.

For more information on why SignForce views #signs as an investment or on purchasing  quality signs that will consistently keep you in your prospective clients eyes for many years to come, please contact #SignForce at info@signforce.co.za

How SHOULD signs be cleaned?

How SHOULD signs be cleaned, aka How do we clean our signs?

Lets start off by stating that it is always best to get in a professional SIGN company to clean your signs. This does not include simply dusting a sign which the business cleaner can – and should – do.

When referring to CLEANING of signs we are referring to when the sign needs to be (a) physically handled and / or (b) will have chemicals touching the sign and / or (c) may require the sign to be opened and / or moved.

While it may seem expensive to get a sign company that does sign cleaning in to clean your signs, the cost is generally far lower than replacing ANY ELEMENT of the sign. For example, if the sign cleaner touches and cracks a sign, or puts too much pressure on a pin and breaks the pin off the sign, or the sign cleaner uses the incorrect chemicals which can either drastically reduce the life of the sign or break it. It is quite something to see an Acrylic sign shatter, but not something that you want to happen because you have used the wrong chemical or chemicals.

If you are going to try clean your own signs it is generally best to stick to water and a dish washing detergent, using a SOFT, NON-ABRASIVE cloth. Handle the sign lightly and remember to remove ALL residue of the chemicals when finished cleaning otherwise the sign WILL streak and look tatty.

For more information on or assistance with cleaning your signs contact Arnold of SignForce now on +27 (0) 11 440 7525 or email us at arnold@signforce.co.za

Is SIGN QUALITY more, as or less important than PRICE

Is quality dead and should it be buried?

Riding the emotional roller coaster that is life, especially in the soft economy that we are currently experiencing in South Africa in 2014, I have been wondering more and more about whether people are becoming so desensitized and expecting of poor service and poor quality that they are simply no longer prepared to BUY QUALITY and would rather look at the short term cost.

At SignForce we focus on giving advice and delivering the best quality signs we can. When we offer advice it is because we believe the signs we recommend will IMPROVE OUR CLIENT’S BUSINESS – and we want our clients to GROW so we can grow with them.

There have been occasions when we have advised against our client’s buying certain signs because we look at our clients business as our own, and if we feel we would not spend OUR money on a specific sign, then we advise our clients AGAINST spending their money.

In general we have found this works for SignForce because it entrenches SignForce’s integrity and ensures that the advice we offer is in our client’s best interest. We are very aware that we are not always correct, but we do bring a number of years of marketing studies and practical experience to the table, so more often than not our advice WORKS.

Of course going to site to assess and offer the advice comes at a cost, and more and more of late we are finding that prospects are looking to us for the advice yet not going with SignForce for the final manufacture and installation of the signs because they can show our designs – designs which incorporate our advice, experience and expertise – to our competitors who may use different materials and then charge less for the final product.

Yes, it is true we do charge a small premium for our advice and expertise, but more importantly we charge because we only believe in using QUALITY products, and we believe our advise and products will earn the small premium we charge back to our clients over and over and over again. We also honor our guarantees, we carry insurance and we pay our staff a fair, living wage. We also build in a small fee because we are very aware that if we called ourselves a DESIGN or BRAND SPECIALIST company this would be the norm, but for some reason the sign industry’s design aspect – one of our highest costs – seems to be viewed and expected as a ‘free service’. Any idea’s on how we can change this perception will be greatly appreciated.

That we lose jobs and long standing clients to competitors who do not necessarily use the same structural designs or materials we do but DO come in at lower prices makes me wonder if we are not nurturing our relationships enough or if our prospects are simply becoming more and more price sensitive to the point where they are prepared to invest in the same sign more than once over the expected life of the sign simply to save a buck now. (SignForce have seen time and time again the HIGHER long term cost of using lower cost materials which is why we do not).  Are SignForce in fact farting against thunder by believing in quality and service? Does the market dictate that we join the masses and ignore quality?

If you are in the market for professional looking, quality signs, or simply require advice [you are prepared to pay for] on how best to get your business seen – email arnold@signforce.co.zaor david@signforce.co.zausing the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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What type of sign does my business need?

What kind of sign does my business need?

One of the most important decisions that you can make about your business signs is ‘What  kind of sign’ is going to be best for your business taking into account:

(a) what the sign is intended to achieve,

(b) your businesses location and

(c) your budget.

While it may seem ‘obvious’ that as your sign supplier I want you to spend as much as possible on your sign, it is important for me to remember that it is not about me, but rather what is best for your business and from SignForce’s perspective, our future relationship as your business grows and prospers.

I find it is ALWAYS best to start with knowing and understanding what your sign needs to achieve.

If, for example, your sign is intended solely to make a statement that YOU as a business “HAVE ARRIVED”, then an excessively large sign may work and do well to get your desired message across. If, on the other hand you want people to see your sign as an invitation to visit and come into your premises, then the said large sign may result in you spending more than was necessary, and may be costing you business by dissuading potential customers from entering your premises because the sign is not the correct type of sign for your intended target market.

Generally signs will be used to invite, inform, direct and persuade potential readers.

An example of a sign that ‘invites‘ could be a store front sign that is intended to ‘invite’ the reader into your store. Because the sign is intended to invite the reader into your store, the sign needs to be able to stand out from the surrounding signs and environment. For example, if your store sells fast food in the fast food area of a shopping mall, and your competitors all have beautifully decorated illuminated signs, unless your sign is equally beautiful and illuminated, possibly with an additional dimension like flashing lights or a lifestyle picture showing someone enjoying one of your meals, the chances are that your potential clients will overlook your sign and your business, thus potentially costing you money. While ‘invitational’ signs can be decorated Chromadek (treated metal), this is often not allowed by shopping centers, and may not achieve your desired effect. Often fabricated,3D signs are used for invitational signs.

 An example of a sign intended to ‘inform‘ is a street sign or a warning sign. These signs are intended to ‘inform ‘ drivers of impending dangers or of changes in road conditions or of upcoming situations, such as a guarded intersection, an unguarded intersection, a traffic light or hidden access to the road. Information signs are usually large and generally made from the most cost effective material that will achieve the objective of getting the desired message across while at the same time having the desired life span, which depends a lot on the climatic conditions where the sign is to be installed.

 Signs that are intended to ‘direct‘ include motorway and highway signs – such as directing readers to keep in the right lane to go to Timbuktu and keep left to go to Cape Town. Directional signs, like directory signs, also assist readers to get to where they are looking to go. Like information signs, Directional signs are usually made from the most cost effective material that will achieve the objective of getting the desired message across while at the same time having the desired life span, which depends a lot on the climatic conditions where the sign is to be installed. Directional signs, especially those that are indoors, also offer the opportunity for designers to integrate the signs into the aesthetics of the building and office environment, so the range of possible materials is large and could include wood, plastics, metal or glass, or a combination of all of these.

Directional and directory signs can begin doing their intended work when entering a premises – with say a sign reading RECEPTION with an arrow directing people to the reception, followed by a directory board in the reception – with the directory board informing the reader which wing, floor and room the reader is intending to visit.

Lastly an example of a sign intended to ‘persuade‘ could be a in-store poster or a billboard sign showing a product, such as a sign showing how a specific brand of washing powder will wash whiter and brighter than a competing brand. The message is intended to persuade the reader to buy and try the advertised product.

All of the above must take into consideration your budget as well as what return is expected – measured in terms of any of the following: number of feet, increase sales, decreased complaints, decreased incidents and accidents, or a combination of all of these. The most common upmarket signs that are used to persuade tend to have a metal (aluminum) frame with the printed message printed onto a gloss paper or vinyl. The material used would depend on the look and feel of the store as well as the intended target market.

By now I am sure you understand that while there may be a standard, off the shelf solution to your question as to “what type of sign does my business need”, there are many variations, answers and opinions to the answer the question. For this reason, as well as all the reasons given above, or if you are unsure of what sign you are looking for, or which sign would best achieve your intended objective, calling a SignForce sign consultant to get an expert opinion can reduce your stress and help you make an informed decision.

If you are in the market for professional looking signs at “FAIR VALUE”, and would like advice on how best to project your business’s image while considering any funds you spend on marketing and signs as an investment, please contact the writer at arnold@signforce.co.za or david@signforce.co.za and use the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE and we will gladly assist and advise you.

Why SignForce believes teamwork is essential

Why Teamwork is essential for SignForce!

I was recently watching a soccer match and I found it entertaining that I was essentially watching 22 individuals with possibly as much as 44 ego’s all working for a ‘common cause’ – that is, to beat the other team – the opponents, “THE ENEMY”!

It got me thinking about teamwork in our business, because out of the entire 90 minutes of the game, there was only about 60 seconds of PURE TEAMWORK – and that teamwork produced TWO goals. Now if that isn’t an indicator of the power of teamwork, I have no idea what is.

It was funny that my introductory video on teamwork, partnerships and collaboration was made a few hours before I get to watch the match – you can view the video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-OoENj6cEQ because I was looking at teamwork from a very different perspective.

At SignForce we believe in working as a team, and strive to do so all the time. Sure, there are times when we don’t get it right, but I would like to believe that we do get it right the vast majority of the time, as shown by the fact that our client’s come back and we meet most of our deadlines – we are still working towards meeting them all!

We work to entrench teamwork from the start with the employment process being a collaborative one, where new employees are assessed by existing team members to ensure that the ‘newbie’ has the correct work ethic to fit into the team, and will support the team when necessary. Once again, this is not always easy, sometimes resulting in new people being with us for a short period, not because they cannot do the work but because they simply do not fit in with the rest of the team.

Next we instil teamwork (and sustainability) by training all interested parties to do everyone else’s work where possible. Yet again, this is not always a simple task, and it has to be ongoing, yet the rewards are great, as, with a business like ours where we keep the core staff as small as possible, if one person is not at work, and no-one else could do the required work, deadlines would be missed and clients lost.

We believe teamwork is also essential from a perspective of support, recognition and responsibility. Each team member is responsible for upholding the good name of the business AT ALL TIMES! If a bad decision is made by an individual, the individual is held accountable, and when brilliant decisions are made, where possible the individual is supported and rewarded.

The SignForce attitude towards teamwork can be seen when visitors enter our premises as well as when we go to site. It can also be seen by the manner in which we deal with our clients, suppliers and competitors, because we believe that teamwork is part of the life blood of our business being successful.

For great advice on how to have signs that make your team look great at a fair price, signs that will enhance your teams image and, as an investment, will generate greater income than their cost, contact SignForce now. David: david@signforce.co.za Arnold: arnold@signforce.co.za

www.signforce.co.za

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How long should a digital print last?

How long should a digital print last?

From experience, and the guarantees that are offered by the various ink suppliers in South Africa, it can be seen that the life of a digital print will vary depending on three variables. 1. The location of the print, 2. the type of ink used and the substrate that the print is printed on, and 3. the printer that is used.

Since indoor prints are generally protected from the elements of sun and rain, I will not discuss them, as they can last for a VERY long time.

Outdoor prints, on the other hand, are a very different matter.

Location:  In southern Africa, because of the harshness of the sun, prints tend to last for a maximum of three years, depending on location and exposure to the elements.

In the above picture you can see how the inks have faded, and these signs were only up for 30 months. What is important to note is that these signs are located in the Sua Pan – a VERY harsh salt pan in Botswana, where they are pounded by the harsh Africa sun all day. These signs were also UV coated to protect the inks, but, as you can see, the colour has still faded substantially.

Inks and Substrates: Certain printers inks are less expensive, as are ‘pirate’ inks, and these inks tend to be less expensive because they have a shorter life span. The logic here is that the current substrates generally only has a three year life, so any inks lasting longer than three years are wasteful.

It is also worth noting that there are printers who blend their own inks in order to keep costs down. While I am aware of printers guaranteeing their prints for longer than three years, I have yet to find inks – especially red based inks – that will last much longer than three years, so be wary of any prints guaranteed for longer than the industry norm of three years.

Printers: Different digital printer manufacturers have different quality inks, as well as the printer’s printing quality differing. The result is often that ‘cheaper’ prints tend to ‘run’ or ‘bleed’ after a short time being exposed to the harsh African elements, creating an image that you should not want as a representation of your business.

At SignForce we use a Roland printer (that can print to 1,300 mm wide) with original inks. Roland has proven to have very stable inks, and even these are not expected to last longer than three years.

If longevity of your outdoor sign is important, while you may not get the colour match of a digital print, and the cost will be higher, you may want to consider flat colour, cut vinyl’s. These do cost more but they also tend to last about twice as long as the average digital print.

For further information on the life of a digital print or if you are in the market for professional looking signs at “FAIR VLAUE”, and would like advice on how best to project your business’s image while considering any funds you spend on marketing and signs as an investment, please contact the writer at arnold@signforce.co.za or david@signforce.co.za and use the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE and we will get back to you.

http://www.signforce.co.za

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Why does my business need a sign?

Why does my business need a sign?

I have been asked this question on more than one occasion, and my standard answer has been the old adage, “A business without a sign is a sign of no business!”

While this adage is old to us sign people, it is non-the-less as valid today as it was when it was first uttered many years ago.

While it is true that not EVERY business will need a sign – if you are an internet based consultancy, with absolutely no live visitors, how would a sign benefit you?

On the other hand, I have recently been approached by an internet based marketing firm – they are so focused on the internet that they refuse to get a telephone of any sort (all correspondence being via email or on their website) – to make them a sign as their suppliers and shippers are having difficulty finding them. This is a business that only sells to on-sellers, and has absolutely no dealings with the public, yet even they feel they need a sign.

Since signs are among the oldest forms of marketing, they are a firmly established means of communication a number of points about your business.

A sign is considered to be ‘good’ when it clearly displays where you are doing business and / or tells the reader WHAT it is you do. At the same time, almost every sign sends the subliminal message about HOW you as a business, do business – a dirty sign gives the impression you are not concerned about taking care of the finer points. Imagine a fast food outlet where the sign is going black with dirt. How FAST will you walk into that store, especially if the competitor next door has a bright, clean sign?

Signs can also be seen as a symbol of success.  The larger and more sophisticated the sign, the viewer will ‘respect’ your success as a business.

For more information as to how signs can help your business view this video. http://youtu.be/054rkBBfSSE

For signs and sign related advise contact SignForce now and one of our dedicated and experienced team will gladly assist you.

david@signforce.co.za   +27 (0)82 654 5495

arnold@signforce.co.za  +27 (0) 82 558 6413

http://www.signforce.co.za

Tel: +27 11 444 3331

Would you employ this person?

Who represents you and your business

Would you trust this sales person with your future?

Would you employ this person?

Some of you may know who the person is, but WHO he is is not actually relevant for my point. in fact, you could quite easily replace the picture with one of any similar uneducated person who is know for making comments that make them look stupid!

But wait! For me, that is where the problem lies.

If you were the employer of this person, that person has thus de facto become a representative of your business, and thus an extension of YOU!

Imagine the impression that makes on your hard won client, when the employed (or elected if you will) person starts interacting with or talking to your client.

That ‘first impression’ is created on first sight (or sound), and if that first impression is a poor one, it could take forever to change that perception.

At SignForce we are very aware of the impression we create, and while we unfortunately don’t always get it right, we do continually work on making sure that our work, our products and our staff represent SignForce in a manner that we are proud to own.

If you are in the market for professional looking signs at “FAIR VALUE, and would like advice on how best to project your business’s image while making any funds you spend on marketing and signs an investment, please contact the writer at arnold@signforce.co.za or david@signforce.co.za and use the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE and we will get back to you.

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Is this sign an effective sales device?

What’s wrong with this picture?

Is this sign an effective marketing and or sales device?

I was driving behind this truck and saw this fantastic signage. Since I was parked behind the truck at a red light, I had the time to read the sign. It was interesting, as we use a few of the advertised products. Then it dawned on me – there is a MAJOR MARKETING ERROR here.

Care to hazard a guess as to what the error is? (ok, it is an error in my opinion!)

To me the error is that while the pictures are great, high resolution pictures, and the text as well as the pictures are clearly legible from a fair distance, I have NO CLUE what the name of the business is, and worse, I have ABSOLUTELY NO MEANS of tracking or contacting the business.

Please, pleaseplease people. When signing, it is ‘nice’ to put your name on the sign, especially if your name does not reflect your business. If your name DOES reflect your business it is slightly more important to put it on the sign. This sign is fantastic in that it CLEARLY STATES what the business DOES, but what good is that when there are no contact details?

The rear of a vehicle is generally smaller than the sides, yet it is also the signage that is most likely to be read, because it is more likely that traffic will travel behind, and possibly stop behind the vehicle, allowing for some decent reading time, as opposed to the sign flashing past on the side of a vehicle.

For expert advice on signs, how they are a fantastic marketing tool and how they can be viewed as an investment, call us at SignForce. We have the qualifications and experience across multiple media to be called marketing professionals.

If you are in the market for professional looking signs at “FAIR VLAUE”, and would like advice on how best to project your business’s image while making any funds you spend on marketing and signs an investment, please contact the writer at arnold@signforce.co.zaor david@signforce.co.za and use the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE and we will get back to you.

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