Must Have Signs

4 Signs Every Business Needs

How to Choose Business Signs That Work


Signage is the most powerful tool available to small business and retailers today. It is the silent salesperson who sells more products and provides more service than any of your salespeople. For customers, it is the part of a small business they take for granted — until the signs are missing. Consider your own experience, how many times a day do you use signs in your life? I challenge you to count today and you will be amazed. 

With customer experience being the mantra for retailers today, signage is one of the most underutilized tools available to small business. In my book, Signs Sell, I outline the 4 types of signs that every small business must have to be successful. In researching for the book, we discovered many stores that were very strong in one category or another, but few that had a balance of all four types of signs. But what we did notice is that the customer experience scores (and the total sales) of the retailers who used a solid balance of all four types of signs were significantly higher.

In a Brigham Young University study, products with signs outsold products without signs by 18 percent — even if the sign was simply an inform sign about that the product was. Another retailer measured sales of endocarps with signs and found a significant difference in sales of the end caps tat had signs versus those that did not. In this test, the prices of the products were not changed from the original price, just a sign was added for impact. Consider your shopping trips at the local Walmart or Target. How many times have you added laundry detergent to your cart because it had a big sign on the display? Did you ever stop to check if that price was cheaper than normal or just assume it was since it had a sign?

Signs can sell merchandise and services for you. And today, with the advent of digital signage, the possibilities are becoming endless. Plus, with every customer carrying a mobile device in their pocket. add a QR code and you can turn their phone into a digital sign by playing a video about the product or service. And signs never make a customer angry with its service like some employees. Signs never get tired or complain either. Signs are the key conduit in an omnichannel world.

There are two ways to do retail today — the expected way and the unexpected. Customers expect good signage. They expect signs to help them engage your business. They rely on and trust signs and when they are poorly made or absent, they notice and “feel it.”

To remember the four types of signs, think ISEE: Inform, Sale, Educate, and Entertain. These are the four must-have categories of signs on every small business or retail store. The key is to have a balance of these signs in your store. Let’s discuss each one.

1. Inform

Informational / Wayfindng Sign


The first category of signs every retail store or small business needs is Informational. Dubbed “wayfinding” signs by the sign makers, these signs provide direction to the customer and allow them to experience your store self-sufficiently. While no signs can ever replace the power of a person in delivering a positive customer experience, customers have told us they are must comfortable in environments where they can shop on their own (even if they don’t want too.)

In the Inform example sign, you see directions to a second-floor sales area in a camping store. The really nice touch was to add actual product as part of the signage to draw attention and add dimension and perspective.

2. Sale

Sale Sign in Retail Store

For retailers, the most important sign is one that calls attention to the “deals” in the store. Every customer wants a deal; it’s how we are all wired. Sale signs simply draw attention to the deal or sale or incentive (buy 1 get 1) available on that product or service.

Sale signs do not have to be about price. They can relate a compelling reason to buy. For example, many retailers will tout “Made in America” on a sign for a product and many small businesses will tout “family owned and operated.” Both of these messages communicate (sell) the business or product to the customer. For many customers, being able to buy local is an important motivator.

In the Sale example sign, note how this business added some informative text about the product (read Educate below.) It not only calls attention to the special price but “sells” the product by explaining why you would want to buy it and how it differs from other choices.

3. Educate

Education Signs

Educate signs are ones that teach or explain the value of the product or service to the customer. As stated earlier, customers appreciate an environment when they can service themselves. Educate signs do just that. But moreover, they also enhance the customer experience and increase sales.

For example, a nursery might put educate signs on their plants to identify the best ones for full sun versus full shade.

In the Educate sign example, the business explains the origin of the product. Sales increased 55 percent with the addition of this sign on these products. Pay attention to the fact that there is no price on this sign.

4. Entertain

Entertain Signs

Customers have more choices today on where to shop than ever before. With the power of online shopping, the competition is now global. Customers appreciate a brand with a sense of humor. They want to do business with people who make them smile.

Consider that you will often have many customers in your store and there is a wait to be serviced. Having signs that entertain the customers will keep them in the store longer and waiting more patiently.

In this Entertain sign example, you can see how this gym grabs the attention of passers-by and entertains them.