11 tips for savvy sign makers

By Pierre Tardif

Posted on Sunday, January 7th, 2024

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Way back in the November/December 2003 issue of SignCraft, longtime sign painter Pierre Tardif, Grodines, Quebec, wrote an article, “Thoughts on marketing, promoting and selling your work.” It included a section on tips that help you succeed in the sign business. They are timeless and are as important today as they were then. Here you go:

  1. Learn how to say no. It’s the most important word in a sign maker’s vocabulary. If you can’t deliver the sign when they need it, or you can’t do it profitably, say no.
  2. Never be rude with a customer. There is absolutely no value in it. It may feel good to “get things off your chest,” but it’s likely to do more harm than good.
  3. If a customer goes elsewhere for their sign work, it doesn’t make sense to get upset. Talk to them about it. Ask why they didn’t choose you and see what you can learn.
  4. Never tell a customer that their current sign is ugly or ineffective. They may have designed it themselves! Even if they didn’t, they accepted it and bought it, so it’s like calling them stupid.
  5. Consider your market. Car companies don’t just design a car and assume it will sell. They look first at the market to see what car buyers want and need. Take a realistic look at your customers and what they need.
  6. Not every job can be a masterpiece, nor does it need to be. You must compromise to provide the appropriate quality for what they need and what they have to spend.
  7. You must get paid for your time. It’s okay to give a little extra now and then, but if you do it all the time, it will cost you hours of production time—and considerable profit.
  8. Watch out for your attitude, and the attitude of those you are connected with. A negative attitude makes you work harder and turns customers off. The negative (or positive, professional) attitude of others will rub off on you—so be careful.
  9. You must believe in your product. If you don’t believe your shop has something unique to offer the customer, and that signs are the best advertising value there is, don’t expect customers to. You won’t be able to sell effectively if you don’t believe in your product.
  10. Often what the customer wants more than anything else is service. He doesn’t want to wait until Thursday for the sketch you said would be done on Wednesday. He doesn’t want to wait a week longer than you said it would take to make the sign. More than most anything else, good service will keep customers coming back.
  11. Your attitude—more than your aptitude—will decide your altitude.

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