By Dan Antonelli
Posted on Friday, December 9th, 2022
The need to diversify your product offerings has never been more important. The more things you can offer your current clients, the better. I’ve written extensively about the marketing challenges inherent in producing signs and vehicle graphics.
One of the biggest obstacles is the lack of repeat business from existing clients because what is produced for them, their signs, lasts way too long. We obsess about lettering lasting 5, 7 or even 10 years. I’m not sure whose idea it was that it would be a benefit to have vinyl last that long. Back in sign-painting days, paint would fade in 4 or 5 years. At the minimum, the client would need a repaint.
So today we do that nice lettering job, and the client doesn’t get a new truck for 7 years. He has no need for anything else we do in the meantime. That’s bad. It’s a recipe for disaster for most shops.
Selling more than signs
What if you could offer them other products with a much shorter shelf life? There’s a whole host of other things you could offer—but are you ready to do them? Are you committed to rethinking the primary way in which you conduct business? Can you change the focus of what you provide—and convince your clients to come along with you?
It wasn’t by accident that I took steps to change how I conducted business. After primarily lettering trucks for the first few years, I realized that I would be better off with fewer clients who bought more from me than to have many clients who just bought truck lettering. I also realized that the perception clients had of me and what I could offer was limited because of how I approached them and marketed myself.
I had to rethink my approach. Instead of being a sign company who could also do a logo, I decided to reverse it and morph into an agency/designer that could also do truck lettering. The logo went from being something that was included in truck lettering to being something that was required before I could letter your truck.
It starts with a logo
The logo became the foundation for the relationship. It tied the client to us in a way that just signs and lettering could not. It vested their interest in us, because the importance of preserving their brand was something they felt only I could handle for them. More importantly, it gave us the opportunity to offer other lines of business that didn’t last as long as truck lettering.
I’m not naive enough to think that every sign shop can follow the same route we took and evolve into a full-service advertising agency. What I suggest is that you take small steps along the way. Start with selling simple items that will allow for more residual income later.
Begin with the logo
It’s important to bring your clients around to the idea that the logo design is really the most important part of the job they are asking you to do. If they are asking for letters on a substrate, perhaps you are not the right company to be dealing with them. The best clients are the ones who understand the value of a good brand. The others either need to be educated by you or are simply looking for the cheapest way to get a sign made or a truck lettered.
Earning their trust
In the clients’ defense, perhaps it is not unreasonable for them to doubt that you are qualified to offer assistance in their branding. What have you done to convince them you can offer this? Do you have samples in your showroom and on your website showing the proper execution of a logo and its subsequent implementation on various items? Does your website mention it as a specific line of business and show successful logos you’ve created?
You can’t expect clients to feel confident about you offering them this line of business if you can’t illustrate what you mean. Consider your own branding. Are you practicing what you are preaching? It’s hard to convince someone the importance of consistency if your own website, business card and store- front sign look like they were done by three different designers.
Our site showcases over 200 logos, 50 stationery set samples, 100 websites and countless case studies illustrating why the logo is central to our philosophy. Overkill? Maybe. But we don’t have many people wondering what they might get when they hire us. And they certainly don’t have any question as to whether or not we can do the work. Their biggest question is actually whether they can afford us. I would rather have that be the question.
Of course, it takes time to build up such a large arsenal of work to show. But you need to be aggressive about promoting yourself and your capabilities.
Then come residual sales
The logo is done, now what? The simplest add-on with the most residual income opportunity is stationery design and printing. Business cards, letterheads and envelopes can all be printed full-color for less money than two-color. Clients love full-color work, and they go through these materials quickly. That means they reorder them often. The markup can be quite high on this line. And nothing is easier than going online, clicking re-order, and collecting a check for the order.
Most layouts can be done in programs you should be familiar with, such as Corel Draw or Illustrator. Most online sources for this type of printing have templates you can download and use to set up your layouts properly for printing.
Depending on your skill level, some additional lines of business might be brochure and collateral design, Yellow Pages ad design, general graphic design and even web design. And if you’re not comfortable with the skills needed for some of this work, consider additional schooling, or hiring people who complement your own skills. People often comment that I do really nice work, which I truly appreciate. But I always reply that I am fortunate to have surrounded myself with a truly talented team of designers who are better at certain skills than I am.
Look proactively at this. Find out what you can do to best protect yourself in the future. The more services you can offer, the more useful you’ll be for your clients—and the more opportunities you’ll have for additional sales to them.
Dan Antonelli owns KickCharge Creative in Washington, New Jersey. He is the author of Logo Design for Small Business I and II, Building a Big Small Business Brand and most recently, Branded—Not Blanded.
This appeared in the March/April 2009 issue of SignCraft.
This client wanted a retro-style logo for his dog grooming business. We designed full-color two-sided cards to go along with the order.
This is a nice illustration of branding a company across their primary advertising mediums. For this new startup, we handled the logo, stationery design, vehicle design and four-page sales brochure.
This Oregon-based client found us online and hired us for his logo and business card. It was a fun logo to design, with the illustration depicting the mountains that are nearby. Note the detail in the lettering.
This was an interesting logo and stationery set to put together. It’s nice to break outside the norm for stationery design. This entire job was printed in full color.