Sign Companies and the Yellow Pages mental block

Take a moment here and think about the information you absorbed last month. What kind of books did you read? What websites did you visit? What magazines did you pick up? Are most of your friends in the sign industry like you? I hate to tell you this but, if the majority of your information, ideas and concepts come from the Sign Industry, you are in danger of getting stuck in an industry mental block.

Real quick, go grab your local Yellow Pages and look at your sign shop’s ad… what do you see here? Let me guess… you have your logo (obviously unique and distinctive), your phone number, a list of sign products that you provide and an offer to “Call for a FREE quote”. Now take a look at the other ads… notice any similarities?
Are you simply repeating what everyone else in your market is saying? How are you being distinctive or memorable? Why should ANYBODY choose your sign company over the others in this media?

In his book author Dan Kennedy calls this phenomenon “industry incest” and describes it as a circle of individuals who are constantly looking at each other (their competition) for marketing ideas, strategies, advertising concepts and ways of doing business. The result is a constantly dumbed down and homogenized marketing approach which is ultimately useless to the consumer. Think about it, if it is useless to the consumer, who needs useful information to buy, then it is a pointless marketing approach.

Now think about this situation with you as a potential customer. You have just opened the Yellow Pages looking for a sign shop and there you see ABC Signs, Joe’s Signs, Acme Signs and Julie’s Sign Design (along with 50 others) all saying the same thing. Sure Joe has a cool logo with an extra color and Acme’s ad is bigger than the others but in reality they are all giving you the same information. Everyone is claiming to make thirty types of signs and you can call anyone of them to get a quote. How do you know who offers the best customer service? Which one can make your sign buying experience easy? Who is the best choice? Which sign company is the best fit for your business and what you are trying to accomplish? Will any of these sign shop’s sales staff hound you to death as soon as you contact them? Who really knows their stuff? Who stands out…?

So the sign companies who see the need to stand out know they have to do something. They take a look at
the other ads (industry incest again) and figure out the most obvious way to be different. They go bigger to get better placement in the book and to look bigger than the competition. This approach is effective but at a huge cost, literally. Bigger ads cost more money. Extra colors cost more money. Adding a special effect or using photos cost more money. It is not uncommon for sign shops to be spending thousands per month on their Yellow Pages ads just to stand out. It is also very common for those same sign companies to have NO idea, when asked, if their Yellow Pages advertising is effective and how effective it is (of course this IS effective for someone… the phone book ad reps).

Some radical thoughts… What would happen if you took a step back and considered doing something different. Heck, what if you did the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing? What would happen if you went smaller, one color & simplified? What if you differentiated yourself simply by changing your message? Is it possible to get a much larger return on your Yellow Pages investment at the same time as you decrease your monthly bill? What if you used your ad space to focus on promoting the one product you are exceptional at or make the most net profit with? How about using your ad space to promote your own Free Sign Planner in order to focus and pre-qualify potential prospects?

Let me encourage you to really think outside the box (to use a old cliche) and get creative with your upcoming marketing efforts. Look around at the competition and figure out ways to do things different to get better results. Experiment, try radical approaches, innovate and change your perspective. Above all have fun and remember that you started your sign business to make a life… NOT for it to BE your life.

Good Luck & Take a step. (why do I sign-off this way?)