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Making Banners Profitable

It seems that banner signs have really taken off within the past ten years. A lot of people are getting into it and some are even making money. However, others are not doing so well and actually lose money when they accept the jobs. It seems that volume equates to profit and if you can’t produce large quantities, you aren’t going to make any money.

By Johnny Duncan

Some determining factors to consider when trying to make banner signs profitable is the difficulty of the job, the number of colors to be used, the size of the banner and, of course, the quantity of banners.

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  • Because there are different types of banners, the customer profile can vary. Vinyl banners reign supreme when it comes to outdoor signage. They are durable and easy to work with and will probably be your biggest seller. Because vinyl banners are used more frequently than ever before and everybody is making them, it would seem to reason that the best way to produce a profit is to produce large quantities of banner signs and sell like crazy. However, there may be another way to generate a profit from banners.

    Instead of quantity, begin thinking about variety. Any sign shop can throw out a white banner with red letters on it--- you see it all the time. Why not get creative with the banners and provide (and sell) your customers with different looks to the sign.

    Quick steps to profit
    Customizing banners is what separates the profitable sign shop from the one with mediocre sales. Here are five quick steps to take to increase your banner sign profits:

    1. Keep well stocked. Always save the excess materials in a special location to be able to point out to customers the colors you used in the past and allow them to choose the material they want.

    2. Take photographs of each creative banner that goes out the door and begin building a portfolio that customers can take a look at when they come in your shop or that your sales people can use while making a sales presentation. This will probably be one of your greatest tools to separate you from the average banner sign shop.

    3. Use bright colors on a black background to get away from what everyone else is doing. The sign will still attract attention and fulfill the purpose of what the customer wants. With banners that are “off the beaten path”, you can charge more than the standard cookie-cutter banner sign.

    4. Create a scalloped edge on your banners or curves that distinguish the sign from others. Add some decorative, colored fringe along the edge to spice it up. Come up with your own creative designs and techniques that you can provide for your customers.

    5. Finally, always remember the basic fundamentals of business:

    • Fulfill a need the customer has. No one will ever buy from you because they want to help you make money. They buy because you offer a solution to a problem. A survey was conducted by Black and Decker a couple of years ago and they found that in the last six months of the year, they sold over a quarter of a million quarter-inch drills. In wasn’t that people wanted the drill, they wanted a quarter-inch hole! Ask questions to find the need of the customer and then fill those needs.
    • If the customer is not satisfied, fix the problem. Either offer a full refund, a new banner, or both. You’ll know the oddballs from the legitimate dissatisfied customer. You may even have to give in to the oddballs from time to time.
    • Get the customer to sell for you. If they are satisfied with their banner, ask them to tell their friends and even go so far as to inquire if they wouldn’t mind giving you some names of other businesses that might need your services as well.

    Dealing with suppliers
    You really don’t have to pay top dollar for your materials. Many suppliers offer discounts from time to time because they get them from the manufacture. If your supplier does not offer a discount every now and then, shop around. There are many suppliers who would love to have your business.

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    Also, if you are providing a service to your clients using a large quantity in let’s say, fluorescent pink material, ask the suppliers to give you their best price. Chances are they will because of the quantity. Many sign shops don’t get the best price on their supplies because they never ask for it. The supplier knows his bottom line and if they can’t discount the material, then either you are stuck with that price or you continue calling around for the best price.

    As simple as this sounds, a large percentage of sign shops never try to get a better price. The best way to approach your supplier is to simply share the facts. You have X amount of customers and can purchase X amount of material from Mr. Supplier per month/year or whatever. If your customers are happy, they will tell others and your reputation will grow… so will your orders to Mr. Supplier.

    “Now Mr. Supplier, will you work with me here and give me your best price? If you do, I won’t have to raise my prices and my customers will continue to use me. I can continue to purchase my materials from you or someone else. I recognize that you have to make money and I’m sure we can help each other make a profit.”

    Sharing the obvious with the supplier is sometimes needed in order to get a better price. If you spend an hour or so discussing price, it is good time invested.

    Where to look for profit
    In the banner sign business, it is not always necessary to cut overhead costs in order to make a profit. It may just be a matter of generating new business. New business is everywhere for the banner sign maker.

    One key to finding new customers is to make it a point to never punch out. In other words, you, as the owner/manager/profit maker of the sign shop should never turn the marketing mind off. When you pull into the gas station, look for where a good banner sign might go. Talk to the store manager about it and leave your card. Let him or her know that you have a design in mind that you think would look great.

    When you take your kids to the soccer game, look for new opportunities to promote the school, civic organization, or game sponsors. Always be ready to promote your banner business.

    I have a friend in a different industry that has put together a 30-second commercial or what some people call an “elevator commercial” about his business. In 30 seconds he describes himself and his business and what he sells. It is not a canned speech (nor should it be), but information that you must formulate in your head to be prepared to use on a moments notice.

    The 30-second commercial works well as does business cards and brochures, but the best way to look for profit for your banner business is to look to fill a need. Always look for businesses that you think will bring in more business using your signs. You can point out to the neighborhood pizza place, the local gym, the used car lot, the grocery store and the churches how your signage will help them to generate more business.

    Your competition is probably not always thinking about new business so you can get a jump on it in your area. You know signage and your banner signs can make your shop a real profit if you just throw a little creativity into the mix. Remember, your customers want a solution. Sell them on the creative banners and you will be able to open a niche in the market.

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