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Frame It: The Uncovering of the Framing Segment of the Sign Industry

Businesses who are getting involved in wide-format banner framing are discovering a niche with a demand that needs to be filled. This segment of the industry provides an opportunity for sign professionals to diversify their businesses while offering customers a unique choice in sign products.

By Johnny Duncan

This segment of the industry provides an opportunity for sign professionals to diversify their businesses while offering customers a unique choice in sign products.

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  • The sign industry is made up of various segments with some that overlap others like vinyl, banners and wraps, and some that are entirely on the their own like neon, dynamic digital, and wayfinding. One segment that is becoming more popular and that businesses are finding to be profitable, is that of framing or framed signs. This category has also been termed tensioning and framing and media framing systems. For simplicity sake, we will term it framing, but it encompasses a little more than that. Businesses involved in framing are discovering a niche with a demand that needs to be filled. This segment of the industry provides an opportunity for sign professionals to diversify their businesses while offering customers a unique choice in sign products.

    Photo Credit Ackland Media Frames

    Opportunities abound
    Framing systems are designed for the purpose of attaching large format vinyl media to virtually any reasonably flat surface making the process of covering large surface areas easier. Framing gives the customer more choices for signage applications and provides for the sign professional a chance for repeat sales using the same surface.

    "Digital printing has become ubiquitous," says Bret Mileski, owner of Ackland Media Frames. "High quality, low-cost print capability is everywhere, but what's missing are the high square footage, large format print jobs to offset the cost of the equipment which many sign companies have purchased or leased. There is definitely no shortage of large surfaces that can be covered with attractive images and advertising." Mileski is passionate about framing and its possibilities and rightly so. Many of the projects completed using framing systems have saved customers money over other conventional signage as well as saving time in completion of the project.

    Photo Credit Ackland Media Frames

    Michael Cormon, Founder of Tensioning Solutions Inc. sells framing systems to sign professionals and says that once a customer sees the estimate and samples of the end product, they tend to lean more toward framing systems in the future. "A combination of three main reasons: low-cost, simplicity and versatility (our framing system can be used for many interior as well as exteriors applications), convinces our sign professional clients to switch to our products," says Cormon. Cormon worked for over four years in the sign industry as a business development consultant for a Tampa, FL sign company before starting Tensioning Solutions. It was after participating in different exhibitions like at ISA that he saw the need for such a simple and low-cost framing system.

    Photo Credit Ackland Media Frames

    In the world of vehicle wraps, mobile billboards, and painted trucks, there is still room for more mobile signage solutions. Cars and trucks can benefit from framing systems signage as well. "Recession or no recession, vehicles are necessary in order for most businesses to operate," says Michael Ries, owner of Advertising Vehicles. "Since they have to have the vehicles, most businesses realized they should utilize them the best way possible --- rent-free billboards. Fleet advertising is one of the most cost-effective options available and it's a production-only media meaning you don't have to rent the space. With tight budgets and so many options, it only makes sense to use your own space first."

    First-time framing
    For those just now wetting their beaks into this creative world of signage, there are a few things you should know before diving in. First, framing systems can help to resolve some sign issue concerns. For example, here is a sign ordinance in Greenville, NC, in regards to unsightly sagging vinyl signs:

      (5)(a)To qualify as a permanent wall sign, displays made from non self supporting materials, including flex face type signs, shall be permanently affixed to the building or other structure by a method approved by the Building Inspector, and the display (sign face) shall be enclosed and/or attached:

      1. By a two-inch or wider raised frame that supports the sign face; or

      2. Within a two-inch or wider raised sign cabinet specifically designed for support of the sign.

    Framing systems can solve this problem.

    Sign Elements Vehicle Templates

    Photo Credit Tensioning Solutions

    For the sign professional looking to get into the framing systems segment of the industry, Mileski offers this advice: "Try to remember that it's not about the sign, but about the message. In other words, the advertising, the emotions evoked by the images displayed, and the visuals we create lend themselves to a buying experience. Having a system that makes changing graphics easy and affordable allows sign shop customers to keep their messages fresh and dynamic. They can easily correct messages that aren't working, or introduce new concepts and ideas to their audience. The bonus for sign shops is that whenever they make a sale involving a media frame, they are almost always securing future sales of digital print replacements at the same time."

    As in all segments of the sign industry, the first step in turning prospects into customers and keeping those customers long term is determining what their needs are. You need to uncover where the pain is, what solutions they need, and then educating them on the best avenues to take. As Ries of Advertising Vehicles states, "Our most interesting projects are the ones where the client is only identifying their vehicles with simple decals and info and we help them understand they can do so much more by utilizing a full wrap or the changeable Traxx system. We help them realize there is a big difference between identifying your vehicle versus turning it into an eye-catching, memorable billboard. We ask the customer, 'Would you rather have static billboards that require monthly rental payments or utilize your own changeable network of rent free billboards that travel where you want and need them to go?'"

    Photo Credit Tensioning Solutions

    Selling customers on the advantages of a framing system is one thing, but the sign professional in this field has to be able to produce when called upon. We all know that customers can be fickle, but typically, once they make a decision, they want it now. "If you have media frames in stock, you may not be able to install it yesterday - but tomorrow will be a definite possibility," says Mileski. "Furthermore, when the frames are in your shop, it's amazing how many opportunities will present themselves. As a wise business consultant once explained, 'You can't sell from an empty cart.' Customers like to touch and feel what they are purchasing, so put some of what you want to sell on your shelves and watch people buy what you're selling."

    Photo Credit Advertising Vehicles

    "I recommend in the case of sign professionals wanting to test our framing system to buy one or two kits and create frames for their showrooms," advises Cormon. "This is not a big investment because these kits will be credited with their first order. First-timers will have a chance to practice, learn the system and see for themselves its simplicity and the great results they can achieve and offer to their clients."

    Photo Credit Advertising Vehicles

    The future of framing
    Framing offers a great opportunity to provide another service for your customers. It provides easy entry access and is not currently dominated by mega corporations that tend to lock out most newcomers. As with most segments of our industry, the framing segment has been evolving into a more professional industry. As Corman states, "I noted the evolution to get more professional looking stretched banners. Little by little sign shop owners realized that both their clients' image and their own image were impacted by the quality of their banners. They started to sell it to their customers. This trend was confirmed by the interest of the sign professionals, it was a bit slowed down by the economy, but still growing. Today low-cost solutions are still king."

    Whether venturing into the framing sector for the first time or a veteran in this industry, framing is unarguably a viable option as a lucrative portion or full-time position for the sign professional. Keeping abreast of changes in this segment is wise and there are easy ways to do it. Of course, you can read all the articles on framing here at You can also contact the helpful folks at:

      Tensioning Solutions, Inc. ()
      Ackland Media Frames ()
      Advertising Vehicles ()

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