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It's an image heavy world, just ask Instagram

Posted by Jason Keith  May 16, 2012 09:00 AM

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With the advent of social networks and sharing at the click of a mouse, imagery is quickly becoming a must have for business and marketing success.

Facebook just bought Instagram for $1 billion, and that's nothing but a network of people taking, altering and sharing photos they took. Infographics, videos, quirky signs with one liners, motivational posters and amazingly looking food are all being pinned to Pinterest and examples of image specific content that's being shared. People are looking for it, are more aware of it and are more likely to remember things they have seen than ever before. Forget the written word, people are now focused on pictures. If a photo of a random "photogenic man" running a 10K race can get viewed 1.4 million times, think about what imagery could do for a small business?

my-husband-cheated.jpgBut just because things are being shared online doesn't mean that using images and signs out in the real world won't also have a big impact. As I've mentioned in the past, direct mail can (and is) still a very viable way for small businesses to conduct local marketing campaigns and see immediate success. But signage, for any small business is a must have, especially if you have a physical storefront. The sign on the right is a shining example of how something offline can still go viral and get eyeballs. 

Landscapers have long been the local experts when it comes to taking advantage of lawn signs, at least the savvy ones. Seldom can you drive through a town without seeing a number of them proudly being displayed for all to see. If you think that people driving by every day don't notice, remember the name of the company, then jump online to check them out and potentially use their services, think again. It's a perfect example of how simple signage can make all the difference in raising awareness and generating business leads locally.

In fact, a recent study commissioned by FedEx illustrates the importance of signage specific to small businesses. The study found that:

  • Almost eight in 10 (76 percent) American consumers enter a store they have never visited before based on its signs

  • Nearly seven in 10 (68 percent) have actually purchased a product or service because a sign caught their eye.

  • A small business? sign can also be an influential word-of-mouth marketing tool, with three out of four consumers saying they have told someone about a store based simply on its signage.
There's a reason why Dominos pays people to stand out in front of a store holding signs touting the latest pizza offer, or why people consistently stand outside local voting stations during election cycles holding signs of their candidate of choice. It's because imagery and signage work. You see something, you're more likely to remember it. Studies have shown this to be true, especially images that you've seen before or multiple times.

So the question is, how can a small business owner take advantage of signs?

Be clever, be memorable: It's easy to produce a sign that says "Johnson's Landscaping" with a contact phone number. The problem is you need to cover a lot of lawns in order to stand out and get remembered. Having a sign with a web address that says, "" is more likely to get you remembered and acted upon. Also having "calls to action" always helps. For example, a landscapers sign could read "Like this lawn? Why not call us!" with the name and number of the business. Use every opportunity to post a call to action. You're more likely to get noticed. 

You don't have to have physical storefront: People always think signs are for people with physical locations, but nothing could be farther from the truth. There are all kinds of places you can stand out. Stickers, car door magnets and T-shirts are great examples of options you can use in multiple places to help stand out and harness that word of mouth marketing virality. Think your customer wouldn't wear a free T-shirt you gave them for doing business with them? They could become a walking billboard for you instantly and for a small investment. 

Keep it consistent: Whatever you're doing, make sure that it all looks the same (or is at least very close). If you've got a truck that's outfitted with the company colors and logos, make sure that the signs you're posting all over town also have the same colors and logos. Same thing for T-shirts you hand out vs. your business cards and postcards. If they're disjointed and different in terms of design, their effectiveness decreases. It should all have the same look and feel so you can be remembered. Those are important brand elements that must be consistent.

How have you effectively used signs or images for your business? Have the offline tactics you've used helped bring in new business?





This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About this blog

Jason Keith has been working for and with small businesses in the New England area for more than 10 years, specifically small, micro businesses. Born and raised in Massachusetts and a former journalist, he provides a unique perspective on the issues facing small businesses locally and nationally.To reach him directly email

This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here are the author's alone.

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