Building Business Sign Budgets

by Maggie Harlow on January 30, 2013

One of the confounding things about the sign industry is so many of our customers come to us last in the process of getting their business open. And I do mean last. At SIGNARAMA Downtown, we’ve had clients construct entire new buildings, plan the entire interior layout and call us a couple weeks before open to begin the process of designing and planning their business sign!

The second most confounding thing is dealing with unhappy clients who have no idea what their business sign project might cost and are devastated to find out they’ve got no money left for the sign they really need. For any given project, there is typically several ways an effective business sign could be made, whether it is interior or exterior, illuminated or non-illuminated. Knowing what you really need and what you can afford might mean more than you realize. It can mean the difference between internally-lit weather-proof channel letters versus a vinyl banner.

SIGNARAMA City North created a high-quality Guylian signInitially, most SIGNARAMA Downtown clients want to discuss the options of materials, colors, level of illumination and size. But the truth is we generally want to have the initial discussion about budget.

In most cases, budget will direct what options that can even be considered to accomplish a project. I learned this the painful way: I, like many of my fellow SIGNARAMA owners, have spent many wasted hours generating quotes on business sign projects to only find out the client either has no budget at all, or only the budget for that vinyl banner.

So, as you approach your new business sign project, give thought to the budget that you can reasonably afford. But keep in mind that your business sign doesn’t have to cost a lot to be effective. Conversely, I’ve seen more business sign projects fail because the owners underspent than overspent.

(In other words, build your budget to go big, but we’ll help you save money by getting the right size business sign.)

Here are some basic business sign projects and probable budget ranges for what I would call typical small business projects. Keep in mind that we’re located in Downtown Louisville, and the prices are based on what people in our region typically pay. Your prices will vary, depending on what part of the country you’re in. But for a commonly sized business sign project or business in most American communities, these ranges will be fairly reliable. For larger urban areas, you might need to dial up a little to be accurate. Check with your local SIGNARAMA store for final budget figures.

Channel Letters: These are the most common type of strip center or retail business signs. These offer great visibility and readability in suburban areas with large expansive parking lots. We tell our clients the budget for these durable, work horse signs will range between $4,000 and $6,000. To keep costs low, keep lettering style clean and simple and use a no-fail choice like white or red lettering.

Light Boxes or Cabinets: This is a basic, easy to implement business sign solution for businesses trying to get nighttime visibility but who might be missing the budget for channel letters. Some combine channel letters and light boxes to include both a logo and words to mark a business. The budget range is around $3,000 to $5,000.

Dimensional Letters: These are difficult to budget for because the materials can range from solid cast bronze to inexpensive PVC plastic. They can also be used both indoors and outdoors. However, for the client who wants something affordable, durable, and professional looking, consider formed plastic letters or router-cut PVC plastic. The range is $20 to $50 per letter, plus installation.

Vehicle Wrap for Water Step Truck in Louisville, KYVehicle Wraps: Folks seem to love the look of a vehicle wrap, but are wary of the budget. We tell clients that a full wrap isn’t always necessary. A lot that can be done to make a big impact with a partial wrap. In either case, we generally plan for a full wrap to range from $3,000 to $6,000, primarily dependent on the size and type of vehicle, as well as the complexity of the design itself. You can also spend $1,500 or $2,000 for a partial vehicle wrap and get a pretty substantial impact.

For anyone trying to control costs for a new project, the business sign budget is something to be given some thought. Those who plan poorly — either spending more than necessary and depriving themselves of critical cash, or spending too little and not getting the impact and visibility their business truly needs — often regret it.

Before you wait too long, visit a couple of sign shops and ask for examples of past business sign work they’ve done and what kind of budgets those projects incurred. You should even take photos of local signs you like and want to emulate, so you can take those to your sign shop to discuss possible fabrication techniques and costs.

And, if anything, go see them soon! Faster is rarely cheaper.

If you want more information on any of these sign products, or you want to find your own local SIGNARAMA store, visit our website.

This post was written by...

– who has written 25 posts on Signarama Blog.

is the owner of SIGNARAMA Downtown and Transworld/FranchiseMart in Louisville, Kentucky. She has expertise in lighted signage, large format digital printing, custom signage, vinyl graphics, banners, trade show displays and all other types of display and signage. You can follow her on Twitter at @SignaramaMama.

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