Our sign business started when the retail sector was experiencing significant growth in Austin, Texas. This presented us with a valuable chance to educate retail developers and property managers about city codes and the requirements for retail signage. We soon realized that establishing ourselves in the retail market and fostering relationships with property managers and developers requires patience and a thoughtful strategy.
Here are three helpful tips for your sign shop that enabled us to develop lasting relationships and become the preferred provider of retail signs in our community.
1. Have Patience. It’s a Long Game.
It takes time to build trust with property managers and developers.
Our sign company conducted research to find the major retail property management companies and developers in our area. Then, we learned about their projects. Once we had a list, we approached them with offers to host introductory luncheons in their offices.
The idea was simple yet effective: we would arrive early with a delicious lunch, usually tacos, along with a bouquet of flowers and a business card attached. We would then present our portfolio.
This created a friendly atmosphere with many handshakes and introductions. We used the opportunity to personally get to know them. They appreciated having a vendor who would listen and learn about the challenges they faced, especially regarding retail signage.
If you choose the luncheon approach for your sign shop, be ready to share your website or a slide deck showcasing your portfolio. People enjoy looking at photos of creative signs, especially when there’s a story about how you solved the problems on those projects. They will begin to understand your capabilities without much effort on your part to sell.
Lastly, remember to follow up the luncheon with a nice “thank you” card or email that includes all your contact information.
Photo by Joe Arenella.
2. Education is Key
Our sign shop positioned itself as the preferred sign vendor for the property early on. As a result, property managers forwarded us the contact information of new tenants to ensure they had the right signage.
This led to various projects, such as channel letters, pylon and monument signs, development signage, and ongoing service work. It became a significant source of sales growth for our business.
To become a preferred sign vendor, consider offering a few “value added” services. Property managers and developers often have to deal with complex city sign codes, especially when it comes to their tenants’ sign requirements. We found that property managers would sometimes grant sign installation permission to new tenants, only to face rejection from the city permit office later on.
To address this issue, we offered to research the city’s sign codes and write sign criteria for the property that aligned with both the codes and the property’s requirements. This comprehensive sign criteria included everything from size, color, and lighting restrictions to architectural requirements such as materials and attachment methods. We would then attach this document to the tenant lease agreement to eliminate any confusion regarding signage requirements.
In addition to providing comprehensive sign criteria, keep in mind that retail developers are mainly concerned with the return on investment (ROI) they can get from their sign projects.
With this in mind, a sign shop should be prepared to clearly demonstrate the value that retail signs bring to a development. You can do this by highlighting how your signs will attract potential tenants by increasing visibility, foot traffic, and brand recognition.
If a tenant is successful, then the property manager will also benefit. Impactful retail signage can be the key that helps everyone.
Photo by Joe Arenella
3. Provide Excellent Customer Service and Support
For our store, it is crucial to have excellent customer service in order to establish strong connections with property managers and developers.
Therefore, in addition to offering high-quality products and services, your store should focus on consistent communication, prompt responses to tenant referrals and service requests, and transparency throughout the entire process. Additionally, make sure to provide reliable after-sales warranty support to address any post-installation issues that may arise.
If you make extra efforts to ensure their satisfaction, customers are more likely to become repeat clients and recommend your services to other property developers in their community.
Keep in mind that selling to property developers requires patience and persistence, as larger development projects often have long lead times.
By understanding their signage needs, educating them about the importance of effective signage, and offering creative solutions that benefit all parties involved, you can position yourself as the go-to sign provider in your community.
So go ahead and create outstanding signage for your clients!
Photo by Joe Arenella.
Joe Arenella founded two sign shops before launching SignTracker, a software program designed to help sign shop owners track their jobs, provide more consistent quotes, and offer their team a comprehensive view of the shop’s activities. Joe is also the host of the Behind the Signs Facebook group and YouTube video podcast.