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Wyoming Business Tips for April 5-April 11

April 6, 2009

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center, part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Cindy Unger, business consultant

"What should I know about purchasing a sign for my new business?" Chris S., Casper

Signage, an important investment for any business, is often overlooked. When selecting a location, the important components are visibility, accessibility and parking. A sign is a critical component of visibility and physically brands the business location.

To evaluate an owner's needs, first consider what the sign can accomplish for the business. Is this a local business that needs to "brand" the location in the community? Will signs be used to advertise frequent price or product specials, such as a grocery store?

Or does the owner want to attract customers to stop on impulse, such as a motel or convenience store? A sign introduces the business to anyone passing by, and it works for the owner 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Signage needs to be easily visible and readable, attractive and project the image of the business.

Yes, good signage is expensive. Consider a sign not as an expense, but as a capital investment. The cost of signage will be amortized over the lifetime of the business location. The cost of a newspaper or radio advertisement will be expensed only during the period advertising is valid.

The effectiveness of signage depends primarily on how easily traffic can see and read it. Important factors to consider are placement, size, height and illumination. Specific needs will depend on the traffic patterns passing the location. If a sign is mounted on the front of a building, parallel to the roadway, research shows it needs to be at least 70 percent larger than a sign that is mounted perpendicular to the roadway to be noticed in time for a potential customer to make the decision to stop ( A sign with unfamiliar words or too many words will take longer to read.

Experts recommend letter size should increase a minimum of one inch in height for every 25 feet of distance. Lettering style, graphics, lighting and colors also influence the ability to see and read a sign. The further away from the reader, the taller a sign must be to be visible from a car.

Height from the ground to the bottom of the sign face should always measure a minimum of seven feet. Because freeway signage must be read from great distances, these signs must be much taller than a sign located in a business district with a slower speed limit, where signs only need to be tall enough so that parked and moving vehicles will not block the view.

Lighting allows a sign to be visible and readable day and night, in all kinds of weather. Drivers can also read an illuminated sign more quickly. Sign illumination is generally accomplished with lamps mounted outside that shine on the sign's face, by internal illumination that shines through the sign face or by illuminated elements, such as bulbs, LEDs, or neon tubes.

Remember, signs should not be an afterthought, but an important part of the overall marketing strategy. Through the years, signage can be the least expensive and most effective form of advertising for a local business.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, e-mail or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY 82071-3922.

Posted on Monday, April 06, 2009

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