If you run a small sign shop, then this story is for you.

I was once looking for a sign shop to produce vinyl window graphics. I generally support smaller local businesses so I set about finding one. I had the names of four small sign shops capable of doing the job I needed. As is common practice nowadays, I turned to Google for contact information. I’m not going to mention names, and when I tell you what happened, you’ll understand why.

For the first small shop I found a web site but there was no telephone number in the contact information. Enquiries had to be made by email.

Nobody answered the phone at the second shop and I was instead invited to leave a voicemail.

A similar thing happened when I called the third shop. Apparently I’d reached a home number with a message that (first name) was unable to answer the call and that I should leave a voicemail.

The fourth shop had no web site.

At this point I needed a quote and didn’t have time to wait for voicemails to be returned or for emails to be answered. So I called a big graphics company I’d known for a long time. The phone hardly rang once before a friendly person answered in a very professional, polite manner. I asked to speak with the owner who, in spite of running a big business, came on the line almost immediately. Within minutes I had all the information I needed including a rough cost estimate.

By now you’ve probably seen where I’m going with this. If you’re a small sign shop hoping to survive in a competitive market, you’d better understand what successful businesses of all sizes understand:

  • People are impatient. When they need information, they need it now. Not when you feel like getting back by phone or email. Now!
  • People are sceptical. They don’t necessarily believe that they will receive a response to an email or voicemail. They’ve been burned before and waited and waited without result.
  • People make assumptions about your professionalism by how you present yourself. For Pete’s sake, get a website, even if it’s a couple of pages to boost your image and provide contact information. Include a phone number someone will answer.

Small businesses can compete with big businesses and can even beat them in some areas but not if they don’t embrace a certain degree of professionalism. If your small sign shop isn’t doing well, it might be because it appears hokey to potential customers.

There may be some wisdom for small sign shops in the old expression: “Fake it until you make it.”