Guiding Your Customers: The Key to Outdoor Advertising

Effective outdoor advertising guides the customer to your door. This sounds simplistic, but a customer has many choices when navigating a street, a sidewalk, or even a parking lot. With the amount of ambient frustration in the world, the most welcoming business that’s easy to find has a huge advantage over an anonymous and impersonal building with no directional signage. You can analyze your customers’ advertising preference by starting at the door of your own business, then working your way outward. From site-specific needs on your front sidewalk, extending outward to the parking lot, then analyzing traffic patterns that optimize your locational exposure, you can create a step-by-step system that lowers frustration and targets the customers who need to find your business. How does your front door look? Effective outdoor advertising starts with the appearance of the building’s main entry. Examine a business like Burger King, where every move that a customer makes has been analyzed to enhance high-volume “table turnover,” and you can observe an obvious strategy. The front door has some architectural enhancements that command attention. If not, the customer wanders a bit when exiting the car and heading for the entrance, and a minute lost is a potential loss in profit. Your front door should have a sign nearby, or building- mounted, that says “main entrance,” or “front door,” as a primary element of effective outdoor advertising. Directional signs, usually two feet tall or less, with arrows, should point the customer from the parking area to the front door. In most city and county signage codes, these small signs will not count against your overall copy area restrictions, and they do offer several benefits. Insurance companies are becoming more sensitive to the concept of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, or CPTED. As a business owner, you not only want your customers to spend money, but to feel safe on your site. Using devices to monitor the safety of your customer is important. Hidden and security cameras do this job quite well. The principles of CPTED suggest that the more obvious the entrances are made to look, the more effective a business site will be in accomplishing a safe environment. Effective outdoor advertising and a safe site plan have many elements in common.

The path towards your entry point, between the building and the parking lot, can start welcoming your customers and displaying your brand or logo, with directional signs. In the parking lot, if you share space with other businesses, try to establish which spaces are for your customers, and start the directional signage at that point, as a key element of your outdoor advertising. Make sure the walkway between the parking spot and the entry is welcoming and easy to navigate, with a signage style that starts with a general welcome, then becomes more specific. For example, at
apartment leasing offices, one often encounters signs near the bumper of the parking bay that say “Parking for Future Tenants.” This type of greeting sets the mood before the potential customer exits their car. Think of a similar slogan that sets up a buying assumption, so that the parking lot becomes part of your effective outdoor advertising and marketing plan. How does a customer spot your parking lot and make the proper turns off the main road? A little more studying may be warranted to optimize the size and location of your roadway identity. Since your total signage copy area is often limited by local signage codes, do not block your main identity by placing it behind plant materials. Place it away from other business signs, if possible, to avoid driver confusion. If you share a multi-tenant sign with several other businesses, persuade your property manager to keep the multi-tenant lettering as large and eye-catching as possible. If your logo or a types tyle used in branding can be shown, that image should appear on the multi-tenant sign. Signage plans often start with the faulty assumption that a large building-mounted sign will have more impact than two or more ground signs or monument signs. At the driver’s eye level, where the turn is made, is the point at which the outdoor advertising makes a difference in behavior. Examine the site layout of a “Chili’s” restaurant, and you will see some signage on the building, but usually there are two or more moderate-sized ground signs appearing at the point where a driver needs to turn off the road.

Of course, the driver can also spot the building and recognize it due to the million-dollar branding effort of sophisticated advertising. However, the “turning points” for the driver are usually marked by smallish lighted ground signs, with no shrubs to block their impact, and many businesses can benefit from a similar strategy. Compare this to the confusion of competing pylon signs, where a group of businesses keep trying to exceed the height of the previous sign. Groups of elevated signs have been studied on roadways with high accident counts, and driver confusion appears to increase in this situation. Tourist destinations such as Virginia Beach, Las Vegas, and Orlando have many roads that demonstrate this safety problem. To keep the signage closer to the driver, safer for the driver, and less visually confusing, monument signs with a height limit of three to six feet are effective. Other considerations for outdoor sign placement include the directional traffic counts of the surrounding roads, which may show that an east-facing sign is more effective than north, for example. Traffic counts for roadways may be requested from your local transportation planning department. By guiding the customer from general decisions to more specific, your outdoor advertising can achieve peak effectiveness. Remember that everyone is a pedestrian, as soon as we step out of our vehicles. For this reason, it is beneficial to provide a narrated path when pedestrians are on your site, partly for safety’s sake. Keep reminding them, welcoming them, and marking the doorways clearly, and your customers will thank you for the helpful guidance.