Thursday, January 30, 2014

How to Buy an Outdoor LED Sign

You want to buy an Outdoor LED Sign?  For business owners, it's one of the most important transaction they'll make. That's why doing it right the first time is so important. Sometimes, buying a display can feel like a dizzying set of rules and regulations. Luckily, armed with the right knowledge and know-how, you can start realizing your businesses potential.  There are so many LED display options available, that sometimes it is best to take it step by step. Hope this helps!
1. Survey Your Site
In order to get an understanding for your signage needs it is critical to get the "lay of the land" and determine your locations specific advantages and/or challenges. Take stock of what you location offers. Some things to examine include but are not limited to
  • Existing signage
  • Distance of signage from the street and viewing distance
  • Obstacles in the signs line of site
  • Elevation of sign structure
  • Lanes of traffic
  • Steed of traffic
  • Location of utilities
Visit a few signs in the neighborhood to gauge the competition and see firsthand what you want. Pay attention to overall layout, size, color and resolution. 
2. Permit/Zoning Consultation
Research the laws for electronic signs in your area. What, if any are the restrictions? Many towns have specific regulations about the type or size of outdoor signs businesses may erect. If the zoning laws in your area prevent you from installing the type of sign you desire, you may need to apply for a variance to the existing code. Sign companies should be familiar not only with local regulations, but also with the process for applying for a variance. Hiring an experienced sign professional can help you navigate the zoning process saving you time and money.
3. Determine your Budget
Buying an electronic sign need not be a horror. Today's consumer has so much information (at least, the information is available), as to make the experience of buying a sign less stressful. This transformation will occur, however, only if you obey a rule taught to every first-grade student: DO YOUR HOMEWORK. 
  • What is you monthly advertising budget? Business owners sometime forget that your sign is first and foremost advertising. Including an electronic sign in your advertising budget may be less sexy than a TV commercial or radio ad, but its twice as smart. Just as all business owners know that advertising is not free. Often times, the budget does not allow us to do all of the advertising we would like so we must carefully consider the various advertising options that are available to us and invest in the advertisement media that makes the most financial sense. When compared to other advertising costs such as radio, newspaper, television and direct mail, an electronic sign is inexpensive. For example, the cost per 1,000 exposures with an electronic sign is only a few pennies a day. In addition, an electronic message center cultivates long term awareness of a business to a local demographic.
  • If financing, think about the sort of down-payment you'll be able to afford. Have a general idea in mind. A down payment establishes equity, or ownership, in a sign. That's also money that you don't have to pay interest on. The more of a down payment you're able to make on your  sign, the less money you'll ultimately pay on your sign. Apply to several lenders within a two week period so that the inquiries do not damage your credit report.
  • Check out lease options. These often have lower monthly payments that can easily fit into your business's advertising budget. Lease financing adds another source of credit, allowing you to preserve your cash and established borrowing capacity with banks for other needs. Even "soft costs" such as training, shipping, installation, and maintenance agreements can usually be included. In addition your monthly lease payment can be deducted as an operating expense lowering your tax burden.
  • As a business owner, you know that signs are not an expense -- they are an investment. Calculate your expected Return on Investment (ROI). How much increased traffic can you expect to gain form a good sign? The Small Business Association (SBA) statistics show that an LED sign increases business between 15 and 150 percent. Put those numbers into a ROI calculator and see how quickly a sign can pay for itself.  Do you expect your income to increase over the next couple years? If your income has increased by 3% for several years in a row and you hold a good share in a safe industry, you can probably rest assured that buying an expensive but still reasonable sign is possible. Many business owners buy relatively expensive and then grow into their lease with the increased traffic.
Before considering the purchase of a LED sign, it is wise to establish the amount you are willing to spend or, if taking a loan, calculate your maximum monthly payment.  You can work out a loan with your bank, but it is also possible to walk into a sign company with financing already secured through a lease company.  Leasing options can generally be obtained without having to indicate a specific make or model of sign ahead of time. 
Don't forget to consider the costs of tax, permits, installation and training for your new outdoor LED sign. As a very broad, general rule, and depending upon where you live, freight, tax, permits, assorted fees and installation costs will add roughly 10 to 20 percent to the purchase price. This makes the price of a $30,000 sign actually about $36,000 and, if you're financing the deal, you will be paying interest on that additional amount. You should be able to afford the sign as well as its installation costs. It always pays to shop around, so check rates with other lenders to compare. 
4. Use Helpful Internet Tools
There is a lot of information available on the internet but, many professionals will tell you, most buyers simply don't use that available information to their best advantage. To help, we've developed a Buyers Guides for refining your search. Contact us and we will be happy to email one to you.  Another useful area of information will be the various websites for other manufacturers. Often, you can learn specifics about the features of that manufacturer's signs. 
5. Research the Right Sign
Many professionals will tell you that this is where huge numbers of buyers make their biggest mistakes. They don't buy the sign that is best for their needs, but instead get side tracked on price by taking the position that you must have the best deal possible. That sign will be worth what you pay for it, on that day, at that time, and sales managers, particularly those at larger sign companies, tend to have very accurate reads on current market conditions and therefore sign valuations. If you deceive yourself into comparing apples and oranges and placing the same value on both, it will only lead to difficulties later.
Figuring out how much you want to spend was the easy part; now you have to find the sign that's right for you. Most buyers (yes, most), are not really sure what's out there or even what they need and want. Start to think about what you're really looking for in a sign. You probably already have a vague idea, but the angel's in the details. There are a couple things in particular that you should give good thought to:
  • First, think about the distance the average viewer will be from the sign. In addition, factors such as as traffic speed, sign height, size and resolution can affect how easily the sign can be viewed.
  • What will your business need in several years? Maybe you're just starting up right now, but are there are plans for expansion in the future?
  • What tradeoffs are you willing to make? In other words, what are your priorities and what are you willing to compromise on? Do you need a workhorse more than a sign with state of the art technology? Do you care more about sign size over color? Full color LED signs can be more effective for some applications but not all. If you sell insurance there are probably no color pictures that will help you sell your product and text messages will work very effectively. But if you sell cars, color pictures can help you sell and may justify the added cost. What are you willing to sacrifice when it's crunch time?
6. Find a Good Sign Company
The sign representative should be: amiable, open, interested, relaxed, confident, and qualified. Learn the representatives experience, and training. A very good sign company will use their experience to sell the right sign to the right buyer — you.
  • When you do find your company, go into detail when describing what you want in a sign — type, size and resolution. What you want to display and your locations needs. You site survey should help with this.
  • Choose a sign company that specializes in the electronic signs. LED signs have special issues that require special expertise. You will often find faster turnaround, higher quality execution, and better pricing when working with such a company. Working with people who are particularly knowledgeable about the issues surrounding a given application and circumstances can save you time and money.
  • Where are their signs made? Is it a USA made product sold through a network of factory trained dealers that can assist you before and after the sale with local support. Is it built by American workers familiar with the local codes and marketplace. Or is it an import where fabrication methods, software and support may be questionable.
  • What communication method do you need? There are many different ways to communicate with your electronic message center. Understanding the requirements of the LED display in this regard will help in choosing the right technology for your application. Some installations may have specific requirements. Your sales representative should be able to help you select the method will work best for your application and experience.
Talking to an LED sign professional for help you find the the right sign for your company.
With that, good luck, good shopping and good business.
Special Tips
Allow for Updates if Needed - If you expect to upgrade in the future, look for a design that is easy to update or change. In many cases, updates can even be made by your staff instead of returning the sign to the manufacture.
Consider Stock Signs - Although most Electronic message centers are custom made, it is possible to find pre-made LED signs. Buying stock LED signs can be much cheaper than having a sign custom-made.
Be Prepared to Wait During the Summer - Sign companies are generally busiest during the summer. Expect longer turnaround times during this time of the year.

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