We regularly receive calls and emails from sign companies in other parts of the country to perform installations on their behalf for local clients. We’re generally happy to take on this kind of work; just like most businesses, it always helps to expand your network and build a positive reputation within the industry (and of course it helps pay the bills). In most of those cases the customer’s corporate office, as part of their overall marketing and branding strategy, has chosen a single signage provider that has the production capabilities to handle their nationwide needs. If you’ve ever worked in Corporate America, you are probably familiar with all the good reasons for this – one point of contact, possibly bulk pricing, and maybe the most important in the brand management world, better control over the brand image. All good reasons… until you have to execute at the local level.
This is not a criticism of large sign companies – I believe the great majority are reputable, quality producers, and we’ve had very successful projects with a few. We’ve had a few recent experiences, however, that make a strong case for national companies to put in a little extra effort to find local or regional providers for signage.
- A large out of state sign company contacted us to repair a lighted sign for their client. Upon inspection we could not tell what needed to be repaired; everything appeared to be working normally. But instead of the local manager calling his local sign company to discuss the problem, he had to call the corporate office, who contacted the sign company, who contacted us, without having the benefit of the local manager’s input (our only information: “the sign is not lighting up”). Had the customer used a local sign company from the beginning, there would have been one call (and if it was our company, a face-to-face meeting within a day).
- A national company was rebranding a local retail shop they had taken over, but left it to the district manager to find an installer. He provided us the drawings for the intended sign, and we realized very quickly the sign would not fit the available space on the storefront, fortunately before it was manufactured, but that caused a delay in production. By the time the sign arrived at the trucker’s dock in Nashville, they had not yet contracted us for installation, so there had been no permit applications, no arrangements for delivery, and no survey of the site (which revealed significant electrical problems that had to be corrected before installation). The sign could have been installed about eight weeks earlier if they had contracted locally from the beginning.
- A growing company was opening a new office in Nashville and went to their regular sign provider in another state for the lobby sign, who in turn contacted us for installation, and shipped it directly to us. The sign was very poorly made and suffered some minor damage before we received it (probably in packaging, not in shipping). They shipped us replacement materials, and we repaired the sign and installed it the best we could, but the end customer was not happy. All we could say was, “We’re really sorry, but that was provided to us for installation. A sign like that would never have left our shop.”
By contrast, we recently took on a project to provide signage for a franchised medical practice. The corporate office contacted us directly and gave us the location, timeline, and specifications. A quick site survey showed they had forgotten the tenant panel by the road and the door graphics, so we included those in our proposal. By contracting locally, potential problems were uncovered early, the project will be managed by one team with an eye on the whole process, and the chances of meeting the aggressive schedule are far better.
So if you’re a national corporation, why should you choose local signage providers for your locations? (1) You’ll have a local point of contact for the entire process, and he’ll have intimate knowledge of everything that’s going on with your project because he’s not 500 miles away. (2) A local company will be familiar with building codes and permits, which can be a major hurdle in some cities. (3) If you have any problems later, you’ll know exactly who to call. (4) If you provide good branding materials, we’ll take good care of your brand and adhere to your standards.
And maybe the best reason: when you hire local, you’re supporting small business owners and their employees, who in turn can support your business.