“Click Here For A Free Estimate”

Be still my beating heart.
Including people in your sign photos adds to a viewer’s connection to the picture. Human activity displays that the sign has value – it is welcoming, attracts people and meets with their approval. Photo by Darek Johnson.

Here’s what one sign-maker’s website says: “We are a full-service sign and graphics designer, fabricator and installer with 5-star service worldwide.” Next, the page offers a “Click here for a free estimate” box above a black-on-white navicon that opens to a list of sign types. The webpage is as unappealing as your water bill.

Compare that image to the Over-land Park, KS FastSigns’ website that opens with a vibrant FastSigns logo above an easy-to-read telephone number and outsized words that say, “Custom solutions for your business, what’s your challenge?” This invitation is superimposed over a photograph of a uniformed model who smilingly welcomes you to a neatly decorated FastSigns store. Eight brightly colored click boxes span the lower page – Compliance, Interactive-Digital, Installation, Surveying and Permitting, Graphic Design, Point of Purchase, Consulting and Signs and Graphics. Two smaller boxes allow you to obtain a quote or open an idea book. There’s more – videos, articles, tips, facts, a newsroom, a blog and other enticements to inspire a buyer.

This professionally prepared site is graphically strong, easy to read, asks for your “challenge” and twice leads you to the telephone number. Obviously, Overland Park FastSigns wants telephone calls, not clicks, because personal contact begins a buyer-seller relationship.

How did they do this?

RHETORIC

Rhetoric, simply defined, is the art of effectively writing or speaking in a way that influences people. Rhetoric involves using words clearly, in a style that most strongly presents your case. All professional ads use rhetorical devices: metaphor, allusion, amplification, antitheses, hyperbole and more. Search Google and find more than you can swing a cat at.

Or is that “At which one could swing a cat?” The use depends on the audience.

To be effective, rhetorical writing must be directed at an audience. In this case, it’s your present and future sign buyers. Don’t use formal English, but don’t use slang either. Be conversational. Here’s an example: “We design and build first-class, high-quality signs that bring buyers to your door. Call us now – (888) 888-8888 – to start a conversation. Let’s talk about your design ideas, your budget and your timeline. Most importantly, let’s talk about what you want to accomplish with your new sign.”

Notice the constant use of “you” and “your”? The sign is about them, your customer, so the personal reference lets them know you’re partnering with them. If you must have a “Click-here” box, label it like this: “In a hurry today? Click here to note some of your ideas and details – and the best time for us to call you.”

ABOUT PHOTOS

Put people in your sign photos. Associating – seeing – people with signs ties in human activity, which speaks of business success. Your sign buyer is investing in a sign to attract business and inform others. They think of signs as types of ads, and as an expense requiring justification. Not you. You think of sales, cost, fabrication and timelines. Still, any sign exists to elicit a reaction from viewers, thus including people in your images tells a sign buyer of the sign’s effectiveness.

Usually, it isn’t a good idea to have an installer shoot photographs for marketing purposes. By the time the sign is in the ground or on the wall, installers are tired and hungry. They forget to move that morning’s Egg McMuffin sacks or the afternoon Pepsi cans. Instead, photograph your signs on a weekend, when you’re not rushed. For artistic effects, shoot before 10 a.m., when morning light softens images while heightening colors. However, midday, late afternoon or early evening may be the best time to find people nearby (take several, to ensure attractive poses).

You can legally photograph people who are on public-access property, but it’s best to either be associated with them, or ensure they’re at a distance and unidentifiable. (You cannot use images of uncontracted, identifiable persons for advertising; search Google for release forms).

If you shoot lighted signs at night, try using fill flash (see your camera handbook) so that background colors aren’t washed out by the sign lighting.

In my world, shop owners would routinely assign friends (not employees, people who know signs, or tech geeks) a short list of proposed sign requirements and ask them to visit the shop website and report on the experience.

Oh yes, and if they “Click here,” ask how long it took to get a call back.

Digital Edition

Enhance your Signs of the Times reading experience by exploring our interactive digital edition. Receive it in your inbox by subscribing online.