Business signs have evolved through history. Their purpose has remained constant: To convey the name of a business, and possibly the nature of what the business offers.
One of my favorites is a stone engraving that dates to 1678, on the side of the Vaults building in Edinburgh, which at the time was a wine storage warehouse. Fans of the show Outlander may note a similar style of signs featured on the period set.
Syndicate Wine Bar has been open for many months. In our first days of operations, we added a sign to the exterior side of our building. We later installed a cut-out logo onto the front, exterior windows. Despite this signage, foot traffic and vehicles alike would pass by without much notice paid to our business. This was fine by us, as our intent was to grow our brand through word of mouth, social media, and organic marketing methods. And, it has worked. Over the months, we have grown a customer base of regulars, worked hard to earn respect, and have been blessed with many positive reviews as a result.
That said, something truly remarkable happened less than two weeks ago. On Thursday, November 21, a new, 3-dimensional lighted sign was installed outside our building, above the front window. We had hopes it would increase visibility of our brand, and as a result, business as well. We were right.
The sign was made possible by a national program called CoSign. It was created by the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio, and serves to help small businesses improve their street appeal with subsidized exterior business signs. The Beaverton Downtown Association invited businesses throughout the Downtown (Old Town) area to participate, with funding available for up to 14 signs. Syndicate Wine Bar applied, and we were selected! We were paired with a local artist (thank you, Sara Clark!) that would bring to 3-dimensional, functional life, our vision that would represent our brand along 1st Street.
Local news covered the events surrounding the CoSign program.
And so, on November 21, a crane truck arrived out front, and workers set to installing our new sign.
The organizers of the program had asked us to keep the sign covered until November 30, which is Small Business Saturday; They had planned a reveal event throughout the afternoon, at which time each business would officially unveil their new sign. We did not feel we could wait that long, as we were approaching Thanksgiving, a busy time for wine sales. We chose to keep our sign unveiled, but agreed to re-cover it on the 30th in time for the advertised reveal event.
Up to that day, we’d watched as foot traffic and drivers passed by. The numbers and type would vary based on time of day, day of week, whether school was in session, if it was a holiday, etc. We’d grown accustomed to trends and what to expect, including how quiet business might be if it were “game day”. We were used to repeating to first-time customers, at least five times each day, how long we had been opened, how we came to name our business, and even how a wine bar “works”.
On the day our new sign went up, everything changed. We noted during the afternoon rush of parents departing Beaverton High School, quite a few glances turned to our building. We saw walkers-by stop, look up at the sign, and look in our windows, as if for the first time they’d become aware we existed. We saw pedestrians across the street point as they strolled down the street. A lot of folks started pointing at us. Some crossed the street and walked in.
An early wave of customers followed, quite a bit more than we normally see before 5pm. By the end of the first two hours, we were already close to meeting our revenue goal for the day. Then another wave came in. And another. We rolled with it, took the extra business in stride, and soared through our shift. A colleague stopped in, and relayed he had heard a group of people exclaim out loud, one block down the street, “Syndicate Wine Bar?”, and then head our way.
A man walked in, still wearing his medical scrubs. He took out his phone, and began taking photos of the space. He looked at the wine wall, then approached me and thanked us for being here. “Finally. I’ve been waiting so long for a place like this. I will be back!”, he said. As he exited, he looked up at the sign, stepped back, took a photo of it, and nodded in approval before walking away.
All of this actually happened. By the end of the evening, we’d exceeded our Thursday goal, and had our best-ever close on that day of the week, with a full 123% increase. We more than doubled any previous Thursday since opening.
Also, we saw something change in the mannerisms of our customers. This has stayed constant since. Unlike previously, where conversations were longer and more detailed with customers — and certainly, a fair amount of “getting to know you so I can trust you” took place — we now saw a shift towards a more confident, or “transactional” type of interaction. Customers all seemed to take us more seriously. It was hard to not think a line had been drawn in the sand, and we were now being treated as legitimate and real, in a way that previously had required a lot more customer conversation to reach.
Bottle sales increased. Folks stopping in for a single glass and then leaving, as well. All kinds of foot traffic, more new customers than ever before, and on and on.
In the eight (8) business days we have been open, which includes over a holiday, several football game days, and no-school days (all of which typically, negatively impact business), we have seen an overall, average 49% increase in business.
By itself, I suppose you could chock up the extra business to it being the holidays, but to see such a shift in customer behavior as well, leaves us facing the obvious: By either account, our new business sign is at least partially to thank for this shift in business.
So that leads me to stating the obvious: Proper business signage helps a business stand out. Duh.
We’re extremely thankful for the support of the Beaverton Downtown Association, the local fabricators and artists, and the private investors and contributors that covered 80% of the cost of our sign, and all the signs made for our neighboring businesses.
We’re excited to track the long-term impacts of our enhanced visibility, but already know deep down that this program works; It has helped us become more successful; And we hope many other communities can help their businesses by participating in CoSign.
Please be our guest and drop in to see the new sign! It looks sharp by day, and glows by night.