Signage is Your Silent Salesman

Published on March 15, 2009


Maryland Aquatics


Everyone knows that signs in any place of business convey messages of importance. They silently direct customers to the entrance, to departments of interest, as well as, to restrooms and checkout counters. They are the foundation of any establishment.


To begin with, the entrance should be clearly marked, inviting and appeal to the senses. It is the first impression your customers will have. Brightly colored signs that mark the entrance and various departments should be clear and legible with bold text that is visible from a distance of 30-50 feet. Undersized, ragged or poor quality signage is a missed opportunity for customers to quickly discern what and where you may have the products they are looking for. Your goal should be to separate yourself from the competition and make the shopping experience as pleasant as possible. For larger garden centers, consider a color-coded directory at the main entrance that coincides with department signs.


In addition to offering direction, signage is a powerful tool for marketing and tie in sales. A stack of 16 x 7 containers, aquatic planting soil and fertilizer will move more quickly if placed in the water lily sales area. A sign with the message “Big pots + food = happier plants!” The same sign should be placed in or around the display pool area indicating the beautiful lilies are the result of your message. Make certain display plants always look their best and never offer them for sale. They are an invaluable sales tool when properly signed. A similar sign could offer a lily potting service for those willing to pay a fee for someone to do it for them. (See the Custom Container Potting Banner that could be modified to include inspiring water lily photos in place of the pottery.)


Often time’s signage can capitalize on missed opportunities. A garden center that has sold more Floating Islands than any of our other customers found that marketing the Islands in the water garden department limited the potential purchases of non-pond owners. Consumers were instantly turned off by the fact that they did not have a pond therefore they could not own an Island Planter. The store removed them from the water garden department and began displaying them in the annual and perennial departments floating in decorative pottery and plastic containers that held water. The signs in each simply stated, “I water myself.” It was the ultimate self-watering container garden sale. Consumers who had ponds instantly recognized the potential for the backyard pond, but the store recognized the additional sales of plants, pots, GroMix and Islands to the non-pond owning consumer. A separate display area could be set up with an assortment of known successful Island plants from all departments. Customers can then pick and choose their own combinations. Care and information sheets should also be readily available to expand on the details conveyed in the original message when necessary.


Individual plant labels should be offered for every plant. Information should include only basic care information and enough descriptive text to entice the customer into making the purchase. Tags with photographs are the preference since they allow customers to see blooms or interesting foliage when the plants are not in their peak season. If picture tags are not available a stick tag should be offered. Make sure all information is accurate and spelled correctly. Pricing information should always be uniformly displayed. It is one of the most frustrating experiences for shoppers to have to inquire about cost. It also ties up the employee who has to answer the question. Some companies grow some of their own plant material. Boost consumer interest by labeling those plants as “Home Grown” or “Grown By.”


It is best to have only one person or one marketing company in charge of signage for the entire store. Allowing multiple parties to be responsible for generating signs can run into some creative overlap. Visual appeal and uniformity are critical. Choose someone that can stick to the program. A mish mash of different shapes, styles and sizes will only confuse consumers. For messages to be effective they need to be clear, short and to the point. They should also be inspirational or appeal to the emotions of the purchaser.


Sunrise Marketing publishes a catalog called – The Idea Book. It is, as they call it, a book of great ideas on how to sell more stuff. They have an image file that exceeds 1500 exciting and professional images (water gardening included). Individual images can be downloaded at very reasonable rates for companies seeking supplements to their in-house production. Otherwise their talented staff offers services to develop a long-term program of marketing strategies, signage and more. Their innovative product line of affordable custom banners, posters, floor graphics and sign holders is just the tip of the iceberg. They have both the products and services that allow a small to medium sized business to operate in high-end fashion.


Tom Smith from Four Star Greenhouse in Carleton, Michigan was quoted in Green Profit Magazine as saying, “Don’t trip over dollar bills while chasing nickels.” When determining a budget for signage keep in mind that your silent salesmen will generate revenue in a number of ways and provide your company an opportunity to rise to the next level.


About the Author

To Make Contact:

Kelly Billing, Nursery Manager

Maryland Aquatic Nurseries

3427 N. Furnace Road

Jarrettsville, MD 21084

410-557-7615 Fax: 410-692-2837

Toledo Goldfish

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