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How Building a Business Identity Works

        Money | Marketing

Property Issues

The signs and other physical attributes that announce the location of your business are another important area that must remain consistent in regard to look and image. Particularly if you have more than one location, you'll need to make sure that each has a consistent look. Some large chains like Toys 'R Us and others make sure that every store is set up the same way so that customers can quickly find what they are looking for regardless of which location they are at. That takes a lot of planning and attention to detail. You can do that too, even if you don't have multiple locations in every state!

Exterior and Interior Signs

If you have a single office location then you probably don't have to worry so much about the layout, colors, and design of your company's signage -- other than making sure it follows your established "image."

If you have several locations, either through acquisition or simply expansion, then you do need to deal considerably with directing the design, production and placement of signs outside and inside of your locations.

The first thing you should do is determine the material, layout, size and placement that you think is necessary for your business's signs. This would include deciding between aluminum signs with vinyl lettering verses painted or even hand-carved wooden signs, all depending on your business and its image.

There may also be restrictions by building landlords. Check with them prior to setting your standards, or allow for exceptions for certain locations. Some towns and cities also have restrictions about the height, size, and even the colors of business signs. Check town ordinances regarding these issues.

Vendors

Once you have nailed down the design details, and know the restrictions about what you can and cannot do, then you can move on to setting up your guidelines. You can consider either having all signs created by a central sign company and shipped to each location, or selecting a national vendor who can produce the same product in all the cities in which you have business locations.

If you go with the latter, you need to have sign material guidelines such as backing material and letter material, specific color selections (you probably won't be able to indicate a PMS color for sign shops), font selections, size, and layout. Most sign shops can work from a computer-printed sample layout that indicates sizes, layout and other specifications. Some can even take electronic logo files and output machine cut versions for your signs. Interview some sign shops, find out their capabilities and requirements for art.

Placement

Where you place the signs is also an issue that should be addressed in your identity guidelines. As we mentioned above, however, you may be restricted by your landlord (if you have one) and others so make sure you check first.

Other things that should (or can) be standardized

Details, details, details. The more attention you give them, the more professional and organized your business will come across to customers. Obviously, different types of businesses will have very different details they need to deal with. Below are some details that may play a part in many businesses.

Some of the other issues you should consider standardizing include:

  • Phone messages - Phone etiquette is an often overlooked part of business. How your locations answer their phones, set up voice-mail messages, and even leave messages for clients can have an impact on your overall business. Guidelines for these areas, particularly if you have several locations, can help create expected and consistent communications to your clients.
  • Protocol and policies - Protocol guidelines for unexpected events can also be helpful. For example, if your business has an inclement weather policy then there should also be protocol for how customer interaction and communication is addressed during these weather-related closings. You might, for instance, establish a protocol that instructs employees to put a specific message on their voice mail systems, direct callers to a central number in another location not affected by the closing, or even establish a designated emergency home-based number for clients to call.
  • Vehicles - Company-owned vehicles are another area that might need consideration. Do you have employees who travel to client locations in company cars? Do those cars have proper signs identifying them as being part of your business? Would this be necessary for your type of business?
  • Uniforms - Employee uniforms may or may not be specifically "issued" pants and shirts. It may simply mean a type or style of dress for specific occasions such as exhibiting at trade shows, or conducting seminars. It may be as relaxed as requiring khaki pants and a company logo-imprinted polo shirt. This is just another area that might need some thought and some type of established guidelines.

While this is certainly not an all-inclusive list, it does give you a starting point. Your business will have its own needs and unique challenges.