Maximize Impact & Minimize Costs: Budgeting for Your Signage Project

It’s no secret that every business needs signage, or that exceptional signage will return exceptional results. The problem arises with that uncomfortable question: “What will a signage project cost?” Trying to answer that question can paralyze business owners with all of the variables concerned That’s why we’ve put together this guide on the basics of commercial signage planning and budgeting, so you can focus on the parts that matter most.

Table of Contents


What Will a Signage Project Cost?

It should go without saying there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Different companies will give prices ranging from $50 to $200,000 - a range so wide as to be meaningless. Budgeting is obviously necessary, though, so let’s frame the question in a useful way.

Your signage is the most important marketing expense your business will have.
Commercial signs serve as:

  • Permanent reflections of your brand equity and quality
  • Promotion for current and new offerings
  • Beacons for people looking for your business
  • Advertising to people who don’t know your business yet
  • Wayfinding, both externally and internally

Related: What’s In A Sign? 3 Main Components of Custom Signage Solutions

On top of all of that, signs are in operation 24/7/365, and they last for years (and decades with routine maintenance). In terms of marketing, they are both extremely effective and cost-efficient, so it’s best to look at your signage as an investment instead of merely a cost.

By looking at your business signage project as a multi-use tool with a multi-year lifespan, you should consider budgeting as much as you can get away with to come as close to ideal as you can afford.


7Eleven Cabinet Sign (1)


Considerations During the Early Planning Stages

The best way to manage your budget is understanding the full scope of a signage project from the outset. Several factors affect signage cost, so being aware of them all can prevent overextending yourself in any particular area. Here are some key considerations to be aware of at the outset:

How many signs do you need? Are you looking for one big external sign to draw attention to your building? Do you just need your name and logo, or do you want to display additional information? Will you also want signage on your doors and windows? Do you need internal signage to label rooms or give navigation? It’s easy to envision one sign easily, but if you need a comprehensive project, total costs will accumulate faster. If you have multiple locations that all need signage, then this should be accounted for in the total budget as well.

How big do you want your signage? As a rule, you want your signs to have maximum visibility, and size is a major factor for that. With larger signs, you also have larger signage costs, which is a generally fair trade for the increased reach. Although there is such a thing as a sign that’s physically too big, local laws and regulations will usually limit you before the laws of physics do.


Exterior mounted sign


Related: 7 Business Signage Tips for Maximum Impact

What components or features do you want? Will your sign have a single permanent message, or do you want to regularly update what it displays? You can have modular displays that can be swapped out when new tenants come into a building. You could opt for digital displays that you can update through an app on your phone from anywhere in the world. Digital signage has a wide range of lighting, brightness, and resolution options that affect the total signage cost.

How will you mount your sign? Plenty of mounting options are available to place your signage at the right location and the right height. You can attach it to the wall above your entrance, on distinguished ground-mounted masonry, or on the top of a steel or aluminum pole. Remember the cost of mounting your sign includes both the hardware to attach it, and the mounting structure itself. So if you don’t already have a pole, for example, you will need to budget for that as part of the cost of a pole sign.


Static monument sign for the Pancake House (1)

Related: How Much does a Pylon Sign Cost?

What are your illumination requirements?If your business is operating after dark, you may want to light your signs up for improved visibility. Signs can be illuminated internally or externally, and they can use individual bulbs or LED lighting components, the latter of which have become the norm. Every color is available, so your sign can match your company’s specific color palette. One important note: as your signs get larger, your lighting costs will grow too. You will need more lighting components, more electrical wiring, and you will have a higher ongoing electric bill.

Non-material signage costs. Your signage project will cost more than just the sign itself, and the labor of the installation is only one of those costs. You may need an architect or design team at the beginning of the process to develop executable plans. Beyond that, your site should be surveyed and local signage regulations should be researched to determine what you’re allowed to install. Attaining all necessary permits from the government will be another crucial step, and possibly scheduling municipal oversight during the installation.

How many companies will you need to work with? One of the biggest surprises to business owners is discovering that most sign companies can only fulfill part of the total signage project. This means you might need to work with separate firms for design, fabrication, installation, and permits. All of these companies will have their own fees, requirements, and timelines. There are some companies, however, that are vertically integrated to address all of thepole sse needs.

Did you budget for routine maintenance? Commercial signage costs are primarily front-loaded, but the benefits continue for years. No matter how good the materials you use, maintenance and repairs are unavoidable. By scheduling routine maintenance calls, you can safely budget for a known cost, and solve minor problems before they become catastrophes.


HSBC Sign (1)

What’s Worth Splurging On?

Although we need to keep our spending under control, you really do get what you pay for, and some aspects of your signage project are too important to be done cheaply. Here’s a short list of crucial aspects that are absolutely worth the money:

Quality Materials - For your sign and your mounting, you choose materials that are both visually attractive and durable. Since signage is a long-term investment, you should choose materials that will retain their structure and their visual appeal as long as possible. Ideally, materials should be chosen based on your local climate. Hot and arid environments will affect materials differently, for example, than humid locations, or ones that reach freezing temperatures.

Certified Components - Especially for electrical systems, make sure that everything is UL certified or has an equally valid certification. The money spent on properly inspected and approved materials will save you significantly on future repairs or replacements.

Thorough Research - It is an absolute nightmare to have your signage project shut down due to missing a permit or discovering that you don’t have the right zoning for your plans. Make sure all of your research is properly conducted and all of your permits and licenses are in order before moving on to any other stages.

Professional Installation - Choose an experienced team that has all of the equipment necessary to mount your signage to its forever home. A sign that has fallen to the ground is both a hazard and a waste of money, so focus on getting it installed safely, securely, and efficiently.


Where to Reign in Your Signage Cost?

Yes, there are places that you can save money on your signage project. Mostly, this involves reducing extravagances. The law of diminishing returns applies to everything, including sign efficacy.

The sign that shows your business name and logo might not need to be a high-definition digital display. Restroom signs probably don’t need their own illumination. When considering your options for any sign in your plan, you can think in terms of minimum effectiveness - "will adding this feature make my sign more effective?"

One way to dramatically reduce costs of your total signage project is choosing a company that offers full-service solutions like Flexlume. By having research, design, fabrication, and installation all in a single firm, you avoid excessive fees and headaches. Every department is already coordinated and can smoothly hand off the project from stage to stage. Timing becomes much easier, and far less project management is needed from your staff.


Antoinettes Sweets Sign to Promote Brand Equity (1)

Starting Off Strong

Start your signage project by reaching out to experts who can help you from the very beginning of your planning. They will be able to give meaningful advice, and walk you through a reasonable budget based on your specific needs.

You can reach out to the Flexlume team to request a consultation at any time. For 115+ years, we have provided exceptional commercial signage across America. Whether you are a medium-sized business or a national corporation with several branches nationwide, we are happy to take care of all your signage needs.


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