How important is street appeal?

One of the biggest and best advertisements for any business positioned on a main road, or anywhere there is a large amount of passing traffic, is property signage.

Motels are generally in locations that have a large amount of passing traffic every day. The impact, importance and value of such an advertising medium can be easily underestimated. It raises the question then of why this is the case. Why is one of a motel’s biggest assets often the most neglected?

Property signage is commonly tired, faded, obsolete or even falling down, and in many cases does not make a motel property look appealing from the street. The ‘walk in traffic’ market is basing their split-second decision to stop the car at a particular motel largely based on this signage (as part of the exterior appeal). This market makes up a strong percentage of the travelling market (location dependent) and they need to be attracted by the street appeal being presented to them.

Although capital costs for setup are high, if the calculations and statistics were looked at closely it would most likely be found that it is one of the most cost-effective advertising mediums that can be done. This means taking into account the volume of travellers and commuters that see it every day, the capital cost, market positioning and differentiation, enhanced presentation, etc. Measuring the cost vs benefit against other advertising mediums over the effective life of the signage would be a very interesting study. Ultimately it may be impossible; however, a shorter term consideration may be easier to determine an outcome that was useful. For example, a large $20,000 property sign with an effective life of say seven years equates to $2,857 per annum. How many potential guests would see this over the year and stop the car as a result of the signage? How many vehicles, therefore potential guests and referrers would see it and either be impressed or unimpressed by the signage? How many direct room sales, indirect room sales and value towards market awareness would be achieved?

The old adage, ‘never judge a book by its cover’ is often quoted but not so often put into practice. A motel’s signage is often the first impression the public has of a property, it draws attention to the business and helps to differentiate it from often many other properties in the same vicinity. Updated, fresh, clean signage is the first prompt that a passer-by will get and they often equate the standard of presentation of the signage with the standard of presentation they can expect inside the property. They may be the best rooms in town but unless potential guests are attracted from the outside, who would know.

Studies show that customers are more likely to purchase from, and recommend, businesses that are familiar to them. If a person is travelling the same route past the same properties regularly, and even if they are not actually aware of it, the signage they see along the way is planting a subliminal seed of familiarity and they are much more likely to comment on not only those properties they are familiar with, but those whose signage has left them with a good impression of what lies within when making recommendations. This is an underutilised and underestimated driver of local based sales.

The large capital cost is often the biggest issue for renewing property signage. In recent months (in the case of leasehold motels), I have seen the discussion between lessee and lessor over the property signage crop up. The lessee would like to do a brand new sign to improve the image of the motel. They want to improve the street appeal of the business and hopefully capture more ‘passer-by’ trade thereby increasing the occupancy and income of the business. This also strengthens the lessor’s investment by having a stronger tenancy arrangement in place. Often the signage is a large structure that belongs to the lessor as part of the building and the lessee maintains it. The lessor’s responsibility is then replacement.

Prominent, eye-catching signage provides continual exposure to thousands of potential guests, building brand awareness and guiding travellers to stay. Property signage really is a silent salesperson for a business, promoting a business 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A property sign can work for or against a motel, so the importance of having it right cannot be understated.

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