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Street smarts Featured

5:28am EDT November 1, 2005
As a top five producer of traffic control signs in the United States, Signs & Blanks Ltd. of Akron was no struggling venture. But that didn’t stop president Rick Pollock from looking for new ways to expand the business after he acquired it from his father last January.

“The traffic control industry is very cyclical,” says Pollock. “During the winter and certain times of year, it slows down. So we were looking for a way to smooth out the peaks and valleys of our business by offering broader products.”

Since 1989, Signs & Blanks has manufactured finished road signs and aluminum sign blanks for customers ranging from government agencies to private individuals, with an expertise in road, street, and construction and school zone signs. But Pollock thought expanding its marketing offered an opportunity for growth.

“One of the first things we did is we got into doing reflective real estate signs because they offer the Realtor visibility at night,” says Pollock. “What we’ve found is anybody is a potential customer now, whether it’s real estate, construction, contractors, retail stores or restaurants.”

Signs & Blanks invested in a new printer that allowed it to digitally print Realtors’ pictures on signs. Pollock also hired a graphic designer, which reassured businesses of a quality product and allowed companies without their own artwork to have something custom-designed.

“For this company, I’d say (the investment) was pretty significant,” says Pollock. “But I’m happy to say it looks like we’re getting an adequate return for what we’ve put into it.”

As a result of the investment, Pollock expects 8 percent growth in revenue this year.

The company also began marketing to other sign shops, offering aluminum blanks they could finish themselves or finished ones they could resell. The process mirrors its arrangement with smaller municipalities and townships that prefer to purchase unfinished signs so that a local sign business can profit from finishing them.

Pollock says direct mail, and phone and print marketing, in addition to networking, have been key components of his marketing strategy.

“We’ve joined a couple of the local chambers of commerce and also done some donations of signs and banners to try and get our name out,” Pollock says.

Signs & Blanks has also built on its reputation in the traffic sign business to spread into new markets. In its brochures and marketing literature, it has stressed its experience with high-quality materials and attention to detail, hoping customers will recognize a distinct value in its product.

“If you’re able to use techniques or your area of expertise as a springboard for future growth, you have a higher opportunity for success,” says Pollock.

Based on his previous success in expanding markets, the company is now looking to take the expansion a step further — Signs & Blanks has started selling trade show displays and expects that to be another potential growth area in 2006.

HOW TO REACH: Signs & Blanks Ltd., (330) 630-0773 or www.signsandblanks.com