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The Contractor's Sign Pricing Guide

Discussion in 'Sales, Marketing, Pricing Etc.' started by jsmoritz2000, Jul 16, 2012.

  1. jsmoritz2000

    jsmoritz2000 Very Active Member

    As many of you know, I'm still very much a newbie in the sign business (and screen printing). As such, my partner and I had struggled with pricing for quite some time. I bought the Contractor's Sign Pricing Guide 2010 from ST Publications and seldom used it. I tried to "discipline" myself by breaking down my estimates into bits and pieces and figuring labor time for each aspect of the job. While this works very well for large scale sign jobs, I often failed miserably estimating small jobs, the majority of which were underestimated. So I started relying more and more on the book and have found that it actually works quite well for pricing the majority of jobs we encounter. While some aspects of the book seem a bit vague we've had much luck with it. So this year we bought the new 2012 version and it's pretty much the same as the old one with only slight modifications to price. We had hoped they would elaborate a bit more on the "Digital Printing" section of the book, but it's the same as the 2010 version...no pricing for digital printed banners, or at least not that I can see. Our shop does quite a few digital printed banners (out sourced) and pricing them is something we've struggled with for months. They cover digital printed vinyl, substrates, etc., but no banner material. This leads me to the question...is there something I'm overlooking here? Or is there really no way to price digital printed banners using this guide? Does anybody have a way that they do it based on the guide? For example would digital printing on a banner material be priced similar to digital printing on one of the other substrates listed in the book? Any insight from those who price with this book would be great.
  2. FatCat

    FatCat Very Active Member

    Feb 12, 2007
    Columbus, Ohio
    Standard digital print banners (10-13oz) have almost become a commodity item in many areas. As such it is hard to separate yourself from others doing the same thing. However, quality and service still play a big part as well as effectiveness of the design of the banner itself. Even more so, you have to look at the type of customer; are they merely shopping for the lowest price? Or are they looking for someone to make a banner that is both attractive and effective?

    In the end, you still have to figure out the time spent, materials used and the markup you'd like to have to figure out your final price. If you go any lower, you're just hurting yourself. Many shops have moved away from banners because they can make better margins on other items.
  3. jsmoritz2000

    jsmoritz2000 Very Active Member

    Right now for digital printed single sided 13 oz. banners with welds and grommets we are charging about a 300-400% markup over our cost from our printer who charges us $1.50 a sq. ft. So we are at about $6-$8 a sq. ft. depending on size. A little less for large banners, a little more for the small ones. The reason I'm asking is because in the last 8 months since opening our shop we do a lot of these jobs and it seems that we are never turned down on our prices. We've even heard "That's cheap!" or "That's not bad at all." quite a bit as customers seem more than happy to pay that price. So I'm wondering if we should be closer to the $8-10 a sq. ft. mark. The pricing guide just doesn't seem to cover it, while we use it for 90% of our pricing on other signage with great success and profits.
  4. jkdbjj

    jkdbjj Active Member

    Jan 24, 2012
    TO add to what FatCat said. I think that book only works with larger companies or people who have the cash flow to hold out and stick to their guns on pricing.

    To me the real world is too fluid to follow a guide like that.

    Instead I tend to focus on the type of customer I want to do business with, and make my pricing according to that. I still have to deal with the occasional shopper or one off customer, but lately I have priced them out the door on purpose. Even though, I never thought I would be doing something like that.

    I have just gotten to the point, where I do believe there are enough customers out there that still value a partner over a cheaper price.
  5. phototec

    phototec Very Active Member

    May 23, 2008
    FatCat put it out there plain and simple, LABOR + MATERIAL + PROFIT (overhead) = PRICE

    What is your labor rate?

    What does the material cost?

    How much does it cost to run your business and make a profit (overhead)?

    Add it up and you have the magic answer for your situation!

    Everyone has there own different opertaing costs and labor rates, hard to find the answers in a book.

  6. jsmoritz2000

    jsmoritz2000 Very Active Member

    We are a very small but growing sign shop in a very small town. For us, the guide has helped tremendously. Very often I have to "read between the lines" to price something, but it seems as though most of our customers are happy with our prices we quote directly from the book. We focus all of our energy on putting out a quality product with a quality image so while I feel some of the prices to be a bit on the high side, I think if we maintain our goal of quality, people will be happy to pay whatever we ask within reason. I think for pricing small jobs it's fast, and it helps us to maintain some sort of structure and consistency in our pricing.
  7. FireSprint

    FireSprint Merchant Member

    I think that's a good way to look at it.
  8. jsmoritz2000

    jsmoritz2000 Very Active Member

    That's the route we generally take for figuring large scale jobs, but the pricing guide seems to make life a lot easier for smaller scale jobs and we are definitely maintaining a solid profit margin in our shop. I think our main issue is the fact that we don't digital print in house yet. We outsource our digital prints on vinyl, coro, banner, etc. and have no idea what the cost of materials is and how our overhead should effect pricing because creating a banner for us is as simple as doing the artwork and clicking a few buttons. My concern is that we don't under price our work and that we maintain fair, competitive pricing with our competitors in our area. At the NBM show we were turned on to many pricing software options and for a business our size, the book just makes things very simple and easy for us, especially being new to the business. If we actually owned a printer, purchased the material, as well as the inks, and had some idea of the time and labor involved in printing such items pricing them competitively would be an easy task. Does that make sense, or am I still missing the point?
  9. Coloradosigns

    Coloradosigns Major Contributor

    Sep 10, 2010
    $8-$10 a sqft? I wish.

    we get half that if we're lucky in our area.
  10. visual800

    visual800 Very Active Member

    Aug 4, 2010
    montgomery, alabama
    I right there with ya, colorado. We have so many printers that have printers and are doing cheapass banners no hemming and our artwork is a whole lot better than theirs, we gotta stay low if we want it, thank God for signs365!

    My take on sign pricing guides is trash them. All of them. Prices change according to the economy and the competition. I dont care what anyone says people do change their prices. We are always changing. In due time you will learn what to charge
  11. Locals Find!

    Locals Find! Very Active Member

    Oct 17, 2010
    Fort Myers
    $8 - $10 a sq ft is what I charge and I am broker. I outsource 99% of my work. (The other 1% is small installs and putting the pieces together)

    If you seem to be making a good profit your business is thriving and your increasing your profit by 5-10% a year. Then I would say your doing ok and shouldn't worry so much.
  12. BobM

    BobM Very Active Member

    May 31, 2008
    Cape Cod
    Sometimes the customer seeing you go to the "price book" is enough to convince them they are being charged fairly. Seeing you shoot from the hip causes them concern. $8 to$10 per square foot for a banner is difficult to get, but except for the tire kickers, I get it. They are more likely to pay it if they see it is an established price list. If you think they need a discount to get them to buy, and you want the order at a lower price, you can always offer the discount after you have seen how they react to "book price".
  13. Jillbeans

    Jillbeans Major Contributor

    Dec 24, 2003
    Butler, PA
    What I want to know is where did this "discount" mentality come from?
    Why should we feel that we have to offer a client a discount?
    I wish every professional I hired would offer me one.
    I use a combination of the SC price guide, the old Sign Contractor's pricing guide, and my own common sense. If someone wants a cheap banner they can go to one of the local hacks or design it themselves online.
  14. TheSnowman

    TheSnowman Major Contributor

    Aug 28, 2007
    If a customer comes in wanting my "best price" I normally mark it up, because of the PITA factor. I will not be the cheapest, but my effectiveness of the message needing to get across, and the layout is going to be 10X better than the guy that gives them the best price.

    A thing I've ran into lately is everyone saying "how big will my letters be on X size material?" They don't understand that you can make things have a nice layout and not ONLY be red and black text on them. It drives me nuts. I don't know till the design is done what size anything is going to be.
  15. jsmoritz2000

    jsmoritz2000 Very Active Member

  16. ukads

    ukads New Member

    May 15, 2012
    Working in a combination of marketing and software, this is a favorite of mine, as well. I have literally written this quote on at least 6 boards this year alone when talking to people.


    Pick Two.
  17. john1

    john1 Guest

    Been getting $7.50 psf for single sided banners for a while now. The market around me is anywhere from $5-$10

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