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Growth-Engine Friends

Consult a web designer who knows your field.

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“We like to ask how we can help you get to where you want to be.”
That’s how J.R. Kraft, co-founder of Austin, TX-based, online sign retailer BuildASign.com, explained his business. Founded in 2005, BuildASign.com serves as an online source of custom signs, banners, magnets and more. Using the company’s proprietary, web-based technology, customers in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. can design and purchase signs online. The company’s two production facilities, plus partner sites, expedite job turnaround and shipping.
But, there’s more. Kraft explained that he and his co-founders Ty Barho, Blake Borgeson, and Dan Graham built their own site/company, using their computer-science degrees and web-development expertise.
Kraft said, “In the process of building our company, we learned about what problems sign companies encounter when they sell various types of signs. We know a neon shop has different needs than a screenprinter. So, we’ve developed special software applications that deal with these issues. We’ve solved e-commerce issues, and we’ve solved problems sign companies encounter, such as dealing with various substrates and material thicknesses.”
Kraft said a screenprinter came to him after having spent $12,000 on web development because the site was built on an application that handled primarily one-offs, not multiple impressions. The site was useless to him.
Knowing the sign industry gives BuildASign.com an edge in developing an effective site, because that knowledge eliminates many billable discussions. “It’s very hard to sell signs online if your system can’t handle transactions for the types and dimensions of signs you sell. It’s taken us, with 65 people, five years to get to a very profitable point.”
Kraft said his company earned more than $10 million last year.
Most potential sign-company clients first ask if a web developer can provide levels of solutions at different costs. Kraft doubted any sign company could spend $10,000 to $15,000 to achieve an effective website that drew traffic and made money. “Add at least 30% to your estimated budget for an e-commerce sign store, and you’ll have a more realistic figure. And, that doesn’t even include the costs associated with site maintenance and upgrades.”
Kraft offers this advice to sign companies who want to find a web-development company:
1. Get real-world advice. Ask industry professionals – your friends, other signshops, people at tradeshows – who they’ve dealt with. Ask what issues they’ve
had, if any. You would probably ask around about purchasing a flatbed printer; creating a website is just as weighty a decision. Also, do reference checks to know you’re dealing with an established business.
2. Make a list of real objectives for your website. For example, do you want to primarily emphasize your long history and your well-known owner, or are you a small shop that wants to increase business with credit-card transactions?
3. Find out who’s in your market and who can fill your needs. Don’t necessarily rely on local connections. Sometimes it makes sense to contact a national company if it can deliver what you need.
For further website advice, Kraft can be reached at [email protected]
 

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