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Sign Companies Must Check Their Egos to Build Trust with Clients

Here’s some tough love from a branding expert who knows what works – and what doesn’t – in the sign industry.




HAVE YOU EVER worked with a client who truly respected your expertise in your chosen profession, and let you steer the creative process? What happened at the end of the project? Did you produce something that was amazing, because the client trusted you to know how to do your job?

Contrast that with a client who insists on telling you how to do your job. What was the result? Were you proud of it? Often, these types of clients compel us to produce work we’re not proud of, and we just give them what they want, even if it’s not what they need.

KickCharge invests a lot in marketing to help clients better understand the value they provide and trust their expertise. This page on their site showcases the revenue growth clients have experienced after KickCharge rebranding. It’s hard to ignore their track record. Does your website communicate the results of your work through case studies like this?

How do you build a business that gets more clients to trust you and fewer clients who don’t?

Much of the answer lies internally, in the perception of your company. And that’s an uncomfortable thought for many shop owners. It’s much easier to say the customer is wrong for not trusting you. It’s harder to look inward and accept any blame yourself. That takes guts.

The first step in building trust is truly excelling at your craft. That’s obvious. But that takes effort, study. It takes personal growth. And it takes passion. Last year I wrote about how important it is to hone your craft, and to design like lives are at stake (see ST March 2021, page 24). That idea is rooted in the notion that one must become a master of their craft. Your personal growth becomes an important part of attracting the ideal customer. It’s your job to stay up to date on sign trends and client needs, to help the businesses that hire you to solve their marketing challenges.


Ego plays a huge role in whether or not you are able to take the next step in furthering your education of the craft. If you think you already know everything, you’ve already lost credibility. If you believe there’s a pinnacle of knowledge that affords you the right to stop learning, then don’t be surprised when your expertise is called into question.

How well a potential client recognizes your expertise is also going to be based on the signals they receive from you and your staff, as well as the marketing of your own brand. And this is the tough love part. Most sign companies project an image that suggests a fundamental lack of branding knowledge. So then, is it any wonder that sometimes they’re treated as order-takers rather than strategic partners?

Does your own branding speak to the idea that you understand its importance? Are your website, interior signage, business cards, truck wrap, social images — all branded in a uniform manner? If not, why not? For many, again, the answer is ego. My company has been fortunate to work on the branding for many sign companies and the one common trait they share is recognizing what’s best for their company, not their ego. And they realize the power of investing in their own image, how it affects their marketing ROI and attracting the right clients, as well as the right talent. When you hear sign companies lament not being able to find the right people, it’s always “a lack of qualified candidates,” never how their culture and image may turn off prospects.

Invest in your own growth as well as your own marketing; become a partner for your clients who is truly vested in their success. Hone your craft. Study marketing. Become their fiercest advocate for building their businesses. That’s how you build a great company, one that garners the respect from its clients, who in turn, will trust your expertise.

Dan Antonelli is the president and chief creative officer of KickCharge Creative (Washington, NJ), a full-service, award-winning advertising agency. Contact Dan at



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