What’s the Right Outdoor Signs for Small Business? A Comprehensive Guide

Key Takeaways

So what’s the right outdoor signs for a small business?

The least expensive, widely versatile, and most easily mounted sign for a variety of settings will be a non-illuminated acrylic or aluminum sign, which can include dimensional letter signs. Classic and durable, these outdoor signs can be designed and installed on just about any small business’ budget, will look great, and can last for decades.

The most eye-catching and dynamic signs are generally back-lit, neon, or even Digital Electronic Message Signs (EMC). Large outdoor signs (like a tall pylon sign – think McDonalds) or monument signs, both of which require significant electrical work and a foundation, are an incredible way to help your business stand out and attract new customers.

Small options like yard signs or sandwich-board signs can work in a pinch, but you don’t want an outdoor sign like this to be the only exterior signage for your business. Permanent promotional signage is ideal!

Choosing the right outdoor signs for small business

When it comes to finding the right exterior sign for your business, the options (and the right outdoor sign company) can feel a little daunting.

At Excel Lighting and Signs, we make getting the best outdoor sign for your Kansas or Missouri business easy, with hands-on customer service, beautifully designed outdoor signs, and custom exterior signage for just about any situation.

But not every sign is right for every business, and understanding which outdoor signage makes the most sense for you comes down to three factors:

  1. The look and feel you’re after, which can vary based on your business and ideal customer: from totally digital to traditional or even antique outdoor signage.
  2. Local sign regulations and space, which can dramatically impact how large or bright your outdoor sign is, and where it’s placed.
  3. Your budget, which is the primary determinant for what kind of outdoor sign you can get.

We’ve been designing, building, and installing outdoor signs in and around the Kansas City metro area for nearly three decades, and we’ve learned a thing or two along the way.

So what’s the best outdoor sign for your business? Let’s jump into it.

The Three Factors In Determining The Best Kind of Outdoor Business Sign For You

The right outdoor sign for your business really comes down to three things.

We’re great at helping business owners navigate both sign design for their business, as well as the mess of local sign regulations, but your budget will also determine how your outdoor sign project will unfold. Here’s how we think about custom outdoor signs for businesses just like yours.

Number One: Vision, Feel, and Aesthetic

This is the fun part. When we work with any new customer, we sit down to talk through what they hope to accomplish with their signage, see their building or facade, and get a better understanding of the types of outdoor signage that they find most compelling! Usually that means looking at photos of our completed projects, and it’s helpful when you bring pictures of custom outdoor signs you’ve seen and loved.

Whether you want elegance and class in your outdoor signs for a new restaurant, fun and lively signage for a new night scene, or no-nonsense logos and lettering for a medical facility, we work with you to get a baseline for design of your permanent signage.

Number Two: Local Regulations

Believe it or not, most municipalities won’t let you just slap whatever sign you want on your building. Commercial signage and storefront signs are highly regulated, most often by local municipalities (in Kansas City, there are over 20 different sets of code we work within!), but also by business parks or shopping centers who regulate what their tenant signs can look like.

This is where working with a professional custom outdoor sign company can help: we’ve been navigating local code for nearly two decades, and we nail down the details for a perfect sign before anything gets started.

Local code will be a determining factor in the size, mounting options, and lighting for your sign. Don’t worry, we’ll help you navigate this part.

Number Three: Budget and Space

Finally, budget is a big factor for many businesses that set out to get a storefront sign or outdoor signage.

A non-illuminated acrylic sign or dimensional letters mounted to the front of the business location are completely different from a 15-foot monument sign near the road.

The good news is: we can help you communicate brand personality and brand identity without compromising on quality.

How To Get a New Sign for Your Business: Design Process To Final Installation

With the above factors in mind, here’s how our projects generally unfold.

  1. A customer comes to us with an outdoor signage need. We begin with a brainstorming session to understand the type of sign they like and their preliminary budget. With their logos and any other visual communication framework in hand, our designers build 1-3 mock-ups for the client to see and make suggestions. These digital renderings can even be shown as if they were actually on your building or in your outdoor areas!
  2. Once we’ve settled on a rough sign design together, we examine your local code for specific regulations around signs for outdoor use, then we take our rendering to your local code enforcement officer. With their sign-off, your outdoor signage is off to our fabrication facilities or partner manufacturers.
  3. Installation of your custom exterior signs can sometimes be as simple as bolting it to the exterior of the building, but in many cases our team will work in tandem with experienced local electricians or other service providers for preparation and sign mounting. That may include excavation for pole signs or other larger mounted business signs.

Now that you know how designing and getting outdoor signs works (at least, with Excel Lighting and Signs), a high-level overview of the types of outdoor signs might help you move in the right direction.

Your Many, Many Outdoor Business Sign Options Explained

When it comes to gorgeous and functional outdoor signs, the options can feel a little endless. Travel through your local business corridor and you’re likely to see dozens of outdoor sign types, styles and sizes.

In fact, that’s actually a great place to start for some inspiration! When we work with new customers for custom exterior signs, we find that seeing photos for inspiration is a great way to dial in and explain the type of custom exterior signs that you already like most.

To get familiar, here are some of the most common exterior signs and custom signs you’ll see in any business corridor.

Types of Permanent Outdoor Business Signs

The following list is a good starting point in understanding the world of custom outdoor signs, but you should recognize that some of these terms are used interchangeably, and ultimately most businesses will be getting a fully customized sign to fit their logo and branding.

Neon Signs

The quintessential “beer sign”, neon signs are illuminated displays made using neon gas-filled tubes that glow when an electric current passes through them. They’re known for their bright and vibrant colors, often used in nightlife venues and retro settings.

Neon signs have largely been replaced by LED signs today because they provide the same look and feel, last longer, are easier to manufacture, and will hold up much better to normal wear-and-tear.

LED Signs

LED signs use light-emitting diodes to produce light, which can be within the perimeter of channel letters, outside of channel letters, or even as a form of back-lighting or halo-lighting. They’re energy-efficient, have a long lifespan, and can display a range of colors. Often used in modern commercial settings, they can also be programmed to show dynamic content or even change throughout the day or seasons.

retrofitting old red lit sign

Digital Signs or Digital Electronic Message Signs (EMS)

Digital signs are electronic displays that can show digital content like images, videos, and text. They can be updated quickly and easily with accompanying software, making them suitable for advertising, information boards, and other dynamic content needs. Newer electronic message signs can be customized and display almost anything you can think of.

Electronic display

Channel Letter Signs

Channel letter signs use three-dimensional lettering or shapes made of acrylic or aluminum. Each letter is an individual structure, often illuminated from the inside or behind to make them stand out. They’re commonly used for storefronts and building signage.

brick exterior channel letters

Reverse Channel Letter Signs

Reverse channel letter outdoor signs have a solid front and are illuminated from behind, creating a halo or back-lit effect around each letter. This gives a sophisticated and upscale appearance to outdoor signage.

bamboo penny reverse channel letter sign

Monument Signs

Monument signs are freestanding signs that are low to the ground, often made of materials like stone, metal, or brick. They provide a substantial, permanent look, often used at entrances of corporate campuses, parks, medical facilities, or housing developments.

tuthill monument sign

Push-Through Acrylic Signs

Push-through acrylic signs employ letters or designs cut out of metal or another solid material face, with acrylic pushed through the cutouts. This creates a compelling 3D effect that emphasizes the lettering or designs. Push-through acrylic signs can be illuminated or not.

jersey mike's push through acrylic sign

Halo-Lit Signage

Halo-lit signage is sometimes another term for reverse channel letter signs, where the illumination comes from behind the lettering or sign, creating a soft halo effect around the design and providing a premium and elegant look.

halo lit signage

Non-Illuminated Signs

Non-illuminated signs (or simple letter signs) don’t have any lighting! They rely on external lighting or natural light for visibility, and they can be made from various materials. They’re often used where simplicity or daytime visibility is the primary requirement.

Ways To Mount Your Exterior Signs

Once you’ve decided on a design and look, where and how your sign gets mounted (and how large it is) is the next big factor. Here are the basics on HOW your sign mounts and exists.

Flat-Mounted or Flush-Mounted Signs

Flat-mounted signs are attached directly and flush to a surface, typically on the facade of a building or a wall.

Example: The name of a store or business displayed directly on the building’s exterior, like the “Target” sign on the front of a Target store.

Blade Signs

Blade signs are mounted perpendicular to the surface of a building, sticking out so that pedestrians or drivers on a street can see them from a distance.

Example: The old-fashioned, ornate signs that jut out from storefronts in a historic downtown, like a barber’s pole or a coffee cup symbol indicating a cafe.

Hanging Signs

Hanging signs are suspended from a structure, often by chains or brackets, and they dangle above the ground or walkway.

Example: The wooden signs that hang above the entrance of a pub or an inn, often with the establishment’s name or logo.

Monument Signs

Monument signs are freestanding signs that are low to the ground, often made of materials like stone, metal, or brick.

Example: The ground-level sign at the entrance of a corporate campus or a housing community, displaying the name of the business or community.

Pylon Signs

Pylon signs are tall, freestanding structures that elevate exterior signs high above the ground, making them visible from a distance, especially to motorists. Double-sided outdoor signs are commonly on pylons.

Example: The towering signs near highways indicating gas stations or restaurants at the next exit. Pylon signs aren’t always this tall, but they stand on a large pole either way.

A Full-Service Exterior Sign Company Serving Kansas and Missouri

Outdoor signs create brand-awareness and help to convey what kind of products or services you offer: an elegantly lit reverse channel letter sign with classic styling might be perfect for an upscale restaurant, while neon or LED signage may be better for a new grill pub. Our team can help you decide on the right custom outdoor business signs for your business and your budget with a free mock-up and free consultation before you ever pull the trigger!

A good outdoor sign should be not only beautiful and designed to leave a lasting impression, but also built to be permanently installed and safely installed with peace of mind: durable materials that will resist harsh weather conditions for years to come.

Excel Lighting and Signs is Kansas City’s choice in durable outdoor signs that turn heads.

Illuminate Your Brand’s Presence

Consumers have higher expectations than ever, and “cheap” outdoor signage can put your brand in virtual purgatory when it comes to winning customers. Today, it’s essential to make a statement and to rise above the noise with high-quality signage that stands out. That’s where Excel Lighting and Signs steps in. We’re not just any sign company; we’re your strategic partner in brand visibility.

Local Expertise, Unparalleled Quality

Navigating the nuances of local aesthetics, local regulations in Kansas and Missouri, and weather conditions in our area is paramount as you consider a new outdoor sign. With our deep-rooted knowledge of local sign legislation, we tailor-make signs that not only comply with local laws, but will resonate with your audience, ensuring your brand’s message is not just seen, but remembered.

Bespoke Design & Craftsmanship

Your brand is unique, and your sign should reflect that. Our team of skilled designers and craftspeople work meticulously to create a custom outdoor sign that encapsulate the essence of your brand, ensuring a memorable first impression.

End-to-End Solutions

From conception to installation, and even sign maintenance, Excel Lighting and Signs has got you covered. We handle every aspect of your signage needs, giving you the peace of mind to focus on what you do best – running your business.

Built to Last, Through Every Season

Kansas and Missouri are known for their unpredictable, harsh weather conditions. But come rain, shine, or snow, our signs are engineered to withstand the elements, ensuring your brand shines bright, year-round.

Elevate Your Brand with a Distinctive Custom Outdoor Sign by Excel

As a sign and lighting experts, we understand the importance of outdoor signs for small businesses.

To optimize the impact of outdoor signs for small businesses, it is crucial to consider lighting fixtures that provide energy efficiency, cost savings, and enhanced visibility.

By utilizing energy-efficient light bulbs, such as fluorescent lights or light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, small businesses can significantly reduce their energy consumption while maintaining a high light level for maximum visibility.

These energy-efficient options not only help save on energy costs but also contribute to sustainability efforts, making them an ideal choice for environmentally conscious businesses.

Additionally, commercial buildings and industrial facilities can benefit from efficient lighting fixtures that provide long-lasting performance, reducing maintenance costs associated with frequent bulb replacements.


When undertaking a lighting project for outdoor signs in small businesses, it is crucial to explore commercial lighting solutions and commercial lighting systems. These systems offer comprehensive solutions for outdoor signage, including optimal light placement, controlled light distribution, and integrated lighting controls, ensuring consistent and effective illumination throughout the day.

By incorporating energy-efficient lighting fixtures and technologies, such as LED lighting, small businesses can achieve significant energy savings while enhancing the visibility and attractiveness of their outdoor signs. Additionally, investing in energy-efficient lighting options like LEDs over traditional incandescent bulbs can lead to long-term cost savings by reducing energy consumption and minimizing maintenance and replacement expenses. By exploring the wide range of efficient lighting options available, small businesses can create eye-catching and impactful outdoor signs that effectively promote their brand and attract customers.

Ready to make a lasting impression?

Choose the perfect outdoor signs for your business and stand out from the crowd. Contact us today to get started on your new sign design.

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