by Kathy J. Kobliski, Author & Owner of Silent Partner Advertising
Every small business owner spends time trying to figure out how to get more bang for no bucks. I’m always asked, when teaching an advertising and media buying class, if I know of a way to advertise without spending any money. "What can I do to get lots of results without spending anything?" Most people would say "word-of-mouth" advertising. And I agree - referrals are wonderful. But you (and your business) could die of old age before that kind of advertising generates enough traffic for you to grow and sustain a business. So, what kind of media should you use?
Literally every form of advertising will work if it is used properly. The best evidence of this is that radio stations promote their call letters on outdoor billboards and on bus signs. Newspapers promote themselves on television, and television stations list their program schedules in newspapers. In other words, they all use each other. In this 4-part series I will discuss Outdoor Advertising, Radio, Television, and Print.
If you have a sign over your business door, you already believe in outdoor advertising. Now you just have to decide if the people who pass your door each day are the only people you need to reach. Obviously you need to reach many more people than that. Buying another sign (or signs) in location(s) where people traveling into, out of, and around your community will see them, is a logical extension of the sign over your door. Radio plus outdoor used to be known as "poor man’s television."
Sizes of Boards
Bulletins: These are the largest boards you see placed along superhighways. They can measure 10’ X 40’ or 14’ X 48’. They are either painted or covered with a flexible vinyl sheet that fits over the front of the board like a tablecloth and is tightened in the back. As you go by those big boards you may see little wrinkles at the corners that indicate the use of vinyl flex. Each board will have a sign at the bottom edge of its frame telling you which outdoor billboard company owns it.
- Ask about the cost of production as well as the monthly cost of renting the board.
- Vinyl will last for 2-3 years (neon colors fade). Paint stays beautiful for about one year.
- Ask for your vinyl at the end of your contract. Store it yourself so it doesn’t get lost or painted over.
These boards are placed along smaller roads and on less-than-super highways. They measure 12’ X 24’ with an actual design area of 9’7" X 21’7" and are usually done in printed paper.
- Most 30-sheet posters are done in paper, but long-term posters can be done in paint.
Measuring 6’ X 12’ with an actual design area of 5’ X 11", you will find these smaller signs in the heart of most towns and cities. Color on these signs is critical to attract attention to them.
- Ask about the cost of production as well as the monthly rental charge.
- Have a few more than the actual number of posters you need printed in case of vandalism or wear and tear by inclement weather. It’s less expensive to have the extras printed at the beginning than it is to do a few by themselves later on.
- Paper needs to be changed every 45 days or so depending on the weather.
Outdoor companies are among the toughest for contract cancellations. So be sure you can afford the boards you buy before you sign on the dotted line. Choosing your board locations in advance is advantageous because it allows you to choose from the best locations. However, if there is any possibility that you may experience problems that would restrict your ability to use the board(s) when the time actually comes, it’s wiser to wait until you’re ready and choose from the boards available at that time.
If you’re buying one or more boards on a long-term contract (anything over 13 weeks) ask for free production and a discount on the monthly rental rate. Check the small print of long-term contracts (especially 52 weeks) for an "automatic renewal clause." This means that even though there is an end-date on the contract, you may be required to submit your desire to end the contract in writing, up to 90 days before the contract ends! If you don’t, the automatic renewal clause can take affect doing just what the name implies - holding you to another full year!
Drive passed every board before you make your selection. While you may be provided with a photo of the board, it won’t show you how long the "read" on the board is, that is, how far away from the board do you start seeing it from your car. You want a long read - not a sign that springs at you from around a bend in the road giving you only a glance at it as you go by. Also, consider the time of year your message will be on the board. If you are looking in the winter, look hard. Is there a winter-bare tree in front of the sign? Perhaps it doesn’t block the message at all, But wait until it leafs out in the spring!
Your board should be easy to read and understand. Don’t pack the board with lots of words - no more than eight to ten of them. Choose bright colors and use the KISS theory - Keep It Simple Stupid! Your outdoor company will probably have a designer who can help you put together a great board.
Next article: Radio
© by Kathy J. Kobliski. All rights reserved.
Kathy J. Kobliski
- Author of You Can’t Grow a Business Without Advertising - so where do you start? Outdoor Advertising (PSI-Research/Oasis Press, editions 1 & 2, 1998, 2001).
- Monthly columnist for entrepreneur.com for two years (2000 & 2001).
- Written articles for Sales Masterminds, Canadian Women’s Business Network, HomeOfficeMag.com, and StartupJournal.com, and others.
- Quoted by the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, Independent Business, Golf World Business, Switchboard.com, BankRate.com, SkyRadioNet.com, General Motors, The Money Room and The Ron Thomas Business Forum, and others.
- Owner and President of Silent Partner Advertising in Syracuse, NY since 1984.
- Taught advertising and media-buying within the New York State Small Business Development Program for three years.
Locate Member Businesses
- Search by Industry
- Search by Name, Contact, City, etc.
- Advertise Your Own Business
- Update Your Business Package