Billboards. You drive by them everyday on your way to work.
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But the big question is, "Are they really an effective way to get the word out and attract customers?" The answer may be more complicated than you think . . . .
The simple truth is that billboard advertising can be a highly effective marketing tool for a small business. However, it can also be a big waste of time and money - resources better spent on marketing strategies that are a better fit for your specific goals. Billboards can be costly, so you better know what you're talking about before you plaster an ad along the expressway.
Is a billboard right for my business?
Although a billboard ad may offer an ego boost for the business owner, billboards are not always the best marketing strategy. By their very nature, billboards target a broad customer base - the general public. If your business caters to a niche market, a billboard is probably not the most cost effective form of advertising. However, if your base is sufficiently broad, a billboard can attract new business and cement your relationship with existing customers.
As you might expect, the key to a successful billboard is location, location, location. Ideally, you are looking for a highly visible billboard in a high traffic area. The best locations are also the most expensive ones, so be prepared to weigh the trade-off between location and cost. But whatever you decide, make sure you personally inspect the billboard before signing a contract because sometimes even pricey billboards in great locations can be obscured by branches and other visibility barriers.
After you've chosen a location, the next step is to decide the content of your ad. Billboards need to be eye-catching and informative, but not so informative that drivers can't read its message in a couple of seconds. A good rule of thumb is to include your business name, location, a graphic, and no more than eight words. Unless you have design experience, you may want to hire a graphic designer to come up with an eye-grabbing, yet aesthetically pleasing ad that accurately conveys your message to the world.
In the old days, billboards were constructed with a combination of paper and paint applied directly to the billboard. Nowadays, paper and paint are out, and vinyl is in. The big advantage of vinyl is that it doesn't fade as quickly as paint and it out-weathers paper by a long shot. Even though it's possible to print a vinyl ad through a vendor of your own choosing, it's usually cheaper and easier to use a printer that specializes in printing billboard vinyl.
Price is the big wild card in billboard advertising. Depending on the billboards size and location, the cost can range from $1,000 to $5,000 per month. However, if you plan to use the billboard for more than a few months, you may be able to negotiate a discount on a long-term contract.