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Making Promotional Signage Work June 5, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Sales Strategy/Tactics, Small Business Advertising.
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The other day I’m driving to work and slow traffic had me passing by a series of promotional signs stuck into the side of the road. You know the signs…they are those small type of ‘election’ signs you frequently see around election time. I call them ‘roadside signage’. As I slowly pass the sign, I strain to read what it says. I can’t. And there’s enough copy in the sign to create a book chapter.

Here’s the challenge: someone spent probably a few hundred dollars on signs with the idea that they could cheaply promote their business to the thousands of cars that pass by that intersection every day. The only problem is that no one can read them. I have no clue what kind of business it is or even the name of it. I could see that it had a phone number at the bottom but again, I couldn’t read it. And who thought I would have the ability to write it down if I could see it?

What I’ve just noted above is not uncommon. Years of observations (marketers are always on the lookout for marketing collateral) have led me to believe that nearly 95% of small roadside signage is poorly thought out and executed. The other issue I have is that roadside signage is clearly mass-market oriented, with no targeting of customers whatsoever. You have absolutely no control on who sees your signage or not.

What attracts business owners to this medium is the idea that, for a few hundred bucks, you can place signage at highly traveled locations and everyone will see them. What they see is a blur to them. The truth is, only on the rare occasion will you get even a call from that kind of signage and usually when they can stop and get out of their car to write down the phone number.

This morning, after dropping the kids off at school, I pass a little fenced-in sports complex that some coach is building a sports coaching business on. He provides your tike with additional soccer, baseball, softball, teeball, etc. coaching to make them better athletes. He signs, although larger than the election sign, was handwritten with either crayon or marker. Oh, and almost impossible to read as you drive by.

So here’s a business owner who decided to go the cheap route and have one of his kids make his signage. Cute but highly ineffective for his business. It’s also a poor way to represent your business to those that may actually be able to read the sign.

So, here are a couple of summary points on roadside signage:

  • If you can find a more effective way to target your customer base, then do it and skip roadside signage. Just because its relatively cheap and gets you in front of lots of cars doesn’t mean the phone will ring. More than likely it will not make the phone ring or at least not often enough to justify the time and expense of creating them. For the sports coach, probably passing out special offer flyers to parents attending their kids baseball, soccer or other games would probably be much more effective. That’s a better way to target those who would be most interested in his services for their kids.
  • If you insist on doing roadside signage to promote your business make sure people can quickly read the info. Keep it to what your services or products your selling and a phone number. Less copy is much more effective. Why people feel they have to cram as much copy as they can onto a small space that speeding cars will not be able to see anyway, boggles my mind.
  • Whatever you think you saved by using roadside signage to get to the ‘people’, you lost when you do the math on how much actual business in brought into the door.  While there is the rare exception, generally roadside signage doesn’t deliver the results to justify the cost.

There are much more effective ways to market and promote your business than a roadside sign. Direct mail, public relations promotions, and alliances or partnerships with other businesses who already cater to the types of customers who buy your product or service are examples of this.

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