There are a lot of different pitches out there on how to grow your business. Grow your business through social media. Grow your business through billboards…one-on-one networking…get an office, put your sign up, and they will come.

I can’t tell which method is best for your business, because every business owner brings their own flavor and character to a business that makes it unique. What I can do is give you a little insight into the different types of advertising based on my own experience.

So here goes.

Billboards
In Part One I’ll cover billboards, because when I started my first law firm that was my first advertisement. Perhaps it was just my ego talking, but I knew I wanted my name up on a billboard from the start. What I liked about the billboards was that they were up there 24/7. They aren’t something you can flip off like a TV commercial. You see them every day as you drive to and from work (twice the view for the same price).

Billboards build brand awareness and legitimacy. However, they aren’t something that is going to be a quick driver of clients or customers through your door.

The only people that will probably react to the billboards in the first month will be your family and friends…and other advertisers. Be prepared for a call from every salesperson in the city, the phone book, local TV stations, radio stations, newspaper, local magazines, all wanting to set up a meeting to make a sales pitch. They’ve seen that you’re a local business, that you’re willing to pay money to advertise, and they are eager to tell you why their medium is the best.

Weather the storm of calls and meetings. I agreed to every meeting and I listened with an attentive ear because this was a great way to learn all the different benefits of each type of advertising and their prices and terms, all within the span of a month. The vast majority of them I kept their information and contacts and did not advertise with them at the time. But I learned. And with several of them I ended up becoming friends, and so for both personal and business reasons I always try to agree to a meeting when any salesperson calls. After the first month or so, things will calm down and you may not get any clients or customers mentioning the billboard as the reason they are coming in.

Around the third month the billboard has been up, things will start to pick up. You’ll start to get some people in that have been seeing your billboard every day and have finally gotten around to calling you so they could scratch it off their to-do list. Or their mother had seen the billboard and had browbeaten them into finally scheduling a meeting.

The calls will increase until around the fifth month, and then will probably plateau and remain steady, as well as reinforcing any other advertisements you have in the newspaper, on TV, or social media. They are great tools at building your brand and keeping your brand on the minds of clients and customers. That’s why I say billboards should only be used in conjunction with other forms of advertising. They will not drive enough business by themselves, but they are useful in reminding potential clients to call you.

There are two main problems with billboards.

One, it’s hard to track the numbers that a billboard drives to your business. A lot of your clients will first hear about your business from friends, online, or through other advertising, and the billboard will be acting as a reminder to them every day. Or if used in conjunction with the phone book or Google adwords…they will need your services, flip through a phone book and see your picture ad or scroll through Google and see your business in the results and call you because they recognize your name form the billboard, consciously or subconsciously. Therefore, a lot of clients and customers will say they found you in the phone book or online, and they don’t mention that the billboard helped get them in the door. That’s why I say it’s a great brand reinforcement, not a sole driver of a business.

The second main problem with a billboard is the cost. For the price of a single billboard, you can run a very effective social media ad campaign, a moderate TV commercial campaign, and it can be several times more expensive than a decent size ad in a phone book. Most billboards are done on an annual basis (though I have done them for a month or two only before). If you can get a billboard during one of their specials, or multiple billboards at once and so get a discount, it becomes more economically feasible.

I definitely recommend using billboards only after you have your website up and you are decently high in the results, because when they see the billboard, they will search for you online and if you don’t come up (because you just created your website and it takes a few weeks/months to work your way up in the results) then you’ve just wasted a month worth of advertising dollars on a billboard that is doing nothing for you. Once you are at a point where you can search for your business name and your website comes up in the results on the first page, only then consider getting a billboard. If you are advertising in the phone book, wait until the phone book comes out (it normally comes out two or three months after you place your ad) for the same reasons.

Also, a huge advantage is working with the local salesperson. They can really point out great billboard locations, ones that are low priced but still get great views, and work with you on getting a lower price. And if the price isn’t right at that moment, or your budget won’t let you afford one at this time, they will keep you in mind when they are running specials or a billboard pops up and will give you a call.

To sum up: billboards are a great addition to your advertising arsenal and I certainly recommend them as one of the most effective forms of advertising if used in conjunction with other forms of advertising. They are a long term investment…don’t expect to see actual results from them before three months. Perhaps the best endorsement I can give you is the fact that I continue to advertise via billboards to this day, and when used wisely, judiciously, and in conjunction with other forms of advertising, they will serve you well too.

Goodluck!

P.S. And did I mention it does wonders for your ego, seeing your name and picture as big as a building?

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