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Make the most of outdoor advertising

EntrepreneurCountry Global Thursday, 26 November 2009.

There has never been a more important time to maintain profile and presence for your business amongst consumers. Outdoor advertising is proven to be effective at reaching a target audience when they are receptive to advertising messages, and prepared to act on them. But when every penny spent on advertising is, rightly, scrutinised, how can small businesses ensure that they are maximising the value of their marketing spend? Jenny Nguyen, Marketing Manager for online outdoor advertising access point Signposter.com, explains how to get the most out of outdoor advertising.

Why advertise on billboards?

All too often local businesses presume that press is the only choice for local targeting. Press is a powerful medium, but it is likely to be the default choice for your competitors so it may not be the best one for you to ensure stand-out.

Being open to trying something different can reap rewards in terms of value and effectiveness. Eric Newnham, Global CEO of communications agency Kinetic Worldwide, says: ”Within soft media markets there is incredible value to be gained by allowing a degree of flexibility in media choice or in timing.”

A fresh approach to advertising will pay dividends by making your business top of consumer and customer minds. Poster advertising, for example, is wrongly thought only to be the domain of big budget brands, but can now be bought site by site through services like Signposter.com, making your business ’behave like the big boys’ in front of a wide local audience while still keeping to a tight budget.

How to get the most out of a billboard campaign

1. Understand your audience
Rory Sutherland, Vice-Chairman of Ogilvy Group UK, argues: ”The best way to profit from a small - indeed any - marketing budget is to understand your customers better than anyone else.” 

It may sound obvious, but the best way to be sure that your marketing spend is effectively reaching consumers and persuading them to act is to ask them. Investment in gaining understanding of what makes your customer ‘tick’ is worth every penny. Then you will know that your future marketing activity is appropriate to your customer. David Patton, CEO of Grey London, agrees: “Make sure that you not only know who your customers are, but what they do in their daily lives. This way you can be confident that the media you choose to use for advertising is media that they will see, and are likely to respond to.”

Additionally, it is worth investing some time asking existing customers what they think of the creative look of the ad you’ve come up with, to check it appeals to your target audience. Do they like it? What does it make them think about your company?  Would they notice it, on the street or in a magazine? Would they feel inclined to heed its call to action?

2. Location
By being clever with your outdoor advertising planning you can geographically target customers in places where you know, from your customer research, they’re likely to be. A poster here will reach them in the right mindset and prompt them to act, so outdoor advertising is effective, efficient and wastage-free.

Rory Sutherland says: “The location of the poster needs to be understood before you can ask any further questions.” 

It is important to bear in mind that the ’right location’ for your business  might not be a bus shelter or billboard ad on the high street. It might be a railway station, a bus side, a gym, a mall, a supermarket or even an airport. Outdoor advertising spans a vast array of locations, ensuring that it really can be totally targeted.

3. Creative
Designing effective advertising creative is the key to getting your product or service into consumer minds. You need to produce an ad which is going to appeal, and prove memorable, to your customers. A great ad – such as those for Wonderbra or The Economist – will be remembered for a long time. Advertising creative consultant Tim Braithwaite remarks: ”Grab [your audience] and they’ll look at [your ad] for longer. Give them something to talk about and they’ll remember it for weeks.  Sometimes forever.”

Advertisers often make the mistake of believing that a billboard ad can be a blown-up press ad. Outdoor advertising has specific requirements that, when followed, enable small businesses to get the most out of their creative and their advertising environment.

For posters, simplicity is critical. Tim Braithwaite warns: ”The average reader will only look at your poster for about three seconds.” David Patton says: ”Decide your most important message, and focus on that.”

But simplicity doesn’t mean boring – as Patton continues: ”Preferably use an eye-catching easy-to-understand image as your illustration”, while Eric Newnham says: ”Simplicity with a twist works for me. Be prepared to ’zag’ when your competitors ’zig’.” 

Overall, your billboard needs to persuade people to act on its message – whatever that may be. Make sure that the site you choose is in the right place to reach the largest number of your target audience. Then make sure your poster design is centred on the benefit of your product or service for its users. ‘Sell the sizzle’ – the benefits – ‘not the sausage’ – the actual product or service. 

Through effective billboard placement, your audience will see your product. Through effective poster design you will persuade people that you are providing something they can’t do without. Then you will have hooked their interest and encouraged them to do something about it. 

 Jenny Nguyen is Marketing Manager at Signposter.com.

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