When you are trying to persuade someone, how you express numbers is an extremely important part of your success – and that’s particularly true in the billboard industry. In this Billboard Mastery podcast we’re going to review the importance of the optics of numbers and how to get what you want by manipulating them.
Episode 90: How To Improve Your Expression Of Numbers Transcript
Sam Walton was a wizard of manipulating numbers. Have you ever noticed at a Walmart, everything is always 99 cents, but never rounded to the next dollar, like instead of being $4, it's like 3.99. Walton was able to get into consumer's heads and make them feel things were a little more affordable at his stores because he would always have it down just by a few cents. And there are entire groups in America today that have very sophisticated number theory classes and concepts, people who think that the numbers that you go with being angular seem more aggressive and rounded seem more friendly. A price which has an eight in it, is seen by the consumers being more attractive than a seven because it's round and jolly and happy and friendly, whereas a seven is angular and kind of mean.
All kinds of theory has been put out there in the marketplace that stems to how people look at numbers, the optics of the consumer and numbers. And the same thing is true for billboards. This is Frank Rolfe, The Billboard Mastery Podcast. We're gonna be talking all about how you express numbers can have a lot to do with your success or failure in the billboard industry. Now, the first time you learn about manipulating numbers to your advantage is when it comes to talking about how many viewers see the billboard. Let's say you've got a billboard that you bought or that you're building and it's on a highway and it has 30,000 viewers a day. So 30,000 people drive by that every day. Now, remember that number itself is a little misleading because the way they measure those kinds of numbers is by using traffic count.
So the traffic count will tell you basically how many tires go over the little metering device in a 24 hour period, and then they'll extrapolate that and say, "Okay. Well, if that many axles, we'll assume there was two axles on every car," although you know 18 wheelers have many more axles than that, "and then there's an average of two people in the car. Yeah, that's how we'll come up with that number." So the number 30,000 in this case is itself a little manipulative, no one knows for sure you've got 30,000 viewers. But would you rather express that to the potential advertiser as 30,000 viewers a day, or would you be better off saying 900,000 viewers a month? That sounds a whole lot more impressive. So now when you're out running the billboard, you wanna say, "Yeah, I'm running this billboard and it's $500 a month and it'll reach 30,000 people a day." Or would you rather say, "This billboard is 500 a month and it reaches 900,000 people a month?"
Well, that clearly sounds more impressive. So when it comes to manipulating billboard numbers, when you're trying to rent ad space, as far as the number of viewers who see it, you wanna go big. Take it times 30, take it for the whole month, 'cause that sounds so much more attractive to the advertiser. But then let's flip it around to the cost to the advertiser. Let's assume your billboard is $900 a month. Would you rather say to the advertiser, "Yeah, my billboard, which reaches 900,000 people a day, is only $900 per month." Or would you rather express that on a per day of only $30 a day? Let's say that you've got a hotel and your hotel charges $129 a night, which sounds more attractive to you? Having to get one customer every four nights to break even, or having to get a whole big block of rooms to reach that $900 tag.
So typically what we wanna do when we're talking about how much billboards cost, is rather than express that in a monthly variation, we wanna knock that back down to how much it is each day. You'll see if you look at ads, even people who charter jets, very expensive jets, they try and explain how much it costs per minute. Have you ever noticed that? "You can fly from Los Angeles to New York in a Learjet for only $3.10 a minute? Well, $3.10 a minute can get to be kind of pricey if you multiply that times the minutes to the hours and to the total number of hours. But that's why people express things that way, is it makes them seem much more affordable. Anyone would say, "Well, gosh, I've got $5 in my pocket. I can buy two minutes of that Learjet ride."
Now, finally, when you're out there trying to build the sign or buy the sign and talking to the property owner about their ground rent, you have the same issue once again. Let's assume the ground rent for the billboard has a base of $400 a month. Should we express that in daily? I don't know, let's think about that. If it's 400 a month, how much is that? Let's think about $13 a day. Well, no, that doesn't sound very impressive. So when you're trying to sell someone on the idea of allowing you to place a billboard on their property, now we wanna go again, really, really big. We wanna talk about the whole year. So instead of saying $400 a month, you say, "I wanna give you $4,800 a year," because when it comes to try and get the ground lease signed up, now we're trying to express and manipulate the numbers as big as they can humanly be.
Now, unlike how many views you have a month, it'd be crazy to say, "Yeah. Well, this sign is seen by 10 million people a year," when you're trying to rent the ad space. That's why that one typically is done by the month. The example we gave you, instead of 30,000 a day, it would be 900,000 viewers a month. And we know that when it comes to cost, you wanna keep it as small as we can. So the most bite-sized number there would be to show how much it is per day to rent it. So instead of saying 900 a month, we say $30 a day, but when it comes time to pay someone the money to have that site exist on their land, we're gonna go mega big. We're not gonna go by the day, we're not gonna go by the month, we're gonna do it by the whole year because that expression of money, that giant pile of money that they would have for the whole year, that is the best shot you have of getting the deal done.
Particularly if you're looking at smaller sums, sometimes you build signs way out in the country, the amount you can afford to pay per month is very small. Let's say it's like $80 a month. It's really hard to get someone to agree for you to have a sign on their land for $80 a month, but it sounds like a whole lot better if it's a $1,000 a year, which would equate to $83.33 a month. The bottom line to it is that when you're doing your billboard numerical calculations, it all depends on the role of what you're trying to achieve, whether you want to go big or go small. But the important thing is to manipulate those numbers to help prove your point. You're trying to persuade someone of something, you need to use those numbers in a persuasive format themselves. And how you express those numbers could be the difference between success and failure in the billboard business. This is Frank Rolfe, The Billboard Mastery Podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.