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Billboard Monthly

January, 1st 2012

How To Speak Your Advertiser’s Language And Sell More Billboard Space

If you are having trouble renting your billboard space, maybe the problem is that you are only seeing it from your perspective, and not that of your customer. If you can start to think like a customer – and communicate these feelings – you will sell better, and have much greater customer retention.

Understand your customer’s profitability

How much does your customer make on each sale? If they are selling a car, then maybe $1,000. Some billboard salesmen seem to think that if you sell a $15,000 used car, then you made $15,000. Profit is revenue minus expenses. The profit per sale is the building block of determining if the billboard is going to work for the advertiser. Using this example, if the car dealer makes $1,000 per sale, and the billboard rents for $1,000 per month, then they would have to sell one car per month to pay for the billboard.

Let’s look at a hotel, for example. A hotel has the same fixed costs whether or not the room is vacant or occupied. So a hotel that has a $100 per night room rent has $100 of profit every night the billboard rents a room. So going back to the $1,000 per month billboard, it would have to rent 10 rooms per month to pay for itself.

Every type of business has a different profit margin. Restaurants typically deliver a 70% margin. Grocery stores only have a 5% margin. Understanding the profit per sale of your potential advertiser is hugely important if you want to see things as they do.

Understand your customer’s volume of sales

As important as understanding the profit margin, is understanding the sheer volume of sales that your billboard can generate for the customer. For example, a hotel might be able to realistically pick up one traveler per night from a billboard. A shoe store, on the other hand, might have trouble selling more than one pair of shoes per day from the same billboard location. And a car dealer might be able to sell one car per week from a billboard.

So it’s not only the profitability from the sale, but also the volume of times that the profitability is achieved.

Then work backwards

Let’s look at the hotel owner, as an example. He’s a prime candidate for a billboard. Assuming that the highway that goes by the billboard has traffic of 50,000 cars per day, that would be 25,000 per day going by the sign. Could the hotel reasonably expect to get just one of those cars to pull off the highway per night? Sure. And the profitability of one night of hotel room is $100 (assuming that the rate is $100 per night). So that billboard could generate around $3,000 per month of profit to the hotel owner.

The same billboard might sell one car per week for the dealer, and result in $1,000 profit per sale – so the sign might create $4,000 per month of profit for the car dealer. But the shoe store has much greater difficulty. It makes 50% margins on each pair of shoes it sells. If the shoe store owner could sell one extra pair of shoes per day from the billboard, at a price of $60, then the profit potential from the billboard is only $900 per month.

Remember that the advertiser’s sole goal is to make money

In the above examples, the hotel, car dealer and shoe store owner would have different levels of profitability from the billboard. But even then, remember that they have to make a profit from the billboard for it to be a success.

So the hotel that might make $3,000 per month from the billboard would want to spend less than $3,000 so that they make a profit. If they rent the sign for $1,500 per month -- and then have a net income of $3,000 from sales generated by the billboard – they will have benefited by $1,500 per month and will stay on the sign forever. But if the billboard costs $4,000 per month, they will lose money and cancel their lease.


If you can put yourself in the advertiser’s shoes, then you can improve your sales success immensely. Everyone likes to make a profit. Learn how to speak the language of profitability with our customer, and they will buy more, renew more, and be a client for life.

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Whether you like it or not, 2012 is here. And it’s a new year and a new chance to start hitting your goals. There’s lots to be thankful for in outdoor advertising. The internet continues to destroy the classic competitors of billboards: newspaper, radio and television. And billboards are still the only form of advertising that does not have to offer any content to make you look at it – the customer is stuck looking at billboards whether they want to or not. So billboard companies don’t have to create the content to make you watch, and sell the advertising space. Instead, they can focus 100% on the advertising space – and save a fortune in programming.
Here’s to a Happy New Year for everyone!

A Billboard Story

Before they invented vinyl, you had to paint billboards by hand, up in the air. One day, we gave a painter the assignment of painting an ad for the Southview Apartments. Their logo included a bullseye as the dot over the “I”. So the painter started painting the billboard. After a while, a car approached the billboard on the interstate, and pulled over on the side of the road. The driver took out a rifle with a scope, and started shooting the bullseye logo. He shot at it four or five times – hitting it each time – and then got back in the car and drove off. The sign painter, who had hid on the catwalk of the sign, quit, saying that he thought he could find a better job somewhere else.

Did You Know….

Did you know that the first billboard was on a trail in Egypt, and directed people to where camels were for sale? It was carved into a rock. The wild thing is that not much has changed over the past 1,000 years, except the ad space is now larger and wrapped in vinyl. Now that’s low-tech!

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