Memo From Frank
Summer is a great time of year in the billboard business. Businesses that went into hibernation during the winter are now waking up and starting to advertise. And there’s a lot going on in the summer in America. You have millions of Americans spending money on vacations: hotels, gas, food, attractions. You have the peak season for folks moving from one home to another, keeping homebuilders, mortgage companies and movers advertising. You have a ton of home improvements in the summer, such as building new decks, pools and additions. The circus comes to town. The retailers have Memorial Day sales. The fireworks stands start advertising for their biggest season: the Fourth of July. If you need advertisers, summer is the time of year you wait for. I hope you’re having a good summer as a result!
How To Close The Sale Through Distraction
So you’re trying to rent a billboard. You’ve found an advertiser and you’ve about to meet with them. Should you whip out the contract when you first get there and go for the close? Not unless you want to possibly lose the sale. For renting billboards, the best approach is to close through “distraction”. And here’s how it works.
Go straight to the artwork
When you first sit down, don’t whip out the contract, whip out a blank sheet of paper with a rectangle scaled to match your sign. Remember that all buyers suffer from “buyer’s remorse” just before signing a contract. Don’t put them in a defensive position at the onset, let them get excited about the sign before you ask for their signature. And the best way to do that is to get their imagination going.
Brainstorm with the advertiser on what might go on the sign
The “fads” include tri-vision (although it still exists), solaray, AM radio signal messages, and slide projection billboards. These fell apart either due to inability to operate in the real world, or difficulty in attracting and retaining consumer interest.
How can you tell the difference?
Say to the advertiser “alright, what do you think you would like on the sign?” Guide them through the process by explaining that the billboard will need:
- Their logo
- Their exit number or description on how to get there
- The product or service they want to promote, distilled down to five to seven words
- A gripping graphic that sells the product or service on its own
- Colors that are not found in nature and with good contrast
- A price point, if that’s what they need to help sell their product or service
Also, remind them that a billboard is just a giant salesman, and they need to think through what the single biggest message would be that the sign can shout out to drivers passing by.
As they come up with these ideas, write them on the paper, in the appropriate places.
Get them excited about what the sign can do for their business
While you’re talking about what a giant salesman would say, they’re thinking about how much a giant salesman can sell. Now you’re getting them warmed up and over their buyer’s remorse. At this point, they start to think about how much money they can make, and the billboard changes from the perception of an “expense” to that of an “investment”. You can see this in the way they talk.
Then it’s time to get out the contract at the end of the meeting
Now, once you have them excited and focused on the creative, is the time to bring out the contract and tell them “OK, I’ll get this artwork going back at the office. I just need you to sign here.” Most advertisers will just grab a pen and sign in the blank, often without even reading the contract. By bringing the contract out at the end, you have caught them off guard, and they have run out of time for the meeting, so they just sign so they can get back to work. It works every time.
If you want to rent a billboard, then the best way to close the sale is with the distraction of going for the creative first and the contract second. Use this trick and you’ll be amazed at how well it works. That’s how I used to be able to rent a billboard every two days – because I developed tricks to make it simple and effective. Give it a try.
In Praise Of Wood
I drive by billboards all the time in rural Missouri that are half a century old and made of wood. With the popularity of the steel monopole, people sometimes forget the amazing strength and resilience of that natural product that grows throughout America. Wood can withstand a compression of 625 pounds per square inch, while concrete can only withstand 3,000 pounds. Wood is the single biggest ingredient in home construction, and its strength to carry a load is why most homes still use wooden beams instead of steel. Wooden telephone poles have been used for almost 170 years, and are still the dominant type of pole used. So don’t think that those wooden billboards you see are junk. Wood has a heritage of being a terrific product for building things of value, and that can stand up to constant use for decades. Don’t believe me? What’s your chair made of?
And The Winner Goes To...
Once again, McDonald’s has ranked as the #1 billboard advertiser in the U.S. What’s amazing is that they have been in the #1 or #2 position for nearly a decade. If you go back in time, you’ll find that tobacco advertisers, such as Marlboro, occupied the top positions for decades. Then Coca-Cola and other soft drinks were dominant. In recent time Verizon held the top spot. But for consistency, you can’t beat McDonald’s. They have learned over the years the importance of outdoor advertising, both to direct consumers to their stores, but also to introduce and promote new food items. It’s also important to note that their billboard designs exactly mirror what research has shown to be the most vital design features: red background, contrasting colors, large logo, large words, and compelling graphics. They are not America’s largest food establishment out of sheer luck. They understand marketing and are not afraid to spend heavily on it.
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