The Best Free Advertising

Josie Leavitt -- March 16th, 2011

There is free advertising that’s truly effective, more effective in many ways than any other advertising I’ve done. It’s called a sandwich or sign board. It stands in front of your store by the side of the road so all folks driving by can see it. On each side you have a hand-drawn poster heralding your store’s next event. It’s so simple, it’s ingenious.

Our store is on the busiest north/south road in Vermont, and we happen to be on a very busy corner of that road. Consequently, the wait at the traffic light can be lengthy, so our sign board gives folks something to read. Last week we had a sign up about our Fairy Tea Party. One little girl apparently read the sign, made her father stop and come in and sign her up for the party. “She’s never read so fast,” the father said, as he delightedly signed up the whole family for the party.

Repeated viewing of a sign reminds folks about an event and gives the impression that they’ve heard of the event everywhere. We put the sign out several weeks before the event so people drive by it countless times before the actual event. We try to convey basic information in large friendly handwriting: who is coming, when and at what time. It’s simple and it works. Often, we’ll go for humor as well.  Our Valentine’s sign, which Elizabeth thought of, got many chuckles: Flowers Die, Chocolate’s Fattening, Books are Forever. This is one of my favorite signs. At Easter time our sign will be smartly decorated saying: Fill Their Baskets with Books. It’s not too much, but it makes the point, without shouting: Don’t just give them candy.

Obviously, the signs can used to convey sale information, although the town frowns on too much advertising that isn’t a community event. During the holidays, one of our most effective signs was simply: We’ve got great stocking stuffers. People literally poured in the store. There is a risk with the sign board as the Highway Department hates them, so periodically they can confiscate them. This hasn’t happened to us, but several other shopkeepers have lost their sign boards.  Another risk with the sign board is the weather. Too much rain can ruin even a sign made with permanent marker, and nothing looks as a bad as a sign that’s faded and torn. Too much snow can literally bury a sign board. This hasn’t happened yet, but the snow banks are so high this year it has necessitated using only the deck for the sign board, which is not quite as effective.

Here’s hoping for an early spring, so the sign board can return to its rightful place on the side of the road.

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