Billboard Advertising for Less than $100

Published by Naseem Muaddi on February 19th, 2012

I recently found out that advertising my auto upholstery shop on a park bench would cost about $500 a month. I was so shocked that I didn’t even bother asking how much a traditional billboard would cost.

Then I remembered a clever trick that I saw on a trip to Las Vegas last year. Businesses hired box trucks to drive up and down the strip with giant company ads on them. Compared to the cost of placing actual billboards on the strip, they must have saved a ton.

Trim shops can employ a similar tactic for even less by placing magnetic signs on their company or personal vehicles. They cost less than $100 to make and can be ready in a day.

Think of the benefit: You can transform your vehicle into a mobile billboard for thousands of drivers to see for less than it would cost you to place an ad in the Yellow Pages. Every time you stop at a red light, park at the mall or leave your car on the side of a busy street, you’re reaching thousands of people for a one-time cost of $100.

Like most things, though, there’s a right and a wrong way to do it. Below are six tips to help you get the most out of your shop’s magnetic car sign:

1. Keep it simple:  Don’t clutter the sign with too much information. Your company name, telephone number, website and simple description of your services (such as “auto upholstery and convertible tops”) should do the trick.

2. Use clear, bold fonts:  Avoid fancy cursive fonts – they are too difficult to read. Remember that people have to be able to read your sign from a distance and while it’s moving.

3. Pick the right colors: The goal is to make your sign pop. Certain color combinations, like green on blue, are hard to read. However, the contrast between blue and white is stark, so the words really pop out. For the best results, choose dark colors for the script and very light colors for the background.

4. Use reflective vinyl: Reflective lettering shines bright when headlights illuminate your sign – which makes them easy to read at night.

5. Don’t drive a hooptie: The only instance in which I strongly don’t recommend magnetic business signs is if your vehicle is a piece of junk. If your truck is beat down and ugly or, even worse, the interior is dilapidated with faded upholstery, a sagging headliner, stained carpet and a cracked dash, the magnets may do more harm than good to your reputation.

6. Don’t drive like an A@$hole: Remember that your business’ name and phone number are on the vehicle. If you run red lights, cut people off or flip the bird, your shop is going to get a bad wrap. Plus you’ll probably receive a few explicit voicemails.

Here’s what my magnetic sign looks like:

Do you use magnetic car signs to advertise your auto upholstery shop? If so, please share your experience in the comments section below. We could all learn from any tips, tricks or advice you have to offer.

3 Responses

  1. Nadeem says:

    Here are some great comments about this article left in another upholstery forum:

    Joys Shop: Magentic signs need a warning

    They have to be moved every once in a while
    The sign forms a bond with the paint of the vehicle
    Then it can’t be removed, without also removing the paint

    I move my signs from the front doors, to the back doors, and then back again

    kodydog: Last year we had two plastic wrap type signs installed on the back windows of our van. Neat thing is you can see out but can’t see in. Your right about the color choice. We chose black letters on a gold background and it didn’t pop out like I thought it would. The cost was $150. Can’t say how many calls it generated but a lady called last week who said she saw our van at a shopping center.

    After I installed them my first thought was how many calls will I get telling me I can’t drive worth a poop. Especially when I’m driving (slow) in the Ga. mountains. But haven’t got a single one.

    My only disappointment is the edges started peeling away after 6 months. Don’t know if it was a bad install job or inferior product but will try again with another company.

    I have a friend with an HVAC business. He wrapped his whole van with penguins and igloos. You can see it coming a mile away. Pretty cool.

    sofadoc: Back in the 80’s, I tried magnetic signs on my truck. Yup, it took the paint off.
    And I found out later that most people that saw the sign couldn’t remember the name or phone # once they got home. So they looked up the first shop they saw in the phone book (which WASN’T me) and called them. My signs were actually drumming up business for my competition.

    Of course, with websites and such, times are different now.

    Personally, I can’t remember ever noticing advertising on another vehicle. Same with benches or shopping carts. I pay absolutely no attention to them.

    When people put flyers on my windshield, I can’t wad them up fast enough.
    And the ads at the top or side of web pages….never even look at them.

    These forms of advertising may be effective, but they sure as heck ain’t workin’ on me.

    byhammerandhand: I had permanent signs on my last van. The thing I found out that my vehicle was then considered a commercial vehicle. My insurance agent said with this he could not call it an “artisan’s vehicle” (which I understood to transport a workman to a work site). This also meant the license plates were about twice as much and the insurance was over twice as much.

    When I got my new van, I downsized from a “cargo van” to a “mini-van.” So I licensed it as a passenger car. When I asked my insurance agent how to avoid the commercial designation he said, “Signage.”

    “Even the little signs on the windows?”
    “So all those Mona Vie, Mary Kay, and Pampered Chef cars are technically in violation?”
    “What I really want is when I pull into someone’s driveway, they know it is for furniture repair and I’m not some pervert.”
    “Well, I have done some homeowner’s policies where I need to take photos of the home. I have had cops called on me a few times, so I got a magnetic sign that says, ‘Cook Insurance.’ That has taken care of it on my personal car.”
    Now my math professor taught me “verbum sat sapienti est,” so I said, “Thank you.”

    Now, my neighbor re-started his sign shop and made me some magnetic signs with his new vinyl cutter. He did say to take them off once in a while, so on weekends, especially when there has been rain that week, they come off to get underneath dry and fresh air.

    Now, my insurance on two cars is less than what it was on the commercial van alone.

  2. Sage says:

    i put a sign in my back glass . can bed seen in a parking lot that has angle parking . more visable than on the door . can still see out the back .

  3. Naseem Muaddi says:

    That’s a great point Sage, having another sign on the back of your car or truck shows much better in parking lots and at red lights.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *