Ask a realtor what the three most important factors in the real estate business are, and invariably you'll hear some variation on this theme: "location, location, location." We had no idea how important this axiom was until we opened our event-planning showroom adjacent to a busy freeway whose traffic ranks 13th in the nation, according to USA Today, with an average of 264,000 cars per day. We have a 60'x10' window full of wedding dresses overlooking the freeway, and that is our biggest draw for new business. Billboard space would have cost us $5,000 per month. Our building with signage costs much less.
We invested $15,000 installing neon signs on our building that can be seen more than a half mile down the road. The traffic in our town used to annoy me until I realized that I'm paying a small fraction of a penny per view for freeway advertising. The signs were originally on a timer that would turn off at midnight. Then one day I found myself on the freeway one morning at 5 a.m. in bumper-to-bumper commuter traffic. I realized that all these workers could not view my signage in this pre-dawn traffic crawl. I now have the neon signage on a light sensor.
Many states and cities offer sponsorship to help keep roadways free of litter. In exchange, you get signage with your company name. We selected an area of our town that includes a four-star hotel that hosts 400 weddings per year, two museums, the library, a busy pedestrian mall, and several restaurants. We wanted our phone number and/or Web site on the signs, but policies prevented anything but a legal business name. We filed the fictitious business name of RiversideVideo.com, and it was accepted. A recent TV news story about all-American cities featured Riverside and our signs. There was a big boost in our Web traffic the night of the story.
Another approach is to advertise your business on your vehicle. Now, all the concerns you have about signage attracting theft are probably valid; but thousands of vehicles without signage are also broken into every year. Does signage statically increases the odds of a break-in? I can't say. I've been broken into twice. The first time they got some peripheral equipment such as tripods and a light kit. The second vandal went away empty-handed thanks to an alarm on the vehicle that pages us. The police said the 16-year-old looked relieved when they arrived. He had been running from our 6'6", 360-pound son who had been chasing him down the railroad tracks in our Hummer.
Despite these two incidents, I'm still a believer. The signage on our three trucks got us some great jobs, including one with Magic Johnson. On both sides of our vehicles is our phone number and Web site address, RiversideVideo.com, designed with Nike-type swooshes. We have people call us almost daily wanting to know who we are and what we do. The NBC news van passed us on the freeway and called wanting to know who we were.
We were working in Los Angeles the day Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt were married. While we did not do their wedding, our truck was featured in news stories across the country (judging by the calls we received). A news crew must have noticed our truck and stuck in a shot of it knowing people would assume we were the official videographers. The signage always seems to get positive reactions when we arrive at a job location. My kids laugh at me when I drop the family off at the door of a restaurant and drive 100 yards to park where the most traffic will see my rolling billboard.
We take many precautions such as never leaving footage in a vehicle and rarely leaving equipment. We carry full insurance and have a paging alarm with glass-breakage sensors. Factory alarms do not include that feature.
As for Internet marketing, we have several Web sites and even more domain names. We have had good success with search engine placement, and last month our CannonVideo.com site had more than 60,000 hits. It seems you can't book a job without a Web site. Even when people have been referred to us by several trustworthy sources, they will still call and ask for our Web site address.
A Web site needs to be stylish, informative, and easy to navigate. It should instill confidence with a potential client. Streaming video is a must; I know only a few videographers who succeed without it.
In order to place well in the search engines, your site needs to be search engine-friendly. The title and text need to be relevant to the phrases potential clients type in while searching. Links in and out of your site with the same relevancy will also boost your search engine presence.
Paying for traffic or featured listings should be effective, and we're not opposed to it. So far, though, we have not had to do so. Effective submission and content design have allowed us to rank very high and get good traffic.