What Happened Next?
Do outdoor billboards still have a place in your business’s marketing arsenal?
In 2018, we were still releasing a new Blackboard Fridays episode every week (In business? You can still receive one of these insight videos to your inbox every Friday, by subscribing here!). So when the opportunity arose to feature on a billboard, we jumped at the chance.
Here’s what we found when we recently featured Blackboard Fridays ‘live and local’.
A big shout out of thanks to Rocky Cassaniti and the team at Valley Edge in Brisbane. I’ve never looked so good. This article was originally written for the businessDEPOT insights blog – check out businessDEPOT, the Blackboard Fridays creation partner!
For a month in 2018, we were part of the rotating billboard display on Abbottsford Road, Bowen Hills.
Jacob said “Since this is on my drive to work every morning, the location was perfect. Nothing more exciting than seeing a giant Jacob at 7 am each day!”
As our Director of Marketing Tyson Cobb said “Since this is on my drive to work every morning, the location was horrible. Nothing more terrifying than seeing a giant Jacob at 7 am each day!”
For those who aren’t familiar, Blackboard Fridays is a free weekly video series sharing, well, quick business strategies and tactics for business owners. Of all the multidisciplinary services businessDEPOT provide, we chose to highlight this series partly because Rocky is a big fan, and also because we wanted something clear and specific – with only a few seconds (the model on this Billboard), we didn’t want to have to communicate something as large as the overall businessDEPOT vision.
What did we learn?
Some of what we learned over the month validated the general market research into modern Billboard advertising; some of it was unique to businessDEPOT (and Blackboard Fridays).
Lesson #1 – B2C v B2B
Blackboard Fridays is a B2B (Business to Business) value proposition.
Compare this to most companies that profitably invest in mass marketing campaigns, who are B2C (Business to Consumer). This is largely due to the audience who sees the digital billboard – it’s a huge audience each day, but it’s a scattered, general audience. We couldn’t control how many of those seeing the sign were business owners (ie, our target audience); whereas almost everyone who drove past would have tried KFC or flown Virgin at some point. So ‘bang for the buck’, bigger B2C companies get more for their money.
Of course, those companies also need to get more for their money. The incremental profitability of our business coaching clients is a lot larger than selling an extra bucket of chips. Big companies need a lot more lead generation than small ones, and also benefit a lot more from that vague amorphous investment in ‘brand awareness’ (I love that Blackboard Fridays goes to over a dozen countries each week, and I do work with clients around the world, but I’m certainly more the exception than the rule for small business in Australia).
If you’re KFC, Billboards have a really great place in your marketing campaign. You can push your Brand in front of thousands of potential clients throughout the day, and then with a specific call to action at key decision-making times like the pre-dinner drive home. The conversion rate on any given day may be low … but when you’re selling tonnes of chicken every week, you need volume.
(Incidentally, digital billboards like the one Valley Edge has provided a really awesome feature compared to traditional billboards, in that you can change your specific ad based on the time of day. It will cost you extra … pre-qualified, pre-sold lead generation for your business is worth extra.)
Lesson #2 – Part of a Balanced Campaign
Great marketing strategists (like Tyson) will tell you that Billboards work best as part of a broader overall campaign, not just on their own. We’ll dive to our results and outcomes below, and the spoiler alert is that as a standalone promotion there wasn’t a flood of incoming activity.
If we had the budget to combine the billboard with radio spots, TVCs, or sponsoring the Brisbane Broncos, then it would have had more of an effect through the benefit of cumulation. On a smaller (non-KFC) scale, had we integrated this with a specific event (for example) and the associated promotion, we may have had greater benefit.
Lesson #3 – Personalisation is Key
And if you’re reading this, you’re probably a smaller business, not KFC. So what was the BIGGEST lesson for a small business? Personalisation. Our billboard featured a giant photo of Jacob, front and center, making this a human-centric marketing campaign. It wasn’t a brand. It wasn’t a benefit. It was an individual.
And even though we weren’t running other Blackboard Friday marketing at the time, this personalisation combined with a personal profile created the greatest outcomes. The phone calls, emails, and social media posts and responses that Jacob received were incredible (and valuable). For four weeks the phone rang hot with contacts, prospects, friends, and family calling to just check-in –
“Did I just see you on a giant billboard?”
“You sure did – I host a weekly video series called Blackboard Fridays, what’s happening in your business?”
Reviewing the other advertisers Valley Edge feature on this billboard, we suspect this personalisation is driving the most results. Some of the advertisers are small businesses … they’re clearly promoting a person or people, not an amorphous (impersonal) brand, and I reckon that’s creating results.
What were the outcomes?
A better question begins with “What Outcomes were we seeking, or hoping for?”
By choosing to promote Blackboard Fridays, the obvious target outcome was … more subscribers to Blackboard Fridays. The wider result was more conversations in our marketplace, especially related to our strategic business advice.
Long story short, compared with prior months we had no discernible uptick in subscriptions. That doesn’t mean it didn’t trigger any, just that it didn’t create any outsized results.
We also can’t connect any new clients back to the promotion, although doing so (or expecting any) would be incredibly tough on our small client base (often just 8 clients a month, some who are clients for years so don’t need regular replacing) compared to KFC.
As noted earlier though … this generated MASSIVE value when connected to other awareness. Photos of Jacob posing in front of the billboard led to some of the highest engagement rates on our social media accounts – the value of personalisation. And this engagement was highest among people who already knew us – so while we were hoping for new relationships (so-called ‘Top of Hourglass’ activity), in reality, the billboard triggered a huge amount of ‘Middle of Hourglass’ activity, giving existing relationships a reason to further engage with our business.
Would We Do It Again?
So a big thanks again to Rocky and Valley Edge Print | Design | Signage. This was an incredible opportunity we weren’t even looking for, and are so excited to have rolled out.
For our small business, we may not do it again – the new relationship/lead generation wasn’t strong enough. Again though, our strategic advisory is a business that needs a very small number of clients each year – if you want 8 new clients per month, rather than per year, it wouldn’t take too much for this to well and truly be profitable (especially with a boutique site provider like Valley Edge, not a mass marketer like Goa or Active Outdoor).
For creating enormous active engagement with existing relationships though, the benefit of launching the billboard was huge. We don’t think this would necessarily be repeatable every month, and it may be that we would need to roll unexpected marketing tactics out each year to create the same effect.
If you’ve ever benefited from an unexpected marketing tactic in your business … think about how this Billboard could be part of your next plan.