There’s a reason why semi-trucks, city buses, delivery vans, work trucks and even some passenger cars are covered with advertising: Moving vehicles make good billboards.

But what if your work vehicle is also your family car? How can you leverage your vehicle’s advertising capability without your children – and spouse – needing massive-embarrassment therapy?

smart-car-signageMagnetic door signs are passé

The magnetic door signs people slapped on their cars in the 1980s and 1990s are old-school. While the easy-on/easy-off nature of the signs was supposed to make it simple to switch between your work and personal lives, few people ever took them off. Then they became popular with construction contractors and lawn-mowing services. Once every beat-up work truck in the city was sporting a pair, magnetic door signs eventually came to symbolize the fly-by-night operator.

Use vinyl lettering instead

It used to be that custom, vinyl-lettered vehicle advertising was only an option for big companies. It was too expensive for independent real estate agents. But as the technology took off, the prices came down. Today, you can transform the rear window of your vehicle into a vinyl-lettered ad for about $50.

Do-it-yourself kits are available, the designs can be applied to any part of your car (a rear or side window is popular), and they’re easily removed if you decide to go a different route later.

Subtlety is the key

No matter how sophisticated your design and message, many of your potential clients – especially those higher-end clients everyone wants – will always think vehicle advertising is cheesy. Pull into someone’s driveway with advertising messages splashed across your rear and side windows, and it could cost you their business.

So keep things small and subtle. Make your message big enough to be seen by someone waiting behind you at a stoplight, or parked next to your car, but small enough that your kids still consider your car cool enough to be seen around town in.

Always drive safely

Once you start using your car as advertising, you need to remember that your driving represents your brand. If you’re a hot-head behind the wheel, a bad driver, or someone who thinks speed limits and yellow lights are for others, your business may suffer when nasty comments start appearing on your business Facebook page and other social media. Slow down, be courteous and drive safely.

Remember: It’s part of a comprehensive marketing program

Some real estate agents swear by car advertising. Some have tried it and consider it a complete waste of money. It’s worth a try. But don’t ignore your other marketing initiatives.

At best, car signage is a form of impulse advertising: The people who respond are those who happen to be considering hiring a real estate agent, who happen to be driving behind your car, who figure calling you is no worse/better than phoning another anonymous agent listed online.

Vehicle marketing is not something you can rely on to run your business. You still need direct mail and email marketing to develop a clientele, develop referrals and establish a name for yourself. Those are the real engines of a successful real estate marketing program.

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