Do you know what a bandit sign is? If not, you're probably not alone. Despite the fact that their name conjures images of outlaws operating in isolated lawless areas, bandit signs, while illegal in many locations, are fairly mainstream. Some people refer to them as lawn signs, stake signs or post signs, but these terms all refer to the same thing. Typically they are hand lettered signs on stakes that can be placed anywhere there's soft enough ground to secure the stake, or alternatively nailed to trees or wooden lampposts along heavily traveled thoroughfares. Their prevalence in these areas is for the simple reason that they seem to work.
There's a certain creativity that's to be admired in this low cost method of advertising and clearly some of the tenets of good advertising like location and frequency come into practice. That said, however, don't be tricked into thinking these are a viable approach for commercial real estate advertising. First of all, the use of these instruments is likely illegal. Second, while they seem inexpensive, as with any advertising in order to get noticed, your ad needs to appear with frequency, that means production costs and installation costs as well as the cost of paying someone to keep them maintained if they get damaged or torn down by a competitor. Finally, as with any communication piece, your brand image should be a top priority. You need to ask yourself whether a bandit sign is living up to your organization's brand.
Don't worry though, there are some really creative real estate advertising ideas you likely aren't using that can give you some new ways to reach your target audience, keep you on the legal side of the law and protect your brand image. Forbes magazine suggests three out-of-the-box ideas, but here's five additional ones that are specific to commercial real estate advertising.
Direct Mail – Although we've grown somewhat accustomed to not receiving hard copy mail, direct mail is still a powerful marketing tool for commercial real estate lead generation. It's tactile, stimulating to the senses and carries a personal one-to-one touch that's somehow often lost in this digital age. Be sure to purchase a good list or use your own in-house list to bolster your success.
Online Advertisements – While some residential agents have claimed success with free services like Craigslist which is easy to use, this may not attract the commercial real estate audience that you want. However, there's other great ways to advertise online. For instance pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is the process of soliciting business online through companies like Google, Facebook, Bing, and Others. The beauty of PPC marketing is that you only pay when an ad is clicked on – thus you only pay when an ad works. Alternatively, look to local trade associations that cater to your target audience, they may have an online presence like a website or e-newsletter for which they'll accept advertisements. These are usually comparatively inexpensive and provide a high-degree of targeting.
Print ads – The classic newspaper ad is still a great way to reach audiences, but a full page ad in the business section the Wall Street Journal can easily be a six-figure expenditure. Instead, look to local papers that may have a weekly real estate section. Some outdoor advertising can be fairly cost effective and transit ads are another consideration. Another thought is to target specific geographies that may be the home or business place of your target audiences. Look to local chambers of commerce, business associations or even churches for opportunities to place print ads in their newsletters or bulletins.
Websites – You undoubtedly have a well-designed commercial real estate website for your own business. Think about placing an ad on your homepage, so that when prospective clients visit your site, they're immediately greeted with your offering. Alternatively, look to vendors and other partners for opportunities to advertise on their sites.
Word of Mouth – The commercial real estate industry was built on interpersonal relationships and despite all the technology we have today, word-of-mouth advertising is still one of the most effective means of getting the word out about your offerings. Join and participate in local networking groups – not just ones for real estate professionals, but seek out groups where you're likely to find investors, buyers and leasers. When you have the opportunity to introduce yourself at their gatherings, always tell about your latest offering. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have some flyers or brochures on-hand just in case you encounter an interested party.