From the June 2006 issue of Entrepreneur

Put your marketing message where your best prospects can't miss it. From posters in college campus laundry rooms and major health clubs to ads on hospitality carts that cruise golf courses, you can choose the right place and context for your advertising. Place-based advertising, or what the industry calls "alternative out-of-home" advertising, allows you to reach prospects wherever they happen to be and when they're in a receptive frame of mind.

There are numerous place-based options to fit any goal and budget, and that can make choosing just the right ones a tricky job. When evaluating this type of advertising opportunity, be sure you can answer yes to one or more of these five important questions:

1. Does the location draw your best prospects? What makes place-based ads so attractive is that they can literally go wherever your prospects go. Are your best prospects tennis players? You can advertise on scoreboards at public tennis courts. Do you want to reach boaters? You can place ads and informational materials at their favorite marinas. There are posters above diaper-changing stations that target parents and on phone kiosks located near public basketball courts and urban parks that reach teenage boys. Where will your best prospects be when they see your ad?

2. Does the ad appear in the right context? An ad for sports apparel on a phone kiosk near an urban ball court grabs the attention of teens because it reaches them when they're in exactly the right state of mind. Ads that reach prospects in the wrong context may fall flat. When would you be more receptive to the marketing for a new diet plan--while having pizza and beer for dinner, or the next morning while you're working off those extra calories at the gym? It's no wonder that major gyms now accommodate video and other advertising vehicles featuring fitness and health-related products.

3. Can your place-based ad influence a purchase? Often, the best place-based media reach your prospects when they're in a position to buy what you sell. Ads and coupons on grocery store receipts can entice customers to come back for special promotions on products they might never have tried. And they can also result in immediate sales for nearby retailers, such as coffee shops and ice cream parlors. Determine where your customers will be when they're deciding to buy what you sell, and then look for place-based media opportunities there.

4. Is the venue appropriate for your company's message? When evaluating an out-of-home advertising venue or tactic, consider whether it matches the tone and themes of your company's overall marketing campaign. For example, K9 Billboards offers advertising opportunities on special dog harnesses. The pooches become walking billboards on city streets. But an upscale, gourmet restaurant would do well to avoid this tactic--even if the dogs stroll past the homes and businesses of its targeted patrons--lest the impression conveyed be that the restaurant's food is going to the dogs.

5. Can your place-based advertising create community goodwill? Some types of location-based media can do wonders for your company's image. Naming rights are now available for many local parks and nature trails. Sponsoring these public areas can boost your company's image as a good citizen of the community. You can even put your company's logo at the bottom of your local swimming pool or on the scoreboard of your neighborhood ballpark. It's a great way to show your support for any organization, from the local swim team to Little League, all the while building name recognition for your business.

With the proliferation of compelling opportunities like these, you can choose just one--or a mix of several--to achieve your marketing goals.