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Vanity license plates

Vanity plates are neither vain, nor are they plates--discuss.

This term is a funny one, given than many of the people who get vanity license plates aren't using them to be vain--they're using them as marketing tools.

Not a bad idea for entrepreneurs, considering that much of their time is spent selling, notes Dennis Cowhey, whose self-published trivia book, What Does That Mean? ($14.95, 800-539-1233), details the personal stories behind some 800 vanity plates.

Cowhey doesn't mean to suggest that putting your company name or a description of your business on your plate will get you all kinds of new leads. But it will likely get people talking. "Every single thing you do that's self-promotional is a plus," he says, noting that around 60 percent of the vanity plates he found touted entrepreneurial ventures. "It's a great conversation-starter."

If your plate is interesting enough, people will approach you to ask about it--just like Cowhey did when he was conducting research for his book. And that creates the perfect opportunity for you to chat up your business.

Think carefully about what you put on your plate. If you just use your company name--which tells nothing about what your business has to offer--people probably won't care enough to ask about it. "It's better to put what you do," Cowhey advises. "The name is less interesting than some kind of statement about what you do."

You might not get a huge response to your plate. But even if you get just a few new customers, it'll pay off--and maybe even help pay for that vanity plate.

Need ideas? Check out Cowhey's book at http://www.vanity-plates.com for inspiration.

Karen E. Spaeder is a freelance business writer in Southern California.

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