From the July 1996 issue of Entrepreneur

If the point of advertising is to increase your company's exposure, you can't do much better than billboards. Although somewhat pricey (typically $3,000 or more a month), a well-placed billboard could be the boldest way to attract customers.

Billboard advertising isn't for everyone. Service and consulting businesses, because they generally require lengthy explanation, aren't suited for billboard exposure. On the other hand, retail stores and restaurants are perfect for this medium. The key is knowing how to do it right.

Alf Nucifora, owner of Nucifora Consulting Group in Atlanta, counsels businesses large and small on how to get the most from their billboards. He maintains they can be an exceptional value, even for small businesses. "Today, people live in their cars," says Nucifora. "They're a captive audience." Here are a few of his tips for indelibly impressing that audience:

Use billboards to reinforce your image or announce your location, not to introduce a new company or product.

Keep verbiage brief (seven words should suffice) and type bold and legible.

Printing a phone number is usually not effective unless it's memorable.

Sharp, eye-catching graphics are a must. Consider the surrounding terrain when choosing colors.

Location is everything. The best locations typically carry the highest price tags and require the longest time commitment.

If billboards are beyond your budget, apply all the above rules to plastering your pitch on the side of a bus, bus shelter, subway station or kiosk. Most important, says Nucifora, "Have a precise, pithy message."

Waste Not

Want to make inroads with the media? Then listen up: They don't want cumbersome packages, 3-D pop-up press releases and bulky envelopes teeming with color slides and videotapes. In this environmentally conscious era, sending a barrage of unsolicited materials is frequently a good way to turn an editor off.

The best way to get an editor's attention: Find out how they like to receive story ideas, and pitch them that way. Some may like e-mail, others a brief fax, and plenty still prefer letters. "The first rule of good PR is putting yourself in the editor's shoes," says Bronwyn Fryer, a writer specializing in high-tech issues. Fryer should know: She receives so many packages, she's had to hire a professional recycler to cart the stuff away.

What does grab the editorial eye? Fryer says she pays attention to well-written and good-looking press materials.

Editorial distaste of waste applies to the mode of delivery, too. With smart companies striving to cut costs, using overnight delivery to send a press release announcing that your vice president is now senior vice president may brand you a spendthrift.

The bottom line: The more excessive the packaging and delivery, the less likely an editor will look kindly on your cause.

Right On Track

To some marketers, "quota" is a four-letter word. Set them too low, and your salespeople may not strive to reach beyond them. If they're too high, staff members who fall short may suffer from wounded morale. That's why many marketers are banishing the quota in favor of more positive, individualized goal-setting systems.

In the 12 years Michael Bloch has been printing the newspaper Business Strategies, he has never set a quota system for his advertising representatives. "Quotas don't serve a positive purpose," says the Pittsford, New York, publisher. "People need to know what's expected of them, but you get better results if you focus on [improving] measurable tasks." Instead of quotas, Bloch has his salespeople keep track of their phone calls, appointments and proposals for several weeks. Then he speaks to them individually about where they are and where they would like to be.

The idea behind Bloch's motivation method is to have salespeople focus on the things they can control. They don't have direct control over how many sales they close on any given day, but they can control the number of phone calls they place, the number of appointments they set, and the number of presentations they make to prospective clients. "Selling is a combination of specific tasks," says Bloch, "and if [salespeople] focus on those tasks and do them well, their sales will go up."