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Cut down the expense of advertising with some lateral thinking

There's no doubt that advertising can expand your business, but it can be expensive. If you apply some lateral thinking, though, there are plenty of cut-price channels to spread your message. You might even be looking at one right now.

One of Foxtons' eyecatching Mini CoopersA survey, carried out by Microsoft and the British Chambers of Commerce, found that cost was the main reason why small businesses chose not to advertise. Yet three-quarters of small firms believed they would see benefits if they were to increase their advertising. So how can you get your company in front of potential customers, at minimal cost?

One small business in five uses its vehicles as mobile billboards. A van in company livery will send good signals about the professionalism of your business, and provides an opportunity to present your contact details to passers-by.

Admittedly, your office telephone probably won't start ringing off the hook just because you put the number on the side of your van. But it won't cost a lot in the grand scheme of things, and if it generates a single sales lead, you're probably in profit. Even better, put your website address up there too - words tend to be more memorable than telephone numbers.


Foxtons, a leading London estate agent, uses its fleet of over 450 company Mini Coopers as moving billboards. Every year they give the fleet a new look: in 2005 it's the "Camo Mini" which has been "inspired by urban jungle culture". Previously they've used hippy flowers, psychedelic fonts and hot rod flames. It may not tell you a lot about how they sell houses, but it certainly catches the eye around town.

But if your promotional budget doesn't stretch to a fleet of BMWs, there are plenty of other options available. You may be looking at one right now... or rather, the bloke sitting opposite you may be.

Passive audience

When you flip open the lid of your laptop, in a cafe or on the train, what does everyone else see? Probably just a flat piece of grey or black plastic. Or, to put it another way, a blank canvas - and more free advertising space.

Quote�Your audience is seated and passive, so make them curious.�End Quote
Andy Jennings, Ammunition

"Your audience is seated and passive," says Andy Jennings, creative director at design agency Ammunition, "so make them curious."

"What sort of mindset will the person reading your ad be in?" asks Laura Roberts of communications consultancy Sparkler. "Tired, bored, fed up with work, busy? How can you tune into their mindset and make them believe you understand their needs, without overcomplicating the message?"


Laura recommends you give some thought to what you can achieve with a laptop ad, and what response you want to encourage. "Think about what a piece of laptop advertising is best at communicating," she suggests. "Probably not full blown case studies; but it can give a flavour of who are and what you do.

"Think about what it is you’re expecting people to do as a result of seeing your laptop ad – speak to you there and then, contact you by phone, or look at your website? How will your ad prompt them to do this? And how will you respond if they do initiate some sort of action?"

Try it for yourself

If you use your laptop when you're out and about then why not use it to advertise? You can download our templates and use them to make adverts to stick on your laptop lid:

For Microsoft Word

For Microsoft Publisher

You can download other templates for adverts, flyers and posters from Microsoft Office Online.

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