Editor's note: Action Line is a weekly column from the Better Business Bureau answering consumers' questions and concerns about money and business issues.
Dear Action Line:
I am a new upstart business with little to no advertising dollars. I want to begin by handing out fliers and posters to the local businesses in my service area. Because I have never done this type of marketing before, are there any places I should not advertise? Wouldn't other businesses welcome new enterprises and therefore support this type of marketing? Please advise.
Congratulations on your new business venture. I know it can take a lot of time and effort to get a business up and running, especially when you're working with a limited budget.
Posting "bills" or fliers has been a quick and inexpensive way to promote and raise awareness about your business. Marketing your product relies heavily on handing out informational fliers and posters in an effort to introduce consumers to your product. But not all businesses will be as supportive of your marketing endeavors as others will.
This is definitely a situation that can get out of hand quickly as many upstart businesses use handbills and fliers as a means of convenient and inexpensive advertising.
"Post No Bills" is a way of letting the public know that you can't hang a printed notice or advertising poster in a particular location. Posting in this sense means to "affix" or attach something to a wall or other surface in a public place. And, the "bill" the sign refers to is just an archaic term for an advertisement of some sort.
This use of the word "bill" can still be found in the terms "billboard" and "handbill." Billboards of course are those large panels that dot freeways and highways with poster-sized advertisements. But many people do not know what handbills are. They are smaller advertisements that are typically delivered by hand. These days handbills are more commonly referred to as advertising fliers or leaflets.
Passing fliers around a neighborhood is a great way to drum up customers for a small business. But as you distribute those fliers, it's important to remember that certain locations are off-limits for posting a company's advertisements. Businesses, private residences or subdivisions clearly marked with a "Post No Bills" sign must be avoided. Stapling your notices in these locations can result in a hefty fine anywhere from $200 or up, depending on your city's ordinances. Other posting areas that can also lead to a fine include telephone poles, street signs, power poles, intersections and mailboxes.
When it comes to spreading the word about your new business, the best approach is to forget about mass distribution and instead hand deliver those fliers to the residents you know or businesses you frequent. This gets your advertising in the hands of people who are genuinely interested in your new business instead of creating an expensive pile of unwanted litter.
Joey Fernandez is assistant director of business services for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 1601 H St., Suite 101, Bakersfield, CA 93301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.