Many contractors treat their trucks like mobile bulletin boards, not billboards. The trucks are cluttered up with an excess of decals, phone numbers, manufacturer logos, messages, etc. The consumer only has a few seconds to register and record the information on the truck. The more clutter that's there, the less likely it is that any one message will come through, or that the right message will come through.

Trucks get cluttered in four ways: third party logos are slapped all over the vehicle, banal bromides and service platitudes are expressed in the form of slogans, phone numbers proliferate, and bumper stickers abound.

Third Party Logos
Many contractors believe their brand benefits from associating with a manufacturer or other third-party brand. Maybe. But if that's the case, why don’t the big box retailers plaster their trucks and store-fronts with some of the better known brands they carry?

When retailers advertise the brands they sell, they promote a specific product (with price), usually in print advertising, and almost always partly funded by the manufacturer. By contrast, contractors promote a third party brands above their own on their businesses and trucks! They subordinate their brand to someone else’s!

The implicit message is that it's the third party brand that counts. Where it's purchased, the system design, and the quality of installation must not matter. Is that what you believe? Is that what you want to communicate?

You only have a few fleeting seconds for your truck to make an impression. What do you want to emphasize, your brand or another?

If you insist on displaying third party logos, clearly subordinate them. The third party logo should be located near the bottom of the truck and no larger than a credit card acceptance logo.

Slogans
Why are slogans bad? What's wrong with them? If it's a simple, clean slogan (e.g., your unique selling proposition), it may be appropriate. However, it's meaningless to tell most consumers that you're "radio dispatched" or that you offer "24 hour service." It's assumed.

Even if those bromides were meaningful, the truck isn't the place to push the message. A consumer can only read so much when the vehicle's in traffic. Keep it simple!!!

The one exception is the field of service. Don't assume the consumer knows what business you're in. Tell them! If you're a locksmith, state it. If you're plumbing, but also do heating and air conditioning, list all of these services. You do want them to associate your name and logo with the services you provide, so don't keep it a secret and don't assume that the consumer will figure it out from your name and logo alone, no matter how catchy the name.

Phone Numbers
Why do companies slap up to half a dozen phone numbers on the side of a truck? There may be some advantage to communicating that you're "local" by getting phone numbers from local exchanges from around town, but it's wasted on a truck. Of course you're local! The truck's there isn't it? If you didn't service that area, the truck would be somewhere else. Adding the phone numbers only adds to the clutter.

There's also little reason to display the phone number in 16 inch high letters to make it more visible. It's not as though the consumer's going to take out a pen in traffic, write down the phone number and call you simply because your truck looks cute. A consumer might remember an alpha number. He's more likely to remember a website URL.

Place a single phone number on the door, no larger than the contractor license number. Instead, emphasize your URL.

Bumper Stickers
Finally, never let your employees express themselves with bumper sticker art. It's clutter. It's usually in poor taste. It's likely to offend someone. Put a "save the whales" sticker on the truck and get the Rush Limbaugh fans mad. Put an NRA sticker on the truck and irritate the liberals. Put a sticker of the kid urinating on something or another and offend just about everyone. Put the sticker of one sports team on the truck and infuriate the fans of other teams. Put a sticker for a union and scare away the non-union customers. Put a sticker for a trade association and you're only advertising to your competitors. It's better to keep the bumper stickers off.

If you clutter the vehicle with messages, text, logos, and phone numbers, who knows what will stand out to the consumer? Who knows what they're going to remember? That is, if they remember anything.

Keep It Clean And Simple
Contrast the clutter on most service vehicles with the clean, simple, bold message that appears on FedEx trucks. Can you picture their trucks? If so, it proves the point. The FedEx logo stands out, clearly stands out, generating impressions all over town. It doesn't mean you should limit your message to your logo and nothing else, but it does show how a simple message that makes an impact is superior to a complex one that does not.

Simplify your truck. Large logos are better than small. Less clutter means fewer distractions. If a manufacturer wants space on your vehicle let him pay an advertising fee (good luck with that). It's your truck and your company. It should be your message. Lose the platitudes, but make sure you let people know what business you're in. Minimize the phone numbers and drop the bumper stickers.

Matt Michel is the CEO of the Service Roundtable . If you are an HVAC, plumbing, electrical, or solar contractor who needs help with sales, marketing, or generating greater profitability, the Service Roundtable can help. Moreover, the rebates from the company’s Roundtable Rewards buying group can pay for the $50 monthly membership with money left over. Call 877.262.3341 and ask for free tour of the members only website. Ask about the new turnkey Service Roundtable MoneyMail email marketing program. If you would like Matt Michel to speak at your meeting, call him direct at 214.995.8889 or email him at matt.michel@serviceroundtable.com.