Types of Advertising:
How to Create A Strong Yellow Pages Ad
by Tom Egelhoff
The most popular way to find a service or business on a local level in the United States is by far the Yellow Pages.
While a sizable majority use the online Yellow Pages many folks in small towns still rely on the good old fashioned phone book.
"Let your fingers do the walking", says it all. If you think you don't use the Yellow Pages that much, put it in the basement for a month and see how many times you reach for it.
If you are in a service business: carpet cleaning, plumbing, carpentry or a contractor or electrician you'll get a lot of calls from the Yellow Pages.
For some unknown reason, the term Yellow Pages was never copyrighted by anyone, so you see it used by all sorts of local telephone directories.
Here are some of the strengths and weaknesses of the Yellow Pages:
Strenghts Of The Yellow Pages
Buyers: By the time a person gets to the Yellow Pages, they are already sold, they are looking for the place to buy.
Credibility: Most fly-by-night companies don't go to the time and expense of a Yellow Pages ad. If a company has a Yellow Pages ad, there is a perception, that the company is probably honest and capable.
Classifications: If your business wears many hats, you can advertise under several headings. For example, a company that sells copy machines may also sell fax machines and would want to be under both listings and increase your customer base.
Free copy: Every person and business in your selling area that has a phone gets a free copy of your ad. Yellow Pages are used by 89.9% of all adults. It gives you total market coverage.
Twenty-four hours a day: It's ready to go and if you're a 24 hour business, customers are ready to buy.
Cost: The cost per thousand is relatively low compared to other media. (Remember to track cost per customer in your ad). Extends the reach of other media: "See our ad in the Yellow Pages under widgets."
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Yellow Page Weakness
Naked to the world: I turn to your Yellow Pages ad and there you are - with ALL your competitors.
There is a chance I might call a company with a bigger ad, or one that says they provide the specific service I need.
Long lead time: You need to have your ad ready almost six months before the new phone book comes out.
No Updates: Change of address, phone, new services, discontinued services? Sorry, no updates until the new phone book comes out.
No Coupons: I was working with a video company in San Diego at the beginning of the video store boom in the early 1980's. We made the major mistake of putting a two-for-one movie rental coupon, with no expiration date, in our Yellow Pages ad good at any of the 15 stores we had at that time.
This was during the early days when the average rental price was $5.00 per night. People got coupons out of phone booths, offices, no phone book in the city was safe.
For almost 18 month we gave away thousands of dollars in free movie rentals. It was a very painful lesson.
Before you start to feel too sorry for us, we did go on to build 42 stores in San Diego and eventually sold the chain to Blockbuster Video for $12.5 million.
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How To Do Your Own Ad The Right Way
One of the most important points in all my books and articles are trying to finds ways to save money on advertising. This is not one of those places.
When you contact your Yellow Pages Rep, they are going to tell you that the design of the ad will be included in the price of the ad. This may vary from one area to the next, but it's generally true.
"What's the problem?" "I'm saving money on graphic design charges, aren't I?" Yes, you are but...
Here's the problem. All your advertising pieces should have a recurring "theme" or family resemblance.
Same colors in the logo, same typefaces in the brochure as in the newspaper ads and flyers. When you create an image for your business, that image should be expressed accurately in "all" your advertising materials.
Your Yellow Pages ad should be one of your most viewed forms of advertising. Any deviation from your theme might confuse your customers.
Ads designed by the Yellow Page designers tend to look alike. Check your own copy. Look at your competitors. Don't you notice a certain sameness?
So, do it right, and have the same people who designed your business cards, brochures and other materials, create your Yellow Pages ad.
Save money by having your designer create pieces of ads, in a variety of sizes, that can be assembled as needed for any ad at no additional cost. If you are the designer then you end up saving on your own services.
Part two: If you're the designer, make sure you lay the ad out with the important things first. This is a media where people go mainly to use the phone.
Your Yellow Pages ad is designed to do one thing--get people to call you on the phone. So what are the most important components to put in the ad?
Start by making a list of what absolutely, positively has to be in your ad. Don't create a great message that leaves no room for the phone, logo, address or other essentials.
Remember, we want a call or a visit to our web site from our customer. Use the ad to create curiosity, don't ask the ad to close the sale for you.
Use these rules for all of your advertising and watch your sales improve.
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Yellow Pages And The Internet
One of the biggest mistakes I see is business owners just adding their web site to their Yellow Pages ad.
Here are two things I suggest:
One, make your web site bigger than the phone number. Why? You need to get them out of the Yellow Pages and away from all your competitors right next to you.
Two, Put something in your ad that encourages them to go to your site. I would use something like "see our site for special offers" or discount coupons.
If they're ready to call you they can still find the number in the ad. If not, then send them to the web page where you have more space to sell them.
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The Final Word On The Yellow Pages
I think the consensus here is clear. If you can afford to be in the Yellow Pages, do it.
When I first opened my marketing business in 1985, the profit from my first call paid for my Yellow Pages ad for the year.
However, I placed a larger ad in a regional Yellow Pages and never received a single call from that ad. I'm not saying don't advertise in regional books, but you may want to ask similar businesses how their ads are doing.
When in doubt, do what I did...Test an ad and find out. If it works next time buy a larger ad.
Two good Yellow Pages resources to help you design and buy ads that work are: "Advertising In The Yellow Pages" by W.F. Wagner, and "Getting The Most From Your Yellow Pages Advertising" by Barry Maher.
Return to the "Low Cost Advertising" Directory
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Based in Bozeman, MT, Tom Egelhoff is the author of How To Market, Advertise & Promote Your Business Or Service In A Small Town, and The Small Town Advertising Handbook: How To Say More And Spend Less. He is also a seminar and workshop presenter and trainer. He may be reached at 406-585-0219 or PO Box 271, Bozeman, MT 59771-0271
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