Yellow Pages, A Good Investment or a Cost…13 ways to make your ads work for you!

Source: Chris Nobbs ABC Business

Yellow Pages, A Good Investment or a Cost.

Yellow Pages is and will continue to be one of the best places to advertise products and services because of two key reasons;

  1. Customer Demand exists – Yellow Pages directories have existed for many years and as such consumers have been educated to use them on a regular basis. Even with the emergence of technology based alternatives (Yellow Pages Online) these options tend to compliment the very strong book based directories.
  2. Customers Use & Buy – The majority of Australian Adults use at least one form of the Yellow Pages at least once per year. Of those using the Yellow Pages over 80% contact at least one business, and of these 49% actually purchase from the business.

For these reasons most businesses can be found in the Yellow Pages and quite a number have multiple listings (in different categories) and or larger line or display advertisements. 

The Challenge

Even though the Yellow Pages is a proven and successful directory the challenge for all business owners in ‘How do I convince the buyer that they should contact me, and not my competitor?’ Sadly over 90% of ALL Yellow Pages advertisements are WEAK, which means that rather than successfully influencing the buyer advertisers in many categories look very similar leaving the decision purely to the buyer.

To this end there are a number of Myths about Yellow Pages advertising;

  • Bigger Ads are always better
  • The bigger the size of Business Name/ Logo in the ad the better
  • Lots of White Space gets buyer attention
  • Heavy Borders around Ads attract buyer attention
  • Colour will get more buyer attention
  • Including details of open hours, address, credit cards etc will get more calls
  • Using multiple listings will get a better result

A lot of these myths are heavily promoted by your Yellow Pages Sales representative, however remember that Yellow Pages does not get paid any extra for the success of your ad, merely the placement. So it is up to you to determine the best size of ad for your needs and develop the best possible ad content to maximise the return on your advertising investment. The information within this report will provide you with a number of ways you to improve the performance of your Yellow Pages advertisement, it is up to you what you do with this information.

What do you want your Yellow Pages Advertisement to do?

Before we begin to examine the ways to improve the performance of your Yellow Pages ad you first must be clear on What you want your Yellow Pages Advertisement to do. Put simply you want your ad to GET PROSPECTS TO CALL YOU! Therefore you want to design and place an advertisement that ensures prospects not only call you, but call you as their first and only choice.

I hear you saying “People will always call two or more businesses in a category to compare” and in some cases this is correct however this is primarily because of perceived indifference. This means if a prospect perceives that all businesses in a category are the same they will call a number of them to compare usually on price alone. The key to success is creating a point of difference in your advertisement so you stand out from your competitors.

What do Prospects Want?

Put simply prospects are looking for the following;

      Businesses who are different and can satisfy their need/want

     An indication that they will get ‘Value for Money’ NOT the cheapest price

     Experience, credibility, and recognised brands

     Warmth and Fun feeling within the business

     A way to shortlist quickly so they can contact as few options as possible to get the solution they

The businesses that use their advertising to address these needs will get more calls more of the time. So how are is your business fairing so far?

So How Can you get more out of Your Advertisement?

As mentioned from the outset of this report there are a number of ways to make your Yellow Pages ads work more effectively for you and these will be discussed now.

  1. Determine Optimal Size for your Ad

It is important to recognise that all other things being equal a bigger ad will get a better position within the directory and more responses. If you currently run just a simple listing and get X responses per year research has shown that you should expect that;

      A 1/16th of Page display Ad should get you 13X responses

      A 1/8th of Page display Ad should get you 18X responses

A 1/4 of Page display Ad should get you 21X responses

      A 1/2 of Page display Ad should get you 24X responses

Using the information above along with the expected cost of the ad you should complete a comparison of alternatives and determine the best size ad for your needs and budget. Remember that size is only one element, and with well constructed copy it is possible to get a smaller ad to work more effectively than a larger basic ad.


  1. Get Attention with a Good headline

It is important to have an attention grabbing headline at the top of your Yellow Pages ad. Resist the temptation (that a lot of advertisers do) to just put your company name big and bold at the top of the ad. Your name is unlikely to differentiate you within the clutter of many competing ads in a given category. 75% of the impact from a Yellow Pages ad is determined by the headline, and a good headline can increase the response rate from your ad by 20 times.

The headline you use should be linked to the benefit the prospect is likely to be looking for. For example if you are advertising Plumbing Services it is feasible to propose that the prospect looking for a plumber has an immediate problem with their plumbing. Hence a headline focussing on price is not likely to attract their attention. However a headline focussing on response time, 24 Hour availability, guaranteed to be fixed right the first time would be more likely to jump out. Also remember that the headline can either focus on the solution or the problem. In other words this means you can either promote the solution your business can bring OR promote fear about the problem if they choose anyone but you.

In order to create a good headline you should brainstorm (and write down) at least 10 alternatives which will allow your creative thoughts to evolve. Then test the most preferred ones out on people in your prospect target market.

  1. Give Your Prospects a Reason to Call

You will recall that earlier we talked about the importance of standing out from your competitors advertisements, and that your main objective for placing the Yellow Pages ad is to get prospects to call. So you need to ensure you give prospects a reason to call. You are probably thinking ‘they are going to call anyway given they are looking in the directory’. This is true however the prospects are likely to call a number of businesses in your category and your aim is to get them to call just one YOU!

Consider offering prospects information in the form of a report about the category you are in,   for example ‘Find out the 10 biggest mistakes customers make when buying a…’ or ‘Learn the 3 most important questions to ask when buying a …” Call 123 456 to get a Free report. Obviously when these calls come in you will collect the prospect details prior to providing the report.

  1. Promote Benefits NOT Features

One mistake a lot of business owners make is to list a broad range of features of either their product or services within their advertisement. Unfortunately customers buy benefits NOT features. So what is the difference? To use an example of a Lawn Mower Shop two of the features of their products/offer may be Low Maintenance Mowers, and a Try before you buy policy. Whilst these may sound somewhat appealing they stop short of telling the customer the true benefit to them. In these cases the benefits may be;

Low Maintenance Mowers - Save you time and money over the life of your mower

Try before you buy policy – Gives you the opportunity to try out and be completely happy with your mower before you buy it.

All product/ service features should have a true benefit to the customer, so brainstorm these and determine your Biggest Benefit. This should be the key focus within the ad.

  1. Include Customer Testimonials

Anyone looking for options to contact within a specific category in the Yellow Pages is likely to have limited knowledge and experience with businesses within that category so they are looking for any assurity they can get about a business. Carefully selected short customer testimonials can give that assurity and are a way for a current or past customer to talk to a prospective customer on your behalf. Customer testimonials are 5 times more powerful than the equivalent message that you could place. WHY? Because customers trust other customers!

  1. Ensure you have a Specific Call to Action

Many Yellow Pages Ads merely end quietly with a phone number. So why is that ‘quietly’? Well because it is vague and no driving the prospective customer to take some positive action. If you want to standout in a cluttered market of ads consider including a more direct call to action like ‘Call Now!’ or ‘Pick up the phone and call ….’ Or Don’t delay call … and start saving money today’ etc.

  1. Be Easy to Contact

One of the biggest frustrations and missed opportunities for businesses advertising within the Yellow Pages centres around their contact details. Make sure that you make it easy for ALL prospective customers to contact you. Prospective customers will try to contact you 1-2 times maximum. If your phone is engaged or rings out it is unlikely the prospect will keep trying. If your phone has an answering maching/message ensure that the message is warm, friendly and gives some indication/ assurity of when the call will be answered!

  1. Use Action Based Pictures

A Good pictures can tell a thousand words, but what is a good picture for an advertisement? Well it is important that the picture is quickly recognised and relates directly to the benefits of your business’s products/ services. The picture should either show action (eg someone using the product and getting the benefit) or an outcome (eg Before and After pictures). Make sure that if you are using pictures that you position them on the left hand side of the advertisement with the headline above, and the copy/ writing to the right. This will ensure prospective customers see it and read the copy as well! Finally do not feel obliged to use a picture in your ad. Assess if you feel the picture can tell a better story than just lots of words.

  1. Resist the Use of Colour

Many business owners believe (and the advertising sales people will agree) that a colour ad will be noticed more than a black and white one. All things being equal a coloured ad will stand out on a page. However when considering the use of colour you need to factor in the significant cost increase for colour. On average, the use of colour will cost you between 50-60% more for the same sized ad. This means that your colour ad must generate in excess of 60% more enquiries than an equivalent black and white ad. My preference would always be to consider increasing the size of the ad over including colour if the budget existed!

  1. Insist on Seeing an Ad Proof

In many cases the advertiser will offer to do the artwork for your ad for a fee. Consider your options here, if you already have a designer who has done artwork for you in the past it may be better to employ them to do the ad to ensure consistency. Whether you use the advertiser or your own designer to do the artwork always insist on seeing a full sized final advertisement proof. This will allow you to see and approve the final ad as it will appear in the directory. Many designers will also allow you to view ad concepts during the design stage depending upon the complexity of the ad. 

  1. Test and Measure Before placing the Ad

One thing that business owners fail to do is to test and measure their advertising before they invest heavily in it. Many Yellow Pages ads are a significant annual investment (as a percentage of turnover) for a business so if it were me I would want to test the ad prior to placement for 12 months (as you cannot change it in a hurry). One way to do this would be to consider running one or two of the ad options in alternate weeks in your local paper. This will allow you to measure responses on a micro scale as well as get some customer feedback. Whilst this may not be feasible for all businesses it will reduce the risk of placing a ‘dog’ ad for a full 12 months.

  1. Measure Your Yellow Pages Responses

Having previously discussed testing and measuring ads before you place them it is just as important to measure your responses to the ads daily. One of the easiest ways to do this is to get into the habit of asking all customers two (2) questions.

1.     Is this the first time you have visited us? / Have you used our products or services before?

2.     If first timers – Could I ask you how you heard of us?

Ask these questions of ALL people who contact your business and maintain a simple measuring sheet (we call them tick and flick sheets) where you (and your team) can keep an ongoing tally of what proportion of customers are first timers to the business, and where they heard about your business. This information will allow you to measure the effectiveness of your Yellow Pages ad, as well as any other forms of lead generation. This information will assist you to make an informed decision about future ad needs.


  1. Do Your Homework & Negotiate on Price of Ad

Many business owners fail to realise that the Yellow Pages business is just like their business. Whilst they have a set price structure for advertising space they also have an ability to discount prices and provide value add services in order to get the ad sale. And with the consumer trends towards using the internet and search engines some believe that traditional Yellow Pages ‘paper based’ directories are already seeing a reduction in consumer use, hence the need to offer advertisers negotiable options.

The first thing that a business owner needs to do before negotiating a Yellow Pages ad is to do their homework. If you have run the ad previously you need to clearly understand the results you are getting from the ad, and be able to compare this with the results from other advertising mediums. This will allow you to decide how important the Yellow Pages ad is within your marketing mix. If however this will be your first year advertising with the Yellow Pages then seek to understand the customer’s needs. Talk to customers about which directories they use to locate businesses. This is important as these days you have the White Pages Business Directory, the Yellow Pages Full Directories, the Yellow Pages Local Directories, and White Pages/ Yellow Pages online, and advertising in each will come at a cost.

If renewing your ad consider the following tips;

·         Meet with sales representative early in the process and indicate you are re-looking at your whole marketing program to get a better return on your marketing investment. Also advise that in line with marketing program you are planning to downgrade from display ad to a basic listing. Be vague on where funds are going to as the sales rep will ask. Finally you should indicate that you may reconsider, however ask them to contact you at the end of the campaign.

·         The longer you wait the better your position for the negotiation. As it nears the end of the campaign the sales rep is being put under more pressure from their bosses to reach their sales targets. So remember that the sales rep wants the sale as much as you want the ad.

·         When you get to the end of the campaign go back to your sales rep and advise them that you have heard of other advertisers getting discounts, and ask what they will offer you. It is not uncommon for discounts of up to and exceeding 50% to be achieved.

·         Always remember your position for the negotiation (ie Do you need the ad? What is your ideal sized ad? What are you prepared to pay? At what point are you prepared to say no I do not need the ad?)

If considering placing an ad for the first time consider the following tips;

·         Contact a sales rep and ask to see them. When they are finished their sales pitch let

 them know that you are interested however you would like them to contact you at the   

 end of the campaign. Work out the return you need from the ad at current price.

·            The sales rep will keep pressuring, so be prepared to ask them what sort of discount

   they would give for booking early. If the discount is less than 50% then tell them you will

   think about it. Keep asking for a better discount or other value adds until you are happy.

In Conclusion

Your Yellow Pages advertisement can be a great marketing tool to generate leads into your business. However too many business owners just merely book their ad, create ad copy that looks the same as others in their category, and place the ad. This ultimately leads to average results and often a poor return on their advertising investment.

To make sure you get the best ad for the best price, with the best possible return from your investment you must research your customers needs, negotiate for the best price with your sales rep, plan the ad content, and test/measure pre and post placement.