Too many businesses have no idea how well their Yellow Pages ads are working, or even if they're working. But the simple truth is that most businesses could be generating more business, if they only stopped breaking the Ten Commandments of Yellow Pages advertising.
First Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Whip It Up.
Many Yellow Page ads are whipped up in the few minutes the sales rep has left after trying to sell you a bigger ad. Ask - no, insist - that your directory publishers develop an ad for you that justifies the cost. If they can't or won't, have the ad produced yourself.
Second Commandment: Honor Thy Headlines.
The first piece of ad copy that readers see - the headline - has to be powerful enough to drag them away from all those competing ads. Never use your company name as your headline unless it really is that powerful, or it really is the most important selling copy in the ad.
Third Commandment: Honor Thy Illustration.
Nothing can turn a mediocre Yellow Pages ad into a great one faster than the right illustration. If your picture isn't worth a thousand words, find one that is.
Fourth Commandment: Remember Who You Are.
You have to include all the hard, factual information potential customers need to make a decision to call: be it about image, market niche, expertise, specialties, additional services, pricing, quality, speed, financing - whatever it might be. But at the same time, you have to differentiate yourself from all of the other ads. Never forget the key question: Why should someone call you instead of the gigantic full page color ad at the front of the heading?
Fifth Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Overburden the Eyeballs.
Your ad is competing for visibility and readability with every other ad under the heading. If it's difficult to read, it isn't going to be read. You've got to refine your copy until you can provide all the information directory users want and need in an ad that's so uncluttered and inviting that reading it becomes automatic.
Sixth Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Forget Placement.
Unfortunately, all things being equal, bigger ads get a greater response. They also get the best placement - closest to the front of the heading. And placement can be even more important than size.
The good news is that all things are seldom equal.
The biggest ad under the heading is not always the most effective. And a well-designed, visually appealing ad can make up for a lot of size, especially under a smaller heading where all the ads are on the same page or two. It's much more difficult of course to compete with ads on an earlier page. That page may never even be turned.
Always consider placement when you're deciding on ad size. Have your sales rep show you where the size you're considering would fall in this year's directory. That should give you an approximate idea of the position - relative to the competition - you'd have next year. Sometimes going up a single size and spending just a few more dollars will move you much closer to the front of the heading. Sometimes you can cut back in size without losing much at all in the way of position.
Seventh Commandment: Remember, Color over Position.
Color is eye catching. It's also expensive. If the money you'd be spending is approximately the same, you're better off significantly improving the size and placement of your ad than the color.
Eighth Commandment: Thou SHALT Track.
Perhaps the surest way to waste money is to advertise in a directory no one's using. Always make your rep prove value - especially when you're considering an independent directory (one not from the dominant local phone company). If he or she can't, don't put any real money there. Instead, try something small: perhaps even a simple in-column ad, or even just a listing. Track your response - survey your customers to discover how they discovered you - and next year you'll have your own proof. One way or the other.
Ninth Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Squander Yellow Pages Dollars on White Pages advertising.
If your customers are looking for you alphabetically in the white pages, they will find you. You have no competition there. So why are you considering that expensive white pages ad?
Tenth Commandment: Have Faith - But Get a Proof.
Always insist on a proof for your display ad. Remember the attorney who found herself advertising under REPTILES rather than ATTORNEYS. Perhaps a bit more truth in advertising than she counted on?
Barry Maher is the author of the completely-revised third edition of "the bible of Yellow Pages advertising," Getting the Most from Your Yellow Pages Advertising. www.barrymaher.com. TIME says "Barry Maher has helped thousands of businesses get the most effective and cost effective Yellow Pages advertising possible." Contact him and/or sign up for his newsletter at www.barrymaher.com.