Marketing tactic: Yellow Page advertising
Purpose: Local advertising
Resources: Advertising budget, copywriter
What is Yellow Page Advertising?
To be technically correct, the Yellow Pages is a trademarked brand that's become synonymous with phone book directory marketing itself. For the purposes of this marketing tactic, we'll refer to all phone book marketing as Yellow Pages advertising. Yellow Pages advertising involves placing display advertisements in relevant categories within a phone book directory which are distributed to businesses and residences within a local geographical location.
Advantages of Yellow Page Advertising
Yellow Pages advertising attracts hot leads that are in a buying mode. Generally, people who use the Yellow Pages are looking to buy, so any incoming leads that you get from Yellow Page advertisements are considered high-quality and fairly easy to convert into paying customers.
Yellow Page advertising works very effectively for some businesses. Contrary to what you may have heard, Yellow Page advertising still works well within some industries. It works for professional services, especially ones that are needed in an emergency such as criminal attorneys, HVAC repair, carpet cleaning, pest control, etc. It also has moderate success with delivery restaurants and local attractions. Think about the times when you have opted to use a phone book. More than likely, it was when you needed to find a local service provider fast (hopefully not from a jail), or you were traveling and in a hotel room, or perhaps when you moved to a new house. If your business caters to any of these three areas, it may be worthwhile investigating as a potential marketing channel.
Yellow Pages attracts people who are going through life changes. People who are going through life changes such as marriage, divorce, purchasing a new home, legal issues, financial issues, child birth, starting a new business, moving, or changing jobs generally use the Yellow Pages when they don't have an immediate word-of-mouth referral from something that they know.
Yellow Pages advertising is still substantially lower in cost than radio or television and in some cases newspaper. As costly as Yellow pages advertising is, it's still the clear winner in terms of cost alone when compared to ad spots via mainstream radio, television and newspaper. Again, technology is evolving rapidly and the internet is lowering the costs to entering these once cost-prohibitive marketing channels as well. Yellow Pages also will allow you to pay your bill spread out over several months, which can be an advantage to some business owners. Again, remember not to focus so much on the overall costs of a particular marketing channel, but focus instead on the return on investment that it will give you.
Year-long ad exposure. Once you put a display ad in the Yellow Pages, it's out there for an entire year getting new leads for you.
Disadvantages of Yellow Page Advertising
The Yellow Pages are closed 99% of the time. Despite the fact that most advertisement sales people will tell you that 98% of all households and businesses have their directory; it's also just as true that 99% of the year, that Yellow Pages directory is closed. Only 1% of the time, when the need necessitates it, do people open up the Yellow Pages to find what it is they are looking for.
Yellow Page advertising can be expensive. For many small businesses, Yellow Pages advertising will be out of their marketing budget. It's important to note that ad placement in high-demand categories within the Yellow Pages will cost much more than low demand categories. This is partly why they don't offer published advertising rates - it's not the same across the board.
Yellow Page advertising isn't right for many types of businesses. Unless your business fits the description of one of the businesses I listed above; there's simply no reason why you need to spend money on Yellow Pages advertising. You won't get a good return on your investment.
Most Yellow Page advertisers waste their money by not using direct response ads. Pick up a phone book and flip through their yellow page section and look at the ads there. Most of those ads are brand advertisements which may look pretty, but don't drive a response and I can almost guarantee that 95% of those ads are not tracked by their advertisers.
Local internet search has lead to a decline in Yellow Page usage. With the growing popularity of internet search software like Google Places and Yelp available on smart phones, tablets and computers, technology is slowly killing off Yellow Page usage. Like newspaper publishing, technology will eventually kill off the paper directory. But we're still a decade out from that yet.
You're locked in for a year. Once you approve your ad in the Yellow Pages; you're stuck with that ad for the entire year. So make sure that you proofread your ad and design it so that it'll still be relevant a year later.
Saturated categories. Some Yellow Pages categories are heavily saturated, such as categories for attorneys and HVAC installation/repair. That will not only make it more difficult for you to be found in those categories, but it will also drive up your marketing costs as such categories fetch premium ad placement rates.
Limited reach. When you sign an ad insertion order for a Yellow Pages ad, you're agreeing to have your ad placed in directories that are being distributed within a specific geographic area. Depending on your business type, this might limit your marketing reach if your customers would drive further than the distributed area to do business with you.
Dealing with advertising salespeople. Yellow Pages advertising is a sales commission-driven business. If you inquire about pricing, they'll want to set up a meeting and sell you the largest ad space that your budget can afford, relating the successes of other similar competitors that have taken out huge ad spaces with them. The focus should always be on your return on investment, not ad space size, despite what they tell you.
Realize that Yellow Pages advertising isn't for all businesses. Pick up a current copy of the Yellow Pages and flip through the categories that your business would be in. How many ads do you see there? If you don't see very many, chances are that it hasn't worked for your competitors and it probably won't work for you. Try to put yourself in your customer's shoes - if you were your customer, would you use a phone book to find your business?
Place a direct response ad, not a brand ad in the Yellow Pages. Sales people might talk you out of this one because they hate when advertisers measure their Yellow Pages ROI, but make sure that the ad that you place with them is of the direct response variety and not a brand advertisement. Remember the difference; direct response stresses benefits has a strong call to action and is measurable. Brand ads sit there and look pretty like a vanity piece.
Drop a call to an advertiser. Before you drop a bunch of money into Yellow Pages advertising, you might want to drop a call to a business who already has an ad in the Yellow Pages. You might want to be a bit strategic in calling them because a competitor might not want to share their marketing stats with you. You can always call a similar, but not competing business, who is currently advertising in the Yellow Pages and let them know that you're thinking about advertising in the Yellow Pages and wanted to know if they thought it was a good choice. Try to pin down how many calls or roughly how much business comes through as a result of their Yellow Pages advertising. It might also be a good opportunity to set up joint venture & referral partner deals while you're at it!
Copywriting and design count. I recommend not letting the graphic design department of the Yellow Pages create your ad because it's going to be a cookie-cutter, brand-type advertisement that will look like all the other boring ads in the Yellow Pages. Remember, it's in the Yellow Pages best interest not to have you measure your results, so they'll design an advertisement that'll favor their business, not yours. Instead, invest in a competent ad designer to create a direct response campaign for this marketing channel that will draw the maximum amount of attention and that can be easily measured for ROI.
Track your results. Hopefully you've built a tracking device into your Yellow Pages ad so that you can measure your results. Common tracking devices are a dedicated phone number or a special coupon code that will allow advertisers to track response rates. See how much business you do over the course of a year.
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