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Ten Reasons Why Most Yellow Page Ads Fail -And Yours Does Not Have to

By Dr. Lynella Grant
Posted Thursday, January 27, 2005

Grant Directory users are ready to buy Yellow Pages have a major advantage over all other forms of advertising. It's used precisely when people have decided to buy. They open the directory to check out options and sources. The directory doesn't create their desire, but assists in finding the products and services they want. A typical telephone directory has 18,000 display ads - a recipe for sensory overload. Even within any category, readers encounter page after page of look-alikes, all jammed together. So it's easy for advertisers to get overlooked. Catching the reader's attention is tough - unless your ad differs from the others in ways that matter to readers. Find out how to get more mileage from your ad at ( a smarter way to attract Yellow Page customers.

The ideal Yellow Page ad provides the answers readers want to find A great ad provides the connection between what buyers expect to learn before buying AND what your particular business offers. The more precisely a business understands its customers' frame of mind, the better it anticipates and answers their questions. It can provide specifics, instead of the general phrases appearing in every competitors' ads.

Avoid these common reasons why directory ads fail, so you get more mileage from your ad dollars. And a higher percentage of callers and sales.

1. Fails to provide the information directory users want Information trumps images and expensive extras, like color. Readers are looking for specific answers. Use your ad space delivering them. Words provide persuasion's heavy lifting. If your message applies equally to the other ads around yours, you haven't sharpened it enough. Keep honing the copy until it embodies why people prefer YOU.

2. Fades into background - doesn't get noticed While larger ads can be overlooked, smaller ads have to work harder for the same shot at being noticed. Overlooked ads cost just as much as chosen ones. The solution isn't about changing the size, but focusing the words to match what readers want to know. It comes down to saying something unique and relevant to them.

3. Treats the business name or logo like a benefit It isn't. That's probably the least relevant information, as far as directory users are concerned. Yellow Pages aren't the way to build name recognition. But if you've already developed name recognition in other ways, you have a major chance of getting called.

4. Inconvenient business location Half of all users scan for location before actually reading the ads' information. They only pay attention to businesses that are convenient (within driving distance) and easy to find. (That distance varies depending on the product or service.) So make sure your location is prominent and findable (maybe a map). Or compensate for an undesirable location with house calls or free delivery.

5. Expects more than an ad could possibly deliver This problem isn't about the ad, but the advertiser's frame of mind. There's too much hype and biased statistics about what the directory can deliver. New businesses, especially, have unrealistic expectations. The longer a business is in operation, the less impact their listing has upon drawing new business.

6. Treats the Yellow Pages like a stand-alone marketing method It works best for getting new customers, to capture the "undecideds." But relying on mostly new business is an inefficient way to operate. An enterprise also needs repeat customers and referrals to balance out the high financial and effort costs necessary to keep attracting new ones. Therefore, a business needs a variety of strategies to keep, as well as find, buyers.

7. Trusts ad size and placement to do the work Industry statistics show that larger ads and those toward the front of the category get more calls. But that over simplifies what makes people choose a particular ad. If an ad doesn't fit the reader's preferences or match what they're looking for, it will be passed by (whatever its size).

8. Looks like the rest Too bad if your ad doesn't capture the eye in the two seconds it passed by - then landed somewhere else. That's all the attention most ads get. Look-alike ads were probably done for free by directory employees. They follow standardized guidelines and templates without much variation. And they don't have a clue about what's special about your operation. That's not the best way to go.

9. Fails to track the calls so you know why people call No getting around it, if you don't keep track of customers you can't tell how they find you. Or what's working (or not). Logging the source of new business shows how much credit to give to the Yellow Pages (or other marketing efforts).

10. Callers can't get information they want That ad did its job fine. But the customer still got away because the call wasn't answered or desired information wasn't forthcoming. Fielding calls effectively is crucial because unsatisfied callers just call the next ad. Develop a strategy that covers all your bases An attention-grabbing Yellow Page ad doesn't just happen. The business needs to back it up with additional promotion to get more than their share of calls. But when the directory works together with other marketing effort, they all do better.

©2004, Lynella Grant

About the Author
--Dr. Lynella Grant, an expert in visual communication. How printed materials send signals that strengthen or undo the words. Author, The Business Card Book & Yellow Page Smarts ( Off the Page Press (719) 395-9450


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