Second of two parts.
YOU SHOULD BE spending less money on a smaller Yellow Pages ad, and we talked about the reasons why in last month's column ("What your Yellow Pages rep is NOT telling you," July, pg. 47). The times are changing, and you should be changing along with them.
Yellow Pages reps don't want you to change, however, and they'll play on your fear of change. As promised last month, here are a few things that will make them fearful of you.
First, set a firm budget. See roughly what size ad that'll get you the sections you want. (The worst size is a quarter page since you can't help but get on a page with three other competitors.) Scan the pages with the ads you're likely to appear with for color or non-color. Choose the "opposite" of what the norm is doing. Then make a greatly reduced offer for all you ideally want. And wait.
They'll have several "deadlines" that magically appear and reappear depending on whether you've written them a check yet. Like I said, "magic." Stall until the real deadline and create an ad following these rules. Like I said when I started this column last month, they wish I'd just shut up and go away.
So let me spout this out before they start circling my house.
Double your leads
Here's how to create a Yellow Pages ad that doubles your leads:
1. Headline. Grab your reader's eyeballs, right now, and tell them an immediate gain or benefit in a distinctive way. (Look at your competitor's ads for ways not to do it, thus guaranteeing your distinction.)
Warning: Some Yellow Pages publishers are now outlawing the use of "Warning" or "Consumer Warning" as a headline. You think it's because they got poor results? Hardly. Though we've never created such an ad, we know exactly why they're effective. Fear is a powerful motivator, but as a headline this is even better ...
2. Solve their problems. That means built, fixed, replaced or upgraded in the most painless way ( I did NOT say cheapest). And you'll do this by showing lots of ...
3. "Reasons why" copy. These are generally lined up as specific bullet points showing how you "know" their problem( s) including what they'd rather avoid by choosing poorly. No finger pointing, only how you're different. This often includes ...
4. Risk reversals. Boldly state your guarantees, the stronger the better. These are your most powerful weapons to reduce call resistance. Your competition thinks it's done with starbursts or saying, "For all your plumbing needs." It's not. Put your prospect at ease to call and you'll get more calls. To make sure, wrap your ad up with a solid ...
5. Call to action. You think you can just plop your phone number in the ad and hope they'll call you? No way. To drive leads, you tell them what to do and that means to call — now if not sooner — to solve their problem. We generally put the phone number in the bottom right.
Lastly, don't spend a bunch of time choosing cute cartoon clip art, or wondering if your bullets should be red or blue. Those are filler details. The above list is your "gold" list, so spend most of the time on those, with about half that time spent on the headline alone. We have ads where a headline change alone resulted in a 45% lead increase.
Here are three graphical elements that do increase Yellow Page leads:
- Sans serif fonts for headlines (We just secured a dead ringer for what is called the most legible font on the planet and cost the researching entity $13 million to create. I can't reprint it here but can send requesters a sample.);
- Dotted line boxes used sparingly;
- Photos of the owner or satisfied consumer with a caption. Never run a photo without a compelling caption.
By the way, the above list does not include your building, your trucks or your cocker spaniel. Unless you're selling them, I'd leave them out of the ad.
I can tell you what else will or won't work for your ad. Simply fax or e-mail us a copy with your request. I'll also send you a bit longer report on exactly which type headlines work best plus how to keep your customers out of the Yellow Pages.
As a plumber, please know that the marketing world is changing, and the one for the Yellow Pages has changed drastically. So change your ad and budget for the better and pocket some money while you get more leads.
Maybe the Yellow Pages aren't so bad after all — once you know how to make your ad pay you back with a handsome profit.
Adams Hudson is president of Hudson Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. Hudson Ink is making the following Yellow Pages reports and marketing tools available at no charge to the first 100 submissions from readers of this month's column: "Double Your Yellow Pages Leads Now," showing winning headline techniques, phrases that drive leads and " forbidden" phrases to avoid; "Five Yellow Pages Ad Rules You Cannot Break," describing the "Z-pattern," correct phone number placement and "banned" techniques that get calls; "Figure Your Yellow Pages Budget The Right Way"; "How to Choose Which Sections in Which Books In Your Market"; and, as a bonus, a critique of your Yellow Pages ad (or any ad, letter or postcard). E-mail your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Hudson Ink can be reached at 800/489-9099.