Yes, I'm aware that the Hollywood writers' strike is long over, but the core issue has gained momentum and is snowballing straight toward your industry — and your bottom line.
See, the issue with the strike was never demand. People want their favorite shows and they want them on a predictable schedule. The issue is the direction of that demand, via television or online sources, and the compensation attached to each.
Likewise, homeowners always want toilets and showers that function on demand. But when they fail, how the prospect finds you is changing. Sure, their fingers still do the walking, but it's increasingly to online directory sources rather than the Yellow Pages.
Bill Gates recently shared this in a national article: “As dramatic as things happening on the Web are, that's actually what all advertising … will be in the future. …When you say something like ‘plumber,’ the (online) presentation will be far better than what you get in the Yellow Pages,” Gates said. “After all, we know your location and so we can cluster results around that. … Yellow Page usage amongst people in their, say below 50s, will drop to near zero over the next five years.”
Usage (called “lookups” in Yellow Pages speak) has dropped by 24% over the last 60 months, and it continues to decline. My children, ages 14 and 15, don't even know where our Yellow Page directory is.
So what does that mean for your Yellow Page ad? First off, rates are pretty much the same, so you're probably spending way more for fewer leads, driving your “per lead” cost through the roof. And this economy isn't helping.
Therefore, spending more than half of your marketing budget (less than what the average plumber spends) in the YP is a worse idea than ever. Plumbing contractors still rank sixth out of all spending categories for the entire Yellow Pages, but your leads continue to fall.
So, how do you get the most out of your Yellow Page ad? First of all, quit looking at your competition's ads for inspiration. They don't know what they're doing, and their ad likely was plucked from the same worn out bucket of ad sludge the YP designers have been using since the 70s. You need to professionally differentiate your ad from others.
Many companies can redesign your ad for lead generation. We redesign YP ads that out-pull the same size or larger ones they're replacing by 200% to 566%. How? Putting proven techniques and tested response strategies to work is the reason.
My main approach is to help contractors remember what they're selling. You aren't selling your service fleet, or a big logo or some stupid cartoon of an outhouse, so get that stuff out of the ad. You're selling a phone call. Your mission is to get the prospect to call you, right now, for the right reasons.
People want fast, informative, credible evidence that calling you is smart, and that's done with good design, copy and layout. There is no need for splashy graphics or tricky type to be randomly thrown in. Just state the benefits in your ads quickly and clearly so prospects will actually read them.
Like your installation jobs, your ads must be designed well to work well. But creating a lead-generating Yellow Page ad is not a mystery. In fact, to make your YP ads bring in more leads and profits, all it takes is following a few simple rules:
Always use a headline: You must compel people to stop and notice an ad that speaks to them with a clear, immediate benefit. This is done with a powerful headline.
The most powerful YP ads entice and identify with prospects through common problems, or a hopeful solution, but they always have a clear benefit, stated concisely in the form of an attention-grabbing headline.
Remember the target of the ad: (Hint: It is NOT you.) It's the prospect. It always is, always has been and always had better be. Always put the customer's benefits ahead of your greatness.
Instead of saying, “We have 24-hour service,” say “You get 24-hour service.” Instead of using “We've got 10-year warranties,” revise it to, “You get a 10-year warranty.” Change the words, and get more leads. It's that simple.
Give specific, measurable benefits in clear sentences: Don't waste your money on “fluffy or unclear” pseudo-benefits such as “We're fast and reliable” or “New water heaters save energy.”
Be specific, measured and clear. Speak in terms that benefit the prospect. Please, whatever you do, don't use the worn-out phrase, “For all your plumbing needs.”
Reduce your prospect's risk: Prospects have heard enough plumber horror stories to be trembling while looking. (If you tell me your “customers” find you in the Yellow Pages, you have a customer retention problem.)
Prospects want a credible, professional plumber. Your guarantees tell prospects that you care enough to put their concerns first. It proves you're committed to satisfaction and quality (without using those worn-out words).
Include a “call to action”: A good YP ad — no matter how simple it seems to you — must give clear instructions on what you want the prospect to do. Ask, or tell, your prospects what to do next to gain the benefits. Assume nothing. Spell it out.
When you're spending as much as you are for YP space, it's very important to make it work.
For superb, customer-generating Yellow Page ads, you must give readers enough information, laid out neatly, in easily understood “chunks” for them to call.
You can get more leads, at a lower cost per lead with a better ad. This way, you can spend your marketing savings and new lead counts on something more lucrative, like whatever Bill Gates is investing in. Have fun with your marketing!
Adams Hudson is president of Hudson Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. Call 1-800-489-9099 or check out www.hudsonink.com for free marketing articles and reports.