Apart from the major downside of the Yellow Pages that it is nipplepiercingly expensive, it is still a bottomachingly brilliant vehicle to take your marketing message to your target audience. Well, some people think, the YP is on its way out, and I totally agree, but I believe it has a few more years of marching to do until it completely vanishes into thin air or even into a puff of smoke.
The good news is that people who look you up in the Yellow Pages are very serious buyers. They need what you sell right now. So, when they contact you, you are in for a very short buying cycle. And that is a great advantage. However, this advantage comes at a price tag and a pretty high level of commitment from your end. The good news is that...
Some 97% of the Yellow Pages Ads Are Duds
Just look up the YP in any category. All the ads look exactly the same. No difference. Not a sausage. You can shift the company names between ads and you see that they all do the same thing the same way. There is no differentiation. They are like teenagers: They so desperately try to be different from everyone else that they end up looking and behaving exactly the same way as everyone else. Hm.
- Failing to do the necessary pre-placement planning: Typically when do business owners plan their Yellow Pages ads? Actually never, until they get a call from the YP rep, and they hand over their money to the rep and say they blindly trust the Yellow Pages' ad specialists to create the ad. Keep something in mind. The Yellow Pages doesn't care whether or not you make any business from your ad. With this in mind, what is the logic for the YP company to hire expensive ad specialists? Increasing overhead costs? No.
They will create an ad that looks exactly the same as all your competitors', so but your chance of being selected when potential buyers peruse your category is not much.
So, what to include in your pre-placement planning?
- Imitating the competition: Most YP advertisers are like teenagers: In their efforts of looking unique, they look exactly the same. Again, what happens when a business' YP ad comes up for renewal? The ad must be in within ten minutes, so the job gets dumped on a people who have never done advertising in their lives. They look up YP, copy one of the competitors' ads and place them. And retarded business owners all over the world fork out their hard-earned money for some braindead "me too" type ads. Here are the typical ways businesses imitate each other:
* The headline is replaced with the company name or logo.
* Benefits are replaced with product description. Hint: If you sell drills, advertise amazing holes, not drills. If you are a realtor, advertise quality of life not houses.
* Hours of business and location
* Company's slogan or mission
* "We take all credit cards"
And the normal reaction to all this rubbish is: "So what!?"
- Writing an ad that pleases you, while ignoring the buyer's self-interest: Most ads are "me" based: "Look what I want to sell you". They don't care about what buyers want to buy. Which only proves that so many companies totally don't understand their target markets and what they want. Just think of the hole and drill example. Don't get me wrong. I don't suggest extensive and expensive market research, but there are some cost-effective ways of testing the marketplace.
Just think about it. If you want to jump into the swimming pool, you just have to check it for water and temperature, and you are ready to swim at your heart's content. But you don't need to hire a team of experts to launch a full-blown research project on swimming pools, the science of concrete pouring and fluid dynamics. That's retarded but that what most companies do under the aegis of market research. Hint: How many people do you know who "research" their spouses before marrying them?
Don't waste your time and money researching the market. You will never get the true answers to your research. Instead of research, just keep testing the market. Then you find the true answer. You see Edison didn't research the light bulb. He tested his ideas over and over again, and then it worked out.
Before you place your YP, use some small ads in the local paper, or even better, use Google AdWords. Google can be your most trusted friend when it comes to testing your headlines and call for action.
- Failing to consider the five main components of the ad.
1) A kick-butt compelling headline: The headline is the ad for the ad. The headline alone can increase or reduce response rate by as much as 2100%. When you write your ad, you have to spend at least 80% of your time on the headline.
2) Attractive benefits: No one cares what kind of cleaning agents you use in your carpet cleaning business. To succeed, you must promote cleanliness. Without this, even if your headline catches their attention, the ad itself fails to keep their interest.
3) A sexy offer: After the benefits, you must offer a very specific offer. Personally I prefer to direct YP reader to the website where a free Special Report or some other free offer waits for them. But they have to put in their names and email addresses. This approach has never failed.
4) Call for action: This is a huge problem. Most ads are lame and don't ask readers to take any kind of action. Make sure you ask for a very specific action. Remember, your ad's job is to generate sales leads and sales. If your ad doesn't generate new business, it is dead, and you have just lost your money.
5) Appropriate contact information: Put in all the appropriate contact points where you can be reached.
Failing to position your company as a trusted resource: You have two options here: Either you compete with other advertisers by peddling your stuff, or position yourself as helpful resource and offer relevant information to aid your buyer's decision. Yes, most prospects who look you up in YP are "Ready to Buy" buyers, but it is still a nice and unique touch to offer some relevant information - and I am not talking about brochures or this kind of nonsense.
I mean some valuable stuff, like a Special Report or Consumer's Guide. Imagine. Every ad in your section is screaming, "Give me your money". But you say, "We have valuable information for you that can save you time or money. For a free report, "Ten Deadly Mistakes Accountants Make When Handling Their Own Taxes" call us at xxx-xxx-xxxx or visit our website at http://www.xxxx.com." Now this is an attractive proposition.
With this approach your ad stands out like a trombonist in a heavy metal band. You make your ad different. You create a predisposition towards your company. You position yourself as the expert of the category. It makes you unique for you alone are doing it.
- Failing to use other lead generation channels: The biggest problem is that you peg your future on one single channel of lead generation. It is like a one-legged table. While standing, it is fine, but when it collapses, then years and years of hard work can go down the toilet.
In order to get a steady stream of qualified sales leads, you need at least four channels of lead generation. One is your YP ad, but you need more, and I suggest that one channel is a properly structured website. I say properly structure because some 98% of all websites out there are total failures as lead generation channels.
All right. Some people say they have no intention to use their websites to bring in business. Then what is the point in having an expense in your business that is not producing? Would you have employees in your company who openly brag about their unwillingness to do any work? That is plain retarded.
- Failing to track responses. Over the years of writing Yellow Pages ads and organising campaigns for clients I have seen this over and over again. And do you know where this logic comes from. From large ad agencies that try to convince their clients that ads can't be traced and tracked, and that clients just have to fork out the dough and then fly blind. Originally I studied engineering, so for me everything must be traceable and trackable, and this habit has served me nicely over the years. Just figure out how to track your responses and don't believe the ad agencies. Hey, have you thought why most ad agencies use door-to-door peddlers to sell their services? Maybe because they are pretty lousy at advertising their own stuff and they have to resort to traditional prospecting grunt work. Just a thought really...
This article was written by Organisational Provocateur, Tom Bald Dog Varjan of Dynamic Innovations Squad.
Toms web site offers a broad range of tools, resources and services for professional service firms both gigantic and microscopic. For a FREE copy of Tom's Executive Black Paper: Ten Deadly Management (Mal)Practices That Often Bring Professional Service Firms to Incalculable Suffering or Even Agonising Death!", visit his site at http://www.di-squad.com.