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Streetwise Tips on Yellow Pages Advertising

Going broke
One cold winter day, while selling newspaper advertising, I called on a service business. The owner told me he was going out of business because he couldnít afford to pay the monthly bill for his Yellow Pages advertising. If he didnít pay his bill soon, the phone company was going to disconnect his phone.

This may be an extreme case. But many small business people buy larger Yellow Pages ad space than they should. Yellow Pages advertising salespeople are among the best in the industry and among the best paid. Usually a large portion of their pay package is incentive-based; the larger the ad they sell you, the more money they pocket.

Be aware of the common misleading pitch Yellow Pages salespeople make. They quote you the cost of your ad space in terms of x dollars per week, month, or day. ďThink of the ad not as $12,000 per year, but only $32 per day.Ē The problem is that you canít cancel your Yellow Pages ad in the middle of the year if it isnít working, if business has fallen off for the season, or if you run into a cash flow problem. No matter how you are billed, you have purchased the ad space for one year. Think of it this way: your ad is permanently in the book for a period of one year, and it canít be removed mid-year!

Another common ploy Yellow Pages advertising people use is to offer to ďassist you with the ad design.Ē Oddly, the design concepts they recommend work best in the larger-size ads! And sometimes they even suggest that you place an ad under each of the several different categories your product or service relates to. Donít fall for this ploy!

Place one small ad under the single most promising category and test your results over the first year. Only if your results are good should you consider increasing your Yellow Pages exposure in future years.

If you have a local service business, you may want to get feedback from noncompeting Yellow Pages advertisers in your category. You want to find out how their Yellow Pages advertising has worked out for them. You can do this by contacting advertisers that are not in your service area. If you donít have the numbers for such people, contact your trade association or ask one of your vendors. Donít ask a Yellow Pages sales representative for a referral.

You might also want to call each of the advertisers listed in your area book under your category. If more than a very small percentage of the phone numbers you try have been disconnected, think twice about placing an expensive ad in your Yellow Pages.

Advertising should be tested before you make a big commitment to a campaign or a large-size ad. Go light on your Yellow Pages advertising for the first year. If it really works for you, then consider placing a larger ad or expanding into ad spaces under multiple categories.

Other advertiserís ads
Which Yellow Pages ads are working? You canít know for sure, but there is one way to be fairly confident.

Call up every advertiser in the category you are considering placing an ad in. See which firms quickly ask you how you heard about their business or where you saw their ad. Presto! This means the company is currently testing all of their advertisingóand chances are this test procedure is an on-going policy and they tested last year as well.

Next, pull out your old phone books and see what type of ad they placed in that book. If their ad in last yearís Yellow Pages is similar to this yearís ad, then that ad is working for them. If this yearís ad is larger, then the Yellow Pages have worked out terrifically for them. If this yearís is smaller, then they probably werenít pleased with the response.

Ad copy
If you are having difficulty determining what ad copy to run in your Yellow Pages ad, follow one guideline. Be less experimental than you might be in other types of media ads. Remember, if the ad doesnít work, you canít change it until the following year.

Especially if you operate a service business, donít hesitate to run an ad that is similar to those being run by your successful competitors. Just donít copy their wording or ad format exactly! Keep in mind that a big ad is not necessarily indicative of a companyís success or the success of their Yellow Pages advertising.

Buy advertising in one phone book first
Unless youíve got a ton of money to burn, try one Yellow Pages directory first, and measure results before advertising in additional directories. Service-based businesses especially should start with one directory first.

Keep it simple
Donít cram too much information into a Yellow Pages ad or it wonít attract peopleís attention. Have a strong headline that quickly gets your main selling point across.

* Source Streetwise Small Business Start-Up

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