Marketing Tips Part 4

March 20, 2003


By: Matt Michel

Have you ever noticed how all yellow pages ads look exactly alike? When I lead a marketing seminar, one of the things I do is rip the yellow pages of one listing from the hotel phone book, pass the ads around, have the seminar participants read everything but the name, and see if any stand out. Rarely, rarely does one ad stand out for *any* reason.

I figured the ads were alike because the advertisers were unimaginative. Nope, it’s the directories. Yellow pages reps and their in-house designers follow “formula” marketing. Hoo boy, do they follow formula marketing. Formula marketing’s okay unless everyone is using the same recipe side-by-side, which describes the yellow pages to a tee.

Recently, I spent a few minutes with a former yellow pages marketing executive. She told me that she started working for the yellow pages when she relocated and took a temp job with a directory. She was a $10 per hour temp, whose job was to design yellow pages ads. No experience was necessary.

As she explained it, often the only information she would receive from the sales rep was the company contact information and the listing. She had nothing else to go on. To figure out what copy to include, she looked at other ads in the listing. In other words, one ad was copied from another, right down to the list of products and services. No wonder they’re all the same.

Creativity was not encouraged. There wasn’t time for it. She had to design 45 to 50 ads every day, or one ad every ten minutes or so (assuming she didn’t take a break to get coffee, go to the bathroom, take time to ask a question or two of the rep, or any other activity).

The yellow pages are expensive. They are often necessary; though I’m convinced an aggressive marketer doesn’t need a big ad. Aggressive marketers can utilize their money elsewhere and generate equal or superior results with the added knowledge that they are controlling their own destiny and not subject to a potential business destroying careless mistake by a $10 an hour, temporary agency, untrained, uninformed, copy cat graphics designer, vomiting out ads at the rate of one every ten minutes. However, that’s another rabbit trail for another day.

When your yellow pages book comes due, try a different approach. Hire a graphics designer to create an ad for you. Sit down and explain what you want. Tell the graphics designer to give you two or three layouts to choose from. Copy them on yellow paper and insert them into a directory to see how they look compared to the other ads. Show them to friends and neighbors who do NOT work in your industry and get their opinion. Ask what appeals to them as consumers and why.

Remember, different is good. When everyone else looks the same, you stand out by being different.

It really doesn’t matter if most people hate your ad, as long as it appeals to some and there’s nothing else like it in the listing. If you’re in a metro area with lots of ads and 90% of the public hates your ad but 10% love it, get ready. You’re in for a windfall.

Also, don’t be tempted by the specialty yellow pages agencies. While their ads tend to look a lot better than the ads from the yellow pages artists, each firms ads tend to look like other ads designed by the firm. If anyone else in your listing uses them, your ad will probably closely resemble theirs. That’s not different, it’s just less different. Call a graphics artist. Tell him you want to be different. Tell him how your company is different. Stand out.

Be different and prosper.

Source: Comanche Marketing. Reprinted by permission.
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Copyright © 2002 Matt Michel

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