What Your Y.P. Rep is NOT Going to Tell You

October 29, 2010

By Adams Hudson

"Plumbing Contractors have been overspending in the Yellow Pages for rotten results for far too long." And - silly me - I have every reason to tell you to get lots of very large Yellow Page ads... since we design ads for contractors. But I can't do that, especially not when I know this:

The Dismally Bad, No-Good News
Oh, let's see, where to start... okay, has the YP rep been in lately? Sorry, I should've asked "How many have come from any of several different books?"

Now let me guess, did they try to talk you into a bigger, more colorful ad in more sections? Did they possibly mention that if you "invest just a little bit more," you'll get the "free" web listing, and "if you sign right here, we'll give you this incredible rate" as long as you agree to do the same or more next year?

Two hints why this is happening: Hint #1: Reps work on commission, sometimes 100% commission. Hint #2: Unless you increase your annual expense with them, they probably don't get a commission at all.

A few more things you ought to know -

  1. Plumbers rank 3rd in Yellow Page spending out of all YP categories. Think that's why reps camp out in your office during "deadline" week, which mysteriously changes until you write a check?
  2. Of the $558 million dollars plumbers spend, your results continue to slip as your cost per lead goes up. How do I know?
  3. Over the last few years, Yellow Page references have slipped by nearly 25%. (Translation: That's 5 billion fewer lookups.) Most of this is due to online references and "fragmentation." This means your results are diluted as more media and more books creep into your market.

To add insult to injury, pizza ranked 37th in spending with a measly $84 million...but pulled a top 5 in number of customer references! Aargh! You spent almost half a billion more to end up over a hundred million references behind.

If you're thinking, "they rank higher because their transaction amounts are a lot less than mine," you are right. But realize that other categories that got more references than you include attorneys, hospitals, physicians, new car dealers, and dentists - all of which have very high customer transaction values.

Bottom Line: The once dominant shopping spot of a single Yellow Pages print edition will not return. Yellow Page advertising will remain a portion of a wise contractor's marketing budget, yet many contractors continue to pour money down a Yellow drain as if nothing has changed.

Well, some things haven't.

The "Old Way" is Not Working So Don't Blame Me

Plumbers continue to spend piles of money on the same rehashed ads in this declining media , and wonder why leads are drying up. Quit wondering, and start taking a good look at your ads.

They're supposed to stand out to get noticed, right? Well, how's that going to happen when you're using one designed or "approved" by the same people who sold and designed an ad for every one of your competitors who are all hunkered up in the same section?

We critique about 1200 Yellow Page ads a year for contractors. (We'll critique yours too, but I hope you're not sensitive!) Nearly 90% of them fail in one or more of the 5 Response Triggers we've identified. A shocking 31% fail in all 5 critical response areas. Is yours one of them? Find out.

How to Create A Yellow Page Ads that Doubles Your Leads

1. Headline - Grab your reader's eyeballs, right now, and tell them an immediate gain or benefit in a distinct way.

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 build, fix, replace, or upgrade 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, just show 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 by 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 to call - now if not sooner - to solve their problem. We generally put the phone number in the bottom right.

I can tell you what else will or won't work for your ad. Simply fax a copy of your ad and request to 1-334-262-1115 or email those items to phcc@hudsonink.com. (We do not give critiques on the phone.)

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink a creative marketing firm for contractors. You can get his free marketing newsletter by faxing your letterhead to 334-262-1115 or emailing phcc@hudsonink.com with the request. Plus, you can get one FREE Yellow Page critique by faxing it to the same number.  Call 1-800-489-9099 or visit www.hudsonink.com to subscribe to his free contractor marketing newsletter.

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