By Nancy Drexler
In the quest for recruiting new merchant clients, we place ads all over the Internet and in newspapers or magazines, thinking our target audience will discover them. Many of us overlook advertising in the Yellow Pages. We shouldn't.
Yellow Pages advertising - offered by several different companies in Web and print form - is unique because it delivers your message only to those who are searching for purchasing information. No other advertising vehicle delivers with such accurate timing prospects this interested in what you have to offer.
Plus, you don't have to worry about e-mail spam blockers or people using remote controls to change channels when your ad appears on television. The Yellow Pages' audience is pre-qualified, interested and about to make a buying decision.
While Internet directories have certainly made some inroads, the print versions of Yellow Pages continue to be an effective medium for reaching customers. In 2006, consumers made 13.4 billion references in print Yellow Pages, and 82 percent made follow-up contacts as a result. Those are pretty good numbers.
There are more than 200 publishers of Yellow Pages in the United States, some of whom distribute print directories; others specialize in Internet directories. Though the two directory types have historically remained separate, we are now seeing more partnerships between them, blurring traditional lines of advertising.
For the most part, print directories are published to cover local geographical areas. The books are designated by county or a block of cities. More recently, Yellow Pages publishers are starting to add special interest directories to segment those that are community-based.
Business-to-business (B2B) directories, which are distributed only to commercial businesses, are one example of this kind of special interest publishing - one that certainly makes sense for those of us selling payments to merchants.
If your budget permits, advertise in every community where you have a local sales rep or in areas where you can provide face to face service readily and cost-effectively. B2B directories would more efficiently target business owners and are probably the best places to start advertising.
But, at the end of the day, merchants are just regular people, and there is no reason to think they wouldn't search their community Yellow Pages from home when thinking about starting up a new business. This means not only should you advertise in B2B arenas, but also in the community Yellow Pages.
The directories tend to have several subcategories as well. This can work to your advantage. Multiple listings placed in relevant categories will maximize exposure.
So, if your budget is big enough, advertise under as many applicable headings as you can and in categories you think merchants are more likely to browse.
If I were to place an ad in the Yellow Pages, I would choose smaller listings in more categories in several books rather than placing an ad under one big listing in a single category in only one book.
Once you've chosen appropriate directories and listings, you need to select the size of your ad and determine whether you want it in color or black and white.
Deciding whether to add color is easy. Research is conducted every year to see if adding color to ads generates better responses than black and white. And the answer is consistent and clear: no, it does do not. So save your money and stick with black and white.
Size is another issue to consider. Yellow Page ads in print form are placed from biggest to smallest. Longevity also affects ad placement.
For example, if you purchase a full page ad, it will likely be placed at the front of the section, with three-quarter page ads following. Businesses that have been advertising with a given publication longer will have their ads placed ahead of new clients.
If you start out with a full page ad and change to a half-page ad the following year, you will be considered a new advertiser. Even if you upgrade from a half-page to a full-page ad, you'll have to line up in the back of the full-page ad.
You have less than one minute to establish a need for your services and convince potential clients you can solve their problems. Studies have proven that what you write in the ad and how you convey it can generate a higher return on investment (ROI) than the size or position of the ad.
This is not the place for magazine-style advertising: Award-winning design, catchy headlines and verbiage do not belong here.
Yellow Page shoppers are in a buying state of mind. They are looking for a solution. This is the place to capture attention and motivate consumers to choose your company.
Shoppers are looking for two things: value and simplicity. Your ad needs to give them a reason to notice and choose you, not your competitor. Be straightforward, simple and honest. Don't confuse them or make jokes.
A good ad has five components:
Strong headlines are a must. A powerful headline will grab the reader's attention and give your ad clarity that few competitors' ads will have.
While you certainly want to highlight your brand, a headline that solves a problem, communicates a key buying point or showcases a unique advantage should give your readers an urge to call you.
As far as I can tell, most merchant services sections of print Yellow Pages are not crowded. Even so, you shouldn't slack on the opportunity to showcase your ad.
To do that, your notice should include any unique benefits or services that would be enticing to a consumer. Statements can be general: serving the city for more than 20 years or guaranteed satisfaction or your money back, for example. Phrases can also focus on specific offers such as a free terminal.
Endorsements also produce results in the Yellow Pages. If you have been selected by your local chamber, or you work with a community bank, that information should be included.
Remember, Yellow Page users are looking for information that will help them make a purchasing decision. Make it easy for them to find your name, phone number and hours of operation - in that order.
With limited space and a burning need to persuade a customer, your call to action is more important than ever. Customers will respond to an ad that makes it clear what to do and makes them feel comfortable about contacting you.
Ease and comfort are two key issues. So, tell potential customers to call, and highlight your number. Include the hours they can call, and let them know they are not obligated to purchase in any way. Spark incentive with such offers as asking them to call right away for a free price comparison.
Believe it or not, Yellow Pages are brand-building opportunities, and you want your branding to convey that you are a solid company with experience. Interested buyers perusing the Yellow Pages are looking for providers who are trustworthy, invested in the community and stable.
Studies have found that up to 90 percent of all customer complaints come from people who feel they were deceived by an ad. In this medium, honesty will work harder than bragging about past accomplishments.
If you've won awards, or if established local companies are among your clients, mention it. But don't make broad claims that aren't substantiated. For example, don't say you've got the best prices or the fastest service; do say you've been endorsed by your local chamber of commerce.
Remember, advertisements in the Yellow Pages are sold on an annual basis. Once you commit, there is no going back. If your ad is stirring a mere trickle of new customers, you can't make the notice bigger.
If you've got an offer in your ad that you can no longer honor, you are in trouble. If your telephone number changes, make sure your old number forwards automatically.
Yellow Page advertising isn't cheap, but it is high performing. Use it properly, and you can count on an ROI that justifies the expense.
Nancy Drexler is the Vice President, Marketing for SignaPay Ltd., an ISO headquartered in Dallas. Reach her at email@example.com.
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