Make advertising pay, and pay, and pay…

Dec 03, 2007

It’s hard not to feel sorry for the millions of businesses who unwittingly throw billions of pounds down the drain each year with useless Yellow Pages ads. They receive disappointing or non-existent responses and conclude that, while the medium might work for other people, it won’t for them.

Often, they’re wrong. It usually takes only a glance to see why the ad could never work, regardless of the media it was reproduced in. Open any Yellow Pages and there’s a good chance that you’ll be looking at pages and pages of ads just like this: Company name at the top. A few bullet points. Contact details at the bottom. Maybe a border, graphic, photo, slogan or logo.

In most cases that’s about it. Ads like that do nothing to sell your product, your service or your expertise. If you made a face-to-face presentation to a prospect but were limited to the words you use in your Yellow Pages ad, is there any chance they would buy from you? If not, how can you possibly expect mere ink on paper, surrounded by dozens of similar messages, to sell when you couldn’t do that face to face without a competitor in sight?

Some Yellow Pages ads do an excellent job. But probably no more than one in 1,000 follow the proven rules for ‘salesmanship in print’ set out more than 100 years ago by John Powers, John E Kennedy and Claude Hopkins and still used today by people who understand how to make advertising pay, and pay, and pay.

People looking in Yellow Pages have little or no vendor preference. Research shows that if prospects can remember a business name, they’ll look it up on line or in the White Pages. That’s why it’s critically important that your Yellow Pages ad sets you apart from everyone else and does a good selling job.

Bullet points give no indication that you have anything to say and most people will take that to mean that you’re not worth bothering with. It is much more effective to use a semi-editorial style. Articles normally have something to say and the more your ad looks like an article, the more credibility it will have.

“But who has time to read all those words?” I hear you say. I’ll tell you: people who want the product, service or expertise you’re offering. They need as much information as possible to help them make the right decision. They are the only people who matter.
Better to write too many words than not enough because people can skim read and there’s more chance they’ll find the answer they’re looking for if it’s somewhere in your copy than if it’s not there at all.

If someone doesn’t want what you’re offering, they won’t read three words and they won’t look twice at your bullet points. If a journalist wrote an article as a series of bullet points, you’d be unimpressed. It wouldn’t tell you what you need to know.

Let me give you a real-life example. One of my clients invites people to seminars. He used to mail a bullet point type brochure to thousands of people and would receive two to three responses for every 1,000. We tested a three-page letter.

The first test produced 50 responses per 1,000 sent out – 20-25 times the previous result. The client could see that the letter was much more effective so the next step was to send out a letter with his brochure.

Due to the extra cost of print, postage and handling, they wanted to reduce the letter to one page. That would never say enough to make a convincing case, we explained, and suggested that five or six pages were needed. That was too much for our client so we compromised and wrote a two-page and a three-page letter, to compare the difference in response.

The letters were mailed to 11,000 people. The first 5,500 received the two-page letter. The rest received the three-page letter. The three-page letter produced three times the response for virtually no extra cost. Had they sent the two-page letter to everyone who received the three-page letter, they would have lost two thirds of that response.

People will read what you have to say as long as it’s relevant and educational and if they’re in the market for what you’re offering. To persuade your target market to read your ad, you need a good headline. It should attract attention and immediately communicate your prospect’s most desired benefit or outcome.

A good headline creates its power through delivering its message clearly. The best headlines conjure up images in the prospect’s mind of them enjoying the benefits of your product, service or expertise.

The copy in the ad itself needs to take people behind the scenes in your business and emphasise specifically the most important qualities provided by your product, service or expertise from the reader’s perspective.

Most Yellow Pages ads make no offer. An offer that satisfies your ideal prospect’s most important need is the second most important ingredient of a successful ad. Your offer should give your prospect a reason to buy and you should explain why you’re making that offer to enhance believability.

Substantiate your offer with overwhelming proof of client satisfaction through testimonials and a dramatic guarantee. Testimonials prove that you provide value and satisfy your clients’ needs in ways that others can’t or don’t. Guarantee a clearly stated outcome so that people feel they can take the next step without fear or concern.

Finally, spell out, in words a child can understand, what to do next … and make it easy to take the next step.

You need to get this right because once someone has gone to your competitor, you may never get another chance to reach that prospect.

For more information, visit

Robert Clay has been growing businesses since the age of 19. He started his first business with no capital, reaching no.3 in his field in the UK within seven years. His second business reached no.3 in Europe after three years.

After selling both businesses to one of the largest companies in Europe he was persuaded that his self-taught approach to marketing could be used to grow any business successfully.

He subsequently studied and mastered 116 of the world’s most successful business growth techniques, and since June 2000 he and his team at DSP Solutions have transformed the thinking of hundreds of smart successful business leaders by providing them with world-class knowledge of low-risk/high-return marketing strategies that really work in any business.

His new book and set of CDs, “”Learn how to grow your business … in just two hours.”” are available now for just £15 each plus £2.25 for post and packing. Order both together for just £25 plus P&P.

Call DSP now on 01908 357657 to order your copy or to arrange a free consultation.”

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