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Most body shops advertise in the Yellow Pages, and many of those shop owners renew their ads every year, leaving well enough alone.
This may be good enough, but why not strive
for the best results? Why not perfect your marketing strategy
in the one arena that caters to a lot of customers ready to buy;
is at customers’ finger tips every day, all day; and is affordable.
The Yellow Pages – the only form of advertising
for many shops – has become proven, familiar ground. As a result,
comfortable advertisers may be overlooking some key points that
can strengthen their ads – and increase business. So, before renewing
your current ad, consider some things you may have been neglecting.
The Blacks & Whites of the Yellows
Most everyone knows about and uses the Yellow
Pages. A number of studies have shown that most consumers who
turn to the Yellow Pages do, indeed, contact those businesses
listed. And of those contacts, most make a purchase or commitment
within 48 hours.
A GTE Directories Yellow-Pages-user customer
profile shows that the more infrequent the purchase and the higher
the cost of that purchase, the more likely consumers are to use
the Yellow Pages. According to Larry Small, vice president of
marketing services for the Yellow Pages Publishers Association,
about 80 million references are made to the "autobody"
heading. Of the 42,000 Yellow-Pages headings, "autobody"
ranks 46th – not too shabby.
But even with all the benefits Yellow-Pages
advertising offers, some pitfalls exist. First and foremost, the
Yellow-Pages environment is a red-hot, hostile one – your ad is
surrounded by your competitions ads. To make things worse, this
kind of advertising appeals to only one sense, it can’t be used
to promote specials or new products and services, and choosing
which directories to place your ad in is a task.
You can’t get a bull’s eye if you don’t shoot
for the target, and targeting is key in the advertising game.
Knowing about your target audience will help your marketing efforts.
But first, you must determine who makes up your audience.
Chances are your audience uses the Yellow
Pages, but be sure to attract the type of customers you desire.
For instance, if your shop repairs a wide variety of automobiles,
you may want to place a large ad, sporting a large phone number.
If your shop specializes in repairing expensive import cars, on
the other hand, you may want a smaller ad stressing your expertise
Also keep in mind how many customers you want
to attract. If your shop is fairly small with limited bays, you
won’t want to attract hordes of people because customer service
may then suffer. In this case, you may want a small ad.
On the other hand, sometimes bigger ads are
better; customers may think your business is successful if you
can afford to advertise "big." But make sure you’re
not wasting money on too large an ad. Know your industry and what
advertising approaches best work for it. Your ad rep may have
access to market research – find out if it’s available.
The Right Pages
To make sure you don’t miss the mark, you
need to choose the right directory or directories, which depends
on where your target audience is. Do you want to hit the geographic
circle around your shop’s location, or do you want to aim farther?
A shop specializing in fixing foreign cars may be located in an
area where a lot of people don’t drive foreign cars, so this advertiser
will want to shoot farther; a shop fixing a wide variety of vehicles
may want to target only those living and working near the shop.
Examine the directories in your marketplace
to determine which ones match your target geography – and also
make sure they match the demographic profile of your potential
customers. If your shop is truly unique – the only one in town
that works on Rolls-Royces – your marketing area needs to be much
broader than that of the shop that works on all domestic vehicles.
If your choice is between two directories,
you need to ask your sales reps some specific questions, such
as: How long has the publisher been in business? How many years
has the directory been published? How many people get the directory?
Which zip codes does the directory go to? Which parts, geographically,
of the zip codes does the book go to? Are usage figures available?
After you’ve aimed for the perfect target,
you’re ready to create the perfect ad.
Because you’ll be positioned among your competitors,
you need to create a distinct identity for your shop. A good way
to customize your ad is to look at your competitors ads and contrast
yours to theirs.
Look under the heading. Where are you located
on the page, alphabetically? Where are they located? Are their
ads bland? If so, spice yours up with some color. If their ads
are text heavy, place a logo or graphic in yours to give it eye-stopping
appeal (make sure to ask your ad rep about available art and creative
Also stress in the ad what sets your shop
apart from the others: courtesy transportation, certification,
training, years of service, expertise, customer service, quality,
respected product and equipment brands, certified parts, guarantees,
You also may notice that your competitors
don’t advertise an obvious service – take advantage of that and
mention it in your ad.
When using other advertising avenues, don’t
refer potential customers to your Yellow-Pages listing, where
they’ll also see the competitions ads. Instead, refer them to
your listing in the White Pages. In addition, you may want to
find out if the publisher offers other directories or services,
such as consumer-information lines.
Yellow-Pages advertising introduces your business
to potential new customers and complements other forms of advertising
– some consumers may already know your shop by name, and return
customers may be looking for you by name.
In either case, consumers turn to the Yellow
Pages for information, so give it to them. List what they must
know, such as name, location, phone number, hours, appointment
only, credit cards accepted, etc., and include other points such
as profit centers and a map for easy accessibility.
Some other basics to keep in mind:
- Short is sweet. Make gathering information about your business
quick and easy for consumers. Listing information makes it simple.
- Promote your shop’s image in the headline. This may be your
first and last chance to draw in consumers. Focus the headline
on why your business is better than the competition: a unique
benefit or a feature your shop provides. Brainstorm before you
write it. And unless your shop’s name is synonymous with high
quality or excellent service, don’t use it in the headline.
Don’t take up prime sales space with meaningless graphics and
cram the message. Remember that words persuade; graphics draw
attention. Because you’ll have limited space, include what consumers
need to know first.
make sure it doesn’t get lost.
Words of Caution
Be careful to not get taken by directories that aren’t credible
but send solicitations that resemble bills – a situation that
Small calls "a big concern" for the Yellow-Pages industry.
Small says bogus billings account for as much as $400 million
in lost revenue each year.
These disenchanting directories may only be distributed to the
books advertisers, are not geographically useful and sometimes
don’t even get printed or distributed. Some hints to help you
recognize these sly solicitations: They usually don’t provide
a publisher’s phone number, each advertiser is usually "billed"
about $100, they may make reference to a "regional"
or "statewide" directory, they may use the "walking
fingers" logo and most are not mailed first class. And, of
course, the disclaimers are printed in small and/or very light
Any legitimate Yellow-Pages advertising company will give you
a contract, so before you pay any bill, check your files for the
contract that matches with what you’re being charged. Small feels
the only way to put the bogus out of business is through education,
and he suggests posting articles dealing with the issue in the
accounting department to remind employees what to watch out for.
Hit ‘Em with Your Best Shot
The key to growth is skillfully promoting your business using
media that work in harmony. Most other marketing and promotion
methods lead to your Yellow-Pages ad, where the "sale"
is usually closed. This may be your last – and best – chance to
persuade potential customers to contact your shop, so give it
your best shot.
To make sure your ad is effective and to find out the amount of
business and how much of a return you’re getting from it, try
these tracking tips:
- Ask customers how they discovered your business.
- Publish a different phone number in only the ad.
- Have the ad direct people to inquire about a special discount,
- When you learn that customers discovered your business or
contacted it because of the ad, find out which book was used and
under which heading they looked. Record the amount they spend
and compare that profit with the cost of the ad.
If you track all of your advertising, you can avoid wasting money
on a method that doesn’t work. Remember to ask your ad reps if
their companies offer ad-tracking services.
A logo can be an effective graphic in your Yellow-Pages ad. But
it can only be effective if you have one.
You don’t think a logo can do much legwork? Start paying attention
to the logos of the major companies you do business with. Do you
You can look in your local chamber of commerce business directory
for freelance artists, who may charge from $200 to $500 to create
a logo. You can also contact the designer who created a logo you’ve
seen and liked.
If this doesn’t work or you can’t pay for the work, try asking
an instructor at a local art school for a recommendation. These
starting-out starving artists often leap at the chance to see
their work on display – for no pay.
It may not cost you the thousands or millions of dollars that
major corporations dish out for logo designs and displays, but
you’ll have another voice that can be used on letterhead, envelopes,
anything you send out – which will help you get your name out
loud and clear.