Plumbers can't continue to spend piles of money with the same re-hashed ads.

Has the Yellow Pages rep been in lately? Sorry, I should have asked, “How many Yellow Pages reps have been in lately?”

You noticed that, too, huh? Well, it’s not your imagination. Recent figures show that an average of five new directories are added in the United States every month!

Now let me guess: Did they try to talk you into a bigger ad, with more colors in more sections? Did they mention that “if you invested just a little bit more,” you’ll get the “free” Web listing, and “if you’ll sign up right now, 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 No. 1: Reps work on commission, sometimes only on commission. Hint No. 2: Unless you increase your annual expense with them, they probably don’t get a commission at all. Obviously, this puts the reps under immense pressure to make sure all your Yellow Pages needs are filled and then some.

A few more things you ought to know:
  • Plumbers rank third in Yellow Pages spending out of all business categories. Think that’s why reps camp out in your office during “deadline” week?

  • Of the $558 million dollars plumbers spend in Yellow Pages advertising nationally, your individual results continue to slip as your cost per lead goes up.

  • Over the last few years, Yellow Pages references have slipped by nearly 25 percent. (Translation: That’s 5 billion fewer lookups.) Most of this is due to online references and “fragmentation,” meaning your results are diluted as more media and more books creep into your market.
And here’s one more alarming fact about the Yellow Pages that comes from the Centers for Disease Control, no less. (And no, it doesn’t have to with the rep, so no bad jokes.)

Until last year, the CDC assumed - unless indicated to the contrary - that any telephone numbers provided on health surveys were landlines. After making it clearer about cell phones and landlines, the CDC discovered that one in six American homes had only wireless phones, representing more than 32 million adults, or almost 16 percent of the U.S. population.

If 32 million people don’t have a landline, they don’t have a phone number to publish. If 32 million people don’t have a number to publish, they don’t get a Yellow Pages book. That means 32 million people never see your expensive Yellow Pages ads.

Still An Option

The bottom line is that the once-dominant shopping spot of a single Yellow Pages print edition will not return. Yellow Pages advertising, however, will remain a viable part of a wise contractor’s marketing budget. Yet many contractors continue to waste money on the ads as if nothing had changed.

Plumbers can’t continue to spend piles of money in this declining media, with the same rehashed ads, 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 1,200 Yellow Pages ads a year for contractors. (We’ll critique yours, too, but I hope you’re not sensitive!) Nearly 90 percent of them fail in one or more of the five response triggers we’ve identified. A shocking 31 percent fail in all five critical response areas. Is yours one of them? Here are our five triggers:
    1. Headline. Grab your reader’s eyeballs, right now, and tell them an immediate gain or benefit in a distinctive way. (Look at your competitor’s ads for ways not to do it, thus guaranteeing your distinction.)

    2. Solve their problems. That means built, fixed, replaced or upgraded 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, only 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 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 that means to call - now - to solve their problems. We generally put the phone number in the bottom right.
Also, don’t spend a bunch of time choosing cute cartoon clip art, or wondering if your bullets should be red or blue. Those are filler details. The above list is your gold list, so spend most of the time on those, with about half of that time spent on the headline alone. We have ads where a headline change alone resulted in a 45 percent lead increase.

Finally, here are three graphic elements that do increase Yellow Pages leads:
  • Use sans serif fonts for headlines. What’s that? It’s easier to show you. Helvetica type is a classic example of a sans serif font.

  • Use dotted line boxes, but sparingly.

  • Always include a caption with photos of the owner or satisfied consumer.
By the way, the above list does not include your building, your trucks or your cocker spaniel. Unless you’re selling them, I’d leave them out of the ad.

I can tell you what else will or won’t work for your ad. Simply fax or e-mail us a copy with your request. (We do not give critiques on the phone.) I’ll also send you a bit longer report on exactly which type of headlines work best.

PM Freebie Bonus This Month

Is anyone out there yelling, “I hate my Yellow Pages ad and the price I’m paying for it!” I understand. That’s why we’re offeringPMreaders a free Yellow Pages ad critique and a Yellow Pages report this month. Just fax your ad to 334/262-1115.