To print this article, click on the printer icon below. Then, use the print function in your browser.



Seeing Yellow:
There's Gold in Advertising
If You Do It RightAUTO
By John Lamade

    Every business has a listing in the Yellow Pages. Are you getting the most benefit from your listing? How are you listed in the Yellow Pages? For example, if you are a detailer, where does your listing appear? Do you have a display ad? If so, how big is it? Did you use color? What is the benefit of advertising in the Yellow Pages?
    Most businesses don't understand how to use the Yellow Pages. Most of your new business comes from referrals from satisfied customers, but are there other ways to increase the number of new customers, who will, in turn, provide referrals? This month we will consider
the benefits of using the Yellow Pages. Because so many businesses don't use the Yellow Pages to their advantage, it presents an opportunity for you to create a competitive edge.
    In the Summit and Medina County area in Ohio there are 47 listings in the Yellow Pages for businesses offering "Automobile Detailing." There are nine non-standard listings and only one freestanding display advertisement, which is in three colors. If you were looking for a detailer and didn't know which one to visit, where would you look first? Yellow Page experts agree that people first read the display ads, then the expanded listings, and then the general listings. Now if you were one of the 47, how would you feel if you were the 47th choice? Do you think potential customers will try 46 businesses before they get to you?


    In the past articles we have discussed the fact that many vehicle owners don't know what detailing is. A good Yellow Page ad helps clarify the issue by providing space to indicate the services you offer. For example, the detailer that ran the multi-color display ad offers the following services:

o Buff & Wax
o Overspray Removal
o Teflon Paint Sealant
o Gold Plating
o Interior Steam Cleaning & Deodorizing
o Engine Steam Cleaned
o Scratch Removal
o 11 years experience
o Company Fleets & Dealers Welcome
o Same Day Service Available
o Complete Automotive Detail & Paint Touch Up
o Free Estimates
o Free Pickup & Delivery
o BBB membership with logo
o Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express

    The shop managed to get all of that information into an ad space measuring 1-7/8" x 2-3/8"! That's information. Think about it. Would you be more inclined to go to the shop above or to a place simply listed as Joe's Detailing?
    Don't confuse the progression of this article as a plea for Yellow Page advertising. Advertising in the Yellow Pages is a powerful tool. Over 200 million phone books are distributed annually; every household with a phone gets at least one phone directory with Yellow Pages. And if you have a phone, you probably have a car. And if you have a car, it probably needs to be detailed...
    Okay, only a small fraction of vehicle owners will have a vehicle detailed, but if someone wants a detail job, does he or she know where to go? "Ahhh," you say, "I do wholesale work, and I don't need Yellow Page ads." But, how does a dealer find you?
Let's back up a little bit to last month when we discussed the marketing plan.


    Last month I stated that you must know your objectives and define your customers. Who do you wish to serve? Communication to prospective customers is part of a marketing plan. When you are developing your plan, you must consider what you will do to advertise your business. As you know, there are many choices. And whatever communications methods you choose, they must fit your budget.
    When you decide how to invest in advertising, you must also evaluate the effectiveness of your past efforts. If you ran a display ad, how many customers did the ad bring into your shop? How successful was the ad?
    Measuring the effectiveness of your marketing efforts will help you get the greatest return on your investment. You should track the number of inquiries and jobs. There are several methods you can use to track effectiveness:

o Include a space on the job order form to indicate how the customer heard about your
   shop. For example, referral, advertisement, Yellow Page listing, etc.
o Have a separate phone line for Yellow Page calls; then you can track the number of
   calls received on the line. Some businesses also use extension numbers to identify the
   most effective directories.
o Poll your customers periodically.

    By understanding the sources of non-referral customers, you can then determine the return on your advertising investment. If you gained 200 new customers, would this justify the investment in advertising?


    Let's consider how you might approach developing a Yellow Page tactic. One of the things that I learned while developing this month's article was that Yellow Page advertising is a closely guarded secret. Phone companies and directory companies produce billions of Yellow Pages every year. I thought that the Internet would be filled with wise-sounding articles regarding the benefits and how-tos of Yellow Page advertising, but I was wrong. I was amazed by the scarcity of material, and I never did find a rate book. Then I realized that the mysteries of the Yellow Pages were a closely guarded secret.
    I remembered a conversation I had with a mechanic who told me how hard he had to work just to cover the expense of his Yellow Page exposure. Yellow Pages are not inexpensive and to cover all the free listings, the advertisers must pay. Well, I told you that advertising in the Yellow Pages was an investment. If you plan to out-perform your competition, then you must get customers into your shop.
    Because there is so much secrecy in Yellow Page advertising, the best way to break into Yellow Page advertising is to work with the Yellow Page sales representative. A good representative will work with you to determine your needs. Prepare yourself for the meeting by studying your current directory to see what others are doing both in your market area and other areas around the country. You do not need to start a trend by buying a whole page, but you can determine the appropriate size of ad and how different shops communicate their services. By studying other ads you can get ideas for your ad. Do you want to include line art of boats, planes, vans, and other exciting vehicles in your ad?
    Put yourself in your customer's shoes. Pretend that you are looking for a
detailer. Which ads create interest? What claims are made and what services are offered? For example, if everybody mentions "Teflon" paint sealants in their ads, perhaps this is important (even though you know that Teflon doesn't do anything), and you should be aware of customer knowledge and experience in this area. Will mentioning "Paint Sealant" rather than "Teflon Paint Sealant" gain or lose business? Remember that you can explain the Teflon fallacy when the customer comes to your shop. It's your choice, just remember that you are also trying to build a referral source as well as getting a new customer.
    Once you have discussed your options with the Yellow Pages sales representative, you need to look at your marketing plan. Can you afford the ad or investment? If you can't, perhaps you can
negotiate a more favorable rate or make a compromise on the size/content of your ad. Consider what you may gain - or lose - by reducing your Yellow Page exposure.
    An alternative approach to using the Yellow Page representative is to use an advertising agency that specializes in Yellow Page advertising. Many agencies charge the equivalent of one-month's Yellow Page advertising cost to create a Yellow Page ad. You still need to know what you want before you work with an agency specialist, but you can gain invaluable assistance in the design of the ad. In short, you may find that the agency can provide you with the most effective ad for your investment.


    You know that referrals are the most effective way to promote your business. Advertising in the Yellow Pages and other media can be useful tools. While you cannot visit every household in the same manner that you can with all the car dealerships in your area, there must be a way to let people know what you do.
    Certainly you can see that Yellow Page advertising can be a useful tool, but there are some other things that you should remember:

o Yellow Page listings show all your competitors. When you direct potential customers to
    the Yellow Pages, you are also directing them to competitors. Many businesses
    NEVER mention their Yellow Page ads in their other advertising; they refer customers
    to their white page business listing.
o Yellow Pages rarely educate. A customer looks up a service provider when they feel a
    need. Very, very, very few people read the Yellow Pages. When the potential
    customer is ready to commit, you must also be ready to commit to the customer.
o Advertisement size can indicate the size or level of success of your business. If you
   place a little ad and large ads precede yours, people will assume that you are less
   successful than the companies with larger ads. This may not be the impression you wish
   to convey. By adjusting your "look" and content you can overcome the
   negative connotations.
o You must live with a Yellow Pages ad for a year. Once you place an ad, it is out there
   for a whole year. Be sure that the ad will perform throughout the year.
   Yes, there are alternatives. I have already mentioned that. The advertising tools you use
   should be based on the types of customers you seek. Remember that you should also
   let your customers shape the services you offer. By making communication easier with
   both potential and actual customers, you can gain a better understanding of their needs
   and expectations. When you can meet or exceed expectations you will have a much
   easier time gaining positive referrals from satisfied customers.
   Make it easier for customers to find you, and you can succeed by walking through the
   Yellow Pages.

John Lamade has extensive experience in the marketing of detailing products and is a contributing editor to Auto Laundry News. Contact John via e-mail at

AUTO LAUNDRY NEWS is published by EW Williams Publications Co.
2125 Center Avenue, Fort Lee, NJ 07024 (201) 592-7007 Fax (201) 592-7171