There's Gold in Advertising
If You Do It RightAUTO
By John Lamade
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
PLANNING FOR SUCCESS
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
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?
YELLOW PAGE 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
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
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
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
Make it easier for customers to find you, and you
can succeed by walking through the
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.