March 2006

Volume 32 Number 2 | PAGE: 43 | BY: Kerry Randall and Andru J. Johnson

Features

Excerpted with permission from The Lawyer's Guide to Effective Yellow Pages Advertising, 2nd Edition, by Kerry Randall and Andru J. Johnson (ABA Law Practice Management Section, 2005).

Advertising in the Yellow Pages is unlike advertising anywhere else. Your Yellow Pages ad must be constructed specifically for the Yellow Pages or it probably won't work-it just won't attract calls from the potential clients you want to see. Advertisers who do not understand the uniqueness of the Yellow Pages medium do not get powerful results with their Yellow Pages advertising.

To many lawyers, and other owners of small and medium-size businesses, advertising is the most perplexing aspect of operating their businesses. Advertising seems to be "a horse of a different color"-a zebra, if you will. And, if advertising is a zebra, Yellow Pages advertising is different enough to be a spotted zebra.

Let's look at two of this zebra's spots: content orientation and wants-based versus needs-based buying.

Six Key Elements of High-Performance Ads

In The Lawyer's Guide to Effective Yellow Pages Advertising, the authors explain that by focusing on these six high-performance elements, you can create a powerful, call-generating ad for your law practice.

  1. A strong headline that commands attention and engages readers
  2. A laser-sharp focus; a willingness to ignore most readers
  3. Arresting, eye-captivating illustrations or photographs
  4. One or more unique advantages to the consumer
  5. Relevant copy (text) that covers less than 50 percent of the ad space
  6. A professional-looking, clutter-free layout.

Content Orientation

When people read magazines and newspapers, or watch television and listen to radio, they focus on content other than advertising; they tolerate the advertising. It is just there. Sometimes, readers find advertising amusing. When creating ads, developers often use the tool "amusement" to get the attention of readers who are avoiding advertising, but are nonetheless open to being amused. Though newspaper, magazine, radio and television advertisements do inspire people to buy, most readers focus on non-advertising content. Not so in the Yellow Pages: Readers focus on advertising content in the Yellow Pages-they are looking at a book of advertisements. Yellow Pages readers have already decided to make a purchase. They are now looking for the direction to go to make that purchase. Due to this content orientation, some "rules" about advertising do not apply to Yellow Pages advertising. It is important to understand this different content orientation while building your Yellow Pages ad.

Wants-Based versus Needs-Based Buying

Notice the advertising on television, on billboards and in newspapers and magazines. Listen to radio advertising. These advertisements are all selling things we might want: cars, clothing, status, restaurant dining, hot tubs, toys, better lifestyles and so on. Most of the advertising to which we are exposed on a day-to-day basis sells things we might want; most advertising sells wants-based products and services.

Yellow Pages advertising is different: Yellow Pages advertising is needs-based. Yellow Pages advertising is the place we go when we need things. Businesses that sell needs-based products and services pay for the majority of advertising in the largest headings in Yellow Pages directories.

The 10 largest Yellow Pages headings, listed in order of advertising expenditure, are as follows:

  1. Attorneys
  2. Physicians and surgeons
  3. Insurance (all categories)
  4. Dentists
  5. Plumbing (including emergency services)
  6. Storage (household and commercial)
  7. Automobile repairing and service
  8. Air conditioning contractors (repairs)
  9. Glass
  10. Pest control

For the most part, there is not much that people can get excited about buying on this list. When we look through the Yellow Pages, we are most often in a needs-based frame of mind. This need-to-buy and want-to-buy distinction influences the way we read Yellow Pages ads. To appeal to the need-to-buy frame of mind, ads that work in the Yellow Pages differ from ads in non-Yellow Pages, want-to-buy media.

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