Do people still turn to the Yellow Pages in the Internet era? "Absolutely," says Alan Saltz, president of Guaranteed Marketing and author of The Definitive Yellow Pages Success Package, "particularly if you're in close proximity to your customers. If a prospective bride is looking for a wedding videographer, there's no better place to turn than the Yellow Pages for a comprehensive search on the options available. An Internet search might yield some names and phone numbers, but customers are looking for information and reasons why they might prefer one videographer over another."
One reason they'll gravitate to a company is size. The larger your ad, the more times your business gets selected as one of the resources to call. So it follows that a large Yellow Pages ad is generally more effective than a smaller one, particularly when you consider that a good directory ad will bring in 5-8 times its cost each and every month it runs.
If you can afford it, have a larger ad than your competition. When you have the largest ad, 30% of the Yellow Pages users will call you first. And it's not as big a gamble as it sounds. Since a well-composed directory ad will pay for itself in new business sales and make a good monthly return on your investment, "whatever you can afford" is irrelevant. It's really a matter of deciding how much you're comfortable investing in Yellow Pages on a monthly basis.
If you're just starting out in business and located in a large metro area where several wedding videographers are already running full-page, full-color ads, you may not have the budget to compete with the best. In this case, try a small in-column ad with a compelling deal that no one else is offering—a free DVD player with the wedding package or a discount coupon—and look for other methods of advertising and promoting your business while it's growing.
Conversely, if you're well-established in your market and rely mainly on referrals from satisfied customers or other wedding-related vendors, you may want to run a smaller Yellow Pages ad that simply provides your business name, phone number, and basic information about your services.
RASCIL is a neat little acronym that will help you design an effective ad. It stands for Reliability, Authorization, Security, Completeness of Service, Illustrations, and Location. You should include as many of these elements that are relevant to your business without making your ad look cramped or filled with extremely small print.
Reliability: Always include your years of experience; whether you're a member of the Chamber of Commerce or a local, regional, or national videographer association; and a guarantee of satisfaction.
Authorization: Are you an authorized dealer for anything?
Security: Note that you are insured, licensed, and bonded; that masters are stored in a fireproof vault; and whether you offer on-premise editing and duplication.
Completeness of Service: List length of coverage; whether you offer digital video and other formats, consumer and business productions, free pickup and delivery, free estimates and initial consultation; your phone number—visually, the largest element of the ad.
Illustrations: Your logo; a silhouette of a bride and groom; the logo of a professional videographer association; even Visa/MasterCard logos, if you take credit cards.
Location: Your address; if it's hard to find and you depend on walk-in business, give readers a reference, e.g., "One block south of City Hall," or "Just north of Fourth Street, off U.S.-131."
If you work at home and use your personal phone line for your business, you've probably encountered this problem: the companies who supply the telephone as a utility in your area won't let you list your number in the Yellow Pages or the "business" section of the phone book listings. One solution is to get a business phone line into your residence. It costs more than a personal line—particularly for outgoing calls—so if you go this route, use it for incoming calls only, and make your outgoing calls on your personal phone line.
If you're determined not to have a second line installed in your home, put your advertising dollars into the independent phone directories in your area. Since they're not associated with your utility or phone carrier, they don't care what number you use in your ad.
In either case, I recommend that even if you're working out of your basement, you publish your business hours in your ad. And if you can't answer the phone yourself, make arrangements for someone to manage that phone for you.
While phone book directory ads may seem unimportant because they're generally small and relatively uncreative, the exact opposite is true. If your customers include brides-to-be and small businesses, your Yellow Pages ad may well be the single most critical ad that you place.