Maximizing Yellow Pages advertising success

Yellow Pages advertising is keenly competitive and full of pitfalls. Here are 11 factors essential to a successful ad.

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by Nick Robinson

Advertising in the Yellow Pages can be a wise decision for many dentists. If done right, Yellow Pages advertising can be an excellent investment in the success of your practice. An effective ad can generate many new, quality patients.

The key phrase here is "if done right." Yellow Pages advertising isn't rocket science, but it is keenly competitive by its nature and full of pitfalls. If you do it wrong — as too many dentists do — it can be a disappointment at best or a black hole that coldly devours a small fortune at worst.

What follows is a listing of what I like to call "success factors" for Yellow Pages advertising. Use these 11 success factors as your guide, and you'll maximize your Yellow Pages' advertising investment.

1 Have a compelling headline. Nothing makes or breaks your Yellow Pages advertising success more than the headline. Using a headline that's boring or not written from the reader's point of view is a sure recipe for mediocrity. For example, don't use your practice's name for the headline unless you're very well known in the community.

The goal of a headline is to help grab the reader's attention and motivate him or her to read further. Use a headline that's powerful, concise, and interesting, such as one that emphasizes a benefit your practice provides. Headlines that touch on the things most people look for in a dentist (friendliness, gentle care, convenient location, etc.) are especially effective. Try to have a headline that's as different as possible from your competitors' headlines, and don't be cute or humorous.

2 Use an eye-catching picture or illustration. Research shows that a Yellow Pages ad has about one second to get attention or it will be passed over. A unique, eye-grabbing picture or illustration will attract instant attention, and will be especially effective if it ties in with your headline. Remember, the first Yellow Pages ad that the reader notices is usually the first to get the call.

Use a quality picture or illustration that flies off the page and energizes the ad. It should also generate positive emotions and excitement, and it should clearly stand out from anything that other dental ads use. Avoid using the generic "smiling face" picture. This type of picture is overused in dental Yellow Pages advertising and, as a result, has lost almost all its effectiveness. Use your creativity and good judgment to come up with something different.

Also avoid using a picture of the dentist, staff, or office. These are usually not selling points until the patient has actually met you and your staff and visited your office. However, it's acceptable to use these images in a smaller, secondary picture in your ad if you have the space.

3 Don't overlook content. One of the most frequent complaints of Yellow Pages readers is that the ads don't provide enough content or the right kind of content to help them make an informed choice. By providing the content people want, a huge opportunity exists for your ad to stand high above the competition.

Your content should be persuasive. It should communicate the benefits you offer and how you can help a prospective patient with his or her problem better than the competition can. Focus on symptoms of problems and the solutions you can provide.

Your content also should emphasize how you make visits easy, convenient, enjoyable, and even affordable. Avoid content that's boring and the same as what the other ads say. Also, avoid placing too much emphasis on procedures, since people generally don't choose a dentist based on procedures alone.

Don't be afraid to take up most of the space in your ad with content. Readers generally seek out Yellow Pages ads with lots of information, but only if the content relates to them and their needs. Of course, the information should be well-written, organized, and concise.

4 Have a target market for your ad. Your Yellow Pages ad should appeal to a certain type of prospective patient or target market. The best target market consists of those people who are a good fit for your practice and who would want the services you offer. Too many Yellow Pages ads try to appeal to anyone who has almost any kind of dental problem. An ad that tries to appeal to everyone will probably appeal to no one.

How narrow a group of people your ad should appeal to depends largely on the quantity and quality of competition that you face in your Yellow Pages directory.

5 Make sure your ad is the right size. Size is certainly an important factor in your ad's success, but it's one factor among the others discussed in this article. Don't believe that size is everything and that a poorly crafted ad will be effective just because it's large and has good placement.

An ad is the right size if it's not larger or smaller than it needs to be. It should be competitively sized with the ads of your most direct competitors. By that, I mean those practices that are similar to yours in terms of location, type of patient sought, and benefits and features offered.

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A good illustration of an ad with an eye-catching picture and a powerful headline, as well as copy that highlights the benefits that are important to patients.
Click here to enlarge image

6 Don't ignore layout and design. Quality layout and design are what give an ad a professional, image-enhancing look. Poor layout and design undermine 95 percent of Yellow Pages ads. The dentist with an attractively designed ad will definitely be noticed.

Make sure your ad's layout is well organized and inviting to read, with a clear starting point. Your text needs to be legible, and don't use fancy fonts or all capital letters. If your ad is in any way difficult to read, it will be passed over.

7 Use color if it makes sense to do so. Color is just one way to get your ad to stand out and look professional. Keep in mind that a black and white ad that uses the success factors mentioned in this article will be more effective than a full-color ad that does not use these success factors.

Nevertheless, there are certain situations when color is appropriate. Examples of these situations are when many competitors' ads lack color or use color poorly. If you are going to use color, just remember to use it tastefully. When in doubt, use restraint.

8 Never let the Yellow Pages publisher create your ad. The Yellow Pages people are primarily concerned with ad sales and publishing. They offer an ad design service as a customer convenience. However, since you sign a non-cancelable contract, they have little incentive to create a quality ad. What you get is an ad that doesn't even come close to making the most of your Yellow Pages investment dollars. Unless you want to create your ad yourself, hire professional help.

9 Make sure your ad is in the right directory. The right Yellow Pages directory to advertise in is the one that most people in your area use ... or, at least, the one that most of your target market uses. These directories are usually the most expensive to advertise in, but you get what you pay for. Don't advertise in a lesser-used directory just because it's cheaper.

10 Have exemplary phone skills. People judge how they will be treated as your patients based on how they're treated on the phone. If they're treated courteously, enthusiastically, and in a friendly manner, that's great. If they are not, you've probably lost a new patient opportunity. There's just too much competition among dentists for prospective patients to tolerate anything less than spectacular phone skills. In fact, there's little point in having a great Yellow Pages ad — or any Yellow Pages ad for that matter — if callers are treated with anything less than total professionalism.

11 Track your results. Too many dentists have no idea how their Yellow Pages ads are performing. They assume that because they are in the Yellow Pages and spending a small fortune, their ads must be getting good results. Don't make this assumption! It's critical that you track the results of your Yellow Pages effort ... and all of the rest of your marketing efforts. This tracking will allow you to improve your efforts and your return-on-investment.

You are now armed with at least the basic knowledge needed to achieve an effective Yellow Pages advertising effort. Implement as many of the success factors as you can in your next Yellow Pages advertising campaign and reap the rewards!

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