I?m in Othe book?

Nov. 1, 1999
Everyone knows Othe book? in this context is the Yellow Pages, the universal reference manual for consumers. Here?s how to make your listing stand out above the crowd!

Everyone knows Othe book? in this context is the Yellow Pages, the universal reference manual for consumers. Here?s how to make your listing stand out above the crowd!

Tim Breiding

Why have the Yellow Pages become the book? Becauseit is the universal reference manual for consumers. A presence in the Yellow Pages is so necessary that few professionals even question it!

Back in the olden days (that is, before 1979), dentists were prohibited from advertising, which meant that they were restricted to a basic listing of name, phone number, and address in the Yellow Pages. But that was O.K. because the Yellow Pages themselves were pretty bland. The low quality of paper, the black-on-yellow printing, and the unimaginative graphics made the ads in the Yellow Pages, shall we say, something less than appealing.

Today, however, dentists can advertise like used car dealers (and oddly enough, some do!), the printing industry has made great improvements, and the Yellow Pages present a much greater marketing challenge than before. Simply let your fingers do the walking (remember that slogan?) through the ODentistsO classification section and you?ll see that your colleagues have approached this challenge in a variety of ways. Some stick with the basic Oliner ad,O what I call the Sgt. Friday approach. These ads are characterized by Ojust the facts, ma?amO of name, address, and phone number. Other dentists have a full-page ad, complete with color photos, maps, and logos.

What works best? That depends on the type of practice you have. But it has been my experience as an advertising professional that the success of Yellow Pages advertising has a lot to do with the content of your ad. What follows are a few tips to help you get the most for your money.

Color ? When Yellow Pages companies introduced color ads, those who elected to use them really stood out. Now, though, it seems that nearly everyone is using color, which presents an interesting opportunity. If you choose a design that incorporates good graphics, less may be more. With either a plain yellow paper/black-ink approach, or black on a white Oknock out,O you often can dominate the page. So much color is used in today?s Yellow Pages that a simplified approach often can make you stand out from the crowd. The message is the most important element.

Size ? Yellow Pages advertising isn?t pantyhose. One size does not fit all! Your ad doesn?t need to be the largest ad in the book, but you do need to be competitive Oin your marketplace.O That means designing an ad that is roughly the same size of those placed by dentists who have practices similar to yours. Resist the temptation to be the largest ad in the book! You don?t want to get in a position where your entire practice-marketing budget is tied up in your monthly Yellow Page bill. Yellow Page companies offer discounts to encourage you to up the size of your ad. That?s great, but remember that you will be paying the full amount if you want to repeat the same ad the following year!

Positioning ? Yellow Page companies generally use two methods to determine where your ad will be placed in the book: size and seniority. Generally, they put the biggest ads toward the front of the section, with seniority helping to determine the order of same-sized ads. However, they also must make the ads fit. So, a quarter-page ad could be on the same forward page as a half-page ad. The key is not so much positioning, but rather the overall look of the ad.

Content ? You shouldn?t try to delineate your entire practice in one ad. Keep it simple and keep it patient-focused. Patients are looking in the Yellow Pages because they want a solution to a specific problem. Let your ad offer solutions, phrased in laymen?s language.

Don?t lead the ad with your name. Lead with a strong headline that either addresses a problem patients are looking to solve or features the solution you are going to provide. Consumers look to the Yellow Pages for solutions to problems. In this case, they are looking for a dentist to solve their dental problems.

The stronger your headline is, the better your chances of getting the call. The goal with your ad copy should be to solve patients? physical and/or emotional problems connected with their oral health. So, create a deficit, then offer the solution.

You can do that with the right copy. Display your name(s) prominently in the ad, along with the phone number and address of your office. If you have a hard-to-find location, consider using a locator map in your ad.

There will be a temptation to fill every inch of space with words. (OHey, I paid for it, why shouldn?t I use it?O) Resist that temptation! White space (or, in this case, yellow space) makes the ad more attractive and easier to read. Keep in mind that the goal is not to sell you, but to sell more dentistry.

Think of your message as a solution to patient problems or needs, and keep that message professional. Promote the profession of dentistry first and yourself second.

Photos ? Let me put this as gently as possible: No! If you have a good quality photo of yourself, send it to your parents. It will just waste space in your ad. The exception to the rule: minority dentists who are appealing to members of their minority group. In those cases, a picture will do effectively and tastefully what words cannot. It?s also important that if you run your picture in the ad that you remember to put your name under the picture. This is particularly important if you are running other pictures in the ad of happy smiling patients.

When you use stock photography in an ad, you run the risk of the same photo appearing in a competitor?s ad in the same book. It is hard to avoid that possibility. The best way to assure that your photos are original is to have your own photography taken. Photography can get a little expensive, so do some advanced planning so you can do it affordably.

Artwork ? Pictures of extracted teeth, dental chairs, and other dental hardware are a turn-off to potential patients. Leave ?em out! The same with cartoons, even in ads for pediatric practices. (Kids don?t read the Yellow Pages; their parents do! Keep in mind that parents don?t have a sense of humor when it comes to their children?s health.)

If you offer financial arrangements, your Yellow Page ad is a good place to let prospective patients know that. How they will pay for your services is on the top-of their mind, while they are looking in the Yellow Pages for the right dentist. Letting patients know in your ad that you accept Visa or MasterCard or will make other financial arrangements with them could make the difference between you getting the call over another dentist-advertiser.

In making your decisions about all of these aspects of your Yellow Pages ad, keep your focus on the number one priority of your ad: reaching prospective patients that are a good fit for your practice and the services you want to offer.

Consumers turn to the ODentistsO listings in the Yellow Pages because they have a dental problem. If your ad leaves them with the impression that your practice has the solution, you?ll get the call and their business!

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