Is your Yellow Pages advertising targeted to todays consumers?

We are constantly on the alert for new developments in dental practices and equipment. But how many of us have seriously considered new approaches to our Yellow Pages advertising?

The author discusses ways you can use Yellow Pages advertising to your best advantage.

Harriet Meyers

We are constantly on the alert for new developments in dental practices and equipment. But how many of us have seriously considered new approaches to our Yellow Pages advertising?

Year after year, many dentists simply renew last year`s Yellow Pages ad. And, many ads in the Yellow Pages look like they were designed 20 years ago.

But, things have changed, even in the Yellow Pages. Open many directories and you`ll notice clean typography, tasteful artwork, well-targeted copy and effective use of color. There is new data on who actually uses the Yellow Pages and what kind of information they want to find there.

Many directory publishers also offer advertisers interactive services which allow the consumer to connect directly to the advertiser. And, there are many new books competing for your ads.

This article will discuss these changes in Yellow Pages and how you can use them to your best advantage.

Who Looks Up "Dentists?"

The movement toward managed care and HMOs has only seemed to increase consumers` use of Yellow Pages. More than ever before, consumers are concerned about health-care issues and costs. They look for more information that will help them comparison shop.

In 1994, people made approximately 244 million references to the "Dentists" heading in the Yellow Pages. Of all consumers who use a dentist, over 38 percent of them look in the Yellow Pages first. The Yellow Pages Publishers Association (YPPA) commissioned Statistical Re- search, Inc. of Westfield, New Jersey, to survey adults who looked up dentists in the Yellow Pages. They found that six out of 10 adults look at more than one Yellow Pages ad.

Statistical Research also found that 87 percent of the people who look up dentists in the Yellow Pages contact one or more of the dentists they find there. About 80 percent go on to use the services of one of these dentists, and 18 percent are new patients.

"Many people prefer a personal referral, but when they get one, they still look you up in the Yellow Pages," said Dr. Paul Szmanda of Wausau, Wisconsin. "I`ve tried other advertising, like TV, radio and football programs, but found that is not how people choose a dentist."

According to the National Yellow Pages Monitor, the demographic profile of Yellow Pages users in the "Dentist" heading is young, female and middle income. Sixty-nine percent are women, many have households with children and there are many people who have moved within the past five years. You may want to include messages that appeal to these audiences when you write your Yellow Pages ad.

Choosing a Directory

According to YPPA, nearly 6,000 directories were printed across the country in 1994. It may seem like half of them are asking for your advertising dollars. How can you decide which publishers and which Yellow Pages books offer you the best investment?

"I want to advertise in the book that everyone gets, and in my area, that`s the GTE Yellow Pages," said Dr. Szmanda.

Teresa Keenan, GTE Direct- ories Director-Product Man- agement, suggests you ask every Yellow Pages sales rep for the following types of information before making your decision. (GTE Directories publishes or provides sales and other directory-related services for more than 2,400 directory titles throughout the U.S. and 14 countries.)

- number of years the publisher has been in business;

- number of years the directory has been published;

- how many customers receive the book, how they get it;

- availability of the book in libraries, airports, hotels;

- number of consumers who look up dentists;

- how much the sales rep knows about your business and understands your needs;

- how the publisher publicizes the book; and

- other directories or services offered by the publisher.

"With 60 years` experience in the directory-publishing industry, we understand that there are many aspects of a Yellow Pages directory which are critical to giving our advertisers a good return on their investment with us," said Keenan. "We promote our directories through the use of various media. And we make sure our books are available to everyone via our 800 number every day, 24 hours a day and delivered to new residents within a few days after they order their telephone service."

Many publishers today are offering additional advertising opportunities such as coupons, colors in the ads and consumer-information lines. One such interactive telephone service is called Quick Tips. Customers looking up "Dentists" in the Yellow Pages see a colored box underneath the heading. The box contains the local Quick Tips number and four-digit codes for four different selections on dentists, such as: cosmetic, preventive, family and insurance.

All Quick Tips information is provided by various national professional associations. Advertisers can purchase sponsorships of individual or multiple tips that consist of a five to seven second message before the tip and a 15 to 20 second talking ad following the tip. And, callers have the option of being connected directly with the advertiser`s business.

So, take the time to find out about the Yellow Pages publishers and everything they offer. You`ll be better prepared to make an educated decision on how to spend your money.

Ad Content and Design

Childers Dental Clinic, in Tampa, Florida, has advertised in the Yellow Pages as long as it`s been in practice-almost 30 years. "Our advertising is more sophisticated in recent years," said Carol Childers, office manager. "We get the most advantage from our Yellow Pages ad by changing it frequently and including topical information such as `all insurance accepted` and `Spanish spoken.` We`ve increased the size of our ad to a full page, added red and use friendly artwork."

Yellow Pages display ads are changing along with the technology that is used to print them. Most publishers are using computerized systems which provide better quality ads with more options in less time, and they can show you exactly what your ad will look like.

The Yellow Pages sales rep should be able to help you with the design of your ad. Ask what resources are available to you. And, focus on the message that is most important to you.

"My ad focuses on convenience for families," said Dr. Szmanda. "I list my hours, mention 24-hour emergency service and all kinds of insurance accepted. I try not to jam the ad with too much information so that it will be easy to read. I`ve decided that content is really more important than having the biggest ad."

Whether you are creating a new ad or updating your old one, here are some design tips provided by David Roeder, who has been designing Yellow Pages advertising for GTE Directories for 23 years:

- Think about the typical pa- tient in your practice. What question does he or she most often ask? Answer that question in your ad.

- Dentists, today, are more specialized. List those specializations in your ad.

- What is your practice image? Promote it. Don`t just repeat the name of the heading, say something different that catches the reader`s attention and promotes your image; it might be, for example, "Family Dentistry" or "Painless Smiles."

- List vital information such as your name, address and location, phone number and office hours.

- Use good illustrations and include your business logo.

- Contrast your ad to those of your competitors. If theirs are all black and yellow, add a color such as red, blue or green or try reverse type. If theirs are in straight boxes, use a design or illustration on your border.

- Ask to see what your ad will look like in the book. It could look great standing alone, but get lost among other ads.

"There are so many possibilities in Yellow Pages ad design today," Roeder said. "Don`t settle for the same old look. Place your emphasis on providing the information that your patients are looking for in a clean, creative ad that sets you apart from your competitors."

A Good Investment?

A smart investor knows exactly how much business his or her ads are generating. Don`t wait until the sales rep calls to evaluate your Yellow Pages advertising. Expect your advertising to pay its own way, and determine whether it does.

When you first buy an ad, ask your sales rep whether the publisher is offering any tracking services. You can also keep track of the calls your ad generates on your own. Be sure your tracking system is easy and convenient, so you and your staff will use it.

You could advertise a special, new-patient discount only in your ad, so you know anyone who asks about the discount saw the ad. You also could ask all new patients where they got your name, whether they saw your ad and in which book.

"One-third of our patients come from our GTE Yellow Pages ad," said Carol Childers. The clinic advertises a dental-information line only in the Yellow Pages, and keeps track of the number of callers. "We also have a simple way for the people working at the front desk to key into our computer information where new patients found us, so it`s easy to analyze the effectiveness of our ad."

After collecting this information, you`ll be able to tally up the number of patients your ad is bringing in and the amount of revenue generated compared to the cost of the ad. If you advertise in other ways, do the same for those ads, and you can determine whether your advertising dollars are channeled most effectively.

Summary

Statistical Research found that those who used dental services in the past year were more likely to use Yellow Pages than any other major media, including direct mail, newspapers and television.

Consumers say they want Yellow Pages advertising to contain more complete, useful information such as specializations, services, payment plans and office hours.

Try taking a new approach to your Yellow Pages advertising. Find out if you`ve chosen the best publisher to meet the needs of your practice. If necessary, redesign your ad to answer questions potential patients might have and to point out what makes you and your practice different from your competitors.

Make the ad look different from the other ads on the page. Research interactive services. And keep track of the patients generated by the ad.

When the new directories are being published, don`t automatically renew your ad. Take the opportunity to update your Yellow Pages ad-it`s a good business investment so make the most of it.

The author is a freelance writer and public relations consultant from Columbia, MD. She works with private corporations, professional groups and non-profit organizations. Her areas of specialization include newsletters and magazine articles.

BOGUS YELLOW PAGES

Bogus Yellow Pages are directories that are never printed or distributed, or have geographic coverage that is not useful to you and are only distributed to the advertisers in the directories.

Why should you be concerned? Many businesses today are receiving what looks like bills for their Yellow Pages ad but are really solicitations and they`re paying them. According to Ed Blackman, Yellow Pages Publishers Association executive vice president, "Dubious Yellow Pages operations bring in as much as $500 million a year."

Here`s how you can recognize these bogus bills: They usually do not include a telephone number for the publisher. The amount billed is often between $75 and $150. They may refer to a "statewide" or a "regional" Yellow Pages directory. They may carry the walking-fingers logo. And they carry a disclaimer, usually in very small or light print, that says "this is not a bill; this is a solicitation."

"A lot of people think these are invoices from their local publisher," said Teresa Keenan, GTE Directories Director-Product Management. "We recommend that everyone look carefully at every bill. Our bills always include our company logo.

"Ask the sales rep when and how you will be billed and what that bill will look like," Keenan added. "If you get a questionable bill, show it to the sales rep."

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