Yellow Pages Ads If you're not advertising in your local Yellow Pages, you could be missing out on a critical source of leads.

By Kathy J. Kobliski

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

What It Is:
Line or display ads in the Yellow Pages section of your local phone book(s)

Appropriate For:
All businesses

Typical Cost:
Free, if you're purchasing a line ad. But the cost of display ads varies from city to city. In Manhattan, New York, a small, one-inch space listing would cost you about $2,500, and you could pay as much as $92,000 for a full-page display ad. But that same one-inch space listing in Manhattan, Kansas, would cost just $252, and a full-page display ad would be about $11,200.

Like a lot of other advertising mediums, the cost of your ad depends on where you advertise, the ad size, and under how many headings you want the ad to be listed. In the United States, there are more than 8,000 Yellow Pages directories published by such companies as Verizon, SBC, Bell South, Yellow Book, RH Donnelley and Sprint, all with different rates.

How It Works:
Don't think twice about this: You need to be in the Yellow Pages just to let people know you're a legitimate business and to make them more "comfortable" about calling you, especially if they haven't done business with you before. People who are "flimflam artists" don't list themselves in the phone book where they can be tracked down. So you must be listed in the Yellow Pages just to help prove your legitimacy.

The unfortunate part of advertising there is that when a customer looks up a topic, rather than your specific business name, they're treated to a display of the listings and ads of all your competitors, some of whom will provide a larger range of products or services or who are in a more convenient location than you.

When it comes to the Yellow Pages, size does matter! Accurate or not, the size of your Yellow Pages display ad may directly impact the perception of your business--and its size--in the mind of your customers. A competitor's half- or full-page ad that runs next to your business-card-size ad gives a subconscious impression that the business with the larger ad is the better--and more established--of the two.

If you can afford to spend the many thousands of dollars it costs to purchase a Yellow Pages display ad, by all means, do so. And if you're going to be in that arena with a display ad, you'll hopefully be able to afford something substantial to avoid being seen as a peanut. Like politicians who need to be the biggest, strongest personality in any room, your ad needs to be one of the big ones if that's how you want your business perceived and if you want to beat your competitors out of the call.

If you can't afford to run a decent-sized Yellow Pages ad in whatever book you choose (look at your competitors' ads and see if you can match or come close to matching the sizes they have), it's best to use a simple line-ad listing in that section to legitimize your business. And these are free--though for a few more dollars, you can put it in bold rather than regular typeface, which will help it stand out. Then, in your radio, TV or print ads, you can say, "See our listing in the white pages," where you'll also be listed, to keep customers from seeing your competitors' ads in the Yellow Pages.

Your Yellow Pages display ads can be paid for monthly, rather than all at once for your one-year contract, but that can still be cost prohibitive, often wiping out the advertising budget of a small or even midsized business, leaving no funds to pay for promoting your business in any other medium.

In some parts of the country, there's another choice now when it comes to telephone directories: Yellow Book has popped up in some areas with better advertising rates than the standard Yellow Pages directories, and although some people don't care for the size and weight (they're often larger and heavier books because they include smaller towns that, with Yellow Pages, are published separately in their own little directories), they offer a viable alternative.

No matter what other forms of advertising you choose to employ, Yellow Pages ads are still practically mandatory for most businesses, even with more and more people going to their computers to look up information about--and directions to--local businesses. They remain one of the best ways to provide your business phone number and location(s) to the public.

Kathy Kobliski is the founder of Silent Partner Advertisingin Syracuse, New York. She is also the author of Advertising Without an Agency Made Easy.

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