In a very comprehensive training program (weeks of nothing but designing and selling advertisements to local businesses taught by a seasoned veteran who was perfect for the job), I learned a lot about the advertising business.
First off, Yellow Pages ads are very expensive. You can make a lot of money selling them, too. The top salesman in our office, which was a giant low-walled cubicle farm, got most of his business from a small handful of — get this — bail bond businesses (you know, one felony removed from Dog the Bounty Hunter).
I guess when you're a low-rent thug and you're holed up in the local jail, you use your one phone call to locate a bail bondsman to get your ass out of jail before Bubba steals your virginity.
Anyway, Yellow Pages ads are immensely effective, too, if used right (just like everything else — it's all in the execution). Of course, some industries worked better with the YP ads (bail bondsmen, lawyers, dry cleaners).
There really is a reason that Yellow Page directories have proliferated. In the classic economic case of a perfect market (low barrier to entry, high profit margins, easy regulation), competition flooded the space and now there are dozens of YP companies.
And it's all because they work. And have worked for decades. Now, don't misunderstand me, and this is not the reason for this post by the way (I will get to that), yellow page ads are becoming less and less effective. Ten years ago, if I were looking for somebody to clear a clogged drain, I would not have hesitated to pick up whatever yellow pages book I had (and I had at least 3).
Now, not so much. I “google” it. Then I look at the first 3 or 4 results and I pick one.
I said all that to say this: If you want to become a good salesperson, whether online sales, offline sales, door-to-door (does anybody still do that?), or something else, you can learn a lot from classic Yellow Pages ads.
Go get a Yellow Pages book. I'll wait. I know you have one. I know exactly where mine is (and I only keep one nowadays) — it's under my youngest kids high chair. We use it to make him just a bit taller.
Open it up. Take a look. What catches your eye? Most likely it's the rascals. Or R.A.S.C.A.L.
This is a time-tested Yellow Pages acronym that stands for the following:
- R — Reliability
- A — Authorized products and services
- S — Special features
- C — Completeness of service
- A — Artwork (some substitute “I” for illustrations)
- L — Location
When you think about it, especially if you own a service or brick-and-mortar business, these are the things that either catch a prospective customer's eye or is something that a potential customer wants to know about you before he picks up the phone to call you.
(Side note: You want the customer to contact you in some way, shape, or form: Either by telephone or email and you want to capture, at a minimum, his phone number and/or email address.)
All of the above can be thought of as questions you should answer before a consumer asks them. They want to know that you're reliable, you have some special training or experience related to their issue, offer something unique, offer everything you may need now and in the future, and are available to satisfy your needs. Okay, artwork really isn't a question they want answered, but it certainly is an eyeball grabber when it comes to ads.
You can certainly apply all of the above in offline advertising programs. But don't limit yourself to “print” ads only — all of these factors apply to online marketing as well.
Use your imagination to make the best ads possible, both for print and online marketing. Apply all of these factors and I guarantee that you will see success.