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If your phone stopped ringing, would your business be in

trouble? That’s my usual answer to business owners who

ask me if “dishing out money to the Yellow Pages every

month” is still a wise investment. If customers don’t

normally think of your service or product until they need it,

and a lot of your business is done by phone, an

effective Yellow Pages ad design still rings in the

most local customers for the money. So how do you design

for this one-of-a-kind medium? The following eight

guidelines will keep your phone dancing across your desk

with new business.

1) Choose the Right Yellow Page Ad Size, You’ll Save a


Don’t sweat about buying your way into first position by

having the largest Yellow Page ad in your heading! Few

people call only the first few (or largest) ads. Undecided

customers are still looking for the company they can feel the

best about, not the first company they come across.

Prospects will respond to the Yellow Page ad

design that A) Visually captures their attention and

B) Engages and persuades them with ad copy that

speaks to their emotions. Ad size is not as important as

your sales rep claims. In fact, appearing in the first third of

your heading is considered good positioning as long as

your Yellow Page ad is properly developed.

2) Technicolor or Black & Yellow? Put Your Money

Where It Matters Most.

If you’re considering costly colors, spend your money on

design first, positioning second, and color last. A properly

designed, one color Yellow Page ad will easily outperform a

larger, full-color ad that’s poorly designed and without

compelling copy. Bottom line? A bad Yellow Pages ad will

get bad results regardless of color, size or positioning,

because these things have little to do with convincing the

customer to call you!

3) Ignore Most Readers; Embrace Your Most Important


Tightly focused Yellow Page ad designs convince more

customers to actually call and do business with you.

Casting the widest net possible in an attempt to reach

everyone forces you to compete with all the others in your

heading and dilutes your message. Would you rather

persuade 10% of the market 100% of the way into becoming

customers, or reach 100% of the market and convince them

only 10% of the way? Speak to your most important

prospects directly, and they’ll reply – by calling.

4) A Masterfully Crafted Headline Nearly Guarantees


If your headline fails (or worse, is missing), your ad will fail.

Crucial is an understatement. Make sure your headline

appears prominently at the top of your Yellow Page ad

design and that it fills these main functions:

  • Snares
    readers’ eyes as they scan the
  • Conveys your most important benefit (Unique Selling
    Proposition), setting you apart from your competitors in a
    meaningful way
  • Strikes an emotional chord with the reader, compelling
    them to read further. Spend 60% of your design time
    developing your unique, benefit-related headline.
    that important! Do NOT use your business name,
    logo or characterless copy. Your headline must set you
    apart from the others, prove that you fully understand your
    prospect’s problem, and convince readers that you
    genuinely care about helping them.

5) Persuasive Body Copy Always Touches Their


Once you’ve gained prospects’ attention with your lead (and

image), you’ll need to convert their interest into confidence

with copy that speaks to their needs. Undecided prospects

are looking for the company they can feel the best about

doing business with, so crawl deep into the buyer’s mind,

and think like they’re thinking at their moment in need.

Now write copy that addresses your prospects’ emotional

state of mind, uses electric words that shock readers with

the truth, and speaks to your prospects in the second

person (you, you, you – remember, it’s ALL about them). Do

this and you’ll be overwhelmed at the number of customers

that end up feeling the best about your business.

Customers who are confident that you understand their

problem and can solve it better than anyone else are

customers confident enough to call you.

6) Eyeball-Popping Images and Clutter-Free


NEVER use “expected” images in your Yellow Pages ad,

EG: plumbers who display a fleet of trucks; lawyer ads that

show gavels, eagles and flags; or storage companies that

picture a row of meaningless storage doors. Washed out in

a sea of insignificant “clip art,” these images blur into a

quickly scanned background and push readers’ eyes to rest

on images and designs that DO stand out. If you’ve done a

good job creating your main headline, choosing an image

for your Yellow Page ad will be easy. Your graphic should

be an arresting, eye-grabbing image that:

  • Reinforces your main headline concept,

  • Differentiates your business from the others, in a

    meaningful way

“Meaningful” is the key word. Clever and creative ad design

that fails to persuasively address your prospects’ needs

might make readers smile, but your phone will hang dead in

the receiver. You must both arrest prospects’ attention and

draw them into reading the copy, AND persuade readers to

do business with you. It’s a tough juggling act that most

advertisers and greenhorn ad designers have a hard time

with, but it’s the only act that increases sales.

7) Call Them to Action or Kiss Them “BUH-BYE.”

Prospects only read Yellow Page ads as a prelude to calling

— to give someone their business! Don’t frustrate potential

customers by trying to send them to your Web site, giving

them your email address, or worse yet, trying to brand an

image. Your prospects are intending to call someone, so

make sure you’re the business they call by asking them:

“call right now!” Include a distinct call-to-action near your

phone number. EG, “Call and get your FREE analysis

now.” Don’t haphazardly place your phone number just

anywhere. Your number and call-to-action should appear in

the bottom portion of your ad, along with your address and

other contact info.

8) A Professional Yellow Page Ad Designer? Choose


Want results from your ad? Ensure your designer

has experience obtaining those results
for his

customers! Many Yellow Page ad design “connoisseurs”

are actually marketers with sparse ad design skills and

experience. Some have simply chosen to mimic other

successful Yellow Page design sites (so much for their

creativity). Many offer the same lackluster skills your Yellow

Page publisher provides for FREE. Ask for references and

make sure their Yellow Page advertising design clients

have, in fact, experienced improved response rates. If they

haven’t, keep looking. Never try to save a few hundred

dollars in design fees at the expense of thousands in lost


Effective Yellow Page ads skillfully combine these eight

(and many other) design elements to work together to

create a powerful emotional connection with the audience.

Does your Yellow Page ad design move your prospects

deeply and compel them to call you? Or are you waiting for

the phone to ring? Let me