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Advertising Methods – Spring 2002

We have experienced a reduction in co-op money available from our vendors. Consequently, we are paying more of the Yellow Pages advertising expense. Is there a reliable way to measure the effectiveness of Yellow Pages ads? Does anyone have an effective alternative to the Yellow Pages?
                           — Tom Fisher, President, Materials Handling Equipment Corp. (Fort Wayne, IN)

Ken MacDonald: I have not found a way to measure Yellow Pages effectiveness except to ask my receptionist, sales, service, parts and rental personnel to ask all new customers who call how they found out about us. Most times they forget to ask and, of course, all salespeople think if we have the largest Yellow Pages ad they will get more business. I personally think that Yellow Pages will become less relevant and then I will become a market leader and substantially reduce my Yellow Pages ad size. It is funny that we all have egos and think size matters and only if we make financial decisions on logic versus ego will we save monies that can be used for enhancing customer service.

Dave Griffith: You may want to try a unique 800 number associated with a given Yellow Pages ad. When we did this, we were stunned not only with new customer information but also the number of current customers who used the Yellow Pages as a Rolodex. You also want to look hard at the size and location of your ad as well as the books that you list in and under what category you list. Your Yellow Pages agent ought to provide you some of this information and analysis. They may even pay for a test number to prove their demographics. We also look at direct mail, website, website links, co-ops in industry press, and selected ads in local publications where it makes real sense given the demographics. Make sure your website is also listed in your Yellow Pages ad. Another great source of this information is to call your new customers, thank them for the business and find out how they found you and what you could have done to make it easier. This is a great executive call.

Loren Swakow: Yellow Pages advertising, at one time, was the highest single item in our advertising budget. It doesn’t help that the Yellow Pages salesperson continues to show us how “everyone else” is going bigger, using color, more pictures, etc. They also have a book of accolades on how a company cannot operate without the Yellow Pages. The salespeople want a full page ad. How do you measure it? Here’s what we did.

We listed a new 877 or toll free number. This number ran for one year in our Yellow Pages advertisements. When renewal time came up again, we pulled out a year’s worth of phone bills to see how many calls we received on the 877 number. We could also see the number that called us. With this information, we could check and see how much actual revenue was generated by the phone number listed in the Yellow Pages. This is how we measured the results of phone book advertising. We found it to be a good enough barometer that we have used the same concept for a variety of mailers also. The small cost of an additional number will either save you thousands or justify the spending.

Larry Abernathy: Yellow Pages advertising is very difficult to measure accurately. The only method that makes sense to me is to survey as many of your new contacts as possible either when they call or formally by mail or telemarketing. This still will only give you a sampling. I think it is more important that you believe in it, and your people believe it is effective to justify the cost. We all know that it is very expensive, but in my market it is the most effective way to spend our advertising dollar. Make sure that you are signed up for the Yellow Pages online feature. You can then get more bang for your buck.

John Cosgrove: Marketing is a science in itself; what works for one company may not work for another. I can, however, only comment on our experiences. Several years ago, we invested heavily in Yellow Pages advertising. We qualify each lead by inquiring as to how the prospect located our company. Our leads generated by the Yellow Pages have been in a steady decline for several years. Each year, prior to renewal, we evaluate the type heading and the size of our ads. We have cut Yellow Pages advertising and invested those marketing dollars in programs like Thomas Regional Directory and our website.

I believe people are using the Internet as a resource to locate companies and to review the services they provide. Although some vendors offer co-op dollars for Yellow Pages advertising, we are convinced that we are better served by channeling our resources to other areas. Perhaps if you prove to your vendors that other marketing ideas can produce mutually beneficial results for both of you, they will increase the co-op money available.

Bob Weeks: Measuring Yellow Pages advertising is difficult. We are using an 800 number totally dedicated to the Yellow Pages ad. Hopefully, we will get an indication of its usefulness. I really think that the Internet is an excellent alternative to the Yellow Pages. However, customers need to be driven to the site and the site needs to be well done to peak the customers’ impressions. 

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

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