Forget what you know about your business Your goal is to see your Yellow Page display advertisement the way a directory user sees it. You can't act like you know anything about your enterprise that isn't there, on the page. Look at your ad without pride or being identified with your operation. If you pretend it's someone else's, you can spot the flaws you'd otherwise overlook. Mentally put the competition's name on your ad. Does what you say apply equally well to them? If it does, you haven't effectively set yourself apart.
When all the ads seem alike buyers think they can get the same thing from any of them (and are more likely to select by price). The goal isn't just to look different, but to actually be different in ways customers notice and care about. Does the ad provide the facts readers and callers need? Directory users have already decided to buy something. So they're looking in the Yellow Pages to find who provides it. This is the educational phase of the buying process. As soon as a person finds enough information to take the next step, they close the directory and move on.
Customers want information. They're looking for some reason to prefer some business over the rest. Well-thought-through ads make their job much easier. So give readers the precise information they're looking for. It's hard to do that unless you understand your customers' mindset and priorities. It helps to be absolutely clear about how you're different from other businesses in the heading. Look at the ad as a whole Now squint your eyes so you can't make out the words. This lets you get the overall impression.
Most ads just get scanned, so the words themselves are only read if there's a double-take that captures the reader's attention. Is the whole image pleasant to look at? Does it reveal an attractive, unique personality of the business? Is there a business-like, competent tone? Do all the parts, from the fonts and images, to messages, all mesh and express the same distinctive flavor? Are there distractions from the image or message? Does every element carry its weight and support the whole mood? Fat borders and cutesy graphics use valuable space, without much pay-off. If there's color, is it used effectively? Does it contribute or distract? Notice the business name. Does it tell you what the enterprise actually does (aside from the category it's in)? Generic names like R&J Enterprises don't cut it. If the name isn't informative, you might need a slogan or tagline - but do make it unique to you. Is the information arranged to be easy to read?
Every ad is a compromise between saying enough and arranging it to clearly communicate an attractive impression. Does the most important information stand out? Is it easy to find (without being too packed in)? What catches the eye first? Second? Third? How complete is the information? Does it provide what callers are most likely to ask about? Customers are concerned about convenience. Does the ad include crucial location, hours, extra services, parking, payment options, after-hours contact, etc.? Is there a way for them to get extra information (like a booklet or from a Web site)? Give bonus points for that. Look word for word. Is every one essential? Is anything important left out? Is it organized with bullets or clusters so related information hangs together?
Next, consider the ads around it A Yellow Page ad never appears in isolation. And what goes on with the nearby ads influences the way people respond to yours - more than the specifics of your ad. What else is on the page, and the pages before and after yours? Be honest now, do they do a better job of grabbing the eye? Is the whole page a blur - without a clear attention grabber? And if there is one, what makes it stand out better than yours? How can you improve on it? Assessing your ad is the first step to making a better one.
The real value of critiquing your Yellow Page ad is to sharpen your own eye to pick up the crucial differences among competing ads. Practice in other categories where you don't have a stake. Soon you can tell in a glance which ads have more appeal - and why. Find free expert assistance in developing a first-rate Yellow Page ad at http://www.yellowpagesage.com. or arrange for a professional critique of your ad, so you don't miss a trick. Either way, you'll find ample ways to improve your ad that will improve its performance. And you will be ready when the next directory comes around. ?2004, Lynella Grant
--Dr. Lynella Grant, an expert in visual communication. How printed materials send signals that strengthen or undo the words. Author, The Business Card Book & Yellow Page Smarts http://www.yellowpagesage.com Off the Page Press (719) 395-9450