yellow pages: A method to the madness, The

Rhodes, Linda S

Imagine a medium that is both diverse and targeted. Sounds like a tall order, but the Yellow Pages(R) has been providing this range to advitisers for years. But before you let your fingers do the walking to your local Yellow Pages (R) sales representative, it’s important to understand the many variables associated with telephone directory advertising and how they can be used to enhance your advertising goals.

While there are no hard-and-fast rules about choosing and using the Yellow Pages, there are at least some good guidelines to help you with your chiropractic practice. By knowing the facts, you can make the most appropriate decisions about size, cost, frequency, number and type of headings, content, and geographic reach to match the goals, objectives, and budget of your individual business.

The Yellow Pages can be very effective Guesswork used as a marketing strategy however, can lead to the hit-or-miss results that have given the Yellow Pages(R) the reputation for unpredictable outcomes and excessive cost. Observing a few basic principles can maximize returns on your expenditure.

Getting the Message Across

Most media-such as radio, television, newspapers, and billboards-mirror their audiences. But the Yellow Pages(R) is essentially an information medium, The Yellow Pages(R) reflects the size of the market. Rural areas generally have larger geographic coverage than urban areas do. Small neighborhood directories may have only two columns per page, whereas larger cities have three or four. These kinds of differences reflect the overall potential of the directory.

Turning Cost into Profitability

“A patient or tvo a year wv ll probably more than pa+ for the ad,” says Tom Davis, a 30-vear veteran of telephone directory sales and management and author of The Truth about the Yellow Pages(R). Think of the Yellow Pages(R) as a part of your marketing mix-not “either/or.” Position it as a revenue generator. and expect results from whatever representation you have (You’ll get calls from even the smallest ads).

The act that the majority of your business comes from other sources doesn’t mean there is no money to be made. Attorneys, for example, spend more on the Yellow Pages than any other group, yet more of their income is earned from other sources, such as referrals.

When business is good, plan to increase Yellow Pages advertising, rather than cutting it out of the budget. Most practices that don’t get the most out of their Yellow Pages ads don’t put enough into them. Think of the Yellow Pages as an income producer, not an outlay. Spend to receive.

Negotiate with your Yellow Pages(R) sales representative.

Be aggressive in your questions. Ask about buy-one– get-one-free ads, discounts for multiple locations, frequency, or coupons. By applying special rates, sometimes you can go up in ad size and keep the cost virtually the same. Do a cost comparison of color, which may be expensive in major markets. Consider putting those same dollars toward a second heading, which increases exposure and the number of calls. If there is more than one phone book, compare what each publisher offers. The Yellow Pages can increase your volume, awareness, traffic, repeat business, and marketing share.

Good liming Means Timely Results

Publishers of Yellow Pages directories admit errors are more apt to occur closer to deadlines, or when ad decisions are made in a hurry. Buying early saves in terms of costly mistakes. Keep in mind, Yellow Pages ads are sold a year in advance; so figure your budget expenditure and practice objectives 12 months ahead of time.

Also, choose your phone book companies wisely. Since the AT&T breakup, two major changes have occurred: Non-telephone publishers have appeared on the scene, and telephone companies have started distributing telephone books outside their own service areas. The directory to choose is one that shows new ads added over a period of years, indicating support and usage. New publishers in their first year can be risky. Wait to see if they continue in the market for at least a second year before buying space, even if the incentives are tempting. A good way to judge a publisher’s directory is to check for ads that continue to appear and ads that get progressively larger over time. Generally, the safest recommendation is an established Yellow Pages(R) directory that has been in circulation for more than five years.

These Numbers Count

A 1996-97 survey by one of the leading national telephone companies tested chiropractic ad responses by publishing specially issued phone numbers (that appeared only in special editions of the directories) in chiropractic ads. An outside research firm then tracked the numbers and measured usage. The results were significant in determining not only how many inquiries were made but also what types of people were making them.

The test sampling of traceable numbers was monitored in six major markets across the country. For example, a test ad in Lakeland, FL (population 405,000), produced 95 callers during a 30-day period; while another ad in Moreno Valley, CA (population 137,000), produced 46 callers. This type of caller evaluation may also be available to you and your practice, thus giving you a practical means of accurately assessing the effectiveness of your Yellow Pages(R) investment.

A related study showed 89 percent of consumers who looked up the heading “Chiropractor” in the Yellow Pages(R) used or made plans to use these services, and 46.1 percent referred to a display ad rather than just a line listing. Of this number, 58 percent were female, 42 percent male, 75 percent owned their own residences, 21 percent were renters, 57 percent had no children, 43 percent had children, 68 percent were married, and 16 percent were single.

Non-metropolitan areas were pinpointed as having a higher frequency of chiropractic callers between the ages of 35 and 44. These individuals were employed in technical, sales, or clerical work; and had annual household incomes of $30,000 to $40,000. It was discovered that consumers most likely to use the Yellow Pages(R) under the chiropractic headings are those who have children 12 to 17 years old (46%), have attended college (23%), are 35 to 44 years old (58%), are employed part time (23%), and are employed in a craft or production job.

Nationwide, 37.4 million references occurred under “Chiropractors DC” and 36.5 million under the heading of “Clinics.” In a test market comparison study, some 150,000 consumers in a major metropolitan area of more than 4 million people showed that 9,965, or 7 percent of the test market, used the services of a chiropractor. Although the largest percentage (79%) of the patient base was from individual referrals, the second largest category of prospective patients (19%) used the Yellow Pages.

What You Put in Is What You Get Out

An independent study in 1993 asked consumers to identify the exact information in a Yellow Page(R)s ad that prompted them to call. In order of importance, responses were:

1) Quality (encompasses board certification, credentials, degrees, name and photo, national or state association membership, trained staff, years in business, etc.)

2) Accessibility (hours, emergency number, mall or shopping center location, map, several locations, weekend hours, evening hours)

3) Price (acceptance of Medicare benefits and major credit cards, competitive fees, etc.)

4) Special Services (attorney’s letter of protection, auto back pain, bilingual staff, chronic pain, headaches, MUA, massage, medical referrals, modern low-force technique, nutritional support, sports injury, specializing, ultrasound, work related).

Although photographs are high on the list for identification purposes and admittedly draw the eye to an ad, they are not always complimentary because of bad reproduction. Money well spent would be the one-time cost of getting your layout designed by a professional artist-a relatively small outlay that will help to minimize problems and maximize readership, especially since the same ad will be seen for an entire year.

Using a second color, such as red, green, blue, or all three, helps to grab the reader’s attention. WIth a smaller ad, use more color if affordable. Generally, use as much color as possible, but use it at 100 percent strength. Shades and screens look washed out on grainier paper stock. Ask your sales representative about buying color at a discount. If you have to choose between adding a color and buying a larger ad, buy the larger ad-except if you are adding color to the largest ad on the page.

Just because an ad is clean and has a lot of white space does not mean it will get read. The white space principle stems from newspaper ads, not the Yellow Pages(R). Different media are used for different purposes. “The Yellow Pages(R) usage occurs when the user is ready to buy something,” says Tom Davis. Usage is a process of elimination and selection. Ads that don’t describe what the user needs are eliminated. Thus, it is wise to include as many of the user’s needs as possible in your ad. The more you say, the better.

Say as much about what chiropractic is and what it does as you can. The general public needs this education. MDs, on the other hand, have benefited from group specialization and universally recognized standards of practice. Everyone knows what MDs do, but not everyone knows what DCs do. Use your Yellow Pages(R) ad to educate potential patients about what makes chiropractic different from traditional medicine and how it may help them.

Six Strategies for Sure Success

1. Increase calls from surrounding communities by adding a number (with the local area code) for those localities to use. The closer you appear to be to potential patients, the more calls you will get-which is especially true for a start-up practice.

2. Use your Yellow Pages(R) sales representative to best advantage. Explain what you want to achieve. Ask about discounts, specials, demographics, coverage, color coupons, newcomer packets, and headings planned for upcoming books. Generally, the more you spend, the better the representative they send. Be wary of sales reps who say they can save you money-and that’s all they want to do. This is a sign of putting commission ahead of service.

3. Check with your state chiropractic association and licensing board to be sure your ad meets chiropractic criteria and state advertising laws.

4. Being in more than one directory is advisable if they reach different segments of the population. Look to see if other DCs in your area do it. Multiple directories are especially worth considering in large metropolitan areas where there is overlap of directory coverage.

5. In today’s business environment, calls are frequently received by an answering machine. Unless it is after hours, your dollars would be better spent if you or your receptionist answered the phone personally. You can expect to get new inquiries from a Yellow Pages(R) ad, so be prepared to handle them expertly. The Yellow Pages generates leads. It doesn’t create sales. However, it may still not be profitable if prospective patients are lost on first contact.

6. Make copies of your Yellow Pages(R) ad to hand out and let your patients know about it. This helps to stimulate referrals. One clinic distributes its ad on a bookmark.

Sizing Up the Eye Traffic to Suit Your Practice Needs

One of the unique features of the Yellow Pages(R) is that it enables specificity in setting goals. Ask yourself what kinds of patients you are trying to attract. Then measure the outcome against the primary goal. Did you place the ad to get new patients or to give yourself a presence in the community? Are you structuring it for patient referrals or do you encourage walk– ins?

Aggressiveness pays in the Yellow Pages(R). Decide what dollar amount you want to generate, and then determine the ad size necessary to attain it. Small and conservative means you’re included but not showy; “tell all” ads command the page. Neither is right or wrong; both are correct, depending on the purpose, budget, and objective. A quarter-page ad in a small community might run $40 and the same ad in a metropolitan area would be $1,000 or more. The deciding factor is the proportionate reach. Plan to get enough usage for a return on your investment.

Economic strength of the audience is another factor. If there are more businesses, there is a stronger market and more competition. The size of the directory reflects its competitiveness and usage. Users choose by the process of elimination. The ads they choose are the ads that tell them what they want to know. It’s not the traffic you get that should be your primary concern, but the traffic you wouldn’t get if you weren’t there.

Size becomes an element of being seen. Being seen depends on how well you dominate the page and how many other ads are on that page or under that heading. Never underestimate the importance of occupancy. One option is high visibility (maybe you are the only display ad on the page, or maybe yours is the most prominent); another is multiple locations under the same heading (ads are lost when people turn the page); and a third is multiple headings, such as “Alternative Health Care,” “Clinics,” or “Rehabilitation.”

Size helps an ad to dominate a page. If there are no display ads under a heading, you can either buy an in– column ad large enough to be the largest, or buy a small display ad. If there are other display ads under your heading, buy as large as necessary to be the largest. Size is important. The more ads that appear on a page, the fewer average calls per ad.

Location on the page itself is also important. People read from left to right, top to bottom. Being in their line of vision gives you better response potential. If your location is under a larger ad, you’ll get residual notice due to dominance of the larger ad. Be observant and evaluate. Ask your representative how the pages will be laid out.

To Web or Not to Web

Some Yellow Pages(R) offer a Web site or interactive services as an incentive when you buy a display ad. Of the 27 million people using the Internet at least once a week, 73 percent spend time looking for specific services. Even the gender gap is narrowing: 58 percent of Internet users are male and 42.7 percent are female. By the year 2000, it is estimated that the Internet will be a $6.6 billion business and will no doubt become increasingly important as an avenue of communication. Some Yellow Pages(R) directories are also on-line. Avail yourself of every opportunity for electronic exposure, especially if it is free.

Summarily Speaking

The Yellow Pages(R) can be an integral part of your media plan. Think in terms of interrelationships. Decide what your target audience is. Whom do you want to reach and where? The Yellow Pages(R) needn’t be complicated if you determine your objectives at the start. Spend some time getting familiar with your own Yellow Pages(R) and check what’s under the appropriate headings. Assess your needs, expectations, and goals. Determine the headings available. What are other DCs doing? What do you want to earn from the ad? Set some guidelines to follow to achieve your desired outcomes.

Count on paying for a Yellow Pages(R) ad with the money you make from it, but be realistic. Don’t expect the majority of your patients to use it to find you. Do expect enough usage for a return on your investment. Repeat business and referrals both can and do come indirectly from those who found you in the Yellow Pages(R). The fact that the majority of your business comes from other sources does not mean there is no money to be made.

Is Yellow Pages(R) advertising absolutely necessary to your survival? Probably not. There are high-volume doctors with years of practice experience who have never had a Yellow Pages(R) ad. There are also top– ranking practice management consultants who recommend being ultra-conservative in the Yellow Pages(R). Can you succeed without The Yellow Pages(R) advertising? Yes. Many mega-practices were grown on nothing but referrals. Is the Yellow Pages(R) a valuable option that needs to be understood to be of optimum benefit? Yes. Decide what is important to you and your practice future. The Yellow Pages(R) is really just another tool at your disposal. To view it in those terms helps to take the complexity out of the process. As Albert Einstein once said, “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”


Colin, Wheildon. Type & Layout, How Typography and Design Can Get Your Message Across or Get In The Way; Berkeley, California; Strathmore Press, 1995.

Davis, Tom. The Truth About The Yellow Pages(R), Making Them Work for You, Delray Beach, Florida, St. Lucie Press, 1997. GTE indepent marketing studies conducted by: Statistical Research, Inc., Westfield, N.J., 1989-1994 for YPPA, Simmons Market Research Bureau, Inc., 1996

Active Intermedia Measurement (AIM) 1994 from a national sample conducted by NYPM, a division of NFO Research, Inc., Simmons Study of Media & Markets, 1995, wiith Permission.

Copyright American Chiropractic Association Feb 1999

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved

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