13 Ways to Improve Your Yellow Page Ad
by William D. Esteb
When two Phoenix lawyers opened their Legal Clinic in 1976 they felt their idea approach of providing low cost legal services was a resource their entire community should know about. Invoking the freedom of speech provisions of the United States Constitution, and against the canons of the Arizona State Bar Association, they started advertising their services. The legal battle that ensued, ending up in the United States Supreme Court, ultimately opened the floodgates for all types of licensed professionals to advertise. The result has been an embarrassment to lawyers, dentists, and chiropractors.
This new freedom has invited doctors, lawyers, and other professionals into a domain previously reserved for plumbers and retailers. Besides being a new discipline to master, yellow page advertising is different than any other form of advertising. The approaches suggested by the newspaper classified salesman turned yellow page advertising expert that worked for transmission specialists and pet stores don't automatically translate into the health care arena.
Why use the yellow pages? Prospective patients consulting the yellow pages are ready to make a buying decision. Listing advertising like the yellow pages is different than direct mail or newspaper advertising. When you're in the yellow pages you're positioned where some prospective patients want to find you. Whoever sees your ad is ready to purchase chiropractic care. They're not deciding whether they want a medical doctor or a chiropractic doctor, they're deciding which chiropractor. Plus, the yellow pages can help you differentiate your services from other chiropractic offices, educate prospective patients, prequalify the types of patients that you attract, and reduce the anxiety new patients might have about chiropractic.
While I think money spent in the yellow pages could be better spent within the four walls of your clinic, here are some ideas to consider the next time the salesperson from the yellow pages comes begging at your office:
1. Identify your market. Every practitioner has a particular demographic (age, sex, occupation, income, etc.) and psychographic (attitude, values, self-esteem, etc.) that they especially enjoy serving. Why not attract more of the kinds of patients you like? Determine your ideal patient before creating your ad and then write and design your ad to appeal to this distinct market. Just because someone reading your ad has a spine doesn't automatically make them the type of patient you want!
2. Buy the largest ad you can afford. It's hardly any surprise that research suggests that customers tend to call the largest ads first. Whether this is because larger ads are positioned towards the front of the chiropractic section, or that the larger size suggests that your business is more successful is hard to tell.
Today, with two or more yellow page directories begging for your ad, it's tempting to place an ad in each book. Unfortunately this divide and conquer approach dilutes your impact. Instead, poll your current patients. Which directory do they use? Find out and invest the majority of your budget in a single directory.
3. Differentiate your practice. Sadly, many doctors market their practice as if they were offering a commodity like sugar, coffee, or pork bellies. No two practices are alike, even if they use the same examination procedures, X-ray equipment, adjusting technique, and chiropractic brochures. Unlike many retail businesses or large corporate entities, your personality, experience, and specialities are unique factors. While you may be reluctant to boast about your professional accomplishments, detail the way you create a treatment program, or reveal your own health attitudes, it can quickly differentiate you and attract patients you'd enjoy serving. Let prospective patients know you're different.
4. Use lots of copy. Unlike newspaper advertising, research by the Lincoln Marketing Group suggest that in the yellow pages "heavy" copy out pulls light copy by 3 to 1. Even in small ads lots of words works better.
Use your copy to differentiate yourself. Avoid copy that restates the obvious or lists services that virtually all chiropractors offer. Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective apprehensive new patient. What would they want to know about you and your office?
Be warned! Your yellow page representative is likely to say, "Looks like you have too much copy to me." Ignore their well-intentioned advice. They are simply applying the same guidance they give the chimney sweep, dog groomer, and the other chiropractors down the street.
5. Remove internal dialogue. New patients are probably in pain and have heard stories about chiropractors. They've heard that chiropractors aren't educated, are expensive, and will ask you to come for the rest of their lives. You can take a major step toward better new patient rapport by volunteering information to help dispel these myths. Don't be apologetic! Volunteer information that can serve to put an apprehensive new patient at ease. Your willingness to supply this information can be a very attractive feature for someone unsure who to call.
6. Use a benefit-oriented headline. Headlines serve the same purpose in yellow page advertising as they do in newspaper or magazine advertising: to attract attention. The major difference is that your audience is predisposed to chiropractic. Tailor your headline to the benefits your prospective patient is seeking. What does a new patient seeking chiropractic care in the yellow pages want? Pain relief or wellness care for their children? Probably relief.
7. Include a photograph. Your appearance plays a role in a patient's willingness to trust your recommendations, comply with your recommendations, and even select your office. Do you look friendly? Compassionate? Approachable? Experienced? Successful? These are questions that run through the minds of a new patient. If your appearance isn't an asset, either because you look too young or your facial hair projects the image of a "fringe" practitioner, don't include your picture.
If you include a picture of yourself make sure it's big enough! Have a new picture taken and explain to the photographer its end use. Because of the coarse screen used in the yellow pages request a low contrast black and white print for best reproduction.
8. Avoid red ink. With increasing competition, publishers are offering a host of new services, including coupons, "talking yellow pages," and a rainbow of ink colors. Red headlines and blue borders can make sense in a sea of a dozen or more ads with monotone gray ink in the newspaper. However, the color of ink you use in the yellow pages is unlikely to attract more readers than a reassuring headline or volunteering the answers to the most frequently-asked questions about chiropractic. Instead, spend your money on a larger ad.
9. Monitor your results. Every dime of your marketing efforts should be held accountable. You'll never know if these ideas really work or what to do differently next year unless you keep track of the source of your new patients.
Create a simple form so the staff member who answers the phone can ask them how they found out about your office. Asking them while they are still on the phone will render more accurate information than later when they're in your office. For further confirmation, repeat the question on your new patient admitting form, including medium such as television, direct mail, or others you may not even use. Plot the source of your new patients each month on a graph. It will make decisions about next year's advertising easier to make and justify.
10. Include a map. Research by the National Research Group in Lincoln, Nebraska suggest those who use the yellow pages for health care services have lived in the community less than five years. These newcomers may need some help in finding your office. If space doesn't allow a map, describe your location in the context of a major intersection, popular retail store, or local landmark.
11. Have a call to action. Ask for some type of commitment. While "asking for the order" may make you uneasy, look at your request from a patient's point of view. You're not pandering to the general public, you're talking to someone who probably desperately needs your help. In fact, they're so apprehensive they've waited for weeks or months before opening the yellow pages. Help them over their fear by encouraging them to take the first step towards relief and better health.
12. Get your ad professionally produced. Resist the temptation of delegating the design of your ad to one of the "artists" that work for the directory publisher! Hire a professional. Considering the investment you're about to make, make sure your ad projects a contemporary image and doesn't look like the upholstery shop ad down the street.
Consult the yellow pages and look under Graphic Designer for a commercial artist that can help you. Set some appointments to review their portfolios and discuss your design needs. Maybe have him or her rework your letterhead, business card, and envelops at the same time.
13. Avoid the pack. Many of these ideas run counter to what your yellow page salesperson and even your graphic designer is used to. Everyone will attempt to talk you out of making waves. It takes courage to stand out. But isn't that one of the reasons you chose chiropractic?
Yellow page advertising will always be more an art than a science. Most businesses admit that half of their advertising doesn't work. They just don't know which half!
Buy the book
My Report of Findings
Originally published in 1993
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