If You Still Do: How to Advertise Smarter on Yellow Pages

Once upon a time, the Yellow Pages was so thick you could plop your toddler on a couple of them stacked together and that kid would be high enough to reach the dinner table. That big fat advertising book was welcomed into American households every year, and like the Sears Catalog, new books were highly anticipated by consumers and advertisers alike. Everyone loved the Yellow Pages (YP), except…

The Downside…There Were a Few

Once a Year: Be There or Be Out

If an advertiser missed the publishing deadline, that was it for a year! They had to pay for newspaper and magazine ads while waiting an entire year to get into the book. Brutal.

Hello Competition

And even if they were in…their ad was lumped in with their competitors. Statistics prove that up to 25% of people compare prices. So a lot of folks simply shopped for a cheaper business.

Mistakes in the Ad

Or worse, the ad was wrong. Can you see it – losing customers because calls meant to go to your business always went to Joe Schmoe? And Joe got so sick of the phone ringing that he stopped giving out the correct number and simply hung up on people. We heard of an advertiser (true story) whose Spanish ad was mistakenly placed in the English YP version. He didn’t notice this for several months, and later recalled that not one patient told him they noticed it either.

It Costs…How Much?

The funny thing about the YP is the cost goes up the longer you, as an advertiser, use it.

Going, Going, …?

There are several reasons the physical Yellow Pages has slimmed down to a fraction of its once formidable importance:

  • The internet and review sites
  • Smart Phones with advanced search capabilities
  • Malls – retail stores are consolidated
  • Big-box stores carry their own brand awareness
  • Immigrants who never used Yellow Pages
  • Local Directories
  • Category-specific Directories (Angie’s List for example)

Who Still Uses Yellow Pages?

Having cited these statistics, you still know your business best and there may be valid reasons to keep the YP in your advertising arsenal. First, your customer base may still use them. Depending on demographics and your location, there are certain people that still go to the Yellow Pages to look up businesses and services.

The type of business comes into play too. Service businesses like florists, salons and spas would fall into this category. Professionals including medicine, law and accounting factor as well. You could also include “need it now” services like towing, plumbers, locksmiths, and taxis.

If you are unsure, one of the first things you should do is check your local YP and see who’s in it, and how they are advertising. 

Big Tip!

Another thing you should always do, and train staff to do, is ask “How did you find us?” Do not ask a leading question such as “Did you find us in the Yellow Pages (or TV, or Radio – whatever advertising you are doing)?” Let them tell you.  And record it, every time. Use this technique whether people are calling, emailing, or walking in the door.

OK, you have determined that the Yellow Pages are still important for your business. If this is you, read on to learn how to make your ad spend as profitable as it can be.

For the Die-Hard YP Advertiser: Suggested Don’ts and Do’s (Proven to Work!)

When it comes to the YP your goal is to get people to call you, right? So you want to get their attention in the midst of other ads. When they do see your ad, it’s good to appeal to THEM and what they need (WIIFM “what’s in it for me?”). Think about putting yourself in their place. If you are new in town and suddenly need a plumber, you want emergency service, and someone close by, who takes credit cards, and maybe has a guarantee. When you see these benefits, you probably call that plumber. You are not admiring the logo or focusing on the business name.

Get them off the Yellow Pages by giving them a reason to call. What will probably not help you get more customers:

  • Let a rep who is designing everyone else’s ad design yours too
  • Have the business name or the logo as the focus of the ad (you want a strong headline – WIIFM)
  • Direct people to your YP ad where they will see all the other ads – let them “find” you on YP then get them off the Yellow Pages and toward what you want them to do next (yes, worth repeating)

What has been proven to work:

  • Have a strong headline-attract people to YOU and not competitors
  • Tell people why YOU are the one to call (list benefits, offer proof, etc.)
  • Tell people what to do: go to your website, call, directions, etc.
  • Use graphics that makes your ad eye-catching (change typeface, font size, add a border, etc.)

If You Are Seeing Diminishing Returns with YP: What We Recommend and Why

The cost of YP is not going down but readership continues to decline. Do advertisers ever stop paying for Yellow Pages ads, then return to invest in them again? Overwhelmingly, no.

Why not take the free YP listing and add your website link there, then allocate that money into Direct Mail? You can encourage people to BUY, not just call.


  • People WILL see your ad immediately when they check their mail
  • Coupons are easy to offer
  • You can have deadlines on offers
  • You can test offers
  • You can include much more information

We offer this service. With your own targeted message. Imagine getting it delivered directly into thousands of mailboxes at once.


instead of lying awake at night worrying about bills, lying awake at night because of the excitement knowing YOUR ad is going to be in all those homes! Yes!

There’s a way for small businesses to expand their reach without wasting money, by using co-advertising. Another term for it is ‘marriage mailing’ (without the alimony!). You share the cost with other advertisers, on a large postcard. We offer these on a no-contract basis and you will not have to worry about competitors. We place only one type of business or restaurant style is on the card.

Learn More

If you prefer, there are other card sizes and sharing options, such as six, three, or even solo ads. You can saturate an entire neighborhood or more than one.

For larger ticket items, you can even send specific targeted postcards with our service. For example, gender, age, income, spending habits, and more. This does cost more, but you are assured of reaching the right people this way.

Keep in mind we are a local service and are familiar with the Monterey Peninsula.

Last Words on YP

In some areas, perhaps for older customers, and for certain types of businesses, Yellow Pages still work. This is just to make you aware of other options.

Is there a possibility you have been spending money in YP out of habit and it’s not really profitable anymore?



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