DENVER—When a driver needs a new set of tires, where is he most likely to look for a retailer? The people who publish the yellow pages say that "tire dealers" is one of the most consulted sections in the phone directory and that a potential customer is most likely going to look there first.
"The real advantage of Yellow Pages advertising is that it reaches people at the precise moment they're ready to buy," said Larry Small, vice president of marketing services for the Yellow Pages Publishers Association.
The Denver-based YPPA is an umbrella association of larger phone companies that publish directories with yellow-page sections.
Mr. Small said the YPPA's research shows that the tire dealer section is the 20th most-referenced heading out of the 4,200 total headings in the yellow pages. He said 67 percent of people who turn to the tire dealer heading are ready to buy, compared with the overall average of 50 percent for all yellow pages readers.
"The fact that so many people don't have a tire dealer in mind is important," Mr. Small added. His research shows the average person who uses the "tire dealer" listings looks at more than five ads, and 87 percent look at three ads or more.
Because a dealer pays for a yellow pages ad on an annual basis, Mr. Small said it seems expensive. But, he said dealers should focus on the return on investment (ROI) of this cost. The YPPA's research shows that a tire dealer receives $16 dollars in business for each dollar spent on yellow pages advertising. He said the average for all yellow pages advertisers is about five-to-one.
Mr. Small said that when he talks with businesses about the yellow pages they have two main concerns: content of the ad and selection of directories.
Selection of directories has become important because the breakup of AT&T by the federal government in 1984 has spawned competition in long-distance and now local phone service. He said that if a business switches local phone service to a different company, it needs to make sure the publisher of that area's phone directory is informed.
"The key is to call the publisher"—who is listed in the directory—to make sure it has a company's listing information, Mr. Small said. Smaller local phone companies don't place a high priority on listing information, he said, but yellow pages publishers do because they're interested in revenue from advertising.
He also advised tire dealers to advertise in the directory that serves the area where the majority of their customers reside.
The design of the ad is crucial: "What is unique (about your dealership) is more important than the size of the ad," Mr. Small said. A good ad contains a good headline, which is not necessarily the name of the dealership. Something like extended hours or unique services will get more attention.
The ad also should contain a "dominant illustration," such as the logo of a featured product. But he cautioned against using too many logos, which would clutter the ad's appearance.
The advertisement also should have pertinent information about the dealership without trying to include too much, which could make it difficult to read.
Last year, the YPPA began a $24 million national advertising campaign to promote the yellow pages. Using television, national magazines and newspapers, the campaign was the group's first national effort in 15 years, Mr. Small said.