There's a long-standing tradition in the electrical industry of contractors overspending on Yellow Page ads and receiving rotten results, according to a recent report by Hudson Ink, a marketing firm for contractors based in Montgomery, Ala. In fact, Adams Hudson, president of Hudson Ink, says electrical contractors spend $158 million per year on Yellow Page ads, putting them in the top 20% of overall spending. To add insult to injury, Yellow Page references have slipped nearly 25% over the last few years.

That doesn't mean ECs should abandon this media format. Hudson says savvy contractors can create an ad that will double their leads by focusing on a few simple areas:

  1. Headline

    Grab your reader's eyeballs — right now — and tell them an immediate gain or benefit in a distinctive way. (Look at your competitors' ads for ways not to do it, thus guaranteeing your distinction.) Warning: Some Yellow Pages publishers are now outlawing the use of “Warning” or “Consumer Warning” as a headline. You think it's because they got poor results? Hardly. Although our firm has never created such an ad, we know exactly why they're effective. Fear is a powerful motivator, but as a headline this is even better…

  2. Solve their problems

    That means built, fixed, replaced, or upgraded in the most painless way (I did NOT say cheapest). And you'll do this by showing lots of…

  3. “Reasons-why” copy

    These are generally lined up as specific bullet points showing how you “know” their problem(s), including what they'd rather avoid by choosing poorly. No finger pointing — only how you're different. This often includes…

  4. Risk reversals

    Boldly state your guarantees, the stronger the better. These are your most powerful weapons to reduce call resistance. Your competition thinks it's done with starbursts or saying, “For all your electrical needs.” It's not. Put your prospect at ease to call, and you'll get more calls. To make sure, wrap your ad up with a solid…

  5. Call to action

    You think you can just plop your phone number in the ad and hope they'll call you? Sorry. To drive leads, you must tell them what to do — and that means to call now to solve their problem. We generally put the phone number in the bottom right-hand corner.

In addition to these guidelines, the following graphical elements also help increase Yellow Page leads:

  • Using sans serif fonts for headlines. (We just secured a dead ringer for what is called the most legible font on the planet and cost the researching entity $13 million to create. I obviously cannot reprint it here, but can send requesters a sample.)
  • Use dotted line boxes sparingly.
  • Never run a photo of the owner or satisfied consumer without a compelling caption.