View Full Version : Utility of the Yellow Pages

Robert Wolfe
31st December 2002, 14:20
Im curious to learn what kind of success instructors have had with ads in the Yellow Pages.

Up through the 2000 Harrisburg Metropolitan directory, we used a column listing, in bold, with the names of the arts taught and our web site address. That ad produced a consistent rate of contacts a few more than 60 per year 17% of which actually enrolled. And at $49 per month, the expense was reasonable for the results achieved.

For the 2001 directory, we upgraded to a display ad, one of the small, so-called band-aid shaped ads. Compared to the other ads of the same size, ours was clean, with one photo each of kenjutsu and aikijutsu, the street address and web URL, and a lot of white space. I had been told by the Verizon sales rep that I could expect a 49% increase in contacts by switching from a column listing to a display ad. Instead, the ad produced fewer contacts and enrollments, and that at a cost of $150 per month (which was an incentive rate).

This past year, we tweaked the ad to include a description of the location (just off an exit from one of the Interstates that form a beltway of sorts around Harrisburg) rather than just the street address. The post office under which the dojo falls might lead prospective students to believe the dojo is in an out of the way location, which certainly isnt the case, so I figured describing the location might preclude that assumption. (Of course, Im continually amazed by the number of people who think having to drive more than 10 minutes to get to the dojo is an unreasonable expectation Id be thrilled just to have my instructors live in the same state...)

In any case, the current ad costs $190 per month (since the incentive rate expired) and produced even fewer contacts and enrollments than the year before.

Next year, Im going back to just a column listing.

Another interesting trend has been the rate at which contacts through the Internet have increased in each of the past four years. This past year, we received more than half as many contacts through our web site as through the Yellow Pages, and the conversion rate of contacts to enrollments has been consistently higher with the folks who use the web. Considering hosting for our web site costs about $15 per month and could be had for less Im convinced web-based advertising will completely supplant printed phone directories in fairly short order.

What have been your experiences?

Mitch Saret
3rd January 2003, 01:52
Here is what you need to remember: the general public has no idea what dan ranks are, what different styles mean, or anything else about the arts except what they get on TV and in movies. All that is wasted space and costing you more money for, as you have learned, nothing. A display ad should be focused on who you want to reach. If you are trying to reach women, an ad with a picture of a woman in uniform is better. Although that also works for men. If you are going for kids, picture a kid or two. The other thing the public wants to know is what you can do for them. Think about ads that you look at for things you want. Tell them what the benefit is you can give them.

In my area yellow pages there are not that many schools. The only display ad is from an ATA school with 2 locations. Another guy in the next town over has an outlined ad with just text, nothing fancy. I have a line ad in bold that just has the name of the school. I have douuble the students of the 2 ATA locations combined.

I haven't tracked my yellow pages in awhile because it is not my primary source of calls. Fliers and word of mouth are.

3rd January 2003, 06:28
Hmm. Back when I ran a public dojo, I ran a small, text only ad with Ma Bell for a while, then upgraded to a business-card size. After I decided not to run a public operation, I simply didn't get a phone for the dojo until I inherited a cel phone from my ex.

YP ads can draw attention, but it's hard to compete with the folks who will spend thousands on a quarter or half page ad in there ... and the public just doesn't know better. They see the big splashy ad and think "Yeah, these guys MUST be good!" ...

Folks who KNOW, will ignore the ads and do their research online or through local channels.

For what it's worth, when I ran a public dojo, I tracked new student enrollments for a couple of years and here's (roughly) what I learned:

Then, as now, I got my best students through word of mouth and, later, from the dojo website (www.the-dojo.com). Not so many enrollees, but far more of them stayed.

Second best method was flyers and brochures at MA stores, bookstores, health food shops, Japanese/Asian markets, etc. Posted a few small flyers on public bulletin boards in the trendy part of town, too, but those were overwhelmed by the bands and art gigs.

(One local dojo in Indianapolis used to (might still do) have someone go to the bookstores and MA shops and insert little bookmark size ads in the relevant books. Not something I'd do, but it would put your name and info in the hands of folks who might be interested.)

I got lots of interest from the YP. Folks would call, and occasionally, show up. I got more short-timers via the YP.

If you DO use the YP, it's critical that you have a live body or a really good answering machine/voicemail/service online.

For sheer numbers, but without much staying power, coupons in those 'Zoo Book' and Community Services things worked real well. Lots of kids, if you're looking for volume and a cash cow. However, that said, they usually don't stay long and to maintain the volume, you have to continually herd a stream of such folks through.

I don't teach kids' classes anymore and don't care for a cattle-call approach, so I haven't used that approach in several years.

If you're trying to keep the rent paid and the bills in check, however, youth classes are a lifesaver. Just be prepared ...

I've never tried radio or TV, so can't comment on those.

Good luck.


7th January 2003, 01:01
We have good success with the smallest sized boxed text ad - one size up from the line listing. We just put in the basics - less text so that what we offer stands out. This type of ad can still stand out because it is a box among the text ads, not just a small display ad. Strongly recommend value adding by having a website listed as well as the phone number. With a website, you do not need to actually put much text in the ad at all as it has all the good info -

You could just have Kickbutt Karate! Phone number: Website:

18th January 2003, 05:06
Frances, that's a good suggestion. Less text, more space. URL.

We've had a metro Yellow Pages ad now for 3 years. $145/ month. That eats 2 students' tuition every 30 days.

It's not that it doesn't work. It just works really poorly.

And every ad rep will tell you that repetition is the key. Gotta get your tiny ad planted in everyone's mind when they frequent that Yellow book for martial arts classes.

Well, we're not a grocery store or a video game parlor. When shopping for MA that 'repetition' line is horse-hockey. And like you, Mr. Wolfe, we've had enough of shelling out that kind of money for decreasing return, and will reduce or eliminate in the coming year.

Hail to the good website!

-Will Graves