How often do you let your fingers do the walking when looking for a product, service, or company?

More than 53 million potential customers consult the “Heating Contractors” heading in the Yellow Pages each year. “Air Conditioning Contractors & Systems” receives nearly 40 million references.

These figures come from Statistical Research, Inc. (SRI), Westfield, NJ, a private research firm hired by the Yellow Pages Publishers Association (YPPA) to gauge how consumers use this directory.

Additionally, “Air Conditioning Contractors & System/ Repair” receives nearly 42 million references and 26.9 million potential buyers consult the “Heating Equipment & System/Cleaning and Repair” heading every year.

Newpress for success

With nearly 17 billion references made annually to the Yellow Pages, this appears to be a viable advertising medium and something that is useful to consumers.

“The only people using Yellow Pages are buyers,” said Larry Small, vp of marketing services at YPPA. “This is what differentiates it from other advertising media.”

YPPA is launching a national campaign to change the way consumers perceive and use the Yellow Pages. “The Yellow Pages: Get an idea” campaign focuses on getting people to think of using the Yellow Pages to find reasons to buy or things to buy.

The association is attempting to get people to turn to the Yellow Pages as a source of information and creativity — a place where consumers can turn to get new ideas.

To achieve this, the campaign is encouraging advertisers to develop and create their ads differently than in the past to incorporate the “Get an Idea” concept into them, said Clint Pollard, executive vp of marketing for YPPA.

Maximizing ad effectiveness

Following are some ideas from the YPPA for increasing the effectiveness of your company’s Yellow Pages advertising.

Put ideas in your ads. There is more to a Yellow Pages ad than just phone numbers and addresses. Give potential customers ideas they themselves can use.

For instance, you could include the following in your ad: “To help reduce your utility bill in the summer time, turn your air conditioner on in the morning, when it is still cool, and turn it off when you return from work. It’s much more costly to cool your house down later in the day when the temperature has gone up.”

Advertise under multiple headings. Research shows that when a business advertises under a related heading (or multiple related headings), usage often increases.

Include the information your consumers want and are looking for. Naturally, your business’s phone number and address are crucial information to include in your ad. But, according to research conducted by SRI, one in five consumers want more information in Yellow Pages ads.

The information they are looking for includes such things as store hours, detailed information about products and services, directions and maps, prices, years in business, payment options (such as credit cards, checks, and financing), and unique offerings and specials that make your business stand out from the others.

Online direction

With the success and prominence of the Internet, it is important not to overlook consumers who turn to online Yellow Pages directories to locate company contact information.

Many people are turning to online Yellow Pages directories to find the company information they are looking for. We live in a wired world; if a person in California is looking for a company in New York, the Internet makes this much easier.

With a couple of clicks of the mouse and minimal typing, consumers can pull a list of companies onto their screen — including address, phone number, directions to the business, and even links to the Web sites of companies that have them.

“The last time we measured it [online Yellow Pages usage] was one-and-a-half years ago,” said Small. “We found two billion online references were made annually. I’m sure that number has increased since then.”

There is currently a trend where Yellow Pages publishers “bundle” print with online ads for its customers. These companies are trying to be different things to different people to help them solve their marketing dilemmas, said Small.

He added that some companies will even help your company develop a site and connect it to the Yellow Pages directory.

“Using an Integrated Marketing Strategy across multiple media, you’ll reach different audiences, extending your company’s reach,” Small said.

He cautions that the Internet and Yellow Pages advertising are wide-open right now. There are lots of people calling directories Yellow Pages listings, but that isn’t necessarily the case.

He points out that there is a semantics problem when it comes to the online realm and it is still evolving.

Also of interest are figures that put the Yellow Pages as the most informative method of advertising ahead of TV, radio, newspaper, and direct mail. (These figures come from a consumer study conducted on behalf of YPPA.)

All of this information points to the benefits of incorporating Yellow Pages advertising into your marketing strategy.

Of course, some contractors and businesses are lucky enough to be so busy with work and have strong word-of-mouth advertising contingents, so they don’t have to even think about using the Yellow Pages to their advantage.

For those who aren’t so lucky, the Yellow Pages — if used advantageously — just may bring them more business and closer to that point.