Advertising in telephone directories is, for some businesses, critically important. But it's definitely not cheap! Publishers of these directories have stringent guidelines that make it hard for you to distinguish your ad from your competitors' without spending a lot of money. If you go with this kind of ad, check out the alternatives — Sprint, Ameritech, SBC, whatever baby Bell you have in your area, as well as the cellular firms such as AT&T and Cingular and Verizon. Many areas receive directories published by more than one company. The cost of advertising varies, as does the market served. Try to pick the one that targets your potential customers the best at the lowest cost.
Get all their prices and pick their reps' brains for information and advice. (But don't confuse a sales pitch for advice.) Be very careful making your listing category choice. Do you want to position yourself as "pizza" or "restaurant" or "carry-out?"
Even if you have to stretch to afford it, go for the bold-type listing if you can afford only a single line listing. If you can manage it, a display ad will probably pay big dividends if you keep it running year after year. Use strong black borders if possible and get the most size for the money without sacrificing placement. Don't be afraid to use lots of copy and use pictures and color (red is the usual alternative) if the budget can handle it.
Try to give your business a solid, dependable, reliable feel in your ad. If appropriate, say that you're insured or mention that you've been in business a long time. List every service you can think of as well as your hours and put some stress on your location so people can relate to it. The publisher's rep will give you guidance and examples of what you can do, but try to get a little edge of originality if at all possible.
800 numbers. The cost of your own 800 number may be less than you may think. Competition has made this a handy bargain way for buyers to reach you. The base charge is often around $20 a month and 20 cents a minute with no special lines or equipment required. The calls can be forwarded to any line you choose. This might just be the most bang for your advertising buck — to be able to publish an 800 number in your print ads.
There's a publication called Infotext Magazine put out by R.J. Gordon (310-724-6719) that covers this area of marketing in detail, if you want to do some research before deciding on an 800 number. You'll also learn about 900 numbers, which are another option Infotext covers.