In the latest edition of our bimonthly series, industry consultant Casey Conrad calls on her expertise to put together a successful ad for the Yelloe Pages.

The Yellow Pages. It's the first place where your prospect's fingers "do the walking" when they are interested in buying a health club membership.

A Yellow Pages ad is a big investment; the ad stays the same for an entire year and is in the book with dozens of other competitors. The question, therefore, is, "What is it that is going to make your ad stand out to prospects so they are drawn to call you before your competitors?" Let's analyze what a Yellow Pages ad is supposed to do and look at four simple steps you can follow to generate more calls.

The first thing to note when designing an ad is that the Yellow Pages is not supposed to be the place for an ad that creates desire; it is a place for ads that give directions. People looking at the Yellow Pages already have the desire to buy-they just haven't decided from where. Therefore, the ad must draw callers to you.

Unfortunately, most Yellow Pages ads do a poor job at drawing a prospect because they fail to differentiate themselves. Most ads have the company name and logo in big, bold letters at the top, the phone number in large numbers at the bottom and the basic features of the club bullet-pointed in between. Because there is no differentiation, the prospect will often call the larger ads or simply make calls according to alphabetical listing.

The first step to creating a successful Yellow Pages ad is the same as any direct mail piece: have a strong headline. And remember the headline does not mean your club logo or name! Most people using the Yellow Pages are trying to find a company to buy from, not just looking up a phone number. Therefore, a company name is meaningless to them unless you are a well-known chain or franchise.

The headline must scream out to customers what you can do for them. It must get the attention of the reader and give them a reason to stop at your ad. For instance, "Five problems with fitness programs and how ABC Health Club solves them" is a great headline because it sets up a discussion with the readers regarding issues they are concerned about and will tell the readers how your club will take care of them. Another example would be "Choosing a health club can be confusing. After using ABC Health Club for a FREE week, you won't be confused anymore." This headline also sets up an educational discussion with the readers and, even better, tells them that club will solve their problems while letting them try out the facility for free.

The second step to creating a great Yellow Pages ad is the body copy. The body copy must sell the readers on the benefits to them, not just give a bullet list of standard features that everyone else offers. Of course, the body copy should flow from the headline, answering whatever claim you made. Most importantly, the body copy must use the words "You" and "Your" vs. "We" and "Our," which is what you find in most Yellow Pages ads.

The third step-which is simple, yet almost never done-is putting an offer into your Yellow Pages ad. This means you spell out for the reader how to act (e.g., call for a free visit, stop by for a free tour, respond for a free report, etc.). As basic as this sounds, just look in the Yellow Pages now and see how no one does this. Imagine how many more calls you will get when you prompt the reader to respond!

The fourth step to creating a successful Yellow Pages ad is enhancing the graphical layout. First of all, don't let the Yellow Pages representative convince you that "white space" makes your ad look cleaner. You are paying precious dollars for every inch; you need to use that space to educate the reader on why they should call you! Second, avoid large logos or pictures for the same reason. This does not mean you shouldn't use them, just don't make them unnecessarily large. Finally, don't get wooed with the option of color because there is no telling what the advertiser next to you will use. You are better off taking that additional money and going with a larger ad that can give the reader more information in the body copy.

Finally, here are a couple of additional tips to follow when designing your ad. One, not only get a proof of your ad before it goes to press (which is usually done) but save your proof to ensure that what you send in is what gets printed. Although this may sound like paranoia, it often happens that a club's old ad gets reprinted by mistake. You want to make sure you have recourse in case of any problems.

Second, don't let the Yellow Pages representative sway you from following these steps just because they don't follow "traditional" advertising layouts. These representatives are not business owners nor do they have a background in marketing and advertising. They are just employees who are telling thousands of other businesspeople the same things. Following their advice will not differentiate your club, just get it to blend in with the masses.