Saturday, February 26, 2005

Vancouver couple gets jury award against Yellow Pages company

A couple was awarded $1.5 million because the Yellow Pages publisher mistakenly reported that a doctor was board certified when in fact he wasn't.

I think the important thing here is the implied credibility that comes with proper YP advertising. You wouldn't see this type of lawsuit against the PennySaver.

Also, mistakes do happen, and it is really sad that the woman suffered. But I wonder how culpable Dex really is. Sounds like the company with deep pockets was made to pay up.

Vancouver couple gets jury award against Yellow Pages company: "Vancouver couple gets jury award against Yellow Pages company

Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. - A jury has awarded $1.6 million to a Vancouver, Wash., couple who sued Denver-based Dex Media Inc. alleging that a fake Yellow Pages ad led them to a Portland dermatologist who disfigured the woman during liposuction.

The allegations against Dex date to 1996, when Dr. Timothy Brown told a Dex sales representative that he was now performing liposuction.

The company told him to continue advertising under 'dermatology' but to also begin advertising in a section for plastic and reconstructive surgery.

Brown's resulting ad in that section noted that he was 'board certified.'

But Vancouver resident Michelle Knepper alleged that the Dex representative knew that Brown was certified only dermatology, not in plastic and reconstructive surgery.

Knepper said she relied on the implication that Brown was a board-certified plastic surgeon. Knepper said the surgery left her with permanent deformities.

Dex, in turn, said there was no clear evidence that Dex intended the ad to mislead, that Knepper relied on the ad, or that either Dex or Brown committed any fraud.

The company said it knew Brown was certified in dermatology, but denied that it knew whether he was certified in plastic and reconstructive surgery.

The jury awarded $1.2 million to Michelle Knepper and $375,000 to her husband, Jeff Knepper, for loss of spousal services and companionship.

Jerry Brown, a spokesman for Dex, which publishes directories in 14 states where Qwest Communications International Inc. is the primary local carrier, said the company plans to appeal the ruling. Qwest formerly owned Dex.

'We publish 260 directories in 14 states,' Brown said. 'We don't validate every claim.'

Brown also said the company now requires physicians to specify their certified special"

Friday, February 25, 2005

Bath & Body Works using web to drive store traffic

This is an interesting article about how Bath & Body Works uses the internet to bring people into their stores. Personally, I think that they could be successful offering e-commerce as well as driving retail traffic. However, they clearly know that their stores are their point of differentiation as well as their value add.

The article was in an email I received from AD:TECH.

Bath & Body Works has more than 1,700 brick-and-mortar stores in
the US. Naturally the chain also has a spiffy Web site.

However, what they don't have is ecommerce functionality. The
chain made the strategic decision -- for the time being anyway -
not to directly sell products online.

Aside from functioning as a brand placeholder and offering store
locator maps, can a true brick-and-mortar use the Web to drive
in-store sales? The answer, says Shannon Glass, Director of
Internet Strategies, is a definite yes.

"We're really spending a lot of time understanding the power of
the Web as it relates to educating our customers about product.
When you're not commerce based, there's time to focus on these
other things."

So far two tactics have stood out as winners: offering printable
shopping lists and coupons. Here are details:

-> Tactic #1. Printable shopping lists

Although the site doesn't have a shopping cart (because nothing
can be purchased without visiting an offline location) Glass and
her team wanted to enable the first half of the shopping process
... looking around and adding items to a personal list.

It's the fun part of shopping anyway, so why not let consumers do
it online? The list can be printed out and, if the visitor has
searched for stores in their geographical vicinity, the list
includes locations of nearest Bath and Body Works stores.

Through testing, the team discovered two specific ways to make
shopping lists more successful:

o Don't require registration to create a shopping list

Initially the site required registration before a consumer could
start a personal list. Last November the team tested removing
that requirement -- and voila, list use went rocketing upwards.

Now, site visitors can browse, add things to their shopping list,
and print the list, all without ever having to register.

"Now we've made it as easy as it can be, and bare bones work
better for us. We don't need a lot of bells and whistles. If I
were to pull one thing out as advice for other marketers, I'd say
stop having them register," says Glass.

On the other hand, if visitors want to save their shopping list,
or email it as a wish list to friends or family, they can

"It's a really big component for us," says Glass. "People are
spending more, and we're seeing success with the sheer number of
people who are using the list."

o Offer a bonus offer to increase usage

When a visitor adds an item to their shopping list, they get a
pop-up that shows the item was successfully added to the list and
that offers a free body wash with a $20 purchase from the list.

Then, their print-out of the list includes a tracking number that
allows stores to track redemption.

There's an inherent challenge in making the offer work, however:
If a shopper spends only $6 from items on the shopping list but
finds an additional $14 worth of items that weren't on the list,
for instance, will they receive the bonus?

"Probably," says Glass. "The sales associate would have to make
that call; it's something we need to address."

-> Tactic #2. Trackable email coupons

Glass' team sends bi-monthly email coupons with trackable
barcodes which, as with the shopping list offer, allows stores to
track redemption.

Offers have included:
-- complimentary product with any purchase
-- complimentary product with specified dollar-amount purchase
-- complimentary product with specified additional product

"Free product with any purchase is risky, because it allows
people to come in and buy a $1 product," Glass says. However,
sometimes that's appropriate, particularly when the objective is
simply to get shoppers in the door. Three key learnings around
email offers:

o Offers based on amount spent are more effective than those
based on what is bought

For example, coupons for a free product with a $20 purchase work
better than coupons for a complimentary product with purchase of
another specific product, because it gives people the ability to
decide what they want to shop for, Glass believes.

o Viral component allows for good prospecting

While the email coupons have a barcode that can be tracked, Bath
and Body Works doesn't use technology that limits people to print
coupons only once, or that keeps them from emailing coupons to

This has allowed their success to grow significantly. While Glass
was unable to share percentages of people who redeem coupons in
stores, she did say that, "compared with industry standards we're
doing well."

o Be wary of coupon abusers

"People register for these things and their whole purpose is to
post coupons [on other sites]," says Glass. She is beginning to
evaluate how big a problem those coupon sites are, and if she
needs to start limiting how often a single coupon is accessed and

Thursday, February 24, 2005

AOL Takes Local Search Beyond "Enhanced Yellow Pages"

ClickZ Internet Advertising News

AOL is launching an enhanced local search product. I'll give it a run through and let you know what I think. They certainly have plenty of content, and an outstanding map system in MapQuest.

Mark Canon, one of the founders of Switchboard is on the team providing tremendous experience.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Killer Plumbing Yellow Pages Ads

Red Jackal Ads
I recently wrote a newsletter on ideas for a plumber to redesign his Yellow Pages advertising.

While I believe that these ads need some tweaking to make them totally successful, they are better than nearly anything else I've seen.

Most Common Names in America

OK, so this isn't exactly breaking news, but I thought that it was kind of interesting.

The US Census Bureau provides details on the most common names in the USA.

I looked up my last name (Larkin), and found that it is the 1,421st most common name and is used by .009% of Americans.

Here are the top 10.

Last Name

Female First Name

Male First Name


Nearly a quarter of all men in America have one of the top 10 names.

Buford is the 755th most popular name, but Festus didn't make the list at all. :-(

Friday, February 18, 2005

New Research from Yellow Pages Association

MediaPost Publications Home of MediaDailyNews, MEDIA and OMMA Magazines

Two YPA surveys found continued strength in usage of traditional print and Internet Yellow Pages directories.

Here's my two cents . . .

Print yellow pages are still much easier to use and contain far more robust information than ANY internet service. Google may have trillions of web pages indexed, but when it comes to finding something in your neighborhood far and easy, the good old paper & ink win.

Internet Yellow Pages typically do a better job than the search engines in having more data with less "noise". By noise, I mean that hordes of web sites that do a great job of tricking the search engines into giving them a high ranking, but fail to deliver meaningful local content.

At the end of the day, the feet on the street collecting detailed business information and publishing it on behalf of the local business owner are hugely valuable assets that the search engines will probably never have.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

MarketWatch interview of Greg Sterling by Bambi Francisco

TV & Radio

This is an interview that aired with two of the brightest people in the space. Greg Sterling, Senior Analyst at The Kelsey Group, knows more about local search as it relates to the directory and local media that just about anyone. He and his colleagues are retained by virtually every YP directory publisher to provide insight and guidance.

Bambi Francisco is a remarkably astute reporter who cuts right to the core issues.

They talk about the local search market as traditional print YP revenues have been flat. Greg points out that the complexity, volume and conversion factors as the areas slowing growth.

He also points out that many groups are working on making this easier for local advertisers.

At the end of the interview, Greg speculates on the potential spin off of Verizon directories. He simply said that in the past, when telcos combine, the directory business is sometimes spun off to pay off debt.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Local Search Blog

Local Search ... Is your business ready?

I came across this blog that is focused on local internet search. It's very informative and keeps abreast of the developments in this space.

As the Yellow Pages Commando, I'll tell you that local search is a very important method of reaching potential customers who use the internet rather than the printed telephone directory.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

State sues Internet company for fraud

State sues Internet company for fraud

I've been complaining about the misleading direct mail propagated by Yellow Pages Inc. who sends out direct mail that looks exactly like a small refund check. The fine print on the back and the enclosed collateral piece explains how depositing the "check" obligates the depositor for a recurring service fee that is often either added on the telephone bill or it is directly deducted from the depositor's bank account. Clearly, many business people fail to read or understand the fine print because this company is rolling in cash as if they were doing something illegal.

They've been cleared by the FTC of wrongdoing, but I can't imagine how this sort of thing can be allowed to continue.

Here is the first state lawsuit that I've seen, and I must say that I'm thrilled. I believe that it is only a matter of time before this company is shut down in a class action lawsuit.


State sues Internet company for fraud

Businesses bilked: Complaints to Madigan's office from Kane, DuPage, other counties

By Jim Faber

ST. CHARLES — Somehow, a $3.47 check from Yellow Pages Inc. slipped through the accounting system at Della Long Halper's office here and was cashed.

Then Yellow Pages Inc. — not affiliated with the Yellow Pages put out by local phone companies — took the check and turned it into a minor headache for Halper, who retired from practice as a clinical psychologist last year. It turns out the check included a contract in fine print on its flip side, obligating Halper to pay $177 per month for Internet advertising.

So many of those checks make it through at small businesses around the state that this week, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed charges against Yellow Pages Inc. and a California collection agency. Twenty-six small businesses and individual consumers in Kane, DuPage, Cook, McHenry and nine other counties filed complaints with Madigan alleging they had been deceptively lured into signing advertising contracts and then hounded for payments and added interest.

The lawsuit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court and names as defendants Yellow Pages Inc. of Nevada, doing business as, and Continental Recovery Services of California, doing business as Continental Recovery and Filing Solutions and CRF Solutions.

"There's something wrong with having to make sure you haven't hired someone," Halper said Thursday.

In fact, Halper said she paid a few hundred dollars over a few months to another "yellow pages" company thinking it was the phone book company. Her business was built through local referrals, and the office didn't even have Internet access, she said.

Madigan's suit claims Yellow Pages Inc. turned over the unpaid contracts to Continental Recovery for collection. The collection agency then allegedly illegally added interest to the balances being collected on behalf of Yellow Pages Inc.

Yellow Pages Inc. actually dropped its collections claims against Halper after she fought with the company and reported the problem to Madigan's office.

Both companies are charged with violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. Continental Recovery also is charged with failure to register with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

The suit seeks a civil penalty of $50,000 from each company and $50,000 per fraud committed. Madigan also wants all contracts rescinded and restitution to be paid to companies that fell victim to the fraud.

Suit claims 'checks' were ad contracts

Daily Herald

This activity at Yellow Pages Inc. make me sick. Never, never, never cash a "check" from a "Yellow Pages Publisher" unless you are absolutely certain that you were meant to receive it.


Della Long Halper knew she was closing her St. Charles psychology practice in March 2004.

So why, she wondered, was she getting bills for more than $170 in new advertising?

The answer was found in small print on the back of a check she endorsed, a check worth little more than $3.

By cashing that check, Halper unknowingly entered into a contract with an Internet advertising firm that's now the defendant in a lawsuit filed Thursday by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

The suit claims Halper and 25 other individuals or small businesses in 13 Illinois counties including Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry were duped into advertising contracts for more $177 or $179 with Yellow Pages Inc. The company is charged with violating the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.

Yellow Pages Inc., a Nevada corporation based in California, operates as and is not affiliated with the Yellow Pages phone books.

A number of those complaining to Madigan said they initially believed the bills were for advertising they had taken out in the Yellow Pages phone book.

Also named in the suit is Continental Recovery Services, a collection agency that went after businesses that signed the checks but didn't pay the advertising bill, the suit claims. The company never registered with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation as a collection agency, the suit said.

Halper said she signed the initial "contract" check as part of a stack of checks she received from clients. It had happened before, but she hadn't been aware that the advertising she was paying for was not advertising she solicited.

"I had paid other companies money think it was advertising in the yellow pages," she said. "There is something wrong with having to make sure you don't hire someone by mistake."

She contacted Yellow Pages Inc., which ultimately canceled the contract. She also called Madigan's office, which added her complaint to Thursday's suit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court.

Yellow Pages Inc. could not be reached for comment.

InfoCommerce: The Importance of Being Vernacular

InfoCommerce: The Importance of Being Vernacular

The folks at InfoCommerce really understand local marketing. Here's a particularly insightful piece on the importance of using classifications that users understand.

Behind the scenes, most IYPs (including my own have built-in synonym checking to direct the user to the most likely classification.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Yellow Pages Industry Research Report Forecasts Continued Growth for Independent Publishers, Reinforcing the Sector's Healthy Outlook

Yellow Pages Industry Research Report Forecasts Continued Growth for Independent Publishers, Reinforcing the Sector's Healthy Outlook

The major growth in the Yellow pages business is coming from the non-telco publishers who are becoming more competitive with every passing cycle.

Although it's the exception more often than the rule, some independent Yellow Pages directories enjoy much higher usage, renewal rates and consumer satisfaction than the incumbent utility directories.

Independents have built their business by providing an alternative means of advertising with a strong value proposition for the advertiser.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Super Bowl Ads

Super Bowl Commercials - News, Polls, History

The first thing we talked about this morning in the office was the Super Bowl ads, and which were good.

It's so important to understand the difference in mass media advertising and directional advertising. Mass media ads are designed to get people to have a desire for a product. Without mass media advertising, there would often be no desire for particular products and services.

Directional ads are designed to help people who have that desire to find somewhere to buy it. Without directional advertising much of the desire would go unsatisfied.

Both are important. Both serve a purpose. The Yellow Pages and local internet search help close the buying cycle.

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Anatomy of a Winning Postcard

I received this newsletter, and while it isn't directly associated with Yellow Pages marketing the principles are identical. Most Yellow Pages ads fail to live up to their potential because they violate the basic principles outlined here. Enjoy!

The Anatomy of a Winning Postcard


You probably get a lot of postcards as I do. Being an
astute marketer, I always take time to look through all
of my mail and I pick out stuff that catches my eye.

I put that stuff in my swipe file to refer to later.

But I often shake my head in disbelief sometimes at the
mail that I receive.

Some of it is downright rotten.

At times, I can't believe someone is actually spending
money to send this stuff out.


Case in Point...

Yesterday, I got a postcard from a guy named Mike
Czarowitz who is a local real estate agent.

Apparently, he just joined Remax and recently moved his
real estate practice to Friendswood.

Well, he sent out an announcement to let people know
about his new affiliation with Remax. I would imagine
that he paid a good amount of money to send this card
out to everyone in my neighborhood.

Here's the postcard I received:

Front Side ->

Back Side ->

If you even have half a marketing brain you can see why
this is a losing postcard. But let's take a look at
what it's lacking...

-> Problem # 1

No compelling headline (he uses his name as the
headline...don't do this!)

-> Problem # 2

The bulk of the postcard is taken up with the Remax
logo (No one cares about Remax, they care about their
own problems, and how you're going to solve them!)

-> Problem # 3

He gives absolutely no reason to respond.

-> Problem # 4

His call to action is "Please stop in and say hello,
the coffee pot is always on." Pleeeeaaase!

-> Problem # 5 - He completely wastes the address side
of this postcard. There is no information on it


I Decided to Take This Postcard and Give It a Complete
Design Makeover and Turn It Into a Lead Generating
Machine - - Here It Is...

As a favor to Mike Czarowitz (the realtor who sent out
the loser postcard) I took some time to completely
redesign his postcard so that it would generate leads
rather than just "get the word out there."

Here it is...

Front Side ->


Here's a Few Things to Take Note of When Reviewing the
Redesigned Version of Mike's Postcard.

-> Change # 1 - The Headline

The billboard side of the postcard starts out with a
big bold headline. I'll admit, it's not the most
powerful headline but it does evoke curiosity and makes
you want to read the subheadline (which is the primary
job of the headline).

-> Change # 2 - The Subheadline

The subheadline gives a very bold promise (although 30
days would be better). One important element of the
subhead is that it includes the phrase "or Someone You
Know," which forces the reader to think of their
friends and not only themselves.

-> Change # 3 - The Photo

People like to know who is communicating with them.
Putting a photo of yourself brings a warmth and
closeness and lowers the distrust barrier that we all
feel with someone we don't know.

-> Change # 4 - The Caption

Below every photo you should always include a caption
because when the eye looks at the photo it will always,
100% of the time, look at the caption as well.

I not only introduced Mike's name but I used a boxed
caption that highlights his expert status and further
lowers the distrust barrier.

-> Change # 5 - The Copy

The copy on this postcard starts out by filtering out
prospects simply by asking whether they're thinking of
selling their home.

It also introduces the "60 Day Home Selling System" and
attempts to create some curiosity so that the reader
will turn the postcard over and read the offer.

You'll also notice that I used a "handwriting" font.
This is a special font that looks like it's been
handwritten. It's just one more element that serves to
personalize my postcard.

-> Change # 6 - The Call-to-Action

The objective of the billboard side's call-to-action is
simply to turn the postcard over. Although that sounds
unnecessary, it leads the reader one step further down
your sales path.


Now Let's Take a Look at the Address Side and See What
Makes It So Powerful

The address side of the newly redesigned postcard is
what gets the phone to ring.

Here's what the address side looks like:

Address Side ->

(copy and paste the links into your browser)

Here are a few changes I made on the address side that
make it powerful.

-> Change # 7 - The Headline

Notice that I started out the address side of this
postcard with a compelling headline. The headline
tells people exactly what I want them to do.

NOTE: By the way, ALWAYS start out your marketing
material with compelling headlines.

-> Change # 8 - The Arrow

You'll see that I've included an arrow on the right
hand side of the headline. I did that to pull the
readers eye to the special report that I want them to

-> Change # 9 - The Copy

I start out my copy calling the reader "Dear
Friendswood Neighbor." The word "Friendswood" will
capture readers attention because they live in

All I want to do in my first paragraph is to get the
reader to read my second paragraph so I stir up
curiosity to keep the reader going.

I then promise the reader that my system will sell
their home in 60 days and to find out how I do that
they'll need to order my fr^e report.

-> Change # 10 - The Graphic

As you can see, I've included a graphic of my special
report to show readers what it looks like. This brings
a realism to my offer and it helps people to visualize
what they'll be receiving.

-> Change # 11 - The Call-to-Action

The caption to the graphic includes my call to action.
This line WILL get read 100% of the time. It gives
SPECIFIC instructions on what I want the caller to do.

-> Change # 12 - The Phone Number

Notice that I put the hotline phone number in reverse
type. This makes the number clearly stand out.

I've also included the words, "24 Hr. Recorded Msg.,"
which lets the reader know that they aren't going to
get someone on the other side of the phone call trying
to give them a hard sell.

I've personally found this one line of text to increase
my response rate by about 12% - 20%.

-> Change # 13 - The Address

Look at what a small space I've allocated to the
address. Now look at how much space I've used for my
message. Don't make the mistake of using the whole
side of the postcard just for your address (or even
half the side for that matter).


Now Which Postcard Would You Rather Mail?

If you've hung in with me this long then you've got a
real lesson in writing compelling copy and postcard

I hope you enjoyed it and learned a lot from it.

Just imagine, for the exact same cost that Mike
incurred sending the original postcard, he could have
sent the redesigned postcard.

Same cost - - 10 times the response.

Which postcard would you rather mail?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Pitching the practice - Missouri updating rules on lawyer advertising

Kansas City Star | 02/01/2005 | Pitching the practice

This article addresses some of the issues with misleading advertising by some attorneys. I believe that it's good for the industry to enforce rules of professionalism. Ultimately, protecting consumers from fraud is good.

In brief, the Missouri State Bar has proposed some guidance.

The proposed rules don't so much overhaul the current rules as seek to modify or clarify them. But there are some new wrinkles. For example, the rules would prohibit lawyers from:

• Proclaiming results obtained for clients without also stating that past results don't guarantee future results.

• Advertising for cases in which they don't have experience or competence.

• Identifying practice areas that they routinely refer to other lawyers without conspicuously stating as much.

• Airing ads containing “any simulated portrayal of an attorney, client, victim, scene or event” without conspicuously identifying that it's a simulation, and

• Providing an office address for an office staffed only part time or by appointment only without conspicuously identifying that fact.

“Our goal was one, to protect the public and two, make lawyers accountable for their advertisements without chilling the right to get this information out to the public,” said St. Louis lawyer Mark Levison, who headed the committee.

Levison, a lawyer with Lathrop & Gage, said the biggest change was to require more stringent disclaimers on direct advertising — that is, solicitations by letter. For example, the proposed rules bar letters that resemble legal pleadings and prohibit anything on the outside of an envelope suggesting the nature of the recipient's legal problem.

Yahoo! Local Sends YP Info to Mobile Phones

I honestly thought that this was simply a gimmick when I first read about it, but I just tried it, and it's really cool.

When you do an Internet Yellow Pages search on Yahoo! YP, every listing has a link allowing you to "Send to Phone"

When you click the link, a little dialog box pops up asking for your cell phone number and your return email address. My email and cell phone were already populated, but I'm not sure what triggered that.

You press "send", and the business name, address, and phone number are sent via SMS to your cell phone.

This is handy so that you have the details if you're driving to a place and want to make sure you have the address and phone with you.

It's simple, free from Yahoo! (you might have to pay for receiving the SMS depending on your wireless plan) and it works.

Good innovation, Yahoo!

Here's a link