Inside Self-Storage Magazine 04/2001: Designing a Yellow Pages Ad Double your response rates

April 1, 2001

5 Min Read
Inside Self-Storage Magazine 04/2001: Designing a Yellow Pages Ad Double
your response rates

Designing a Yellow Pages Ad

Double your response rates

By Fred Gleeck

I'veseen a lot of mistakes made in the design of Yellow Pages ads for self-storagebusinesses. Many operators have been misled in this area. I'd like to give yousome cold, hard facts about what works and what doesn't in the design of aYellow Pages ad.

If you just renewed your ad, you're going to be upset with me. I apologize inadvance. Unfortunately, graphic designers--not marketing experts--have probablyassisted you in the past in designing your ad. But this is like asking aninterior designer to design your buildings. Designers know how to make them lookpretty, but the architect knows how to make them structurally sound.

First, we need to define what makes an ad successful. The only way to tell ifa Yellow Pages ad is effective is to measure the number of calls it produces.That's the only job of such an ad. It's your manager's job to "sell"people once they call. So, you first have to collect data on the number of callsyou receive. Without this data, you have no way to know if your ad is reallyworking.

How do you do this? You should make sure your manager records every call.Each call should be coded based on what produced it--Yellow Pages, a referral, aflier, the Internet, etc. At the end of each month, you'll know what percentageof your calls came from each marketing method. These numbers won't be perfect,but they will certainly work for the purpose of comparison.

Your Headline

The most important element of your ad is your headline. Many storage ownersput their facility name at the top of the ad. This is misguided. Your headlineis the "ad for your ad." Although it may be gratifying to your ego tosee see the name of your facility at the top of the ad, it makes no logicalsense. Think about it: Do people flip through the storage section of the YellowPages and stop at the ad with the name they like best? I don't think so. But byputting your name in the coveted headline position, that's what you're sayingyou believe.

Instead, you should use your USP--unique selling proposition--as yourheadline. Highlight what you do that no one else in your market area does. Ifyou don't have something like that, then you're in trouble, and you need todevelop such a feature. But that's another article.

Let's say you're the only one in your market who offers 24-hour access. Statethat fact in your headline, and make sure to word the ad in a compelling way.You might use: "Why you must have 24-hour access to your goods." Youmight also go with: "The only facility with 24-hour access!" Remember,the headline is the single most important element of a Yellow Pages ad. It willstop people in their tracks if you use it effectively.

Using Features/Benefits

The majority of potential renters reading your ad have not rented storagebefore. This being the case, you can't assume they have a working knowledge ofthe storage business and the terminology we use. It is, therefore, criticallyimportant that you attach a benefit to every feature you list.

Here's an example: Let's say you list the feature "individual dooralarms." You must then attach the benefit: "These allow us to knowwhen an unauthorized person has attempted to enter your unit." If thefeature was "24-hour access," the benefit would be "so you canget to your belongings at any time, night or day." Make certain everyfeature you list has a benefit attached to it. We might know why a certainfeature is important, but we must spell it out to our potential customers.

Storage Hotline

Every Yellow Pages ad should list a "storage hotline" number inaddition to your regular office line. This is a separate number accessing arecording that highlights all of your features and benefits--especially yourUSP(s). To get people to call your storage hotline, you must give it acompelling title, for example, "The seven things you must know beforerenting a storage facility."

This separate number should be attached to a machine or voice- messagingsystem that operates as a "greeting-only" device. Do not allowpeople to leave messages here. The hotline becomes your 24-hour electronicsalesperson. This salesperson works 24/7 and only gets paid a flat monthly fee.People will call the hotline before they call your regular office number becausethey know that no one will try to sell them anything. It's a nonthreatening wayto get information.

My data indicates more than 50 percent of all calls made to this hotlinenumber take place during non-business hours. The keys to making the hotline workare how you title it, the message you use and how you promote it.


A small but readable map should be included in every Yellow Pages ad. It mustprovide your major cross streets to give people a good idea where you'relocated. Rarely will a person drive to your facility without calling first. Thepurpose of the map is to show people what area you're in.

The map should also highlight well-known landmarks in the area, such as thelocal Wal-Mart or other popular retailers close by. And position the map towardthe bottom of the ad. Some operators have their map taking up virtually theirentire ad. This makes no sense. Your map shouldn't be larger than about a sixthof the size of your ad.

Credit Cards

You must let people know in your ad if you accept credit cards and whichones. The average renter who pays by credit card stays twice as long, so if youaren't yet accepting credit cards, you should start. At a minimum, you mustaccept Visa, Mastercard and American Express. When shopping for companies toprovide you credit-card services, be sure to compare rates of several differentplaces before you sign up.

Web Address

Every Yellow Pages ad must have a web address prominently displayed atthe bottom. This is no longer an optional item. If you don't have a website yet,again, this is something you should pursue.


You now have a roadmap for success in Yellow Pages ad design. Follow thesesuggestions and you can probably do most of the work yourself. If you do getsomeone to assist you with your ad design, be certain to use someone who has amarketing background with proven results.

Fred Gleeck is a self-storage profit-maximization consultant. He helpsstorage owners before and after they get into the business. He is the author ofSecrets of Self Storage Marketing Success--Revealed! and numerous othertraining items for self-storage operators. To get regular tips on self-storage,send him an e-mail at [email protected];call 800.345.3325.

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