Published in January 2006

Beyond the Yellow Pages
By Doug Fearing

When traditional methods fail…think outside the box.

     So you want to grow your business but you’ve tried all the traditional ways to get new clients: larger Yellow Pages ads, more cold calls by sales staff, bid on more projects, etc, etc. Have you ever considered TV?
     In our company’s infancy (we just celebrated our eighth year), we had a problem. No one knew us! We could cold call all we wanted, but without name recognition they would not give us a chance. The work we were getting was because we were selling so cheap they couldn’t pass up the deal. What to do? By a stroke of luck, a TV advertising sales representative from the local Madison WI ABC affiliate came cold calling on us. “I’d like to show you an opportunity to get involved in TV advertising at a price you can afford,” he said. Ya, right. We’ve all heard that one. What the heck; he was a personable guy and I was so impressed he thought I could afford TV, I figured I would at least listen to him.
     He was selling a program called “Image Plus.” We would participate in what could be best described as a buying group. We make a year commitment, paying $1500 every month for those 12 months along with a set number of other participants in the Image Plus program. In return, we would receive 20 guaranteed TV ads per month and an undetermined amount of available TV ads that went unsold each and every week. They would even include the cost of the TV commercial production. The unsold TV ads were to be evenly distributed among the Image Plus members.
     Well, the price was right (cheaper than radio) and we wanted to get our name out, so we went for it. We averaged getting 50 to 70 commercial plays per month. We were amazed when we saw our company’s commercials playing during Monday Night Football, the British Open and other primetime shows. Who knew there was that much unsold air time?
     When we agreed to join the Image Plus program, we basically thought it was a way to get name recognition so, when our sales staff made cold calls, no longer would we be an unknown. We never thought it would lead to direct sales. We got a pleasant surprise.
     Six months after we joined the program, we got our first call requesting a proposal that came directly from the TV commercial. The phone has not stopped ringing. We stayed in the Image Plus program for two years and only left because we were limited to one TV station and we wanted to try a new market that the ABC affiliate was not catching. We then negotiated a similar deal with the NBC affiliate. We are now in our fifth year of TV advertising, and it has been so successful that we now employ an advertising agency to negotiate our advertising buys across several local TV stations and cable channels—and we have tripled our TV advertising budget.
     Every week we receive several phone calls that can be related directly to our TV ads, and our sales have grown consistently. We have even reduced the size of our Yellow Pages ads with no ramifications because, even though the ad is smaller, our name rings a bell when they see the Yellow Pages ad and they respond.
     Will it work for you? Can you afford it? I can’t answer that. I do know it is worth looking into. I also know that the Image Plus program is not unique to Madison. Numerous TV stations across the country offer similar programs.
     A few things to consider if you want to pursue it:
    • Don’t expect immediate results. We did not see any results for six months.
    • To get the best value, you have to commit to a specific period of time, preferably a year,
      with  a specific budget to one TV station and then they may deal.
    • If it works for you, move your dollars around to other TV channels each year to
      maximize exposure.

Good Luck!

Doug Fearing, along with wife Lois, founded Fearing’s Electronic Systems in 1997. The company specializes in audio, video and security systems for the commercial and residential markets in the southern and central regions of Wisconsin, including Madison.


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