Yellow Pages: Less is Best

We cannot count the number of client meetings in the past 90 days where business owners have lamented their expenditures in Yellow Pages – and, regretted committing to contracts that were not giving a return on their investments.  In many client situations, we find ourselves competing for SEO budgets against Yellow Pages allocations.

Our perspective: spend as little as possible in the Yellow Pages.  Move the dollars into SEO. The opportunity for dramatically improving overall ROI is vast.

Before you are pressured to sign for a year’s worth of Yellow Pages that you are not convinced is working – let SteerPoint take a look at your budget, your competitive opportunities and make some SEO recommendations.  By reducing ad sizes, reducing categories and eliminating the weakest Yellow Page publications, we can help your business influence some new customers through innovative Internet marketing – and, maybe save you some money in the process.

Over a Century

While SEO is a relatively new marketing investment, the Yellow Pages have been around almost as long as the telephone itself.  In fact, they’ve been a part of America’s culture for over 100 years. Only newspaper can claim more longevity.  In the minds of some consumers and business owners both, longevity imparts credibility.  In fact, many businesses cannot imagine not having an ad in the Yellow Pages.

Also a fact: many consumers cannot imagine ever needing to pick up a copy of the Yellow Pages.   Especially when quicker and more exact results are as near as their smart phone or computer, these big, bulky books are an anachronism; a relic whose time has passed.

Things change – strategies must evolve.  Yellow Pages are not the consumer tool they once were.  In fact, a 2010 survey by Ron Sachs Communications revealed that nearly one-quarter of Americans immediately discard the phone books that are delivered to their doors. (Ron Sachs Communications, 2010)  Certainly this gets driven by demographics: 19% of total yellow page use comes from the 18-34 demographic with an evenly balanced 81% of use coming from the 35+ age cells. (Local Search Association, 2011)

The Positives

To be fair, there are some pros.  Almost all users of the Yellow Pages (89%) will eventually make a purchase (79% for Internet Yellow Pages users). (CRM Associates, 2011).   Plus, if you are the type of business that benefits from emergencies – plumbing, autos, legal, accident, healthcare – consumers often rely on Yellow Pages during these situations.

But, be aware that you may be doing your competitors a favor as well.  58% of Yellow Pages users have not already chosen a business when consulting a directory.  Even those with a single name in mind get curious and look at other ads — 55% of these users view other ads, and they look at 4 on average. (CRM Associates, 2011)

The Negatives

To be brutal, there are many more cons.  Yellow Pages are cluttered with ads.  They are inconvenient.  They are bulky, dated and not very mobile.   Like pay phones, their utility is not what it used to be. (When was the last time you used a payphone?)

They are inflexible: Most directories are published once a year and advertising must be purchased well in advance of the publication date. You can’t make corrections or changes resulting from dynamic business conditions or opportunities.  In most communities, there are several different directories all competing for listings.  Which do you trust?  Who reads them all?  Which one is the tallest pygmy in the marketing jungle?

Since the Yellow Pages typically are consulted after the decision to buy has been made, top-of-mind awareness must be built in other ways. As products continue to proliferate and the retail business becomes saturated, you must create demand for your products before the buying decision has been made.

Make a break with the past

Contracts are up for renewals right now.  The reps are hitting the phones in droves.  Be strong.  Be forward-thinking.   Don’t continue to address 2012 marketing challenges with 1982 solutions.  Hang up the phone and call SteerPoint for a free evaluation of how those dollars could yield more results.

Note: This blog is part sales pitch part research piece.  The Radio Advertising Bureau provides competitive selling tips to their members – the source where we gleaned our facts. Thanks to them.  Their compilation of  research is linked here – RAB summary of Yellow Pages Research.  You can also view the TOP 10 categories that get the most Yellow Page consumer activity.