Thursday, July 23, 2009

Yellow Pages - Advertising of Last Resort

Continuing the discussion of how ads work differently, lets talk Yellow Pages.

For some of you, your Yellow Pages probably take up half or more of your ad budget. I know. We used to be the same way.

Unfortunately, Yellow Pages are only for those people who have lost the will to advertise. It is the last resort someone takes to find a business they have never previously known. It is the last place someone will look to find you if they have not heard of you through word-of-mouth or other forms of advertising.

Think about your own Yellow Page habits. First, do you still even use them? Or has Google become the directory of choice? Second, are you looking up a phone number of a business you know or a category of businesses you don't know?

The Yellow Page reps have plenty of seductive statistics telling you things like how 88% of all people surveyed would go to the Yellow Pages first if they needed to find a plumber. Don't get trapped by the numbers. Ask yourself WWYD?

Here's what really happens... Your toilet has sprung a leak. You have no clue what to do. you don't know any plumbers. You reach for your phone. The first person you call is...

Your Dad. (Or spouse, or best friend, or boss or co-worker)

You ask them if they know a good plumber. By the time you get to the phone book you already have a name in mind of who you will call. The Yellow Pages only supply the number, not the name, not a referral. Think of it as an info guide, not a form of advertising and persuasion.

Forget all the statistics. As Winston Churchill said, "The only statistics you can trust are those you falsified yourself." The real truth is that you want customers to be thinking of you long before they need a phone number. You want them going to the phone book for one reason only - to look YOU up because they have already decided where to go, they just need a phone number and directions.

So when do you use Yellow Pages for advertising?
  • When you are getting traffic from outside your own phone book region and need a place for people to find your contact info.
  • When you are in an industry where no one advertises at all and the Yellow Pages are the only place to find anyone
  • When you are in a town with an extremely high turnover rate where no one stays long enough to make friends for referrals.

If you're going to do Yellow Pages, here are some tips:

  • Get all the free listings you can get. Some companies have deals that give you free listings under certain headings. Ask your vendors and ask your Yellow Page reps.
  • Go simple - Get your single line listing. If anything, add your website.
  • Be realistic - If you don't get traffic from a certain area, don't go in that book. The expense will not pay for itself over the long run.
  • Measure your online traffic to see if their online listing of you is giving you any referrals
  • Ignore the secondary books in your market. If enough people ignore them, maybe they'll go away.
Some people consider Yellow Pages the necessary evil of advertising. I question the necessary part. Your goal should be to get people thinking of you long before they reach for the book.

Do you agree or disagree?

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