For longer than I’ve been alive, the Yellow Pages has been stop one for many small businesses wanting to promote their “stuff” to potential shoppers. Recently, much ado has been made about Internet-based alternatives to Yellow Pages advertising: things like the local search program on Google, and assorted Internet directories like BigYellow.com.
The argument usually goes something like this: the print Yellow Pages are too expensive, and now that alternatives are popping up small businesses don’t have to stick with them any longer.
There are a few things wrong with this kind of thinking, today I’ll highlight two.
First, the whole “either/or” proposition is way off. Smart small business owners are thinking: “How many ways can I buy a new customer relationship?” They dollar-cost-average customer aquisition costs, and structure their businesses to make the economics work. Loser thinking is: “What is the cheapest way I can buy a customer?” The Yellow Pages, when used properly, are a very effective ad media for many different kinds of local businesses. Predicating a marketing strategy on being cheap is rarely effective, and should only be used as a stop-gap measure to get to a point where a real customer aquisition plan can be run.
Second, I’ve done more than my fair share of yellow pages ad consulting. And I can state, for the record, that less than 1% of all yellow pages advertisers actually understand how to use the media. Far less. Even worse, most ads in the yellow pages are designed with heavy input from… THE YELLOW PAGES AD SALESPERSON. Lemme put this in plain English: if the guy selling the ad understood how to make advertising pay, he’d be doing ads for a living, not selling them. Basing the effectiveness of yellow page advertising on the mass of advertisers is laughable. Fact is, most businesses advertising in the yellow pages, aside from doing it wrong, aren’t tracking response so they have no idea what results are being generated.
Sometime next week I’ll talk about how to make yellow pages advertising pay. I just ran a class on it, so much of the yummy stuff is top-of-mind and ready to come out.
P.S. My posting has been non-existant for a bit, and will get back to normal in the next 10 days. Thanks for sticking around.