Yellow Pages Advertising for Small Businesses

in On Local Business Marketing

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. grin

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 russell March 6, 2012 at 5:57 pm

I too believe that yellow pages will die real soon. Due to the trade that I am in my customers are mostly over 40 years of age and wear glasses like myself and they also dont have computers. I cannot read the minute print and I know that yellow pages will not last another year. I will lose a massive amount of my customer base and I have been using yellow pages for 40 years.I am lucky that I am at retirement age but if they want my business in the future they will have to go back to the old type size ind also give me a massive discount also.

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2 yellowpageqatar July 29, 2010 at 8:01 am

yes future of yellow pages will be online and advertiser can get more response by advertise on online yellow pages

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3 Dennis M. Francis July 26, 2010 at 11:02 pm

I wonder how we would get around when we need to call the local electrician because our power is out? I admit that people don't use the Yellow Pages in the same numbers as they used to but the effectiveness of online advertising is not that great either.

We can fool ourselves into thinking that the new fangled way is making the old way obsolete but my 14 years old said it best “It's about choices and resources, dad.” He found what he was looking for in the local Yellow Pages after a frustrating search online.

People like options; we just have to ensure that they have some.

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4 Anonymous July 16, 2010 at 9:22 am

I usually don't pay any attention to the stack of Yellow Pages that appears throughout the year by the mailboxes. Last month I saw a yellow pages book in my mailbox. Because I knew that I actually had to it out of my mailbox I stopped to reflect for a minute. It's been such a long time since I looked in a phone book for anything, I just use the Internet Yellow Pages instead. It’s much faster and I get more info this way on whoever I’m trying to contact, so I was wondering when will the yellow pages people move their business online for good.

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5 eddiepetosa July 15, 2010 at 2:19 pm

The future of Yellow Pages is certainly online. Almost every house has a computer and it's easier to perform a search online rather than picking up the book and turning pages until finding a name. And another thing, my mother needs glasses to read the small print in the book. At Yellow Pages Online she doesn't need a magnifier.

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6 Lori November 4, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Michael, I just discovered your site in search of some information about print advertising vs online advertising. It's always nice to read the positives about yellow page advertising. I work for a local yellow page phone directory. I guess you could call me the “THE YELLOW PAGES AD SALESPERSON.

I really enjoyed the fact that you stated that “less than 1% of all yellow pages advertisers actually understand how to use the media”. However, I have to say that I was taken back a little by the comment about ” if the guy selling the ad understood how to make advertising pay, he’d be doing ads for a living, not selling them”. I guess someone has to do it, besides I really love my job. I on the other hand I do create and design my own ads based on what I like to call the Rascil Factors. R= Riliability, A= Authorized Sales and Service, S= Special Features, C= Completeness of Service, I= Illustration, Logos, or Emblems, and L= Locations and Areas Served. We also have a a method of tracking sales calls. Advertisers actually have the option of placing a RCF (Return Call Forwading), placing a phone number, different from theirs in our directory that forwads to their number. Thus allowing our customers to view name, phone numbers, addresses, times of calls, answered calls, unanswered calls, time spent on phone etc.

So, you see I just wanted to set the record straight. Some Yellow Page Ad Sales Persons, may not really handle or know the right way to build and effective add, but that doesn't speak well for thosed of us that do. Know what I mean?

I really did enjoy reading this article and I found it “laughable” As a matter of fact I just saved you to my favorites and my Twitter so that I may follow you and your advice, I find it very nice reading.

Lori “The Yellow Pages Ad Sales Person”

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7 Anonymous October 21, 2008 at 3:21 pm

Hello Michael,
  I have not had any luck finding statistics on what percentage of businesses advertise in printed YP and in IYP and what percentage doesn’t. It would also be interesting to know why businesses don’t advertise in the YP and IYP.
Thank you for your time and help,
Norman

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8 Anonymous July 30, 2008 at 11:23 am

To many people/companies have either or thinking – you HAVE TO Advertise Everywhere.  I think people are just trying to convince themselves that if they use one or the other, they are reaching everyone.  There are too many people that only use one or the other, if you want to mazimize traffic and sales you have to “advertise everywhere”

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9 Anonymous July 30, 2008 at 4:23 pm

To many people/companies have either or thinking – you HAVE TO Advertise Everywhere.  I think people are just trying to convince themselves that if they use one or the other, they are reaching everyone.  There are too many people that only use one or the other, if you want to mazimize traffic and sales you have to “advertise everywhere”

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10 Anonymous August 24, 2005 at 12:08 am

Jeff,

I must disagree with you, here at Top Yellow Pages, we are finding that the yellow pages are alive and growing.  While our service is to provide our clients with the best possible stand out and make a difference yellow page ad, we have learned by listening to our clients, that by large the yellow page industry is not going anywhere.  Believe me when I say if people weren’t using their yellow pages, businesses would not be advertising in tham and we would not be in business.
——-

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11 Anonymous August 24, 2005 at 5:08 am

Jeff,
I must disagree with you, here at Top Yellow Pages, we are finding that the yellow pages are alive and growing.  While our service is to provide our clients with the best possible stand out and make a difference yellow page ad, we have learned by listening to our clients, that by large the yellow page industry is not going anywhere.  Believe me when I say if people weren’t using their yellow pages, businesses would not be advertising in tham and we would not be in business.——-

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12 Anonymous September 15, 2004 at 4:09 pm

Jeff,

Based on what evidence? We are a long way still from universal adoption of the Internet for day-to-day searching. There are pockets, for sure, but we are far from mass adoption.

Michael

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13 Anonymous September 15, 2004 at 9:09 pm

Jeff,
Based on what evidence? We are a long way still from universal adoption of the Internet for day-to-day searching. There are pockets, for sure, but we are far from mass adoption.
Michael

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14 Anonymous September 15, 2004 at 6:09 am

I believe the yellow pages are on their out.

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15 Anonymous September 15, 2004 at 11:09 am

I believe the yellow pages are on their out.

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