– By: Ray Morgan –
A statement I hear from small business owners is the Yellow Pages is dead. I offer this case study as proof of the opposite.
A local auto repair and tire shop in a suburb of Sacramento, CA had been an advertiser for years in the Yellow Pages. He didn’t have the biggest ad at his headings but didn’t have the smallest either. He’d adopted a competitive approach. Business was good. Many of his first time customers became regulars and over time this had accumulated into a fair-sized base.
The opportunity came for him to move into a larger facility directly across the street. This new building would allow for an expansion of his service bays and, because of the current property values, was less of a lease than what he was spending now. He jumped at the chance.
At the same time, his Yellow Pages consultant called to discuss his plans for the coming year. He chose to remove all his advertising from the book saying he didn’t think it worked anymore, no one had mentioned they’d seen his ad. (As a side note, while SMB owners tell me this frequently, when was the last time any of us went to a company and talked about the advertising which directed us to use their product/service? Unless asked directly, that’s simply not a conversation we’d initiate.) His consultant made the case for the continued strength of the directory but this owner wouldn’t hear it. He’d invested too much in retrofits for this new building and he was going to ‘save’ some money by eliminating an unproductive expense.
Fast forward to a year later. This owner is now singing a different tune. He reported to his consultant this time that something went horribly wrong. When the new directories hit the street, his phone calls stopped. It was as if someone had turned off the spigot. It was the only thing he could figure had resulted in this drop in call volume. He had not factored in how much new business had been coming from his print program.
When asked about how the new location was performing, he related that his old customers dried up too. They appeared to have lost his address and phone number as there had been a significant decline in his repeat business. His once thriving establishment was floundering. When asked, “Are they not able to just look out the other window of their car and see your shop?” His response was filled with dejection, “Apparently not.”
He is now talking about reviving his advertising program in the Yellow Pages.
This is not the first tale of advertising decisions gone wrong that I have witnessed firsthand. I have had this story related to me from different companies – a retail pack and ship company, a plumber, a dentist, the list goes on and on. Each company lost ground, their competition gained, and it took several years to make up for the absent time.
For over a hundred years now, we have turned to the local Yellow Pages to find every kind of business information imaginable. We trust what we find there. I’ve had dozens of businesses tell me point blank their main reason for being in the directory is to prove they are legitimate, not some fly-by-night outfit. “See, I’m in the book!” they say.
In a Wikipedia article, they cite an Experian/Hitwise report from January 2011 which found that the search term “Yellow Pages” is one the Top 50 search terms across all search engines and all search terms. This makes “Yellow Pages” one of the most searched for things on the Internet. In this digital age, we are still turning to a trusted source. It may not be sexy, it may not be cutting edge, it may not have bells and whistles and can dance a jig, but it is still where we turn to find someone to call when we need help.
Even to find the companies we’ve done business with years.
Meet the Author
Ray Morgan: Since 1985, I have been working with Small to Medium size businesses in crafting and implementing effective marketing campaigns. I’ve done it all – Radio, TV, Billboards, Newspaper, Yellow Pages, SEM, SEO, websites, Point of Purchase, Identity Creation and Collateral, Direct Mail, Advertising Specialties, Coupons, Video, Internet Yellow Pages, and on and on. Thousands of conversations with small business owners about their successes and failures have taught me so much and I strive to pass this knowledge and expertise to my current clients.