If you are still devoting significant dollars to the yellow pages, you might want to reconsider your budget. The printed yellow page books are definitely on the way out.

The younger buyer first looks to Google, Yahoo, or MSN search engines on the internet even when looking to buy local services. Having grown up with laptops, this is just second nature to them since they are “native PC users”. The internet allows buyers to comparison shop easily and faster. The advent of the internet on cell phones and smart phones is opening up a whole new arena for search.

The older buyer may still go the yellow pages as will other demographic groups that are slow to do business on the internet. Lower income and minority groups may also lag behind the younger buyer; the printed yellow pages may be fine for them now, but not for long.

A good use of your advertising dollar would be to make sure that your business is included in search engine data bases. Even if you don’t have a website, make sure you are listed on the appropriate web directories; list your business name, services offered, 800 number, address, etc.

I do recommend that you have a website, since most people doing a search will want to next visit your website after they have identified your firm in a search. You might want to go a search on yourself or your company. See if you can find yourself. If you don’t turn up in the first two pages of text search data, you are in trouble; most web searches don’t go to the third page. See the next chapter on getting listed in Google, Yahoo and MSN.

If you want to use the yellow pages most effectively, plan on spending significant money. Research studies have shown that bigger ads get more calls. Check and see what size ad your direct competitors use and then jump up to the next size or larger. Also, like in all print advertising, color demands attention and will help your ad response rate.

If you are a local business, be sure to emphasize your location. Many buyers prefer to work with a local business. I am personally drawn to an advertisement that portrays the business as “owner operated”; I like doing business with small firms that have a pride of ownership. Be sure to include website address in the advertisement.

Things are changing. The decades-long tradition of the printed yellow pages is changing. Decrease your spending in this category now and move the budget dollars to other advertising and promotional categories such as your website.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.
Please visit my website at www.firstbestordifferent.com

About the author
  1. True, I’m almost 50 and was raised on yellow pages, but I now ask the nice phone company person to keep them and save a tree. (In my area, we actually get 3 different competitive yellow pages. Go figure!)

    Why? Because it’s easier for me if I do a web search and the results are better. Where with the yellow pages I get a brief blurb on the company and its services, on the web, I get a lot of additional information. I can also research the company I am thinking of doing business with and relative prices. (For example: http://www.epinions.com or other opinion-based sites.) Just about everyone I know who is under 30 uses the web almost exclusively when searching for stuff.

    From the vendor perspective, it usually makes better economic sense to advertise online. A decent yellow page ad costs about the same or more than a decent website plus some search engine optimization services…and you can change the website (something that you can’t do with a yellow page ad.) Sell your shares in the yellow pages!

    At the risk of getting off on a tangent, I recommend that anyone with a website budgets something to promote the website. (SEO or Search Engine Optimization.) What good is a website if nobody can find it? SEO is a black art and therefore rife with schemers and scammers. Like a good mechanic, a good SEO consultant is good to find. Make the time to research an SEO firm, ask for references and check them.

    Great website, John!

  2. Ean,

    I think it gets down to basic economics. If your target market still relies on the yellow pages, then this advertising channel may make sense. But for most markets, I believe this tool is losing its cachet. I would do as you suggest and move more of your budget to SEO and less of it with the yellow pages (if any).


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