Online Marketing Strategies – EverEffect


Yellow Pages Suck

Posted in Measurable Results,multivariate testing,online marketing by Jim Brown on November 26, 2007

For years they were considered the ‘lifeline’ for businesses to reach potential customers. 10 to 15 years ago I would have considered that a true statement. (It could be because that was the last time I knew where my phone book was!) Today, it is just simply not inaccurate, and I would challenge anyone who thought otherwise.

Why? Every year the Yellow Pages rate card goes up 3-7%, yet less and less people actually USE them. The decline in use closely mirrors the adoption of broadband internet service. With that, a large portion of young adults and business buyers NEVER consult the Yellow Pages at all – and they are controlling an ever-expanding portion of the dollars spent! Now, if your target market is one of the two population groups that is not adopting broadband internet services (the lower social-economic segment and the over 50 segment) you should be just fine.

Need more specifics?

Ad Placement

Wouldn’t it be nice if every company’s name started with ‘A’ so they could ALL be at the front of the directory? Let’s take a look at a pretty popular Yellow Page category: Heating and Cooling!

After eight full page ads and just as many half page ads that are horribly designed, yet begging for attention, you finally get to the phone number listings themselves. There you will find 70 (seventy – not a typo) companies that start with the letter ‘A.’ A-Fast Heating, A Perfect Climate, A-Plus Heating, AAA Heating, Aaron’s Heating… you get the point. How in the world are you supposed to stand out? I guess you buy a bigger ad.

Multiple Category Listings

Let’s assume you were a general contractor. Right out of the gate we can put you in that category for a nominal fee. What happens if people aren’t looking for a ‘general contractor,’ but rather a painter. You provide painting services yet you will not be seen when that person is looking – unless of course you buy that category too. The next potential customer wants someone to do a little bit of drywall installation – you do that as well, but again you are only listed under general contractor. I guess you’ll be buying another category?

Now, your budget is not very big to begin with, so what happens when you spread that budget over the 14 categories that a potential customer MIGHT look for you under? Your listing is diminished to next to nothing, and you might as well not be in there at all.

Ad Modification and Spending

I recently spent an afternoon with a local business who spends $13,000/month on Yellow Page advertising. After I picked my jaw up off the floor and realized that equated to over $150,000/year I started to chuckle and asked if he would like to keep more of that in his pocket.

He told me two things that really stuck out during the conversation.

  1. His business is dead November 15 – March 15. It is season and no one is in need of his service during those months. Regardless, Yellow Pages will still bill him $52,000 during that time where his phone will not ring one single time. If you knew this about your business – wouldn’t it be nice to turn OFF your advertising during this time?

  2. He recently added a new service to his business and was waiting until the new Yellow Pages came out so he could start advertising! Who said print isn’t dead? It seems like the moment a piece of paper rolls off the printer, it is already out of date. Why in the world does this business have to wait until the next printing of the Yellow Pages to START advertising his new service? What if the new service is a bust? He can’t do any testing of less than a year with this advertising method.

Shouldn’t YOU be in control of when your ads are modified and how much you are spending? Wouldn’t it be nice to do so on a monthly basis – or even a daily basis?

Measurable Results

“50% of our marketing dollars are wasted every year, the problem is we don’t know which half!” Sound familiar? What about – “80% of my business comes from the Yellow Pages.” Heard that one too?

The fact of the matter is – if you are not measuring your marketing, you are wasting money. Unless you have a special 800 number for every category in the yellow pages you will have NO idea of what is working and what it not – and at this point we are ONLY talking about leads. What happens after the call? Did they close? If not – why? When will you follow back up with them? What if 2 weeks go by – do you remember where they came from or do you just chalk it up as ‘another Yellow Page lead?’

Still not convinced?

You are reading this online – if I were wrong, you’d be reading this in your Yellow Pages!

Wondering where I got a copy of the Yellow Pages? After visiting with my grandpa this Thanksgiving I asked to borrow his copy for this blog entry. I know he’ll need it back.

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