For many local business owners, this is a question that must be asked. But the question is really being asked in a totally different context than it was in the past. In year’s past the question was really based more on the fact that the Yellow Pages was a necessary evil, something all local business owners had to consider. So the question was really about how much. Today the question is far more complicated.
Let’s break this down into a few sub questions and tackle the larger picture that is being asked out there today which is, do I need to continue to give the old phone company so much money every month and are there better alternatives and better value outside of the old phone company?
1. Who really uses the Yellow Pages anymore? I worked for the Yellow Pages industry for over 25 years and I have a bit of a bias for the old book. But I also have 3 children, ages 27, 24 and 15. Regardless of my loyalty I must admit that none of them has ever really used the Yellow Pages as a source of information and everything they do relevant to searching for anything is with Google. Okay you say, but are my kids indicative of everyone out there or only their generation? What does it matter? The answer is happening right in front of us. For most consumers the time is rapidly approaching when the Yellow Pages just won’t be an option any longer. So it’s not a matter of who uses the Yellow Pages, its really more a matter of for how much longer? The question for a local business should be, what is my plan to continue a source of leads and business when the Yellow Pages just isn’t getting it done any longer?
2. If I reduce or eliminate my Yellow Pages budget, where should it go? The first consideration should be right into your pocket. For years, the Yellow Page companies were making a killing with their inflated costs in a market that they had a monopoly in. Its your first consideration to thoroughly consider all of the components of your budget and decide on whether or not it could be better spent elsewhere or spent on better alternatives with better ROI. The game with the old phone companies for the past several years has been to keep your money and just keep finding somewhere else to spend it. For you the game has been to figure out if it’s worth it. So get your self organized the next time your sales rep calls or comes to visit. Demand and don’t accept less than a detailed summary of all of your charges and everywhere they are. That should include the time periods in which they started and end. Every single item! Then you should think them through. For most of the major companies they have a few different product offerings. Something like this:
a. The print yellow pages, which is broken down into the headings you are in as well as the various different directories you are included in. Often times, these directories are on a different timetable so it is very important that you understand the timeframes of each and every directory and the items that you have and are paying for.
b. The local online version of their print product. For example, YP.com, Dexknows.com and Superpages.com. Each of these products is referred to as the “core” IYP product and is owned by the company. In many cases, this is their best performing product because they pay high prices to drive traffic to them. You should also consider carefully whether you want to pay money for their Google, Bing and Yahoo ranking and appear alongside all of your competitors. It won’t be long before the large directory publishers will be challenged with the manner in which they rank on the SERP’s. (Search Engine Results Page)
c. 3rd party vendor products. These companies now carry a variety of search engine marketing products. Things like pay per call, online display, Google adwords programs, Email, text message, and a host of others. The very important issue here is to find out what you are paying for. Exactly what you are paying for, not kind of or sort of. Then you must receive reliable validated metrics that demonstrate the ongoing results of anything you have purchased. Most of the Sales Representatives working for these companies when thoroughly scrutinized cannot tell you exactly how the products are going to deliver or exactly what they are producing now. And please remember, leads do not constitute conversions or sales. Evaluate very thoroughly and then find out if you would be better off simply getting these services yourself from a company that can provide details and not lock you up into a very expensive long term contract.
3. Last and very important is to find out where everything is being fulfilled. Who is doing the work? After you buy whatever you buy, where does it go next? Is your Sales Representative still going to be around? Will he or she actually be involved in finalizing the details of your purchase? In today’s world many of these companies now outsource most of the production work and the customer service. Go online and do a search to review the customer service record of these companies. You don’t want to find out after you have signed a contract and after things don’t work that you have nowhere to go. Find out first.
It used to be easy. The hardest part was designing the ad. Now its much more difficult to decide upon a budget for the Yellow Pages or if the Yellow Pages should even be in the budget. So take your time and first evaluate whether or not you get any value out of the printed product or not. Don’t be bamboozled with multiple results from multiple sources. The print product is either working for you or its not. If it is, then make sure you have a professionally designed ad that stands out in the crowd. If its not, get it out and look elsewhere.
Take a good hard look at your Internet advertising separate and distinct.
First, do you want to pay for items of advertising in the online version of the yellow page companies’ directory? To answer that question you must be sure that it provides a good response for your investment. It should be able to deliver on its own. Make sure you have a measuring device for anything you buy. In todays world you should be able to get precise ongoing metrics of your traffic, leads and conversions. You must be able to convert that data into a firm figure of sales directly attributed to the individual items you purchased. That’s called ROI. Don’t get confused into a discussion that bundles up everything into promises of leads galore. Figure out item by item what they deliver for the price. Find those items that give you a nice ROI. Purchase those and dump the rest.
You can see it is a complicated question to answer. But if you want to take a deeper look at it, download our whitepaper on the 5 reasons you need to stop advertising in the yellow pages: