There are always plenty of people willing to make predictions about what will happen and why, and sometimes I’m one of those people. The last few meetings I’ve had with clients and prospects have all had one question in common.
The question, of course: “Matt, do you think spending the amount of money we do on Yellow Pages is worth it?”
Short Answer: No.
In my experience, nine times out of ten the clients I work with have no idea what sort of leads / new business they are getting out of their traditional ad spend. They advertise in publications like the Yellow Pages because they always have. That’s usually the only reason they give me. They also don't know that a lot of online marketing initiatives are trackable. The concept of having a semi-decent grasp of their return on investment almost surprises them (which sometimes surprises me). They are talking to us because they heard or read something from someone who told them that there's some great stuff happening on the web. Part of that greatness is the costs are typically pretty low compared to the inflated cost of traditional ad methods.
I have to say that I’m not by any means a marketing or advertising expert and this is strictly my opinion. I’m simply relaying what seems to come up over and over again as small to mid sized businesses slowly make the move to online client acquisition strategies over traditional media (print, radio etc). I can't be the only one seeing this trend in his own back yard. I work with a lot of older generation business types who aren't as tech savvy as most who read this blog and even they are getting it!
When a client asks me about Yellow Pages I always have to start out by stating that I’m a bit biased in that I’m usually talking to them about spending money building a website, creating a blog or implementing some other web strategy for their business. This is generally money they have allocated for marketing / advertising and given what Yellow Pages charges it’s a sensitive topic! Let's face it, those of us in the business of web development are out to take dollars away from traditional media. There's only so much money to be spent by small businesses so let's not sugar coat the topic.
I wanted to share one of my favorite articles on the free fall of the Yellow Pages, written by Frank Reed at Marketing Pilgrim from November, 2008. He summarizes things nicely.
There was also a great study done by Neilson and Webvisible on what tools & services people are using to find local businesses. The results were really quite amazing, showing that 82% of consumers use search engines to find local businesses, with the Yellow Pages directories coming in at 57% (surprisingly).
I could probably continue to post 100 more references to similar opinions but a simple Google search will turn these up as well. If you are operating a small business then I strongly recommend you take a look at how you are engaging customers. Take a very sharp look at what your clients, and potential clients, are seeing when they put your name into google or twitter.