By Dan Harley, Jr.
If you have a small business you probably have a yellow page ad. Be it a full-page ad or a simple phone listing, the yellow pages have reached out and touched all of us in our wallets and for good reason. The yellow pages had been the most practical and reliable means of attracting new customers for small businesses targeting a local market or community. The yellow pages had been among the best ways for any small business to advertise, and that includes my own business. However, I learned a very hard lesson that yellow page advertisement is no longer effective and has become of a waste of money.
Despite having an abundance of resources available my fingertips to advertise online, my Internet consulting and marketing business is not much different from any other business when trying to find new customers. I spend money on yellow page listings just like any other small business owner would. In fact, I had counted on the yellow pages to help boost my business a few years ago. I quadrupled my yellow page ad budget in 2006 over 2005, because I was pushing a new product line and I wanted deep penetration into my local market. The shocking part was discovering that I acquired two more clients in 2006 than the year before despite four times the effort. Ironic to myself and with my business, the problem with my yellow page advertising was because of the Internet.
There was a BusinessWeek survey back in 2005 that I overlooked, which indicated most adult consumers at that time were already using Internet search engines to find local businesses or services over any other form or advertisement. Such information could have told me not to pursue heavy marketing through the yellow pages, but I wasn’t listening. There was also just plain common sense in realizing the pattern and habits of my target market. Putting it simply, I stopped using the phone book and I started using the Internet to find things and so did my customers. You can prove this to yourself by asking a few simple questions:
Your answers are very likely the same as mine:
How do you think your customers will answer these questions?
The consumer driven trend towards using the Internet over the phone book is no secret. It is much easier to use a search engine than to lug out a heavy phone book and dig through hundreds of pages to find information on a local business. Ironically, most all of the search engines and online business directories at this time are filled predominantly from yellow page listings as the primary source. They had to do something to fill the rapidly increasing consumer demand to find things online instead of digging through a phone book. This is adding nails to the coffin for the physical phone book and certainly devaluing advertising in the yellow pages.
Yahoo, Google and even the yellow page companies very well know about this trend and lots of technology is being developed or re-developed to accommodate it. Yahoo has had Yahoo Local for years. Google has integrated Google Maps into a means to promote local businesses. Don’t think for a minute that SuperPages, AT&T and the other phone book companies are twiddling their thumbs, because they know their business will be all but dead if they continue to sell nothing else but yellow page ads. All this activity brings new challenges for small businesses to use the Internet.
Believe it or not, you don’t have to have a Web site to be listed in the search engines and your business might already be listed. Your yellow page listing is all you may need to be listed in Google, Yahoo and dozens of local business directories on the Internet. If you don’t manage your online business listings, then you will be randomly placed in the search directories. Despite it all, you’re probably receiving more business from your online business listings than you realize and it’s relatively easy to generate more business.
Most online business listings aren’t managed because most business owners or managers don’t realize they are listed. This means even simple management of such listings could give your business favorable ranking, which will translate to more new customers. After several months of terrible yellow page ad results, I started to manage my online business listings in hopes of recovering lost ground. It cost me nothing but my time and I generated more business in a couple months than I did in the year’s worth of yellow page ads in 2006. Today, I purchase the bare minimum (about $150) to keep my yellow page listing active and carefully manage my online business listings. I already realize several times more new customer inquiries from my online listings than I have ever generated from my yellow page ads in the same timeframe. Several of my clients who are utilizing my strategies are realizing the same thing.
Has the Internet replaced the yellow pages as an effective small business marketing tool? It already has in my opinion. What’s your opinion? Leave a comment and let me know.
About the author: Dan Harley, Jr. is the founder and owner of PrimeConcepts for Internet Solutions. Dan has over 25 years experience as a professional computer programmer, decades of experience with sales & marketing and over eleven years of experience in Internet marketing. For questions concerning his articles or for more information, contact Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://primeconcepts.net