It might be obvious that the use of Yellow Pages advertising is diminishing but there are some companies in Northeast Florida who are still uncertain about the value of directories.
One Jacksonville company currently using a “page stealer” ad has determined after a year that they will downsize their ad to a business card size. On the other side, another company has decided to increase their ad size, thinking that their ad would be more dominant because of the current lack of competitors’ ads.
After reviewing data from several sources, here are some prospectives from a fact-check site, a marketing analytics consultant and a former Yellow Pages ad salesman.
First, some facts according to a Hubspot Webinar:
- Since 2007, many states have quit printing residential listing or have pending requests to stop publication. These states include Florida and Georgia.
- Traditional landlines are being disconnected at a rate of nearly 10% each year.
- Consumers are increasingly considering online services before Yellow Pages to make their purchasing decisions.
- Yellow Pages usage among people under 50 will drop to near zero over the next five years (according to Bill Gates).
Then there are actual third party or individual measurement programs that can more accurately determine the value of Yellow Pages advertising.
Ben Landers is president and CEO of Blue Corona, a marketing analytics and optimization company. As a former vice president of sales and marketing for a bottled water company named DrinkMore Water, he experienced first hand the measurement of that company’s Yellow Pages program.
Originally his company tracked their ads by running different phone numbers in each of the 10 directories they used throughout their market. Then he instituted a more sophisticated web-based software platform to not only track calls but to determine how many calls resulted in actual sales.
Landers’ system found that the number of people using Yellow Pages to find his company was decreasing faster than they realized. In addition, he found that most of the calls were not from prospective customers or current customers ready to buy, but were from automated campaign dialers(robots) and other sales reps.
In 2008, DrinkMore Water pulled out of the Yellow Pages because sales did not justify the cost. For the record, from January 1, 2008 to September 30, 2008, DrinkMore Water received a total of 54 calls from the directory. Only 16 of these calls were made by prospective customers. And only five of those resulted in sales.
Landers further found that Yellow Pages’ leads are least likely to have a credit card for residential billing; most likely to haggle on price; and pay little attention to quality or to the value of customer service. He concluded that prospects from the Yellow Pages were of very low quality compared to other marketing channels.
Denny Smith, formerly with the Yellow Pages for 25 years, reveals his conclusions in an article called “Confessions of a Former Yellow Page Salesman” that was posted originally on SEO Articles, then reported on EffectiveWebSolutions.Biz/Blog.
In 1984, he didn’t think the Internet would be a threat. He argued at that time that you could include coupons in your print ad, and it took longer to look up a source online than it did to look through a printed directory. But things changed quickly.
With features like keyword searches; unlimited search in any market (while only regional information is available in printed editions); easy and quick updating of ads; inclusion of updated coupons; the addition of mapsand directions; and access from mobile devices; he thinks the printed book will become “the next extinct species.”
Smith speculates that perhaps a 60% plus price reduction for Yellow Pages ads could keep them going for now. But at best the dwindling usage will require them to offer totally free ads within three more years.
In a post by Magdalena Georgieva on blog.Hubspot.com., certain industries already left the Yellow Pages world, while some are still getting results. She cites the travel and catering industries as being some of the first to go to the Internet, led by Priceline.com and TripAdvisor, which have replaced many local travel agencies.
Then she reports that service industries are the ones still hanging on to directories. She mentions specifically that plumbers and contractors are predominant in the Yellow Pages because searches for those types of local companies are limited. However, even that is rapidly changing with online reviews from sites such as Angie’s List.
Like so much of our lives, including marketing, things we grew up with are changing or going away. And that includes the printed Yellow Pages.