Saturday, October 04, 2008

Yellow Pages ROMI versus Online Marketing

A new thick Yellow Pages book was dropped on my front lawn this week. The two thoughts that immediately entered my mind as I bent to pick up the book were: 1. Where will I put this huge book?, and 2. How much money have all these firms wasted? With the exception of perhaps some very local retailers, most of the money spent on ads in the Yellow Pages has been a waste. If you need a number, find it online. If you need to find an address or hours of operation, check the company website. The premium for Yellow Pages ads is just too high. If you're a samll business and want to fund an online marketing effort, cancel your Yellow Pages ad reallocate those funds.


Anonymous said...

With high ROIs, over 13.4 billion references to the print Yellow Pages in 2007, growing online YP use and the delivery of buyers not browsers, I'd have to disagree with your assessment of the medium.
SMEs need to determine the best way to reach customers, it isn't always online or in print. It's often both. Go to for the facts, and yes, I work for the industry.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Charlie- while the numbers are growing, the business model is fatally flawed. $4000 a year for a YP listing is about $3900 too much.

Those in the industry know it's a matter of time- the cost/value model is simply not relevant.

The YP still makes money because of it's legacy branding. Like newspapers, it's still profitable, but on a downward trend. Data is just too cheap.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking you are both right. There is some validity to YP advertising for certain businesses or industries. However, like most things in a down economy, price adjustments will occur. YP publishers will not be as ridiculously profitable as yester-years, and will adjust their price to reasonable rates. Also smart local businesses are shifting money away 'from what their father's did" into new mediums that can be measured for ROI. Example - using tracking phone numbers in ads. Or running smaller ads, and spending the rest of their monthly budget savings on PPC, SEO, and social web efforts.

I mean, if my plumbing just burst, I'm digging that yellow page book out of the bottom of my closet and calling a plumber fast. If I'm looking for a cabinet builder, I may reference the yellow pages, but likely going to search online so I can learn more about the company before calling - or perhaps even just opening the blue envelope (ValPak) to see who's got a deal.

The bottom line is smart company's evaluate, improve, and monitor their ROI in ALL media spends - not just leap in on the faith and sales ability shown by their local starving sales representative.

Want to solve the media problem - pay sales reps based on trackable results! ...and yes I have/do sell media as a consultant.

I mean if the yellow page rep gave the ads away, and was paid per lead (phone call) I bet they would spend more time making the ad/offer compelling. Vested interest is the only key to ensuring someone doesn't lose out.

...but good luck with that!

Anonymous said...

YP ad's may be over priced but as a user I prefer to use the YP in book form. Chris has it right, for a access to a service that you need right away the YP is the only way to go. Also, I find more relevant local results in the hard copy and often find businesses I didn't know were in my area.

Search is great if you need info on a specific business but not all buisinesses have websites and the info in the search result is often quite sparse.

For me there is a lot of value in the YP hard copy but businesses have for several years, opted out of YP ad's and moved to the web. This splits local businesses into two groups which means that no one location will have all of the local businesses represented. The result is that both the business and the customer loses.

witzm said...

Good comments by one and all. While I believe the YP may has residual value today and for some time to come, the model is clearly outdated and the price/value relationship is out of proportion. As Jim said, data is cheap. Printing and delivering paper isn't. As 24/7 online access is increasingly distributed there will be no need to pull out the YP in an emergency when the plumbing breaks. Just look for an emergency plumber using your PDA while your standing next the broken need to run to the cabinet to get the book, just look it up online on the spot. Even better, with my iPhone I can find the closest plumber to my address faster than I can turn the pages of the YP.