Hi. My name is Andrew Shotland and I am a print yellow pages user. I know, I am one of those cutting edge online guys who makes his living off the “yellow pages are dead” thing. But, then, a main water pipe to the house started to leak and flooded my lawn.
I ran to the computer and started to search – Ahhh Los Links!
My wife gave me the hairy eyeball. Did I mention it was Mothers Day? I dug out the book and called the plumber with the two-page four-color spread. Crisis averted.
Last week I was reading about the War on Yellow Pages and I realized that many of us online types have been at war with the book because we have a vested interest in the book dying. There are plenty of good reasons to be down on print Yellow Pages as a marketing vehicle and I won’t repeat them here.
But today, because the Yellow Pages saved my ass, and possibly my marriage, I thought I’d return the favor and sing their praises.
- 75% of YP advertisers are service businesses or installed product (think floor covering) businesses. The more service-heavy, the more valuable the directory.
- Businesses that have large, infrequent sales (roofer, divorce attorney, windshield repair) are very likely to receive a big return compared to a donut shop. A roofing customer is out of the market for 20 years after a purchase. That’s a lead worth capturing.
- When the customer’s location is the work site, local SEO is exceptionally difficult to optimize and a directory can assist in exposing a business to their desired service area. About 35% of YP advertisers are home-based businesses that need visibility. The print directory can act as one of their store fronts.
- Categories that are dominated online by national brands and deep pocketed lead generation companies are also big beneficiaries of local directories. Examples are insurance (your local agent can’t outspend GEICO online), pharmacy, finance, real estate and educational institutions.
- But print YP ads aren’t for everybody. Gas stations generally aren’t good YP advertisers because the decision to purchase is habitual, opportunistic, and more driven by price than research.
- Another rule of thumb is research. The more a decision is researched, the better the ad return is.
Trust is also a major factor. If trust is necessary, (typically a requirement for a large purchase) the more valuable the ad. While advertising is not always a guarantee of trust, oftentimes online it’s harder to gauge trust when comparing a set of free listings or gamed review sites. A licensed, bonded, certified member of the local chamber of commerce with 30 years experience can look pretty similar online to a guy who knows a little SEO and will work for Gagaville credits.
Print directories are made for emergency services. When my buddy Dick Larkin’s 2 pound new Maltese puppy got into the ant poison and was having convulsions, his wife did not research online for emergency vets. She looked at the book in her drawer, made a quick decision, and drove.
If a tree is about to fall through a house, the home owner won’t bother with a lead generation site that requires personal information and I doubt he’ll have a friend who’s the mayor of the local tree guy. And let’s never forget the Great Pleasanton Mothers Day Flood of 2011 (moment of silence please).
So how do you reach the local person who is actively making a buying decision regarding the products and services you sell? One way to reach that person is through skillful online development and optimization. Another way is through the directory that was delivered to their home (assuming they haven’t opted out). Both answers can be right.
Plumbers can get a much higher ROI via online marketing versus print if they know what they are doing. But print leads are still significant enough that they most likely can’t go without them. The fact is that for a number of big ticket businesses, an occasional customer pays for their YP ad.
If you talk to a print YP publisher off-the-record, they will inevitably show you a chart that shows a decline in usage, effectiveness and revenues related to the print directories along with a dramatic increase in the metrics for online directories and lead generation. Then, they’ll flip the chart to show you the margins for each where print dwarfs online.
Until those paths cross and the positions change (and it will), the print book will still be pushed by YP publishers. And until the leads dry up, print yellow pages will continue to be a piece of the puzzle for many local marketers.
Ok, back to my day job of
hastening your demise helping you guys figure out this online thing.
Photo from Flickr user ideowl. Used under Creative Commons.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.