Last week in this column, Chris Silver Smith shared a thoughtful take on the state of Yellow Pages print and online offerings and whether they are worth the investment to local businesses. I applaud Chris for providing an in-depth overview of trends in the industry, and want to offer some additional thoughts and context for readers to consider when making a decision about using Yellow Pages products.
Without a doubt, the Yellow Pages space is in a state of transformation. Research has found that fewer people are using print directories in both numbers and frequency than they have previously, and a multitude of new platforms ranging from the Web and mobile directories to iPhone and iPad apps and daily deals offerings are fragmenting the way consumers make purchasing decisions.
Where it used to be easy to reach your intended consumer through a small number of media channels, there are now many options for a small business advertiser. Yellow Pages players have responded by introducing new offerings that leverage these areas of growth, while also working to preserve and enhance print and other existing offerings that have and continue to drive leads for millions of businesses across the country.
Inspired by Chris’ column, I propose four key reasons advertisers should think twice about abandoning their Yellow Pages relationship.
1. Yellow Pages Providers Now Offer More Than Just Print Directories
Many have also launched Yellow Pages-branded websites, mobile apps, SEO and search services – and more innovations are on the way.
Yellow Pages providers have completely changed their playbooks. Company names and business strategies have changed to reflect a new era in which they use their experience in the local advertising space to deliver a full-spectrum of local marketing services to neighborhood businesses.
Many people would be surprised to learn that the same companies that deliver their phonebooks also provide them with the local business information they find online or access via apps on their mobile device, or the daily deals they purchase through links shared on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
Local businesses might be intrigued to hear that the company that publishes their local directory also offers advice on areas like SEO, paid search, online advertising, online reputation and social media. Yellow Pages providers are often behind vertical websites dedicated to selling cars or wedding planning.
As BIA/Kelsey’s recent update of its Global Yellow Pages report indicated, newer Yellow Pages offerings like websites, video, social, mobile and search engine marketing will be their primary growth drivers in the coming years. And by 2015, an estimated 53% of global Yellow Pages revenues will be digital, compared with 29% in 2011. Yellow Pages providers should be judged on everything they are doing and will be doing in the near future to drive growth.
2. Yellow Pages Have Long-term Relationships With Local Businesses
This puts them in a unique position to offer advertisers personal advice and service, relative to start-ups with little history or local team members.
There are many interesting and innovative local search companies out there, but something has to be said for the close bonds that this Yellow Pages’ vast sales force enjoys with its local business advertisers and its deep understanding of their individual objectives and challenges.
Yellow Pages representatives have been working with these businesses for years and have gained their trust by delivering results that have positively impacted their bottom lines. Today’s Yellow Pages representative can counsel a client how understand and implement effective digital strategies.
If you’re a small business advertiser, take time to talk to your Yellow Pages representative and see what they might be able to do for you beyond your print or Internet Yellow Pages ad. When it comes down to it, where else can a local business go for one-stop access to all the various local advertising options now available to them – from the same companies they have worked with for years?
One of the biggest problems I see for small and local business owners is they don’t have the time to research and understand their advertising options. That’s a real need that Yellow Pages providers are equipped to address.
3. YP Providers Are Partnering Behind The Scenes With The Search Engines
Advertising with one of these companies rarely means that a business’ listing is confined to one Internet Yellow Pages website. Many of these companies now enjoy relationships with competitors such as search engines and other popular local sites that allow them to cross-promote advertising and resell their products.
Data that fuels popular local search sites is often provided by a Yellow Pages provider because they maintain the most comprehensive and accurate listings, which is key to delivering the local search experience advertisers want and consumers expect.
Companies like AT&T and Yellow Pages Group are investing in building relationships with developers through APIs and supportive resources, resulting in the creation of dozens of new web and mobile apps that leverage their business listings. There is no doubt that these efforts will continue to grow and deliver valuable results for participating local businesses.
4. Print Is Not Dead
It’s also not an either or proposition. Advertisers should study closely when an investment in print advertising would make sense.
In an era when a growing number of consumers DVR programming and view video content online, is there a general consensus that TV advertising is on the outs? Because less people read the newspaper today, have major advertisers simply stopped running full-page ads?
We live in a fragmented media landscape where consumers of all demographics are picking up information in a multitude of places new and old.
Our research conducted with Burke finds that nearly 8 out of 10 of print Yellow Pages searches resulted in a purchase or purchase intent. How many new local search offerings can claim such high exposure and drive so many leads?
Local businesses advertising with print Yellow Pages should take advantage of tools developed to demonstrate the value of their investment. Pay-per-call is one way; Co-Op advertising is available in many categories; surveying customers is another.
Like anything, assumptions can be made about who uses what medium more. But the real question is what the data shows, and it varies not just from industry to industry, but business to business and even as specific as product to product.
For example, a construction company owner profiled in a recent Bloomberg Businessweek story on the industry said that while print ads don’t help the customer-home building side of his business, they drive the “reactionary and spontaneous” lines of his work, such as emergency repairs and insurance-funded restorations.
As long as a print Yellow Pages investment returns more than it costs for an individual local business, it is worth their expense.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.