The search business is a roll-up-your-sleeves type of business. We’re continually honing the way we deliver the search experience of today while preparing for how that experience will change tomorrow. With our eyes on the road ahead, and our minds grappling with what lies around the corner, there isn’t much time to look in the rearview mirror. But two learnings that came out of the recent Kelsey Group’s Directional Media Strategies conference provided reassurance that we’re delivering on what advertisers expect and deserve — ROI.
First, there was plenty of talk about CRM Associates’ research that states Internet, online directories, and printed Yellow Pages were the top three ROI performers for advertisers, delivering respectively $63, $53, and $52 of sales for every dollar of advertising. By comparison, more traditional advertising media — TV and radio — came in at $11 and $8, respectively.
Second, three national advertisers — Orkin, Avis, and Service Master — highlighted their commitment to and usage of Yellow Pages. Each reflected that spending on directories, both print and online, as a category remain in the top three of their media spending, despite ever-increasing pressure to expand into other online marketing options. And while acknowledging that the Internet is redefining and adding value to our industry, recent findings from these marquee brands indicate that dollar-for-dollar, print still delivers a strong proposition, offering a lower cost per call than leads captured via online methods.
Clearly as search continues to fragment, it’s reassuring to see major advertisers and small businesses alike continuing to view what we do as very important and beneficial to growth of their businesses.
Advertisers have the ultimate metric when viewing the contribution that search provides to their business — leads and sales. But we need to be vigilant in providing them with the tools to expertly assess our relationship to the bottom line. The Yellow Pages industry routinely conducts metered advertising testing; that is, tracking studies to determine the effectiveness of ads placed in Yellow Pages directories. We place unique phone numbers in Yellow Pages ads, and use Remote Call Forwarding (or RCF) network technology to automatically forward an incoming call from one telephone number to another. We then track monthly call volumes from customers for each ad.
Metered advertising testing by individual publishers allows our advertisers to know exactly how many customer contacts they receive through their Yellow Pages ads. Then, each year, the Yellow Pages Association commissions an independent vendor, CRM Associates, to aggregate the studies. In fact, over the past 12 years, Yellow Pages publishers have invested more than $150 million in metered advertising testing, offering our advertisers an added value that enhances their ROI and demonstrates the true value of our medium.
Small business owners who want their information to appear in local search results have several options in addition to traditional Yellow Pages, of course. To help small businesses sort through all the new and emerging opportunities, search industry players need to do a little hand-holding and actually “consult” with the advertiser. Within the Yellow Pages subset of search, the sales teams are creating marketing strategies, rather than simply designing ads. They’re serving as consultants to business owners faced with the challenge of developing and executing effective marketing, leveraging online, mobile, video, and search technologies. Delivering on this multi-platform promise, our “feet on the street” are delivering the unexpected: Web site development, direct mail, and search engine optimization and marketing.
We’re in the business of meeting the demands of business owners, who are in the business of meeting the demands of consumers. Bottom line, if we give small businesses the tools to measure, implement, and fine tune their marketing initiatives … their search advertising should be academic to us and intuitive to consumers.
Stephanie Hobbs, an award-winning print and online Yellow Pages executive with broad domestic and international experience, is the Yellow Pages Association vice president of communications. She also directs the association’s Local Search Guide, a who’s who of Local Search players and perspectives. The Locals Only column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.