Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Another Rant Against the Yellow Pages

Last month, my wife asked me to look up the phone number of a local restaurant.

She was writing a note to her sister who is coming to visit and wanted to call the restaurant to see which hotels are located nearby.

(This was a handwritten note, the kind you shove in an envelope with postage.)

She was sitting in the living room with a book as a writing surface as she asked me for the number.

I used my Droid, did a Google voice search, pressed the number and handed the phone to my wife.

While she was talking to the restaurant, I noticed that the book the she was using as a writing surface, was The Phone Book.

It's that time of year again when phone book sales people try and get you to sign up for another year of advertising in the book.

Now days, they will try and sell you on a website too because they know that the book is dying, and being replaced by the web.

Paul Weyland wrote about The Phone Book recently in a newsletter he sends to radio and television sales reps:

Yellow Pages- Despite rumors of its imminent Internet-inspired death, many businesses still feel they absolutely must advertise in the phone book. When many consumers are ready to buy a product or service they pull out the Yellow Pages for information. Advertisers feel that many sales can be traced directly to the phone book. Many cities now have more than one book and for many advertising decision makers that poses a problem. Which book (or books) do you buy? Technology poses another problem for phone book advertisers. Younger people are relying more and more on the Internet for information on businesses. Despite it’s problems, Yellow Page advertising is still very popular, and they’re doing a lot to embrace the Internet and keep their customers.

Here are some of the strengths of the Yellow Pages:
• Perceived as reliable-People turn to the Yellow Pages when they are ready to buy.
• Room to display multiple products and services-Like the newspaper.
• Advertising by section-Yellow Pages can place ads for one client in several different product/service categories.
• Couponing-Like the newspaper, Yellow Page customers can find coupons they can bring directly to the advertiser.
• Ubiquitous-Yellow Pages are everywhere. And usually right next to the telephone.

Like newspaper, Yellow Page advertising does have its drawbacks. Here are some examples:
• High cost-Yellow Pages advertising can be very expensive, particularly when the advertiser is running full-page color ads in several product/service categories. And if you dispute your bill your phone could be cut off.
• You can’t change the copy-The advertiser is stuck with the same copy for a year. That’s a long time, especially if something new you have something new you’d like to say. And what if there’s a mistake in the ad? Too bad. You live with it for a year.
• Passive medium-Again, a Yellow Pages ad doesn’t say anything until you pick it up and turn the pages. Up to that point the book sits in a drawer or under piles of mail.
• Absolutely no competitive protection-When you a consumer shops the Yellow Pages he has the opportunity to shop all of your competitors as well.
• The biggest ads are in the front of the product/service category-Sounds nice, until you think about how many consumers really pick up and handle the phone book. “When you buy a full page ad in our Yellow Pages, we’ll put your ad right in the front of the section!” Fine, except most people thumb through the Yellow Pages from back to front. Try it yourself. Pick up the phone book and look at the way you actually handle it to get to the pawn brokers section. That means that in reality, customers will see the smaller ads before they get to the big, expensive ones in the front of the section.
• Clutter-The Yellow Pages is virtually all ads. For small businesses it’s becoming very expensive to compete in the phone book, particularly if you need multiple listings. For example, if you’re in the heating and air conditioning business you’ll need an ad in heating and another in air conditioning. If you’re in the appliance business you’d need listings in refrigerators, stoves, washing machines, etc.
• Too many books-Clients in many markets are being courted by multiple “Yellow Pages” books. Which book (or books) should you buy?
• The Internet-Many younger people use the Internet for searching out businesses. And there are many different Internet “Yellow Pages”. Older people may have trouble with the Yellow Pages as well. In big cities the books are big and the older you get, the harder it is to read the numbers.

You can read the rest of what Paul wrote here on

When I was in the radio business, we used the book as a directory of potential advertisers.

Now that I moved to the web based world, I can offer marketing solutions that are measurably more cost effective than the book.

Contact me at: or 260-255-4357.

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