It's deadline time for Yellow Pages contracts in West Michigan and I'm working with my clients to help them make wise choices for the upcoming year. There was a time when it was imperative to be prominently listed in the phone directory and to have a great ad. However, about five years ago this started to change, big time! A new pattern emerged for consumers, google where you want to go and what you want to do, and the place with the best website usually won (and still does).
Fast forward, and now the majority of us have smart phones and can easily google what we need on the fly with our phones. From another angle, most savvy consumers who have disposable income own a smart phone and know how to use it to find what they want.
Although I have worked with some great Yellow Book reps, many are clearly taught to use high pressure tactics to get deals that are not necessarily in the client's best interest. Some of my most interesting interactions with the phone book sales force include reps who:
- Won't send me a contract with the extras eliminated, making it necessary for me to repeatedly contact them requesting the correct information.
- Refused to respond to my phone calls or emails once they realize I was cutting back a client's commitment. I once had to contact a regional manager because my rep would not accept a substantial contract reduction that saved my client over $50,000 a year (by the way, I invested the saved budget into other advertising that helped his business grow dramatically.)
- Tried scare tactics with my clients implying that the client might go out of business with a reduced ad budget in their publication
- Used bamboozling tactics, insisting on a sit down meeting and then presenting everything other than what was requested. I had one of these that lasted four hours.
One of the items they are pushing this year is the Companion Book, a small phone directory for the car. I thought I would do an informal facebook survey and see what came back. I asked the following question:
"I need your help! Are you still using the little companion phone books? I buy advertising for a lot of clients and want an unbiased opinion of if this is still used. Thanks!"
Three hours later, these are the responses that I had (these folks range in age from 20 - 65):
"Don't use phone books. FWIW - we used to have yellow page ads in about 4 books outside of Lowell for Chimera. Dropped all of them over the past 2 years."
"I believe that while we are all in agreement with the way we use modern technology we must not forget that there are still a lot of older people out there that do not like or have modern technology, they still use the phone books."
"I have a droid....I just google any place I want to call!"
"I recycle them."
"Good question Ann, with an easy answer for me: completely irrelevant IMHO. The phone book today for 90%+ of us is on our phones or tablets, or laptops."
"Not at all..."
"nope not at all."
"Nope! I used to keep them for when my babies had the urge to tear paper out of my books. Lol"
"I've got a photo I could send you. The last one that came out was in a bright orange plastic bag. The next day a neighbor put it out by their trash for pick up."
"We get Valpak's here. They're envelopes with advertisements and saving coupons. I always go through them especially after moving to see what kind of businesses and restaurants we have nearby."
"Haven't opened one in years."
"Sometimes. Not usually yellow pages though."
"No, not used at all, use the internet for everything..."
"Not at all."
"No. I use my phone for everything."
Times change, and so do needs. Unless there are unusual circumstances, my typical recommendation is to keep a white pages listing, put your web address under it and make sure you have a listing in the yellow pages with your web address included. That's all. No online phone book web advertising, no companion books, no phone book display ads. You need to go where your customers are. Online, with a great website.