My family recently moved to a town in the rural Midwest. The first time I’d ever been to this town was our moving day, and I knew exactly two other people in town: my husband and toddler. After a thousand-mile trip, we were ready to settle in and enjoy our first meal in our new home: a box of pizza. I didn’t know any of the pizza places, and certainly not how to contact them, so I grabbed my phone and did what I always did: searched the web. To my surprise, and for the first time in my life, Google failed me. The only results were from the city 30 miles away.
Then, I remembered the yellow phone book our landlord left in the kitchen. I opened it up, determined not to let my small family starve, and saw multiple pizza places listed in the Yellow Pages. I sighed, relieved to know we might make it through our first day and thankful for the pizza on its way.
That was actually the first time I had used the Yellow Pages. But since we’ve been here, I have thumbed through the pages dozens of times to find out contact information for our local bakery, to compare quotes at our appliance repair shops, and on one sub-zero night last winter when my husband was out of town, to ask an HVAC repair man how to re-light our pilot light.
The Main Advantage
According to this article, my story is common among consumers making ready-to-buy decisions, especially in non-urban areas.
"It's the true local, local buying decision resource," said Ken Clark, YP Talk publisher. "When you get into tier two and tier three markets with smaller towns, you may not even get a mobile signal, so print Yellow Pages is still an ingrained way of life."
The Yellow Pages have the distinct advantage of being delivered to everyone in a community, guaranteeing your ad reaches its target audience. They’ve been used successfully to advertise restaurants (like in the story I shared above), medical services, legal services and repair and maintenance shops. The scope of Yellow Page advertising has also grown from the traditional phone book-only to offerings including digital and direct mail advertising options and limited call-tracking features.
Admittedly, I only used Yellow Pages a few times since my family moved. Once I became familiar with my new home, I didn’t need the book as much. I’m still much more likely to search the web than I am to pull out the phone book, and it seems I’m not alone. Research across all markets shows that Yellow Page advertising effectiveness isn’t black and white.
A Few Perceived Drawbacks
Many business owners (76 percent according to Yelp) think yellow page phone books are irrelevant and canâ€™t help their business.
Yellow Page advertising is expensive! Making your ad stand by increasing ad size, or hiring someone to design the ad, for example, compounds that cost.
Many business owners don’t want to publish in a printed phone book when they can spend less marketing online and, in many cases, yield better results. Research shows that most consumers do an internet search first (80 percent of the time) when compared to looking through the Yellow Pages.
Pay-per-call advertising isn't as great as it sounds. As I mentioned earlier, Yellow Pages offers pay-per-call advertising, which sounds good, until you take a closer look. With this service, customers are assigned a call tracking number and pay on a per-call basis, usually between $15-20 per call, if the call lasts longer than 12 seconds, which Yellow Pages considers a substantial lead. The drawbacks are pretty obvious: can you really count any 12-second call as a lead? The only way you'd know is if you were able to record the calls to see what those customers were actually saying, which assigned call tracking numbers from Yellow Pages don’t allow. But consider this: if you were to advertise normally in the Yellow Pages and get your own call tracking number specifically for that purpose, it’d be much easier to identify if your Yellow Page ads were successful, because you'd know both how many people were calling your specific number and you’d be able to go back and listen to those calls to determine if they were new customers or not.
You’re stuck with your Yellow Page ad for a year. Because it is a printed book, you can’t change your ad, or remove it altogether, if any component changes. Similarly, if your ad isn’t generating the leads you expected, you can’t stop advertising and reallocate that part of your budget.
So, should you?
Ultimately, deciding if you should advertise in the yellow pages comes down to strategy. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the Yellow Page advertising question.
If you’re in a market like mine, Yellow Pages could be successful for you. If you do decide to advertise in the Yellow Pages, using a unique call tracking number can help you determine whether your Yellow Page ad is actually working for your business and allow you to adjust your marketing plan accordingly (instead of paying more for a service that will actually cost you more and give you less information!).
Or, maybe, according to research you’ve done on your target market, you’ve found you’re better off utilizing a different marketing mix. And that’s great, too, if it’s growing your business!