Thursday, January 25, 2007

I Am Curious--Yellow?

Do you still use the Yellow Pages as your primary tool of shopping research?

Twenty years ago, whether I was looking for a bookstore or a plumber or a car dealer or a stereo equipment dealer, the first thing I did was drag out the Yellow Pages and see what was listed. But I have used the Yellow Pages only one time in the past year--when our garage door opener was malfunctioning, I went to the Yellow Pages to see if there was anyone who advertised same-day service. There wasn't, so I made use of the home warranty service we had and used the repair tech they recommended instead.

Since I have a bookstore, we are visited once a year by Yellow Pages salespeople who try to convince me that the only thing that ever gets a customer through my door is that ad in the Yellow Pages. Our research, though, shows that isn't the case; the huge majority of our customers come to us from Google searches and the Comic Shop Locator Service and other internet-related tools, not from the Yellow Pages. The number of people who mention the phone book decreases with each passing month.

Today was the day the Yellow Pages salesman came by to try to convince us to spend significantly more money than we had spent last year. Our Yellow Pages ad cost us $273 a month for the past twelve months (that's one of my big complaints, by the way--I shouldn't have to pay every month for a book that's published once a year). "But we gave you a free ad last year to accompany your larger ad, and you'll have to pay for that free ad this year," the salesperson said through his practiced smile. "Your new rate will be $485 for the same thing you had last year."

"I want to spend less."

"If we drop the color, we can get it down to $420..."'

"Not less than $485," I said. "Less than last year. Less than $273."

I could tell this wasn't the way he wanted this conversation to go. He tried to convince me to spend more money, I offered him a deal: if he could guarantee that I would get 70% more customers and 70% more revenue in the next twelve months, I would gladly give him 70% more for the Yellow Pages ad.

He tried to convince me that I should spend money for a big internet listing on the Yellow Pages website. I reminded him that their website was cumbersome, less than wholly helpful, and far more difficult than Google to use. Basically, I see the Yellow Pages as the Sears or Radio Shack of advertising; they were once the Big Guys, but they don't realize that the times have largely passed them by, and they haven't been willing to implement the real changes necessary to keep up with the times. (The only way they could make it work is to make every business information call absolutely free to the consumer if the business has a Yellow Pages listing--but that would require a paradigm shift as great as the one that led AOL to go from a fee-based service to a free service, and I don't see the phone company as being that forward-thinking...)

We'll have a much smaller listing next year, and it'll cost us just a smidge over $200 a month.

The year after that? Who knows--I may decide to cut back to nothing more than a line listing with our name and phone number, which would cost me about $60 a month.


Charles said...

I use the Internet instead of the Yellow Pages these days. In fact when the phone books are delivered each year, I bundle them up and take them to my parents. So yeah, I think the Yellow Pages are on the way out.

Doug said...

My friend is a locksmith, which still relies heavily on the Yellow Pages. For some reason, it remains a first visit for most people locked out of their houses or cars, or that need locks/safes installed.

He's working on a settlement from Bellsouth (now AT&T), because he recorded their sales rep straight out lying to him about ad prices. Apparently, he's probably going to come out of 2 years of half-page ads for a cost of ZERO, thanks to the sales rep moron.