I wrote a few months back about a local business owner who buys display ads in the Yellow Pages but spends nothing on online marketing. He said his reason is that his customer base is mostly comprised of older people, which led me to surmise that he was missing out on younger consumers because he devotes his entire budget to the phone book. With the ROI on Yellow Pages advertising continuing to decline along with its number of pages (remember how thick that book was before the Internet?), more Yellow Pages advertisers may be ready to find new ways to reach new customers. If that’s you, read on for a closer look at today’s Yellow Pages, plus some initial steps you can take to build up your company’s online presence.
Print on the decline, mobile on the rise.
A full-page ad in the Yellow Pages can tell consumers a lot about a business, but when you consider what more a great website can do, there’s no comparison. You can only update your phone book ad once a year, but you can change the information on your site anytime you need to. You can’t collect your customers’ contact information via a printed ad, but you can easily build an email list through your website. You can only show one or two photos in a Yellow Pages display ad, but you can add as many as you like to your site.
A much more important point of comparison, however, is the rapidly ascending rate of smartphone use for finding and contacting businesses. It may be the single most influential factor in ultimately making the printed Yellow Pages obsolete, but one thing is indisputable: You can’t fit a printed Yellow Pages directory in your pocket. Even the directory publishers themselves are acknowledging this reality, with many of them stopping their printed book production and turning to offering online directory listings to their advertisers.
Although the printed books are still being used by those with no access to the Internet, studies show that 70 percent of households in America go online when they’re in the market for local products or services, and nearly 65 percent of smartphone users are shopping online with their phones. It’s clear that your company’s online presence is critical to reaching most of your current prospective customers and perhaps nearly all of your future customers.
Make your business easier for customers to find.
There are a great number of online marketing agencies and many with the skills to get your website in shape and make it work harder to attract new business (call us!), but you can take care of a few things yourself to make things better in the short term:
- Consistency: The major search engines really like to see your business info listed in the same way wherever it appears online, because it helps them verify your authenticity. Find your business on the local search directories on Google, Bing and Yahoo and make sure your company’s name, address and phone number are exactly alike on each one.
- Content: Consider creating a blog that will let you include words and phrases that people use to search for your type of service or product. A blog also gives you an opportunity to publish timely messages, such as special offers or an expansion of your product or service line.
- Customer reviews: Provide an easy way for customers to review your business, and they’ll be helping to create more online content for you. Be sure to pay attention to the reviews that are posted, though — you’ll want to thank those who leave positive reviews and see if you can resolve any issues that surface through negative reviews.
- Community: Just as you nurture your business connections offline, you can use them to your advantage online. Links that lead from other reputable sites back to yours can help your site’s rankings in search engine results, so ask for links from other companies you do business with, trade-related organizations that you’re a part of or the organizers of events you participate in.
Use data to make your decision.
Still not sure that you should abandon your Yellow Pages advertising? Do some research that will tell you whether your phone book ad or your online marketing efforts work best by creating some type of system to track where your leads are coming from.
When prospective customers call, take the time to ask how they heard about your business, or include a special offer in your Yellow Pages ad that callers will need to request in order to take advantage of it.
On your site, setting up Google Analytics will help you track the traffic that your online marketing creates. Track the performance of each for several months and you’ll start to get a clear picture of where your marketing dollars are providing a return.