Yellow-Bellied Pages

In summary To hear the Yellow Pages tell it, they're every bit as relevant as they were in 1992, and they've got the anecdotal evidence to back it up.

Finding your audience means taking your message to the outlets where your customers already maintain a consistent presence. Skip this step, and you could end up advertising denture cream at a skate park.

I remember a time, not too long ago, when I would dutifully replace my old Yellow Pages immediately upon the arrival of the new one.  There’s even a dedicated kitchen drawer for it.

That drawer has not been accessed in months years.

In this digital age, do the analog Yellow Pages still have something to offer? A directory that’s updated yearly? Well, it may surprise you, but I think it does. Apart from computer-literate blog readers like yourself, there are plenty of people who still look things up the old-fashioned way. They may even have rotary phones. And these people are still viable consumers, with actual money to spend.

The question is, how much of your audience do they comprise?

To hear the Yellow Pages tell it, they’re every bit as relevant as they were in 1992, and they’ve got the anecdotal evidence to back it up. And for some businesses, they remain The Only Game in Town. If you have only X$ to spend on marketing every year, isn’t your best bet to throw it all at the Business Bible?

If you’re selling rotary phones, yes. Otherwise, it’s time to reconsider.

My problem isn’t with the existence of the Yellow Pages–I think for certain clients, they remain a part of a well-balanced marketing mix. My problem is their attitude, which boils down to: “Advertise with us, or regret it. And by the way, we’re going to charge you five to six times what an average monthly home mortgage would be just for the privilege.”

Most advertisers work directly with a Yellow Pages rep, who has been schooled in the finer points of badgering, harassment and false negotiation. Recently a client showed me a proposal from their rep, which had them paying the same amount as the year before, but claimed to be deeply discounted. That’s because rates were going up! If you sign now, we can save you 30%!

Is this really how companies are helping businesses market themselves in 2010?

My other problem is that the Yellow Pages reps operate in a sanctimonious vacuum, maintaining their “only game in town” facade and barely acknowledging a client’s other marketing efforts. Consistency? Coordination? Not gonna happen–because their designers will provide the layout for free! It’s a value-add! A couple of years ago, I opened up the Yellow Pages to my client’s ad (seeing it for the first time), and picked out five typos right off the bat. And, because the rep is willing to do/say anything to sign that lucrative contract, they’ll let the client load up the ad with whatever they want–usually about 60% more than anyone can be expected to absorb.

I put it to you, Yellow Pages–let’s work together. I’ll consider you if you’re right for my client and you pay me the same respect when you do an end-run and ambush my client directly. I’m trying to keep my client’s best interests in mind. Aren’t you?