Yellow pages book on ground

Thinking of advertising with the Yellow Pages? How quaint.


Thinking of advertising with the Yellow Pages? How quaint.

Yellow Pages phonebook

“The new phone books are here!”

Do any of you remember that scene from the Steve Martin movie The Jerk? When the phone book arrives, he’s excited. He grabs it and dances around. Here, take a look:

He wants to look to see if he’s in it – if he’s somebody!


Well, it has happened again – I got one of these books at my office and one at home. I can’t help it; the Steve Martin line comes to mind and I say to myself, “The new phone book is here! The new phone book is here!” And then I wisecrack to no one in particular: “So what?”

That’s the point of this post. Dancing on the grave of this long-dead business is bad form and it’s too easy. The actual printed book for Wilmington is about a half-inch thick now and no one uses it. It’s been irrelevant for years.

Slice of the internet pie

No, the real point here is to talk about the online Yellow Pages and its various imitators. It’s an interesting phenomenon – watching phone books, newspapers and broadcast television companies all attempt to grab their slice of the internet pie. Some are having decent success at it. But they’re probably not the best way for you to market your product or service, and here’s why:

If you want to find something online, you Google it. The company is so dominant, their name is now a verb. You don’t “Yellow Page” it – you don’t look it up in the online yellow pages, nor in the local newspaper’s online business directory, nor in the online offerings of TV or radio stations. Do you? Do you know anyone who does? But you might have Googled something in just the last hour, and you know people who have, that’s for sure.
Where are your customers going?

YP proponents can say, correctly, that their online directory is a good product (if you look at it), and that a high percentage of people who go there are motivated and actually call. The problem? Nobody is going, relatively speaking. In most markets, Google traffic is more that 300 times that of YP. Be wary of large, impressive-sounding numbers, and learn how to compare. A stream (think YP) can boast thousands of gallons of water in a day. Impressive? A river might move millions. Why fish in a creek when there’s a mighty river nearby?

No need for time contracts

Any business that is providing a good service doesn’t need a time-based contract that locks you in for a year. If you’re keeping me happy, why do I need to sign a contract? I get my cell phone and my burglar alarm answering service without a contract. As soon as the laws are changed to stop protecting cable and internet service providers, I’ll get those services without a contract as well. If you’re good, you don’t need one.

Go with leaders, not followers

Google is a leader and an innovator. Google doesn’t keep up with trends, it creates them. It not only emerged like gangbusters as the best search engine more than 15 years ago, from a cast of thousands, it also succeeded in developing its very effective pay-per-click advertising model and became rich in the process. But it didn’t stop there: think Google Maps, Android phones, cars that drive themselves (go Google it – you’ll be amazed!) and dozens of other innovations. Newspapers, phone books and TV stations got caught out – let’s face it – and are trying to figure out what their business now is. They have large constituencies counting on them to continue turning profits, and they use an entrenched sales culture to beat the streets and impress you with fancy presentations to get you to sign a contract. I feel bad for them, I really do, and I’ve got friends who work there. I used to be a newspaper writer and editor myself, and I wouldn’t want to be trying to save newspaper or phone book jobs. But it’s not your problem.

Get a return on your investment

Your job is to make the smartest use of your marketing dollar, and to get a two-to-tenfold return on your investment. If you don’t understand something fully, and you have to sign a contract, stop. Just don’t do it. There are better options, including just sitting on your money until you find something worthwhile.

If you’d like to talk over the smartest online marketing options for you, just give us a call at 910-452-6345. You can also get in touch with us by filling visiting our contact page.


Updated: 10/26/2023

Categorised in:

This post was written by Michael Byrd

Comments are closed here.