Are Directories Dying Off?

Has Yellow Pages Had its Day?

A Photo Showing the Yellow Pages 2010/11 Edition Compared to the 2011/12 EditionI recently received the latest Yellow Pages directory for Southampton and then, today, the latest Thomson Local directory came through my door.  To say that I was a little surprised when I saw them is a bit of an understatement and I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean from the photographs comparing the 2010/2011 editions to the 2011/2012 editions.

In just one year both directories have shrunk, both in physical size and in the number of pages they contain.  This can only be the result of either a substantial reduction in the number of businesses advertising in them, a substantial reduction in the amount of money businesses are prepared to commit to them or a combination of the two.

Why is this?

A Chart Showing the Current World Economic CrisisWell, for a start, the state of the economy has been somewhat challenging over the last two or three years and, when businesses experience a decline in turnover a natural reaction is to reduce costs.  One of the costs that often comes under scrutiny is marketing, so, many businesses have reduced their marketing expenditure.

It’s also true that more and more people now turn to the internet when they have a need.  It’s convenient because most of us have computers at home and you can get a lot more information from the internet than is possible from a paper directory.  Google is, by far, the most popular search engine, with around 85% of people using them, and they now attract huge advertising revenues from business.

Yell.com LogoThen, of course, you have the situation where the likes of Yellow Pages and Thomson Local now offer their own online directories, Yell.com and ThomsonLocal.com.  They don’t offer access to these for free, so, a portion of the budget that their clients were spending on the paper directories has been diverted to their online directories.  For these, and other, reasons the directories are in decline.

Does that mean that you should stop using directories?

A Photo Comparing the Thomson Local 2010/11 Edition to the 2011/12 EditionNot necessarily.  As with all marketing campaigns, you should be making that kind of decision based on facts and not on assumptions.  The problem is, most businesses don’t have the facts to make this kind of decision because they don’t test and measure the results they get from their marketing.  In fact, it’s entirely possible that businesses are spending less on advertising in directories just because they’re following the trend.

The accepted wisdom is that online is the place to be and that directories don’t work anymore.  However, there are still quite large portions of the population that don’t use computers and prefer to use directories.  And they buy products and services just as much, today, as they’ve ever done.

Ultimately, if directories are working for you, you should keep using them.

Sadly, most companies simply don’t have a clue as to whether they should continue to advertise in directories or not, but some of them certainly should and others certainly shouldn’t.  All I can say is that, unless they test and measure every individual campaign they run, they may as well bet their advertising budget on the result of a horse race.

Do you know whether your marketing is working for you?

Henry Ford once said that 50% of his advertising worked and the other 50% didn’t.  He just wished he knew which was which.

In this day and age there’s no need to be in that situation.  It’s perfectly possible to know exactly how effective every aspect of your marketing is.  And, if you don’t know exactly how effective your marketing is, then you should.

All it takes is the desire to know what’s happening with your marketing and the implementation of a few simple monitoring systems and you could have your finger on the pulse.

The Benefits of Testing and Measuring

Test and Measure ContinuouslyThere are many benefits to testing and measuring but the most important ones are as follows;

  • You’ll know which marketing campaigns are working and which ones aren’t.
  • You’ll be able to make changes in your marketing messages and monitor the effects of those changes, maximising your returns.
  • You can then make an informed decision as to which campaigns you should spend less on and which ones to invest in.
  • As you improve the results you get, you’ll improve your profitability.
  • After a little time, you’ll be able to create an unlimited marketing budget for your business so that you can grow at whatever pace you wish.
  • Your whole approach to marketing will change.  You’ll stop thinking of it as an expense and start thinking of it as an investment, which is exactly what it should be.

If you want to grow your business and you want your business to be as profitable as possible, it’s essential that you take your business seriously and operate in a professional way.  You can’t do that without testing and measuring what you do – and that doesn’t only apply to your marketing.  Anyway, let’s get back to the original question;

Are Directories Dying Off?

Perhaps.  They’re certainly shrinking in size.  But the important question is, “Are they working for you?”

You see, as with all things, there are opportunities all around us.  If, in general, businesses are either spending less on directory advertising, or cutting it out all together, the net result could be less competition for the business that does come from the directory.  If a portion of your target market use directories, it could easily be to your advantage to be in them.  But you won’t know that unless you test and measure.

If you’d like to get your finger on the pulse of your marketing and create an unlimited marketing budget to grow your business, I’d be happy to help.  You can get in touch by going to the ‘Contact Me’ page.

In the meantime, let me know your thoughts in the ‘Reply’ form, below, and please feel free to share this post if you’ve found it interesting.

Have a great day,

Steve Bimpson


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3 Comments to “Are Directories Dying Off?”

  1. Completely agree Steve – for most people I believe advertising with Yellow Pages is dimly a waste of resources

  2. admin says:

    Thanks for your comment, David. Much appreciated.

    I think the reality is that business people who use computers every day, together with the younger generation that have grown up with computers, all go to the search engines (predominantly Google) when they’re looking for something. And it’s probably fair to say that if your a ‘business to business’ provider then directories are unlikely to offer you a good return, if any return at all, on your investment.

    But there is still a fairly large proportion of, shall we say the ‘more mature amongst us’ that don’t readily use computers and, therefore, do still use directories. The question all businesses need to ask is; ‘Are those people a part of our target market’? If they are, then directories may still provide a good return. If not, then it’s almost certainly a waste of money – but the only way to tell is to test and measure.

    Kindest regards,

    Steve B

  3. Interesting point Steve I too notice when it arrived through our door also. How the mighty door stopper has shrunk. It is a shame that Yellow pages seems to miss a huge opportunity, it is still stuck in the typical sales process and wants to fill it’s pages with people who want to advertise. and I agree it is such a waste of time.. I do not know a person involved in property that speaks highly of it.

    I recently spoke to one of their account managers who was trying to sell me space. When I pointed out that the only reason people advertise is to generate more work, then why was she not spending her time on working on behalf of those that have already committed to advertise and make them more money.

    Imagine if she spent a day or two going through the book she was selling and started connecting businesses together??? If they could relate that back to the yellow pages would that not be a better result? But instead they pressure the ‘account managers’ to sell sell sell… it is not going to reach it’s former glory unless it has a serious re think about its approach..

    It seems that people who generally sell advertising are missing the point and it should be paid for on success in my mind. If they are that confident then they should put their money where their mouth is? Not everyone elses..

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