Archive for the 'yellow pages' Category

5 ways to re-frame Yellow Pages

At the recent YPA (Yellow Pages Assocation) conference Malcolm Gladwell set the stage from some productive industry discussion by urging participants to re-frame the Yellow Pages.  Neg Norton has a great summary on the YPA blog.

So, in the spirit of continuing the conversation, I humbly submit the following five suggestions:

1. Proof is even better than research

Yellow Page advertising has always been (rightly) sold on the basis of a proven ROI.  Why not build on this position by making EVERY print, online and mobile ad track-able using tracking numbers.  Then you can definitively prove the ROI to EVERY one of your advertisers.  Do it for all your advertisers – even, perhaps especially for – subscription products.

2. Be the mobile maven

Mobile audiences are exploding.  But mobile advertising is slow to catch up.  They really need local advertisers but don’t have access to them.  You do – why not get together?  (And of course, continue to develop your own branded mobile experiences, but also look at how you can reach the mobile audience in other ways.)

3. Be the social connector

People are talking about your advertisers on twitter and Facebook.  What are you doing to help them join the conversation?

4. Recommendations rather than results

Be the matchmaker by helping consumers figure out which business is the right one for them.  Utilize tools like ratings and recommendations but also leverage your reputation.  Make it really easy to use.

5. Yellow pages connect

Unleash innovation by providing software developers with access to your data — and a share of the revenue from the leads they generate.  Wouldn’t you rather be sharing some revenue with an innovator using your data rather than buying your leads from Google?  You’ll make more money and be further ahead strategically.

What would you add to the list?  What would you delete or change?


Would perfect local search kill local advertising?

Thanks to @deandonaldson for alerting me to this kerfuffle: Why Advertising Is Failing On The Internet. It seems some (ok – like 600 judging from the comments) have taken umbrage.

Always dangerous to boil a complex argument down – but I’d summarize it (in a mobile, local search context) like this: If I can quickly, easily and accurately find all the local information I need does that eliminate the need for advertising?

If you accept Eric Clemons’ definition of advertising…

Advertising is using sponsored commercial messages to build a brand and paying to locate these messages where they will be observed by potential customers performing other activities; these messages describe a product or service, its price or fundamental attributes, where it can be found, its explicit advantages, or the implicit benefits from its use.

… then I suppose it might.

But, I don’t think this is the right model for local advertising. Instead, I think of local advertising as more like a dating service that wants to find the best fit between a consumer (and their current situation, needs and preferences) and a merchant (and their skills, ability, price and availability among other things).

Here’s a couple examples to illustrate the point.

Finding a Plumber in the Print Yellow Pages

We had a minor plumbing emergency. My wife went to the print yellow pages and scanned the display ads. She was looking for a plumber that was happy to handle a small emergency in a timely manner. She sought advertisements that explicitly referenced this need.

She was surely reading ‘advertisements’. But they served an important role in the ‘dating process’ by allowing the advertiser to describe the kind of business they are looking to serve.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as Consumer Dating and Advertising

I suppose most people don’t think of SEO as ‘advertising’ because it’s ‘free’. You don’t pay anyone to bring traffic to your website.

But of course, it’s anything but free. To do it well, you have to pay a lot of attention to what you write and how to describe your business in a way that allows people to find it. You want people with a need you serve to be able to find you. And you are either paying a specialist to do this or spending a significant amount of time doing it yourself. Either way this is an investment a business makes to be found by people it can serve.

So, in the end, I think regardless of whether you call it ‘advertising’ or something else, local businesses want to be found and will continue to spend significant money on making it happen.

What do you think? Would perfect search eliminate the need for advertising?

The follow-up debate between Eric Clemons and Danny Sullivan.
Dean Donaldson weighs in.

For Yellow Pages isn’t proof better than research?

The Yellow Pages Association just finished their conference in San Diego — sorry I missed it. There was a healthy degree of focus on measurement:

One key objective of future research is to demonstrate print’s strong usage, and Internet Yellow Pages growth, as compared to other local search tools. It’s important that we have reliable data to communicate about our significance in search.

from the YPA blog.

Right on.

But here’s the thing I don’t understand. Rather than treating measurement as a research task wouldn’t it be better to think of it as a tracking task? That is, replace the all phone numbers and URL’s with appropriate tracking numbers and tracking URL’s. The technology is certainly available to do this. And the data had incredible value to both the publisher and the advertiser.

Is there a reason we aren’t all thinking of this as a tracking task? Leave me a comment with your thoughts.


WANTED: Hyper-local advertisers for Myspace HyperTargeting

Following the fun at OMMA Mobile by Twitter. This is interesting:

MySpace’s Brandon Lucas said the company is trying to figure out how to extend its HyperTargeting program to the mobile space. That service allows advertisers to target messages very narrowly. Lucas, a beach volleyball player, for instance, says he gets ads for beach volleyball lessons on MySpace. Extending that program to mobile would make sense so users might see relevant ads to act on when they’re out and about. So the next time your playing beach volleyball, you can get a lesson on the spot!

from Mediapost RAW.

HyperTargeting transforms the MySpace audience of 70 million in to millions of audiences with thousands of people. The challenge then becomes how do you reach those millions of hyper-local advertisers who can really realize the benefit?

If a golf instructor in Edmonton (yeah, it’s just BARELY spring here) knew he could target golfer’s in his end of the city he might just do it. But who is going to tell him?

From the MyAds page:

Yellow page publishers to track more calls?

Advertising needs to be tracked even if the advertiser is playing a flat monthly fee because they still want to know whether or not its working.  As an industry, we need to separate the issues of measurement and payment.  People usually link the two.  But all advertisers care about whether or not their advertising actually works.  This is especially true in a difficult economic environment and with some of the negative publicity swirling around Yellow Page publishers.

Over at the Kelsy Group Blog, Charles Laughlin has a post about Bill Dinan assuming the role of CEO at TelMetrics.  Bill is betting that Yellow Page publishers are going to step up their call tracking:

Spurred on by defections to more flexible and transparent “pulse” media like direct mail and search, publishers are increasing their commitment to call measurement (and the new business models this enables).

“The publishers are stepping up this year,” Dinan says. And Dinan says he is preparing for the day the phone rings and a customer asks for “a million lines next month.” The indsutry is changing so much so that a request of that magnitude no longer seems so outlandish.

In particular, Dinan sees a very aggressive push toward performance-based pricing as evidence directory publishers are serious about changing the dynamic of SMB defections to other media, or to no media spending at all.

I couldn’t agree more with Bill. And he might be right that pay for performance will be the initial trigger. But really, the Yellow Page publishers shouldn’t restrict call tracking to just pay for performance advertisers.

RELATED: How do I know if my Yellow Page ad is working?

Does the size of a merchant’s SEO budget really determine how right they are for me?

Here’s one important way local search is different from web search: there is no ‘right’ or ‘best’ answer.

Web search is optimized for information retrieval and works well for this.  When I’m trying to remember how to find the norm of a matrix to help my daughter with her homework I want the ‘best’ source of information for this.  The way the web is structured and the way search engines utilize this structure means that’s exactly what I get.  The page with the right words on it, that a lot of other people have linked to and looked at in the past, really does provide me with useful information for my inquiry.

But when I’m doing a local search, the right answer depends much more on factors like where I am, what I’m doing and what I care about.  It depends on my context.  But local search engines largely do a poor job of this.  When I search for a plumber, I might get the people who have paid the most to be listed first.  Or I met get results ranked according to who is most astute at local search engine optimization and marketing.

In both cases I’m getting results ranked in large part based on the marketing investment of the merchants.  If I’m using a yellow page directory, it’s based on the size of ad they purchased.  If I’m using Google, it is those who have spent the most on search engine optimization and marketing.

Are either of these a good indicator of ‘fit’ for me?  Is the plumber available?  Do they want to do my mostly small maintenance jobs on an older house or are they really focused on doing new installations in new houses?

Instead of modeling local search after web search we really should be modeling it after dating sites!  The goal should be to match up merchants and consumers who are most compatible with each other.

How do I know if my Yellow Page ad is working?

I recently hired a local graphic designer to create a predictabuy logo.  At the end of our meeting, she asked how we found her.

She wanted to know because she had just been talked in to putting a display ad in the print yellow pages for the first time.  She was concerned about whether or not this had been a wise decision.  Short of asking people she has no way of knowing whether or not the ad is working for her.

I told her about tracking numbers.  Just place a unique phone number in the print ad.  Whenever that number gets called, you know it’s because of the ad.

You can get very sophisticated solutions for doing this from a company like Telmetrics.  I think yellow page publishers should be offering this as service.

But after the meeting, my wife suggested an even better solution for most small businesses:  just take out a second phone number with a distinctive ring on your existing phone line.  Cheap, easy – and you know right away when you’ve got an incoming call from your yellow page ad!

And every month the phone company sends you a performance report on your yellow page advertising – the call details for your second phone number.


(BTW: It turns out my wife did use the yellow pages to find the graphic designer.  Sort of.  She used it to find a list of graphic designers in Edmonton.   She only considered the ones with websites.  We then examined the portfolios of the different designers.  Seems like there should be a better way eh?)