Is a Yellow Pages Listing Effective?

I got a phone call recently from a sales rep representing the Yellow Pages. Generally I try to politely cut phone solicitors short and move on with my day. But the Yellow Pages piqued my interest. Does anyone even use the Yellow Pages anymore? The whole idea is a relic from the pre-Internet past. Who needs the Yellow Pages in the age of Google?

I decided to ask the sales rep a few pointed questions and see if she could convince me that YP is relevant. I asked her why anyone would even visit YP when they could just go to Google. She said Google is a partner and started rattling off the names of the other major search engines and directories. I asked how being listed in YP would help get more leads from people already using those services. She didn’t have a clear answer but she assured me that my YP contract would help us get more business.

I decided to pick a specific example to use for my questions, so I asked for the name of some other design businesses that have YP accounts. She listed a few and I picked one at random (for that sake of discretion I’ll call them XYZ Studio). I asked if they were getting good new sales leads from the service. She assured me that they were and described the weekly reports they send to their clients which show how many times the appear in YP search results and how many clicks they get. “They’re getting a lot of new business from their ad”, she told me with confidence.

“Sounds promising!” I said. “I’ll contact them to confirm the results they’re getting.”

“Excellent!”, she responded. “Call me afterwards and we’ll get your account set up.”

So I sent a note to XYZ Studio’s general contact form to ask how they were liking their YP account. I figured I had a 50-50 chance of getting a response. But I got one, and from the CEO! Here’s what he said:

So far, I haven’t seen the slightest return on the investment.  I’ve avoided the YP like the plague for many years now and thought a national listing priority would help land a few big clients. It’s been 2 months now and NOTHING…. not even a bone.  If they had a money back guarantee, I’d already be in line.  Not only that, but it’s pricey as can be to list national.  For the price of the insertion rates, I could have hired an additional designer, or hell, even a f/t traveling sales staff w/ experience.

I’m not trying to sound all pessimistic, but from one business owner to another, I feel honesty is owed.  I don’t blame YP for their services offered, but I’m a believer that they are becoming more and more irrelevant.  Kinda bums me out now thinking I could have filed an additional full time sales personnel with the budget spent on the YP.

If anything, maybe once a day we get a call looking for a small time, home-town job like printing business cards ($50 job).  They become aggravated to learn we’re not a local based company to them.

But what about all those clicks showing up in their weekly report? Here’s what he said:

With my listing manager, it appears I’m getting tons of impressions and even hits which I may, but it’s not translating to calls. It’s only been 2 months, so you never know, but one thing FOR SURE, and I did predict it to my staff is that the YP would open us up to a world of solicitation.

Even in regards to dead-end legitimate service inquire leads ratio to solicitation from the listings…… it’s about a 10 to 1 scale in favor of more solicitation.

Needless to say, we won’t be buying an ad in the Yellow Pages.

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