That big book of yellow newsprint is going the way of the dodo bird, says one marketing consultant. 

Write the obituary, folks.  The fat lady sang. The other shoe dropped.  What you suspected was taking place in Yellow Pages marketing is actually happening.

Your investments in this old media are not yielding a return worthy of your hard-earned cash. Furthermore, increasing your time and attention here most likely will not increase the time and attention from your market for your services.

Yes, that big book of yellow newsprint is going the way of the dodo bird. It’s being squeezed out by consumer preferences for finding everything and anything online. So, no more “let your fingers do the walking.” Now it’s let Google do the talking.  

You knew this, right? You knew it was just a matter of time.

The clearest evidence that that time is here was when we heard from a contractor client with a simple email message:  “Just got our letter. Yellow Pages for our area will not be printed in 2012. Death of the Yellow Pages.”

It figures: word of the Yellow Pages’ untimely demise was sent in electronic form. Oh, the irony. Details about the memorial service are pending.



Now what?

The contractor marketing world has been adjusting to this change for a while. Way back in the “good old days” - around 2007 - we actively recommended that a contractor of moderate marketing temperament should budget about 27 percent for Yellow Pages. Even the 27 percent figure at that time was a lot lower than some contractors would have ever expected. As recently as 2008, contractors spent on average 55 percent of their budget on Yellow Pages.

That gigantic investment was more of a “feel good, seek bad results” kind of marketing that was never what you might call “a good idea.” Instead, it was more of the unaware marketer telling himself, “I better get a Yellow Pages ad and get those phones ringing.” Then he’d often proceed blindly with size and color splashes without regard for verifiable principles of lead-generating marketing (such as displaying a strong headline, pushing benefits instead of features, promoting risk reducers and giving a call to action).

Though it’s never polite to speak impolitely of the dearly departed, we’ve actually been helping contractors taper off the “bigger is better” philosophy and  moving them toward a strategy of effective Yellow Pages advertising that reduces investment, while increasing results from redesigned, lead-generating ads.

For 2012, we have backed down to a mere 16 percent of marketing budget. Yellow Pages down from 27 percent to 16 percent! That’s a 30 percent slam, directly related to marketing return on investment.



Life support?

There is a line of thought (and one we recommend) that takes into account the pending demise of the Yellow Pages while basing marketing decisions on sane and rational behavior born out of fact.

Which brings me to the “big divide.” Some contractors still blindly pour money into the medium, while others have pulled out completely as if it were freedom from heroin addiction.

The point – just as it was in June 2007 when we first told our clients to circle the wagons due to the pending recession – is balance and intellegence. Sometimes, you have to look at the "zig vs. zag" philosophy, so as to be sure that the masses are pulling out of the Yellow Pages.

Here’s the big caveat: About 40 percent of the 55-plus age group still uses Yellow Pages. And since 36 percent of your pals thought they were leaving a sinking ship, lots of affluent, educated buyers were still very much on board.

Those shoppers are just as needy for a contractor as the price-shopping, multitasking, distracted, impatient, online hip group - except for a couple of good points: They’re mature. And they are more likely to choose on trust than price. So keep that in mind before you yank the pages totally.

Changes

How do you build a bridge between past practices and future opportunity? The key is to remember why you are in the Yellow Pages in the first place - namely, to reach people in your community who are searching for a contractor.

There are still people in your community searching for a contractor; that hasn’t changed. They’re just going about it in a different way. And the search engines are driving the transition. 

Seems web marketing strategies that pushed the Yellow Pages industry in a sea of red ink are not, shall we say, “set in stone.” Indeed, they change about every 30 minutes - or sooner. But the one that hasn’t, and won’t be, changing anytime soon is:

The higher you rank on search engines, the more leads you get. Take that to the bank.

Yet, “how” you achieve your rank has changed dramatically. There’s a myth (or at least very dated information) that “Contractors should invest heavily in broad-market SEO (search engine optimization) for higher ranking.”

That would be true if you were servicing homes across the U.S., but ever since October 2010, those who still believed this old approach saw lead counts nose-dive.

That’s because of Google’s local listing initiative. This changed lead focus from national to local, mostly via “Google Places.”  Sadly, many web managers, information technology programmers or those who sold broad SEO sort of “forgot” to tell contractors. Or maybe it was your responsibility and you were busy being a contractor. Not your fault.

Regardless, the truth is that Local Listings drive lead counts. This is based on exactly two critical areas: Your ability to claim your listing and optimize it.



Case studies

Case study No. 1: 708 new visitors from five optimization techniques

One-Hour Heating in Santa Rosa, Calif., had claimed 6 search engines (out of seven), so they felt confident in their look-up generation. Yet a “grading rank” test revealed they were only ‘moderately’ optimized. They pulled 526 look-ups during the 30-day test period.

After Optimization techniques, their look-ups surged to 1,234. Strategy included a new keyword-rich description, tagged photos, corrected information and a video (easier than you think). We also made their listings “consistent,” which is commonly overlooked, but easy to correct.

Case study No. 2: Low-exposure, typos and no photos sends 483 shoppers away

Fuller Heating, in a smaller southeastern town, believed they were getting “most of the web traffic out there.” Yet, a “grading rank” revealed their “web people” had only claimed one of the available 7 search engines. (Common mistake.)

They went from generating 257 Google lookups in a 30-day test period to 740 look-ups, or a 188 percent increase. This 483 lookup increase was there, but completely untapped due to oversight, plus these embarrassing errors: Business name on his listings was wrong. No photos. Failed to list trade category.

The truth is 64 percent of service purchases begin online and a full 91 percent of those searchers never make it to the second page or screen. The only solution? Take action on this critical marketing problem. Get listed right, get leads right now.

For a free local-listing grade guide, send an email to freestuff@hudsonink.com or visit   this website.