Industry marketing specialist Reed Fry shares his showroom marketing insights in a new fact-filled, action-oriented online column.

Like many of you, I have clients who, for years, have invested thousands of dollars with various Yellow Pages entities. But today, given the growth of online Internet searches, there are multiple elements to consider before renewing your current Yellow Pages contract.

  • Today, Internet searches outnumber print Yellow Pages at least 2-to-1.

  • Spending on print Yellow Pages is projected to decline 39% in the next five years.

  • Despite that gloomy outlook, print Yellow Pages were referenced 13.4 billion times in 2007, so clearly the medium has not been rendered obsolete quite yet.
  • Over 85% of all Internet searches occur on the major search engines Google, Yahoo and MSN. Of those, Google is dominant with about 70% of U.S. market share.

  • Local search sites, including Internet Yellow Pages, have a very slim percentage of total Internet searches. However, this market is already boosted by 34,000 Yellow Pages sales reps in the field and is projected to grow 30% annually over the next four years.

  • Where major search engines base results on relevancy to the search term, Internet Yellow Pages base results on a geographic area, often yielding more helpful search results for consumers looking for a local business.

  • There is growing credible research that shows higher sales conversion rates for referrals from Internet Yellow Pages, as compared to the major search engines.

  • What This All Means To You

    1.   Today’s customers reference multiple sources when looking for businesses to meet an immediate need. Print Yellow Pages are no longer adequate as a sole directory listing source.

    2.   Four search strategies should be considered for your marketing plan: print Yellow Pages, Search Engine Optimization for your Web site, paid search with major search engines and paid search with Internet Yellow Pages.  

    3.   It’s likely that you’ll need to consider reducing your print Yellow Pages commitment in order to fund other reference activities. Consider reducing the size of your ads, eliminating any questionable categories, or paring down any duplicate books in the same marketplace.

    4.   It’s a buyer’s market with print Yellow Pages. Don’t hesitate to negotiate aggressively. Reducing the size of your ad should result in a corresponding rate reduction.

    5.   Enhancing your Web site’s free search results is the first step towards maximizing traffic on your Web site. Talk to your Web specialist about keywords, search engines and directory submissions, enhancement of your site’s content and maximizing industry link opportunities.

    6.   Understand how visitors are finding your Web site. Analyze your Web site traffic report monthly. Where are visitors coming from? What search terms are they using? This information is critical for on-going Search Engine Optimization and effective targeting of paid search.

    7.   Understanding how customers find your site gives you a foundation for investing in paid search –paying for preferred listing results in response to specific queries.

    8.   Paid search includes major search engines, such as Google AdWords and local search, such as Internet Yellow Pages. Specific strategies in this area will be guided by your showroom’s products and target markets.

    9.   Now, more than ever, it’s critical to track the effectiveness of these strategies. A professional traffic report for your Web site is an excellent start. Also consider a separate 800 number for your print Yellow Pages. A “how did you hear about us” survey, whether in the form of a note card or automated in your order system will prompt your sales associates.

    In closing (for now), taking advantage of growing Internet opportunities is a complicated process. Whether you work with an agency like ours, or a local Internet marketing firm, invest in a relationship with a specialist. Unbiased expertise and analytical capabilities will help you avoid an expensive learning curve, while maximizing your efforts, right out of the box.