For years now, the primary tool that most of us used to enable our customers to find us has been the good old yellow pages. They worked because even though we may have had our name advertised on everything from Little League Jersey’s and ice cream scoopers to newspaper ads, nobody really called us until they needed a part for their car, tractor, boat or whatever that was laid up. Certainly it’s not a bad thing to have your name out there as much as possible and being supportive of local organizations is a great thing to do when we can afford it. But for the most part yellow page ads worked because that’s where people went to find what solved their particular problem.
That’s good news because there are two huge problems with yellow page advertising. Number one they are expensive. It is not unusual for a small auto electric shop to spend well over $1,000.00, a month on yellow page ads. The other big bummer about and for them is that they are no longer the “go to choice” when someone needs to find you. The younger your potential customer is, the more likely he is to whip out his smartphone and google whatever he’s looking for. If he’s doing his homework he may go to Yelp or one of the other services that post reviews and see how happy others have been with your service. I’m not saying necessarily that being in the print yellow pages is a bad thing for a service business. But maybe you could rethink how many categories you are listed in and how big or bold your ad is. One of the clients I work for was spending $8,000.00 a month on yellow pages two years ago. He now spends around $2,000.00. In my mind I envision someone looking up a company in the phone book and calling them on a rotary phone.
The only reason I can confidently say I know where the phone book is in my house is that the new one just arrived yesterday, left next to my mailbox in the rain. As has been the trend for the past several years, is again shrunk by about 15%. Same goes for the white pages by the way. Fewer and fewer households have a landline. Why bother when our cell phones do it faster and easier and allow us to not only call a location but specifically one of the individuals within.
Here’s the really good news! The tools that have replaced the yellow pages are for the most part free. Here are some of the tools you should be looking into using.
Free Local Ad Listings
Having a website or blog
Being listed on Google Local Businesses
It’s important that you take a look at these because you will probably find your business listed whether you had anything to do with it or not. Many business owners are shocked to find that their business is listed, sometimes with a good amount of detail, and without their knowledge. In most cases all you have to do is “claim” the listing by providing enough information to prove that you are indeed the owner of the business listed. Not only can you enhance the ad and do damage control on any negative reviews, but once you claim the listing and enhance the information you will find that you start moving up the ladder in search results. This is Google’s way of rewarding you for taking the time to confirm you are a real entity.
It is true that while these are essentially free they do take time to set up and monitor. Some of these you can set up and largely forget, but others like Facebook and LinkedIn need to have fairly frequent input from you to keep drawing visitors to you and to keep you high in the search rankings. Websites and social media pages that never get updated will eventually become nearly invisible. One good strategy may be to go on Facebook or Google and search for your product as you would if you were a customer. See who comes up high in the rankings and see if you can tell what they are doing to get there. It’s probably not by accident that they are there.
The option if you don’t feel inclined to do this is to pay someone to do it for you. Some folks find it fun and others find it excruciating. You may find that by reducing your spending on less effective marketing you may be able to hire an internet marketing expert to either guide you or do it all for you and still be money ahead.
Dennis Jacinto is an APRA Board Member and former Chairman. Formerly the owner of Lester Catalog he now heads YouTech Group, an internet marketing company. Dennis can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at (530) 635-0495.