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If I… (Still) Had a Yellow Pages Ad

Posted on Dec 15, 2010 in Featured, If I... |

If I… (Still) Had a Yellow Pages Ad

If I… still had a Yellow Pages ad running, I’d, well, stop immediately. Like, now. Unless you are a tow truck service or a locksmith, stop reading this post and cancel any kind of ad running.


Whew, now that I think I’ve stopped sweating from the sheer thought of all that wasted money, I can tell you, if you have a Yellow Pages ad, you need to make a change now. Small businesses can fall victim to the lowest common denominator of advertising, but is it effective? Not really anymore. What used to be the single most effective way to showcase your business (and its legitimacy), is now the least efficient. Small business marketing is no longer confined to, limited by or even led by Yellow Pages advertising. When two giant reams Yellow Pages books arrived on my doorstep last week, I couldn’t quite believe it — “People still do this?,” I thought.

Small businesses need marketing budgets, spending that money wisely is vital to survival now more than ever.  This isn’t a plea to stop advertising, it’s a plea to stop advertising in Yellow Pages books. Oh, don’t pocket that money so fast; I’ve already got it spent for you.

1. Cancel your Yellow Pages display ad. If you’re in New York or any major city, it’s likely anywhere from $2500- $100,000. I’m guessing it’s more in the $3500 range. If you’re in a smaller city, your display ad is probably running you between $500-$5000. Make sure when you cancel the ad that you ensure that your free listing is still there (you can even do that online at the Ad Solutions site from ATT). This will list your business in the YP directory online and in the book.

2. Run a Google search on your business. What comes up? You’re a small business owner not an SEO or web expert. You are not a marketer and you’ve got zero time to worry about this junk. I know, I know. But watch what happens when I Google my friend’s B&B, The Madison Street Inn,  then see what happens when I run a search on Bed & Breakfast in Santa Clara. This should give you a few pieces of information. Where is your small business listed? Who is listing it? Is the information correct? What needs to move to the top of search results? With a little poking around, you can make leaps in your presence online (and in mobile search, of course), by just knowing what your customers are seeing.

3. Get a Yelp account for your business. This is important stuff, I’m telling you. Yelp can do many things for free for your business and some paid things that are great too. The very basics: Get a business account, this part is free and easy to do. Populate your profile well. This means make sure you’ve done your hours of business, photos, contact information, etc. Now, write a special offer or an announcement. I click on the little orange flag all the time when I’m searching for something on Yelp. It means that the small business cares and is actively engaged with me. I like little things like “20 Years in Business and Going Strong!” but I’ll also pick something that says “Mention this Ad and…” These things are free of charge. This is a must-do.  Yelp also offers sponsored listings. I am not a fan because I don’t like the way the Yelp sales team bullies clients, but that aside, it’s a smart option for your Yellow Pages dollars.

4. Get a Merchant Circle account. MC is like a CVB and business association all wrapped into one. MC can be big and scary feeling, but try to find pieces of it that work for your business. What can it do for you? It can act as your small business website, if you don’t have one, it’s got a good, solid couponing tool and it’s a good network for reaching out with other small business owners. But, what I like from Merchant Circle is their low cost tools. For the cost of your out-dated Yellow Pages display ad, you can have MC do a lot of the small business marketing for you. They are the master of search results (see tip #1) and even do your Google ads for you.

It is such a shame to take those big yellow bricks and throw them in the trash unopened. It makes me feel for small businesses who are not marketing experts and who have a history of using their limited marketing funds on Yellow Pages ads that cannot yield the targeting, quality and results that can be obtained through using these basic tools. If I… was a Yellow Pages customer I’d know that now is the time to graduate to better marketing opportunities.