Are Yellow Pages Ads Worthwhile?

Woodworking business owners share stories about results (or lack thereof) from Yellow Pages listings. May 20, 2009

If I want to go in the yellow pages I'll need to do it this week. I am not even considering a big ad. I can spend about $50 per month and get an ad that will be kind of "middle of the road" size wise (relative to the competition already in the book). I mostly do smaller projects like bath vanities, entertainment centers, wall units etc. I really need the work, but I'm kind of concerned that although it's only $50 per month, it may be a wasted $600 per year. Worse still I can see it possibly being not only a waste of money, but of time as well if it gets me mostly "tire kicker" or bargain shopper calls. Any experience anyone can share?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor J:
I feel that the yellow pages are a thing of the past. The major yellow pages here have us in as a free listing. Two years ago we noticed that 95% of our calls were off the internet. Most of the yellow page companies have an internet division. That's where you need to be. I'm in Texas and mine is only $29 per month.

From contributor F:
Most people that use the yellow pages are looking to make a purchase right now, replace something, repair something, or buy food. Some of your older homeowners still use it as a research tool and would look you up. If you get the sales it would be worth it. If they also publish you out on the web it may direct traffic to your site. How do your customers find you now?

From contributor A:
Back in the eighties, yellow pages worked. I've kept an ad in the local book, both actually, since 1992. Most of the calls are junk, people wanting free advice, wanting to sell you something, or workers looking for jobs. We tried monster size ads with pictures, same size as our largest competitors, and then just a single line listing. The listing worked as well as the large, very expensive ad. Yellow pages is a dead deal except for commodity stuff like plumbing and auto parts. We are down to single listings, but the phone keeps ringing.

From contributor B:
As others have said, yellow pages advertising may or may not work for you. It very much depends on your market and exactly who you are trying to reach. There are a few things that have changed over the last decade or so that have dramatically impacted the viability of printed directory advertising. Cell phones and the internet usage and popularity have diluted the readers/users of printed yellow pages directories.

That said, if your prospects are using the traditional yellow pages and you are not there but all your competitors are, would you be conspicuously absent? In many small to midsized markets, that absence can have a dramatic impact on your sales. Another question to answer is, if you don't spend the money on the yellow pages, what would you buy that would generate inquiries for you? Most successful businesses do not rely on one or two channels of incoming inquiries, but several are normally in their marketing mix.

With any paid advertising, as well as with word of mouth referrals, there are always going to be a certain number of "tire kickers". That is now, has always been and likely will always be a part of the sales process and not a function of advertising or marketing. Advertising's job is to make the phone ring with an inquiry, nothing more. Anything that happens after that initial inquiry is part of the sales process, not part of advertising. In this business as in all others, there will always be a number of off target inquiries or "tire kickers". Part of your function is to process all the inquiries and distill them down to the few real prospects that will buy what you sell.

Every inquiry has a price tag attached to it. You have invested some form of cash dollars or "time dollars" or both to get the phone to ring, or get an e-mail from a prospect or have someone walk into your office or shop or meet you on a job site. The very best form of advertising for your business may be entirely different than for your competitor across town or a similar business in a larger or smaller city in another part of the country. It's much more about who you view as an ideal client and how you reach them with your message than it is about which kind of advertising works for someone else. Once you have defined that ideal client or prime prospect, your advertising buys can become instantly much easier and much more effective.

Yet another question is how do I know which ad or ads are working the best for me? The answer to that one is contained in a very easy system to track your inquiries. It is a system I teach at seminars I give at various woodworking shows and events across the country. That seminar contains much of what I said above in detail, and helps define what works and what doesn't work in advertising and marketing from a client centered approach.

From contributor U:
We have not received any responses from our ads in the yellow pages, but it might be due to the name of our business being "Woodistry". We are last on the list. I've got a friend with a low alphabet name that gets a number of jobs (that's why I tried them). I think for most of us with websites it's better to do web based advertising like Google and Search Engine Optimization on your site. The other place I would advertise is Craigslist. It's free, and I noticed that nobody in Las Cruces is placing ads there for cabinet making.

From contributor F:
I have worked marketing for two companies now and from my experience the yellow pages are a waste of good advertising dollars. With a good well maintained and promoted website I have received more calls per year than any yellow pages ad. Yellow pages ads seem to appeal to the general public looking for instant gratification. People wanting information or products that are standard or common place check the yellow pages, not people wanting custom finely crafted products. Most of the time the people who are looking for products are going to spend large sums of money on spend time researching what they want online first. Promoting your website through cross linking with sites like WOODWEB can bring more customers your way. The advertising dollars you spend on web based promotion is easily recouped the same year you spend it.

The key is a website that is more than a place to put your contact information. Putting large amounts of information and pictures of your products and abilities will keep potential customers from just hitting the back button. The more information you put in your web pages, in the form of text, the more potential hits your website will get. Submitting sitemaps to Google will also increase your standing in multiple search engines since many search engines use Google’s database.

I subscribe to the "a picture says a thousand words" school of thought. Yellow page ads do not give you this type of attention holding advertising. Getting good pictures of some or all of your finished work and keeping your website updated often with new completed work can keep people checking back to your site. When things get slow you can throw up a sale banner. When an item does not sell you can put it up on a clearance page or an unclaimed work page. The website gives you so much more content for your money and if used correctly can boost you business greatly.