Do Phone-Book Ads Work?

Forum-goers say networking and an Internet presence pull in far more leads than their Yellow Pages ads, these days. October 3, 2006

For those of you with smaller cabinet shops, what kind of success do you have being listed in the yellow pages? Has anybody marketed their shop to realtors? I would think this might be a area for some leads. For example, a realtor shows a client a house, and they donít like the cabinets in the kitchen. The realtor might mention, "Oh, by the way I know this great little cabinet shop that can redo those." Could a referral fee be given back to the realtor?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor A:
We have had a Yellow Page ad for about 9 months now and I don't think we have gotten even one call from it. It's just a small ad with our web site listed. We won't place one again. Most of our business is through referrals, word of mouth and our web site. Our web site gets an average of 120 hits per day.

From contributor B:
I have heard more negative about the yellow pages. I often hear that tire kickers steal your time and most people are looking for the lowest price. A realtor said I should post my card at the local realty board. After further questioning I decided that most realtors are looking for repairs and a quick turn around - little jobs and high pressure. I think I'll pass. Talk to some of the larger shops that do mostly commercial. I have one that refers to me. I tell them what I will and won't do. It benefits both of us because they don't want to send people away with unhappy. I have gotten everything from remaking drawers to a complete kitchen.

From contributor C:
When I started 10 years ago 90% of customers came through yellow pages. I know this because we always monitor and record enquiries. Over that 10 year period it has reduced to less than 1% with the majority from the internet and recommendations, so the power of yellow pages has been diluted. I would agree that the calls we did get were for low cost, want-it-done-yesterday work. I have stopped our ads for the Yellow Pages.

From contributor D:
I'm a one man shop, 4 years in business. I do a one line plus website link Yellow Pages ad and have got 1-2 decent projects per year from it. I figure it pays for the ad, and plants a few new seeds for referrals. Up until last year, the Yellow Page books were smaller community books. I think that worked well for local business. Now they are county wide - even though it goes to more homes, I'm not sure it will be as effective because there are so many more listings.

It's interesting though - I primarily correspond with clients via e-mail after an initial visit. I've noticed that the few people I find who don't use e-mail or have home computers tend to be those who have used the yellow pages. So I conclude that the computer users - clearly a larger group - are using the computer more than the Yellow Pages.

Regarding realtors, I work with a general contractor who tries to do some of this realtor type work. They want fast and cheap - and did I mention cheap? But, realtors can be a good source of business for referrals to people who have just bought a new home and need to replace or add cabinets.

To contributors A and C: How do you get people to find your website? On line directories? Links? Search engines? I'm working on a website, but then what?

From contributor C:
To contributor D: Regarding the website - you need to think long and hard when you design it and use keywords and phrases that link to your target audience. If you are not familiar with this you really need to employ somebody to optimize it. The Holy Grail is to get to no.1 position or page 1 on Google for a chosen phrase or keyword as people do not search much beyond page 3. You can list your web site free to most of the search engines but it does take a while to climb the rankings and if you want instant results you can get listed on Google on Page 1 by using "adwords", a paid advertising listing. Search engines like sites that are rich with relevant content but once established provide a good stream of enquiries. I do not wish to prejudge or label but my experience says that in this day and age the majority of high income target clients are internet savvy, so for us itís the audience to spend the advertising revenue on.

From contributor A:
The majority of the visitors to my site find me through the major search engines; like Google, Yahoo, MSN and AOL. As was said, you need to make sure that your site has search words for things you want your clients to buy. I would buy a book such as Search Engine Optimization for Dummies to give you a better understanding of what you can do. I would also recommend that if you do decide to get professional help that you keep the web site in a format that you can later update yourself. Stay away from using Flash and other ďgimmickyĒ software. They usually contain nothing that search engines find interesting. I have also lately been posting free ads on in HTML with lots of links to different pages on my site.

From contributor E:
We haven't found Yellow Pages worth anything.

From contributor J:
We tried Yellow Pages one time 5 years ago. It was the biggest marketing waste I have had.

From contributor F:
The Yellow Pages advertising costs seem a bit high for what they offer. I sensed that they are having issues by their recent large advertising campaign. Due to the internet, as NDH stated 10 years ago 90% of his customer came through the Yellow Pages. Now, since the internet is so big, who wants to look up something in a book? You just have to type it on Yahoo and get a lot more information than a small ad or just a number. I think if a customer types your companies name in a search engine and nothing comes up then they are turned off from doing business with you. Yellow Pages needs to lower their overhead and make advertising with them a fraction of what it is now if they want to stay in the loop. Also, do any of you look for products or services in the phone book? What is the ratio of you looking for a product or service in the phonebook compared to online? Iím about 1/20. Spend your Yellow Pages advertising money by advertising online.

From contributor G:
This must be a geographical thing. I'm in a town just on the outskirts of a 1 million plus population area. My local phone book gives me very little - I think about 20k in business last year. The year before I was in the large metro phone book and got almost 60K in business. It was all residential: entertainment centers, built-in's, mantle's. In the past I always placed the ad under "woodworking". I'm trying to get more into the commercial market so I'm going to move my ad to a different heading this year in the metro book.

From contributor H:
Realtors are licensed, and as such, are governed by a separate set of rules. Simply stated - they can not receive referral fees from anyone. They would lose their license. However, most real estate offices have a note board or table where you can display your business cards or brochures. Additionally, many of the larger agencies provide a free referral service to their clients. I use the term "free" lightly, only because it's only free to the clients. You have to pay to be part of the referral service. The cost is usually minimal. I have had some limited success with Coldwell Banker.

From contributor I:
Several years ago I was part of a Yellow Pages phone book test marketing. They set up several display ads in several phone books ranging from small ads to 1/3 page, each with a different phone number. I tracked the results. The larger the ad, the more calls I got from other phonebooks (including the company that was doing this test marketing) trying to sell me ads in their books. The overall result of real calls was pretty poor. The phone company reported that I had received a dozen calls per-line per-month, but the real calls were maybe one real inquiry per 3 months. Most of the calls were a waste of time. Overall it was a waste of time and money. The one interesting thing that came out of it - the ads I designed did better than the ads the phone company professionals designed.
Most of my marketing is done by referrals and networking now.