ACHRNEWS

Can Customers Find You on the Internet?

June 25, 2007

After a recent hailstorm, I heard a radio commercial that reminded me of something we might have heard several years ago. It was a roofing contractor who spent most of his commercial telling listeners to look him up in the Yellow Pages.

I thought it odd because I anticipated that there were probably many pages of roofing contractor ads in our local Yellow Pages. I checked; there were 24 pages of ads for roofing contractors.

Why would a contractor send potential customers to a place where they could see all of his competitors? Ironically (and I still haven’t figured this out), the contractor in the radio commercial wasn’t even listed in the Yellow Pages.

NOT A YP FAN

I have never been a fan of the Yellow Pages for several reasons. First of all, my competitors are there, and I don’t need my clients seeing all of those names. Secondly, the ads are alphabetical - you know where W falls. Lastly, our experience shows that Yellow Pages shoppers are usually price shoppers - not our clientele.

Coincidentally, the next day, the St. Louis Post Dispatch carried an article about Yellow Pages and the competition it’s facing from electronic search engines. The article quoted several people who have changed to the Internet in order to find names, addresses, and phone numbers.

One said the Yellow Pages type has gotten so small, she can’t read it anymore. (I sympathize with her. - Editor) Others said they spend so much time on the computer, it’s just easier to use the Internet to do their searching. Interestingly, some said they still use the Yellow Pages because they can find so many contractors all in one place.

That sure is what we want to hear.

THE PARADIGM SHIFT

As we think about the generation that is growing into becoming our customers, we have to change our thinking about the way they operate. Most of us who have been around for a number of years have definite thoughts about how our customers find us.

But there is a real shift out there. New consumers don’t spend their spare time reading. They spend it playing hand-held electronic games. What makes us think they are suddenly going to go back to reading a large book to find anything? No, I think it’s much more likely they will use the computer or their Blackberry to search for companies with whom they want to do business.

Several things become apparent when I think about these changes in our society. The first is, if you spend much money in the Yellow Pages, make sure you are monitoring your returns very carefully. How many real sales are you getting from the money you are putting in?

Second, don’t tell potential customers to find you in the Yellow Pages. Competition is enough of a problem for all of us without sending those potential customers to a minefield filled with competitors.

Now comes the hard part. Do all that you can to make sure your name comes up near the top when a potential client searches for you online. I’m the first to admit that I’m way out of my element trying to accomplish this. Our Web guy informs me that there are a number of ways to have your name near the top of search engines. Such things as the types of words you use on your Website and where you use them, to name a few.

The point is, we need to change our thinking about how customers are going to find us, now and in the future. We need to adapt to the new generation - and that may not be easy for some of us. Check the results of your Yellow Page advertising. My guess is that as time goes by, other “directories” will be more important for you to successfully obtain customers.

Publication date: 06/25/2007