Mike Murphy

This is going to be one of those times when I really am going to get a lot of letters.

For those of you who love the Yellow Pages®, or make your living helping people design ads and copy for the kind of big, thick books that usually end up at the end of my driveway, soaking wet before I get to them, I suggest you read a brief article that was posted to our LinkedIn Group - The NEWSNetwork. If you are not already in that group, it’s a good time to get connected athttp://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=3882662. Hundreds of people joined in a matter of days, and there are now some very interesting discussions taking place there.

One of them was initiated by Nadia Romeo, president at iMarket Website Solutions who shared a story from a San Francisco news talk am/fm radio station, call letters KMJ. The story tells of a vote to ban unrequested delivery of the telephone books. This is not just a little town in the area, this is San Francisco. According to the Los Angeles Times, the ban could stop the delivery of about 1.6 million Yellow Page directories every year.

Of course, one could expect that many people will request to have delivery continued to their doorsteps. However, there are likely to be very many more people who like the idea of simply letting their fingers do the Internet surfing instead of “the walking” as suggested by the familiar old Yellow Pages promotional campaign.

Other cities, such as Seattle, have set up programs to allow people to stop home delivery of telephone directories. Yellow Pages companies actually offer a nationally available service for those who wish to opt out of both Yellow Pages and white pages delivery, www.yellowpagesoptout.com. Interesting: One might guess that while you were online stopping your telephone book delivery, you could also be starting to learn to search online.


OK. So now you know for sure what you’ve probably always suspected - things are changing. If even the venerable old Yellow Pages company can see the writing on the wall, then it’s time that all of us took a long, hard look at our own marketing programs. Though I seldom bestow upon myself the “us” when referring to your businesses, this is one of those times when we are in the same boat.

If you are spending thousands of dollars annually on marketing programs that are lying at the end of someone’s driveway, or under a baby’s butt in a high chair, perhaps it’s time to evaluate your options. At the very least, you may want to ensure that your company is effectively tracking where your leads are coming from. Maybe Yellow Pages advertising is working for you - maybe it isn’t.

As for our business, we love printed stuff - magazines, newspapers - we love ‘em. However, this is what’s going on atThe NEWS: We have about 32,000 contractors reading the print version of our weekly magazine, but we estimate that in 15 years about half of them will be reading us in some other format, whether that be on iPad apps, digital electronic versions for your computer, or something else nobody has thought of yet. (By the way, you actually can getThe NEWSfor your iPad or a digital version for your online reading pleasure; and, we’re working on something else that nobody has thought of yet.)

Just like your businesses, we have to constantly evaluate how to reach our customers, and more importantly, how our customers prefer that we reach them.

Does your customer really find you in the Yellow Pages phone books? Or, do they search the online Yellow Pages, or go through Google or Bing? Depending upon their ages, any of the three may be correct answers.

Is social media or social networking the answer? There is no doubt that a lot of people are tweeting and finding friends on FaceBook, but is that where your customers are going to find you? Nothing interests me less than going on my personal Facebook page and seeing someone advertising their business. I really don’t want to know about their widgets at 11 p.m. when I’m checking my FB account. I’m just looking for all my high school buddies there; the promotional stuff can go to my business FB account. Do your customers want to find you on FB? Is Twitter a better place to have a presence?

Marketing to your customers is a moving target. Finding the right thing is tough. But the worst thing to do is market the same way you always have. One of these days, nobody will be able to find you.

Publication date:05/23/2011