No sooner had I written the last blog article, the “yellow pages” showed up on my front door step. It was delivered in a plastic bag and laid to the side of our door. There it sat, and sat for a few days until finally, I think I brought the bag inside and it likely made it downstairs to my office where it will eventually be opened and the books put on the bottom shelf of my nearest book case.

This is where I keep many items I rarely use.

But, recently I decided to give it a test. I googled “stopwatch” and then opened up the phone book and went to work looking for a local plumber in my city. It took me about 70 seconds to open the book, find the “Plumbing” section (bypassing the temptation to stop at the Pizza section since it was only 10.30am) and then flip a few pages to find “by location.”

Low and behold I searched for my suburb and found none. Slightly frustrated (and glad I was not paying a plumber for my search time realizing that their 70 seconds would cost me at least $2.00!) I went to the heading that was next. After that I got lost, mesmerized by the myriad of colorful images in the larger plumbing ads, some of which were quite attractive even though they were related to sewage and drain cleaning.

This brief exercise proved to me what should be second hand knowledge to anyone who has had to consider where to spend their marketing dollars:

  1. When it comes to searching for contact information, we are no longer a page turning people.
    I like to turn pages when it comes to pleasure reading and gaining knowledge in certain areas, but not when it comes to searching for basic information, products, and services.   Emily Steele from the Wall Street journal suggests,

    “The yellow-pages industry is running out of lifelines. In recent years, as its customers migrated to the Web – flocking to sites like Google – the telephone-directory business followed, hoping the Internet would be its salvation. But that strategy hasn’t panned out. Now, the economic downturn is sending the already ailing business into a tailspin. The audience for online yellow pages remains relatively small, and traffic growth is slowing. So many directory services are vying for the ad dollars of local businesses that no single site has an authoritative roster. Meanwhile, ad dollars are drying up as small businesses – the industry’s bread and butter – find it harder to pay bills or have cut their spending sharply.”

  2. Turning pages is hard to measure. Well, there might be creases, underlining or even spilled mustard but other than that, its difficult to measure use of this tool, even for companies who ask about it. My hunch is even if people do use the phone book, they are highly likely to also go to the website that is given in the listing. Marketing now, more than ever, is about results that can be measured.  At the end of the day, most organizations want to know, what is the ROI?
  3. A thing of the past. While phone books are not completely a “thing of the past” even they will list a company’s website. My strong hunch is the paper trail leads to internet.  Call it validation, call it information gathering or whatever you wish.  This serves to underscore a point I came across last year that I believe holds true.  I will by pass the title of the book but sub title was, “Your internet strategy is your business development strategy.”


The statistics bear it out- 1.1 trillion dollars of all sales in 2011 were “web influenced” (Forrester research ).