Does your small business need to invest in yellow page advertising?

Yesterday, the phone rang.  It was a company doing “market research”.  You may think it’s a smart small business marketing strategy to hire a research firm to poll your potential customers.   You may think that outsourcing this market research taskis the key to making money.  You may also be tempted to think that advertising in the yellow pages is the smartest use of your advertising budget.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Over the past year, I’ve been “polled” at least 6 times by various yellow page companies in the name of “market research”.  The polls are obviously geared to try to provide some proof to small business owners that yellow page advertising is a smart investment of your advertising dollars.

Long ago, there was just one “yellow page directory” but these days there are several – each more worthless than the last.   The only difference between the last the yellow page directory delivered to my doorstep and a bag of flaming dog poo was the yellow page directory wasn’t on fire.

Why would ANYONE with an internet connection use the yellow pages?

The answer – if you’re looking for a business that doesn’t know enough about the internet to create a website that can be found by the search engines.

Who still uses the yellow pages? Baby Boomers – that’s who.  Baby Boomers who have acquired the HABIT of looking to the yellow pages for information.   I get it.   However, as the market research dude kept pushing me as to why I didn’t use the yellow pages – I was forced to inform him that I have a perfectly good bathroom indoors and that’s why I don’t relieve myself in my back yard!!!

In other words- I have the internet – why would I EVER use the yellow pages?

Because it wasn’t on fire when it arrived,  I did pick up the last yellow pages dropped off at my house and flipped through it on my way to tossing it in the recycling bin.  I was literally  STUNNED with what I saw.   The last yellow page directory delivered to my home was a new “condensed” version.  You’ll never guess that they did to “condense” it –  REDUCETHE FONT SIZE OF THE PRINT!!!

So why in the WORLD would a business that is obviously targeting the Baby Boomers decide to reduce the size of the font in the directory?

Most businesses targeting Baby Boomers are scrambling to make things easier to read.  They are  increasing the keys on remote control units, creating cell phones that have larger displays and adopting larger font for websites targeting Baby Boomers.  With that being the case, why would you buck the trend and adopt a 4 point font size for your directory?  The answer has to be that you’re not even trying to fool yourself anymore.

I talk a lot around here about creating a target audience profile and keeping your target audience in mind as you market your business.  I harp on keeping your target audienc in mind ALL THE TIME.  It’s an essential exercise in not only my 8 Week Power Blog Launch course but also in my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results.

Keeping your target customer in mind is definitely something big businesses tend to forget to do that small business can’t afford to forget.

Yellow page advertising is definitely a product which is on it’s last legs.  It a buggy whip in the era of the horseless carriage.  The only people still using yellow pages as a directory are Baby Boomers and the only businesses relying on yellow page advertising are businesses who don’t know what else to do to promote their business.

During my 15 minute “battle of wills” with this marketing research dude – it was painfully obvious that there was an “agenda” in mind behind this so called “market research”.

In the end, I’m certain that the “results” of this “survey” will end up as sales material for the next advertising sales “blitz” in our community.  Prior to the blitz, billboards will begin proclaiming the value of yellow page advertising.  Radio and television stations will begin airing commercials with testimonials from businesses using the yellow page directory.   Then, the yellow page advertising reps will be unleashed.   Small business owners will be presented with “tangible” evidence of how their version of the printed yellow page directory is THE one where small business owners should invest the majority of their advertising dollars.

I often advise my clients to watch what great marketers are doing rather than buy what they’re selling.  In this case, watch what media the yellow pages uses to promote their directory.  THOSE are the media choices YOU should make when promoting your own business rather than investing in an ad in the yellow pages.

In my series “Steps to Starting a Small Business” you’ll notice that hiring a company to perform “market research” is absent from the list.  Most “market research” is performed by BIG businesses who are intent on either fooling themselves or creating “proof” for marketing materials.   In most cases, small business owners can’t afford the luxury of such “fluff”.

What’s your take?  Do you still use the Yellow Pages?  If you do use them, has a yellow page ad ever influenced your decision? Had you already made your buying decision when you opened the yellow pages?