Jun 272010
Stephen Cobert vs. Yellow Pages

You & Stephen Cobert can put Yellow Pages on Notice!

In 2010, the properly informed Yellow Pages customer  has all the advantage in negotiating with any of the Yellow Pages Providers. Today advertising in Yellow Pages is only one of many ways new customers can learn about your products and services. You have strong alternatives and Yellow Pages knows it.

Yellow Page Providers need your business – Negotiate early & smartly and you will save big.


With the use of the internet, the value of  that Dog Eared Yellow Pages Book by your customer’s phone has diminished (Is it still there?).  To create more value for their customers, Yellow Page Providers  have been creating a large variety of advertising services for the internet. With the attention Search Engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing are giving to local businesses, all the Yellow Pages Providers are fighting to maintain revenue.

The Yellow Pages Sales Person will provide proposals that seem to show tremendous value that Yellow Pages can deliver to a business on the internet, but without some basic knowledge of Local Search and Local Business Listings you cannot understand the real value of advertising services that Yellow Pages is offering. It is important not to take the information in Yellow Page Proposals at face value. You must analyze the information yourself. My observations in evaluating these proposals are:

  • The Yellow Pages sales person has a lot of flexibility in pricing and services. You can push for a better deal than last year and get it.
  • Yellow Page proposals can be a large list of services, but the cost is not broken down. This makes it hard to determine the value of any single part of the proposal.
  • Even if you do not pay to advertise in the Yellow Pages, they need your listing and will not delete it.
  • The statistical information presented in Yellow Page proposals can be out dated and skewed to increase the value of Yellow Pages.
  • If the proposal includes paid search, the cost of having Yellow Pages administer the program costs 2 to 8 times the direct cost of using Google, Bing, Yahoo or Ask pay per click services.

The most important point is that in 2010, no matter what, re-negotiate your Yellow Page contract as soon as possible. At a minimum you should either pay less for the same level of advertising or get a whole lot more from your Yellow Page Provider than last year.

Below is an analysis I did for a client.  The client was presented a proposal from Yellow Pages that cost $600 per month and had three elements where we saw value; Yellow Page Book, YP.com, and PPC YP.  We included in our analysis our our best guess of the cost of each element  and placed the value for each element against the other Internet efforts that were being done for the client.  We doubled the value (Probability of Sale Factor) for Yellow Book and Local Search as customers that are looking to those places are more likely (more valuable) to call or purchase than just visitors to a website or people that click on PPC Ads.

The analysis above is in 4 parts (Cost Ranking, Initial Analysis, Refined Budget, Total Cost).  You can see each sheet by clicking on the item in the spreadsheet above.  Other than the ATT&T YP (Yellow Book), which was an educated guess, the other # of search actions were measured by Google Analytics.

The client’s final decision (As shown on Tab – Refined Budget) was to:

  • Drop Yellow Pages (Save $600)
  • Increase PPC Google ($90 to $250) to increase Customer Search Actions by 52 per month
  • Overall reduced their marketing budget by $440 per month.

This reduced the cost per Search Action from an average of $0.24 per action to $0.12 per action or looking at it another way – Save 50% per customer action.

The current use of the Yellow Page book is way down, but some portion of consumers still use the Yellow Pages book to find products and services. I do believe that the Yellow Book and YP.com can increase calls and walk ins to a business. The question is at what cost?  In the example above, the client saw no value to the Yellow Page Book and decided to opt out of all paid promotion through Yellow Pages. I am not recommending that all businesses do this, each situation is unique, and there are good reasons to maintain ads in the Yellow Pages.

To evaluate, adjust or eliminate your yellow pages expenditure you need to look at each aspect of the proposal and determine that value of each part. Start with answering the question, “When I want to buy something the first thing I reach for is (the Yellow Pages, my computer, my smartphone, or ?????).” Do a gut check to determine your bottom line value of the Yellow Book to your customers.  Ask new customers how they found your business and when was the last time they took out their hard copy of the Yellow Pages.

Then use a spreadsheet like the one above to determine some relative value for each effort.  Here is a link to the spreadsheet I used above.  Use it to analyze your advertising program or call me to do it for you.

Have you been able to reduce your your Yellow Page cost and increase the value you get? Tell us your experience with Yellow Pages.

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  • Dan Fuller

    Dave – Nice article.

    I worked in the Yellow Pages industry for 10 years as an account manager for the two top yellow page publishers in this country. Yellow Pages reach can only go so far and if you advertise in more than one directory it can get very expensive.

    AT&T has been on a campaign to eliminate the printed white pages in as many markets as they can, offering them on request only. As few as 1% of customers bother to request a copy, according to news reports. But of course, they are keeping the yellow pages. The directories don’t exist to benefit small business. They exist to make money for their publisher.

    Keep spreading the word. Local Search is King