Savvy local marketing consultants and online marketing analysts have been heralding the demise of the Yellow Pages for some years now. It should be further noted that as more and more people become accustomed to using Internet search utilities, this trend will only progress.
As a business marketing consultant, you should be making your clients and prospects aware of this situation. The huge budgets these clients are be spending on Yellow Pages ads can often be redirected to more effective online marketing once they fully understand the situation.
According to Google Trends, United States usage of Yellow Pages books has been in steady decline since 2004. This downward trend is even more evident for the general search term, “phone directories”. US Yellow Pages Trend Statistics from 2004 to 2008. See the link in the resource box to view the screen shot.
Even the Yellow Pages is aware of this burgeoning trend as it prompted them to pay $2.55 billion for SuperPages (an online phone directory) in 2005.
Some contend that younger people are the catalyst to the declining trend. Young adults and teens are more likely to use online search engines and directories, while baby boomers and older adults continue to use physical business phone directories.
I can personally vouch for this fact. My 30 something daughter recycles her phone books shortly after they are delivered at her door. I, being the pack rat that I am, usually hold on to my phone books.
However, I rarely make use of them — I find local merchants by “Googling them”. If they are not online, yet have a better deal than another merchant, they miss out.
As a rule I instruct my clients to begin tracking ROI of their physical phone book advertising. If return on investment is poor, I suggest they cut that budget in half and dedicate the other half to online marketing campaigns.
After witnessing the higher ROI from online marketing, the majority stop using physical yellow page advertising altogether and spend it online. The only exception is if they serve an older market. Then I always suggest they maintain at least a minimal presence in Yellow Pages or similar business phone directories.