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It was interesting to see the Yellow Pages Association release its usage data showing print usage was stable at 13.4 billion and IYP usage had increased to 3.8 billion in 2007. While the overall usage figure is a 3 percent increase from 2006, which is encouraging, zeroing in solely on usage may be taking away from stronger measures of value. Just as online has shifted from a focus purely on clicks to a broader definition of value based on calls and leads, the Yellow Pages industry should follow this lead in marketing the medium.

The value of a Yellow Pages ad to a local small-business owner is not the movement in the usage number but in the number of consistent leads its advertising program delivers. Keeping this in mind, Yellow Pages continues to have a strong story to tell. Recent research by the YPA reveals significant local display ROI for some of its higher usage headings, which has remained relatively stable in most cases over the past three years.

Movers 38:1
Insurance 33:1
Air Conditioning Contractors 27:1
Attorneys 18:1
Plumbers 14:1
Physicians 13:1
Auto Repair 11:1
Storage 10:1
Dentist 8:1
Pest Control 7:1

Source: Yellow Pages Association (2008)

Building on the ROI figures, the number of calls generated by both print and IYP continues to support the health of a massive number of small and medium-sized businesses. According to CRM Associates, a typical business receives more than 800 calls per year per display ad with a cost per buyer influenced figure of $10. These are the numbers SMBs really care about, and arguably these are the metrics the industry and its investors should be focusing on.

If the industry continues to enhance the value of the leads it generates on behalf of its advertisers and focuses on ways to demonstrate the value of what the Yellow Pages medium delivers to consumers, it will continue to be a valuable and relevant medium for local advertisers. In a down economy, SMBs tend to stay with their most stable lead generation source if they are to weather the economic storm.

Smart SMB advertisers already understand this and also understand that this is a time when they can advance their position versus their competitors, which may choose to cut back on advertising. Smart Yellow Pages companies will work to promote the value of ready-to-buy leads, train their salespeople to consistently present this message, and support the value the Yellow Pages product delivers to consumers. Those Yellow Pages companies that follow this route will also be in a stronger position to weather the advertising downturn already well under way.

At the end of the day, all a small-business advertiser wants is a consistent source of quality leads from its advertising investment, and all consumers want is a medium that provides a comprehensive database of local content to make buying decisions easier. It’s all about influencing leads to come to the medium and delivering quality leads to help SMB businesses remain successful.

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