When was the last time you opened a dictionary or encyclopedia? With spell check, dictionary.com, Wikipedia and Google, why would you need to? Need directions? Mapquest and GoogleMaps are at your finger tips.  And if you are out and about, mobile applications like Yelp and Urbanspoon can help you find the ideal dinner spot or the closest dentist.  And best of all, many of these suggestions come bundled with user reviews.

With all of these resources, how often do you open Yellow Page directory?  If you are like me, the answer is rarely if ever.  So why do small business owners continue to buy ads every year?   I think the reason is fear. Fear that they are missing out on a potential lead.  But it is time to let go of the fear, because the fear is making you crazy.

  • It is crazy to spend money to drive consumers to a vehicle where they can find information on  your competitors.
  • It is crazy to spend the largest percentage of your marketing budget on your least profitable clients. Let’s face it, Yellow Page Leads are price shoppers and tire kickers. If they had a relationship with someone, they wouldn’t be opening up a book and calling strangers
  • It is crazy to invest in print, when the world is going digital.
So if you are ready to face your fear, stop being crazy and develop a smart marketing strategy, what should you do?  Here are just a few ideas:
  • Beef up your website. This is your ultimate 24/7 storefront and everything else I suggest is designed to drive traffic to your website.  If you aren’t ready for company, start here.
  • While I would love to see most businesses go cold turkey, I realize for some it is a slow process of weaning off this vehicle. Develop a plan with specific annual activities which will allow you to make the transition, cutting your budget in half each year
  • Expand activity in social media.  Build tighter relationships with existing customers and introduce your products to potential customers through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • Create or expand referral and loyalty programs, rewarding customers for coming back and bringing friends.
  • Consider targeted direct mail to very well defined lists, with very specific offers.
  • Get involved with local community events and charities which match your core mission and are relevant to your target customer. Don’t just put a sign up at the event, be a visible part of the activity.
  • What about Yellow Pages Online? I am not a fan. It is too easy to do direct searches. I think this is a business model that has seen its time.
And as we make this transition to the digital age there are going to be a lot of useless directories out there. What should we do with all those old books?  Here’s one idea, just in time for the holidays.