It is so tempting to just send off that check to your local YellowPages (or equivalent) and call it done, isn’t it? I see so many businesses struggling with this issue. Most animal hospitals have little data to base their decision on whether or not to continue advertising in the YellowPages for another year. Either the practice lacks a system to ask how people found their business, or, even if they do track this data, time is a factor in collating the results.
Let’s discuss reality today vs. 1996. The “new” concept of marketing is called content marketing, which has been created and nurtured by the Internet. We expect to find answers to our questions, interact with friends and brands/businesses, and research products and services before we purchase them. As consumers, we have learned that this information is at our finger tips, 24/7, on a plane, train, boat, or automobile. Want to know what is at the foot of the ski hill for lunch? No problem, because at 12k (I have tried this) the Internet works on your phone. We are constantly connected wherever we go. In fact, by 2014, more searches will be done on mobile devices than on laptop or desktop computers.
The world is changing because of our new thirst for this on-the-go, two-way communication. Here are some facts that you may find interesting:
- ATT, who owns YellowPages, is selling this portion of its business to a private equity firm because revenue dropped last year (www.brandchannel.com, April 10, 2012, YellowPages).
- The city of Seattle gave residents a chance to opt out of YellowPages directories (www.seattlepi.com, May 5, 2011, Seattle unveils YellowPages opt-out registry).
- The city of San Francisco has banned YellowPages directories from being delivered unless requested (USAToday.com, May 18, 2011, San Francisco Bans YellowPages).
- “Use of the printed YellowPages has dropped from more than 15 billion instances in 2002 to roughly 11 billion in 2010, some figures speculate, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down” (www.seattlepi.com, April 3, 2012, Reputation Changer).
To adapt, YellowPages and its sister publications are trying to move online. Many vet hospitals I have talked to have said it is quite unpleasant dealing with their YellowPages representative because of strong-arm tactics and the clinic’s lack of knowledge about how marketing on the Internet works. Is the YellowPages representative right? Am I missing out on the market? Do I have to pay hundreds to thousand of dollars a month to YellowPages to keep my business running?
The answer is NO. You do not.
People, when searching online, want information immediately. Google has researched and found immediately means within 400 milliseconds or a blink of an eye. We do not want to work to find the information we are seeking, and we want to be satisfied on the first search. Try this for yourself. Either take out your smart phone or pull up your computer. Go to Google, type in yourtown, state, and the word veterinarians. For example, Maple Grove, MN veterinarians. Google will provide a list of results for you to view. The results at the top of the page are in a yellow or lightly shaded box. Only 25% of people click on this ad space and the space under the map. Within this space is where you sometimes find YellowPages listed. After this search result, you will find a new hybrid result (read July’s article for more information) and then the local search results. Regardless of whether you find a listing for YellowPages in paid search or in the hybrid results, you still have to click on that link and conduct a further search when looking for information.
How satisfying is that type of search? (Answer: Unsatisfying and frustrating.)
Instead, when we are searching, we want to do a quick eye spy and find a hospital by name right on the page, glance at the reviews, and click through to its website. Especially if we are on our mobile devices, we do not want to be making multiple clicks to find the information we are looking for. Because of this behavior, we have found our Beyond Indigo websites clients who still are holding on to YellowPages listings receive a measly four to six click-throughs from YellowPages to their website per month. YIKES. That is not many.
Beware if the YellowPages representative in your area shows you thousands of clicks or impressions a month for your business. What does that number represent? Is it the number of people who see the YellowPages link on Google but didn’t click through to YellowPages? Is it the number of people who scanned the page for all veterinarians in your town? Or is it the number of people who clicked on your link within YellowPages AFTER searching on Google to get to your website. Tricky business those statistics.
Remember summer of 2012 as the year your business gave up or drastically reduced its YellowPages presence. Give up the fear of the unknown and base your decision on facts. Start asking and analyzing where your new clients find your business. If it is the YellowPages, make sure what you are spending to advertise there brings in enough new revenue to justify the cost. If people are not using your local YellowPages, then it is time to move that investment to another aspect of marketing that will bring in new dollars.
Also, look inward at yourself and take the leap into that world of Internet marketing. Realize that as a veterinary hospital your primary communication space is face to face, which makes talking to a YellowPages representative in person a comfortable environment for you. Move beyond your own comfort zone and reach into the world where your consumers are engaging and interacting with your brand. Take the positive leap into content marketing. You can do it.