Where’s my white pages?

Once again YP/AT&T being taken to task for removing their residential white pages from the print directory: http://www.blueridgenow.com/article/20140207/ARTICLES/140209903#gsc.tab=0

As an independent publisher now, I’m glad they do.  It provides a real differentiator between their yellow only directory loaded with mostly national accounts, and our yellow pages (with only local small businesses) which also have a white page section (business & residential intermingled) in a type size you can actually read, and a real community section.

Now that’s a “real” yellow pages….

As the company noted, consumers/users have “other” options.  Sure.  But what they seem to have missed is that if someone is hold a print yellow pages, and using it to look up stuff, why would they want/need to go online for something else?

 

Small Pond at New Smyrna Beach Business Expo

Was a chilly day on Saturday, January 18th (well, chilly by central Florida standards) at the New Smyrna Beach Business Expo.  Small Pond had a booth at which we handed out over 2,000 copies of the newest New Smyrna Beach coupon book:

Image

The print directories are being printed and are expected to arrive the week of January 27th where distribution to the NSB, Edgewater, and Oak Hill areas will commence immediately.

Sometimes the view from a lofty perch is not the best view..

I was slow in responding to this biting commentary as we were working with local small businesses on our New Smyrna book, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share some of the weird, warped impressions some have from their lofty perches high atop the Internet.  It’s a classic.  It’s a little long but worth reading.

Here is the original comment I received in it’s entirety, unedited from “Ella”:

Ken,
You are most definitely a great salesperson any company would love to have on their payroll. Having said that, you are promoting an almost obsolete product using skewed stats that for all I know are based on a remote part somewhere in the USA that has limited access to internet or maybe, from various senior retirement communities where they don’t know how to use modern day technology. I can personally attest that in my employment background screening industry where we deal with tech savvy business, none of our potential clients would look for an employment screening company out of the YP also given the fact that we service a nationwide market rather than a restricted local market. I’m sure that most YP sales persons who are making a somewhat decent living, in my opinion have to be:
1. Very aggressive (maybe even heartless when selling to mom and pops)
2. Carry a fancy brochure with dizzying stats, comparisons YP vs. Internet, ROI’s and so forth. Obviously, the presentation is very elaborate and systematically methodical (always BE CLOSING).
3. Asking the clients questions whereby they end up trapping themselves into an ironclad contract that automatically renews itself (hey, we got a live one here!)
In conclusion, maybe YP may work as a short lived miracle for a very limited some, but not for the majority of business out there. I remember back in the early days of the internet, YP would compete by offering clients results based pricing using a metered phone line and soon realized the writing on the wall. In a real-life scenario, But then again, you appear to be a great sposkeman/sales person for the YP industry.
Question: Would you sell a $800 a month ad to your own family member that say had a struggling print shop or any other storefront type?

And my response:

Ella:

Sorry for the slow response as we were closing another successful local print yellow pages, which grew from last year, so we were more than busy.

So let’s see, where do I start?  You obviously haven’t left your lofty perch to get out into the market to understand what it is we do.  But let’s break down your comments:

an almost obsolete product“:  if that was true can you explain how one of local plumbers gets over 110 calls a month on their call tracking line, the number for which only appears in their print YP ad??  Or how about the storage yard that gets 2/3rds of all their calls from their ad based on their manual recording of each call they get, as it also has a call tracking number in the ad??

Carry a fancy brochure with dizzying stats, comparisons YP vs. Internet, ROI’s and so forth“:  Sorry to disappoint you but the only thing my people and I walk in with is the book, the current call tracking data, and a stack of testimonials we get from the usage contest we run in the book.  All of that is printed on regular paper using my cheap inkjet printer.   The presentation is neither elaborate nor “systematically methodical”.  It is a discussion about where there business is, where are they looking to go with it, and how can we help them.  In most cases, we can help.  There are some businesses that are more wholesale/middle men in an established process, in which case, the product can’t do a lot for them but we still recommend they have a bold listing or small in-column ad with relevant info like websites, fax numbers, and other key contact information.  And then there are businesses like yours that really aren’t used by local small businesses – as you noted in your own comments.   But you also missed the key point that we are more than just print.  Everything we do in print is also online at www.SmallPondYP.com .

“…end up trapping themselves into an ironclad contract that automatically renews itself (hey, we got a live one here!)”:   Our advertising rates cover a full year cycle, in most cases.  That makes sense since the book is on the street for a year.  But we do have other products that run for different lengths.  We also don’t do “autor renew”.  Each year (or more often) we again visit with those local businesses (as in go their stores/offices/job sites/etc) to discuss what’s changed and how we can help them change/update their advertising message.  We don’t call.  We go meet them, face-to-face.   And I don’t think we’ve ever held a gun to any ones head to get them to sign the contract.  In fact, I review the entire contract before I hand them the pen to sign it.

So let me address your main question:

Question: Would you sell a $800 a month ad to your own family member that say had a struggling print shop or any other storefront type?

Answer:  If after meeting with them to understand why they had a “struggling” business, and our products were a fit for their core customers, YES, without hesitation.

But you also are naïve in that I don’t have an ad that cost’s $800/month unless you want to buy a cover ad, which I would probably never recommend to a “struggling” business, and to be honest, the cover ads are all sold.  None are available.

Now Ella, since you didn’t do your homework, you would probably have not noticed that I spent over 10 years in the recruiting world.  I can tell you that we encountered numerous “employment background screening” companies and we consistently found aggressive tactics to woo unqualified candidates just so they had fresh meat to tee up for a client, rampant misuse of candidate data, and inconsistent screening.  Hopefully you don’t work of one of those type companies.

If you do, we have half dozen reputable local companies listed in our print directory that you can call…

No one uses the print Yellow Pages anymore?

I still hear this a lot.  Well, it just aint’ true.  Case in point — as I was about to enter a local pizzeria the other night to come upon this person, book in hand (our New Smyrna Beach yellow pages, not the Telco book) locked in an intense discussion with what sounded like a sibling, providing them with a list local service providers they should be contacting them.

Since I didn’t want to be obvious what I was doing the picture was taken from the other side of the parking lot.  And yes, that appears to be an iPhone in his hand.

using book cropped

Yes, the internet and mobile technology have become a big part of our lives.  Heck I walk around with 2 iPhones (story for another day).  But if you want to find it fast, if you want to be able to differentiate between businesses especially in a category/heading where you are not an expert, and you want a local business, nothing is quicker that a print Yellow Pages 

Kill those print yellow pages — not so fast!!!

In another classic case of how directory publishers in telephone companies can shoot themselves in the foot (and several other very painful places), Frontier Communications petitioned the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) for permission to stop providing printed directories to its customers or, in the alternative, provide phone books only to customers who request them (can you say “opt-in”).

For those not aware of it, by PSC requirements, most Telco’s have to publish a directory every year.  In it’s deep wisdom Frontier argued that “…printed phone books are “antiquated” because of the availability of directories on the Internet…” – and we all know that if it’s on the internet, everything else be damned.

Well, not so fast sparky — The Pocahontas County Commission considered the issue during its meeting on October 15 and quickly concurred that Pocahontas County residents need a printed phone book. The Commission agreed to send a letter to the PSC, stating its opposition to the phone company’s proposal. Commission President David Fleming offered to draft the letter.

“I can draft that letter, if you’d like,” Fleming said. “What I would say, basically, is that the County Commission is adamantly opposed to Frontier’s petition to request ceasing of the printing of the phone book. I’ll say language, to the effect, Pocahontas Countians rely on the phone books. As a rural county, a significant percentage of our population doesn’t even have a computer. Moreover, we have relatively unreliable Internet service. Therefore we request that Frontier’s petition be denied.”

Remember we aren’t talking about NY city or LA, or some other cement suburban area, we are talking about rural America where people like to shop locally and not online.  They want to know who they are doing business with.  Frontier obviously doesn’t get that, or more factually has no clue how to run a highly profitable advertising sales organization in a rural market.  Clearly no one from corporate wants to go live in a God forsaken place like this and manage Yellow Page sales.  Not when they can sit behind a desk in some glass tower in a more attractive city and play on their computers all day.

As a former manager once schooled me on “…you can’t help stupid…”.  Add another Telco publisher to that list.

If these books are “antiquated”  how come I got 3 calls today from people that are upset their phone listing was left our of the directory, or the 4 people who wanted more copies of the book?????

Changes at YP Talk

Regular followers have noticed that YP Talk has been silent for several months now.  But it’s not without cause.

When you believe strongly in something, there are times when you have to step forward, plant a flag, and makes good things happen.  YP Talk has been silent because I recently acquired a small print and online Yellow Page operation in central Florida.  In this everything digital world many people want us to believe in, one has to ask, am I crazy?  I will let you the readers of YP Talk decide.  Here is the full story on the some compelling factors behind my acquisition.

  • First, it’s in Florida.  After three years in Kansas, while the people there are very nice, and having a chance to work for the Brock’s at Names & Numbers was certainly a pleasure, it was nice to sell our snow shovels at our final yard sale before moving
  • The books are LOCAL books.  We focus on LOCAL businesses.  In the Alarms section you will not see any ads from ADT – instead you will find the local alarm company Security Center.  In carpet cleaning, no Stanly Steamer, instead you will find Carpet Pro based here in Port Orange.  In the florists, no 800-Flowers, instead Port Orange Florist.  It doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t accept an ad from a national company.  But they need to have a strong local presence
  • All of the ad programs are bundles.  Buy a half page; get a dollar bill sized in another heading.  Online is bundled with print.  Add it all up — it comes to better VALUE for that local businesses advertising dollar as they can capture ready to buy customers no matter what format they are looking for them in.
  • We include white pages in the books, and in a format and font size you can actually read without a microscope.  We have many features which make the book a valuable RESOURCE for local consumers
  • The covers feature local art and photography
  • And most importantly, we have FAMILY here in the area.  It’s nice to be back on the east coast where most family is within driving distance of us.

Of course, half of the conversations I have with those local businesses start with them telling me that print is obsolete.  I nod my head and smile, but then ask that if that is true, how is Coleman Plumbing able to get OVER 100 calls a month from the call tracking number in their ad??  Or that local dentist, who has a very specialized practice bringing in 30-40 calls a month on his RCF??  Keep in mind anyone that gets in his chair is going to be spending over $1,500.  I then ask them to explain what I should make of the 6-10 calls we get a week from consumers asking for another copy of the book.  Note this isn’t New York city – there are only 25,000 households in the area.  If that isn’t enough, we run a contest which appears on the last page of the book where consumers can send us a list of businesses they found and use from the book, and we’ll enter them into a contest for a new TV.  The pile of responses is several inches thick.

When the VCR was invented, they predicted the end of movie theatres.   After that, the higher quality DVD will definitely kill those theatres now.  Well then along came Blue Ray which is so advanced, and we all have 100” big screen TV’s, so surely now we never go to those “obsolete” movie theaters do we?  I guess those $10.8 BILLION in ticket sales didn’t really happen then (source)?

We all have many choices and sources available to us when we are ready to make a buying decision.  Print and online yellow pages are just one of them.  I have had enough of apologizing for the industry, for the printing of millions of books each year (on recycled materials), for investing big bucks into online products that aren’t Google.  We provide a valuable service to local small businesses.  If you don’t believe me, come ride with me on a sales call where a frazzled small business owner looks you in the eye and admits they don’t have a clue on how to market their small business within the limited budget they have and can afford.  It takes a lot of courage for them to admit that.

For those that insist it has to be all digital, I sat fine.  But if I can’t help that local business define what they are about in the size of half page or quarter page print ad, how on earth are they going to know what/how to say in whatever digital format you think “everyone” uses?

At end of day, it’s not print OR digital.  It’s all about defining the key value message that business offers, no matter the platform, and then getting that message out.

So what does this acquisition mean for YP Talk?  For one thing after over nine years of writing this newsletter, this will be the last email I will push your way.  It’s not that I don’t think there are a lot of important topics related to this business to discuss – exactly the opposite.  It’s just that there aren’t enough hours in the day/week when you are the sales department, production, finance, marketing, and senior management.

I will continue to post my thoughts on this YP Talk blog from time to time. But mostly this message was just to tell all of you, thank you.  Thank you for your support.  Thank you for your comments both pro and con.  Thank you for the feedback on how you used the information we provided here.  There was nothing more gratifying then to bump into someone who mentioned they used an article to kick off a sales meeting, or sent another article to the marketing group asking how come we don’t have this.

Thank you to the suppliers that help make this industry what it is.  Their advertising support for this newsletter was key to so I could do this, and I really enjoyed hearing about all the new things they brought to the table.  It forced me to be current.

And lastly a big thank you to friends and family who also tolerated many years of me having to go run off and create a newsletter when I probably should have been spending more time with them.  Now I just bore them to death with my efforts as a local Yellow Page publisher.

And for those worried about the future – don’t be.  You will find as I have, that about every 5 years or so you will be reinventing yourself as the marketplace changes, as companies change, as technology changes, even as you change.  But do count your blessings as you are now working in the most exciting industry out there, one that is changing for sure, but still brings huge value to every community and business it touches.  How many industries can say that?

Peace be with you.

Let’s use a 5+ year old picture to promote our online money grab

If you can’t sell it, repackage it, spray some cologne on it, and then go pick on someone who is successfully and try to pick at the scraps they leave behind in your wake.

This continues to be the business strategy of one YellowPagesGoesGreen.org, a business directory website at the forefront of the environmentally-conscious “Green” movement…”.  Seriously?  We have noted their sad attempts in the past at a true business strategy by issuing press release after press release after press release, usually with outlandish or down right lies, made up research, or anything else they can scape together so they can try to get someone to pay attention to them and actually spend some money with them. Their favorite is the picture from 5 + years ago of the overflowing phone book recycling bin.

Their website even goes as far as saying they are the  “…official opt-in registry for printed distribution…”  Really?  Who gave them that title?

Now of course, you can add your small business to their site for “just $49.95/year” for which you get??????  I think in some circles that could be considered bogus yellow pages.

Guys, its 2013.  Find a new picture (if you can), or redo your business model.  Oh, by the way, Monday and Tuesday we got 5 calls from consumers asking for new PRINTED YELLLOW PAGES, in markets of less than 50k in population.  Guess they didn’t get your “press release” that the book is dead….

Unfortunately on the internet, all we have is the spam or trash folder for their stuff…