A Time To Lead…

I had a call recently from a very frustrated sales manager who works for one of the large publishers that has been struggling.  He wanted to know what was going on in the industry, and what I thought the future looked like.  Despite his many years in the industry, clearly he was dismayed with the current state of affairs.  It’s a conversation I‘ve had with more than a few of you lately.

The more we talked/complained about the growing perception that print is dead, the rising onslaught of out-out/opt-in legislation aimed at the Yellow Page industry, and a host of other issues facing the industry, I realized it was time for a reality check.   While I have no special crystal ball, several things seem clear to me:

  1. If you are expecting a large media advertising blitz from the industry associations to remind the world that print Yellow Pages are
    still the most powerful local advertising and shopping tool across all media, I hate to tell you, it’s not going to happen.
  2.  If you expect that the paper atheists who see our print
    products as the source for the environmental issues on the planet, to suddenly get it and realize that print Yellow Pages are less than one percent of the typical municipal waste stream, and that the industry uses waste products (not virgin wood) to make our paper, your prayers are not going to be answered.
  3.  If you are waiting for your publisher company to
    initiate a significant TV, radio, and billboard campaign talking about the ongoing, verifiable ROI value of a Yellow Pages program, don’t hold your breath.
  4.  If you’re expecting your sales trainers or senior sales leadership to provide you with some magical bullet that’s going to make every small business fling open their doors and shout with glee that today is the day I’m going to get excited about the opportunity to buy Yellow Pages advertising, hell will probably freeze over first.

Now is definitely a time for each of us, individually, to the take the lead and stop waiting for someone else to resolve all of these issues.  To survive, to prosper, it’s
time to take the initiative to move things ahead in your world, your little
part of the industry.  As a former manager once told me – don’t try to boil the ocean, just make your part of it better.

Let’s start some basic meat and potatoes strategies.  My observation has been that those reps who continue to be successful in this industry despite an extended economic downturn, despite significant issues within their own company (such as bankruptcies), and despite the perception that print Yellow Pages are dead, are the reps that still do a couple of very simple  things really well:

  • They turned doors. Could you imagine the impact if every sales rep in this industry could have one more discussion each day with a small business about the ROI they can receive our Yellow Pages
    program? Just one more.  One. Assuming a typical industry ratio of one sale for each 10 doors opened, if every rep in the industry made the effort each day we would see an immediate 5+% plus increase in total industry revenues. Can you imagine what that would also do to each reps income?  Net net:  they can’t buy from you if you aren’t talking to them.
  • They don’t wait for corporate. One rep shared with me how they spent their own money to buy thank you cards for each of their advertisers, and then over a weekend (when the weather wasn’t very
    nice) they wrote out personal thank you cards to each of their advertisers for a recently delivered book.  Not long notes,
    but short personal messages thanking them for their business. This rep even paid for the mailing costs to send the thank you notes out. Would it surprise you that the new/additional orders that this rep received from appreciative advertisers resulted in a 15-fold commission increase vs. his out-of-pocket costs? Why are you waiting for someone from marketing to suggest/require that
    you implement such a program?  How do you think your advertisers would respond if you sent them a personal note?
  • They provide their own air cover. Even if your publishing company isn’t doing TV or radio or billboard advertising, have
    you thought about getting together with several of your fellow account executives and grabbing a booth at the next local small business Expo or home show? If you do the ROI on this one, it only takes one or two new sales to more than offset your cost for this effort.   Isn’t it time you start investing in your own career, your own future??
  • They tell real-life value stories. In YP Talk I have covered a range of situations where those print Yellow Pages have been
    invaluable to me. For example, the case of the broken garage door opener (link), replacing a floor (link), or finding a local carpet cleaning service (link).  Don’t you have several real-life stories of
    your own just like these? Then why aren’t using them in your sales presentation when the objections come up that no one uses print Yellow Pages anymore?  If you and 3 other reps got together, combined your actual, real life experiences, don’t you think you could put together a killer testimonial handout to use with non-advertisers?
  • They understand that the RASCAL factors still
    work.
    It doesn’t matter whether were talking about print or digital or mobile, if that business doesn’t have those factors in their advertising, they are going to lose out on business.  Do you run down that list of RASCAL factors with each potential advertiser that you’re working with? Why not?

The time is come for the 50,000+ people who make their income in this industry to get over it, and to individually stop waiting for some magically event to occur, and start rowing on their own. There are no white knights anymore that are just about to come charging down the hill to save the day. Instead, it now requires each of those 50,000+ people working a little harder to move the needle forward in their little corner of the world.

Now the list of suggestions above was very sales centric.  However, all of you that work in this industry that think your aren’t in sales, really are.  You just aren’t  commissioned for it.  While at the kids soccer game or during that Saturday barbeque when someone starts complaining about the fact that they just
got “another Yellow Pages today”, how do you respond?  When you favorite ”green” sister goes on a rant about how print Yellow Pages are neutering the earth and destroying the forests, do you politely take the time to correct the record for her?  When you do business in the local store, do always take the opportunity to remind them that it was a good thing they had that ad
in the Yellow Pages, or you probably wouldn’t have found them?

Together these individual efforts will help things move forward much better and much quicker than any multimillion-dollar TV ad program, which we already know isn’t going to happen anyway.

It’s a time to lead.  Will you take the first steps?  Let me know more about what you are doing at ken@yptalk.com.

 

 

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5 responses to “A Time To Lead…

  1. Excellent, excellent, excellent Ken. You Wordsmith abilities continue to improve daily! I couldnt agree more with what you wrote.

    • Thanks. And you and others, please keep joining me in the battle with our critics.

      Yesterday a blogger worte that the Yellow Pages where dead in 2008 because of the Internet. When asked to provide what data he used to support such a claim, he instead decided to turn his message into a personal attack. That’s ok, I’m a big boy and can handle it.

      If he had been honest and said that 2008 was when he started his search marketing consulting effort, I could have given him some slack. For a small business person starting a new effort, I can fully understand why he would go after the print Yellow Pages – like the bank robber said – it’s where the money is. But most critics when challenged don’t have the intellectual capability to agree that while the Internet is wonderful for a lot of things (aka browsing, email, Facebook, Twittering, etc., etc.), when it comes to connecting real buyers to local businesses, the print Yellow Pages continues to be the top source.

      I hope my new friend will realize he needs a good full page ad in that print directory to help drive leads to his burgeoning business….. but somehow I think he doesn’t get it just yet…

  2. Great article, Ken. As I start my 45th year in the industry I see so much in common in the attitudes by advertisers to the product as they voiced when I first started. This is a tough sales environment without a doubt.

    At the same time, I have never seen a greater need for income by businesses and professional practices than today. For the most part they are all hurting to some extent, big or small. For most it is not about growing but more about stopping or slowing the decline of income.

    I have often said that the wonderful thing about selling yellow pages advertising is that while most sales representatives selling other products and services truly represent costs to the buyer that is not the case when the advertiser does the right things and turns the so-called “yellow pages expense” into profitable income.

    Keep preaching, Ken, and help those selling the product continue to realize how important they are to their advertisers and potential advertisers. (Maybe more than ever before.)

    Tom Davis

  3. Ken, You truly are my hero! Honestly this is awesome! I needed it after this week!

  4. Is the above comment from Tom Davis that wrote the book Truth About Yellow Pages? Holy Crap…..if that is the case two of my personal hero’s on one page! If not I love your comment as well!

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