In June of 2007, we ran the following article on the YP Talk
website: Do Advertisers Know Who You Are? We think many of the key points we made in this article are still true. Sections of the article follow:
Quick question: Can you remember the name of the sales rep that
you bought/leased your last car from?? Based on my highly unscientific survey,
less than 10% of the people I talked to could remember their name, and this is
for one of the largest expenditures you will probably make other than your
home. Yet, I know our sales rep’s name very well – he’s Phil Mckinney.
Why do I know Phil’s name even some 3 years since we last did business with him? Sure, Phil is a nice guy with a very understandable southern drawl. He attends church regularly every Sunday. Overall, he seems to be a very
upstanding citizen. But it’s not his personality that has me remembering his
name. It is more because every 3 to 4 months, I get a letter, post card or a
phone call from him just to say hello. Sometimes it acknowledges a birthday or
anniversary. Sometimes it may have a line or two about new models that have
come out. Overall, it is a totally low pressure sales approach which is solely
intended to keep his name fresh in our memory. And it works. Whenever we get
one of his handwritten notes, it makes us chuckle; another note from Phil has
When I asked Phil about this program, he acknowledged there is a system that the dealership has been using that prompts him to reach out to everyone on his list of former buyers about every 90 days. The beauty of this program is it keeps
him in touch with the over 4,000 former clients he has worked with. He
indicated repeat buyers are his primary earnings opportunity and this
consistent follow-up has kept him successful for over 21 years in car sales.
“You can make a living on new business that may come through the door, but not
a very good one.” This follow-up program requires about 6 to 7 hours on average
a week of his time.
This led me to wonder about Yellow Pages sales. If a car sales rep needs to keep up this level of customer contact for purchases that happen on average every four years, does the typical Yellow Page advertiser know their reps name?? At worst, they get a visit at least once a year. In another very informal, unscientific
survey, I asked the last 10 local advertisers I did business with if they could
name their Yellow Pages rep. You should know that in this market, there are at
least 4 different Yellow Page publishers calling on these businesses. The most
recent book canvasses were just completed within the last 6 or so months. The
results from my survey were a little depressing – only two thought they might
remember their names, and one did ask for which publisher (indicating they
knew the names of more than one publisher rep).
I’m hoping that this 30% result is just an aberration of my most recent contacts.
Given that car sales reps probably rank right at the bottom of the food chain
of people we admire, you would think that Yellow Pages reps would come up a
couple of notches higher. This is even more important at a time when industry
research has shown the beginnings of a clear transition from print only to
print and online advertising. Yellow Pages lifeblood has been its long term,
trusted relationship with local advertisers. While I still believe this
industry is the best positioned of any media to work with small/mid-sized
businesses to help them develop and implement a marketing program that works
best for them regardless of the media, how the heck is that going to happen when they don’t even know who the name was of the last rep they just talked with?????? What are publishers doing to keep the benefits of their products fresh in the advertisers mind? And where is a coordinated industry campaign that reminds both users and advertisers of the benefits of working with your Yellow Pages, both the print and online versions?
If I’m wrong about this, drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell me what your team is doing to stay in touch with its client base.
In an update since we wrote this story, Phil has since retired. Now who am I am going to buy my next car from??? For the millions of small to midsized businesses that rely on Yellow Pages for their advertising programs, who are they going to call to get help with their next advertising program???