Separating Perception from Reality – Truth is Power….

“No one uses print Yellow Pages.”  “Everyone uses a mobile phone, or just does a Google search to find information.”  “Why are these books still being printed when no one ever uses them?”

Sound familiar?  How can a publisher, a sales manager, or a rep respond to this constant barrage of wild assumptions they face?  The answer is fairly simple – separate the facts from the perception …in a believable and compelling way.

The best way to do that is to engage a company like Market Authority, to help get to those facts. Market Authority offers irrefutable data, analysis and reporting on how people really look for a local business when making a buying decision. Then they bring this data to you and your sales people in a very powerful sales training. The research fully dispels the prevalent “urban myth” that the Internet is the only source for local search information.

I know, this sounds too good to be true.  But consider that Market Authority has conducted interviews with over 270,000 consumers across the world in the last 20 months, studying their technology and media habits, especially when they are looking for a local business.  The sheer volume of this research has certainly been the largest and most extensive directional media study ever performed on this issue.

Now if you‘re like me, you are always suspicious about the research methodology that is used since the worst thing that can happen is to go to market with data that has been skewed or fudged.  I challenged Steve Sitton, the CEO of Market Authority on this very issue.  His response was reassuring:

“…Our team utilizes state-of-the-art research techniques, statistical analysis, and normalization to gather accurate data.  To start, the phone numbers are randomized. We make the line of questions as concise and neutral as possible.  We conduct the interviews over the most neutral device possible …the phone. Obviously, you can’t do this type research just on the Internet since the results would be ridiculously skewed towards the digital side, which is why these other studies keep showing that digital usage is so over stated.”

When you get to see the results, they are clearly shocking.   “The misconception that print yellow pages is dead is prevalent all over the industrial world,” said Sitton.  “While more and more people are using the Internet either from a terminal or a smartphone to find SMEs (small to medium size businesses), the reality is, print yellow pages still remains the dominant way consumers are finding a business in the US in 2012. This is also true in the UK and Australia.”

Market Authority then takes this data to the critical next level that local businesses still need to hear:  Approx. 65% of all money currently being spent in the US by local consumers is finding its way to those local markets through print yellow page products. Yes, that percent has been coming down in recent years, but the print products still rule.

These results support the argument of just how destructive the efforts are by the city of San Francisco (a local government that has a political agenda) to require opt-in for printed phonebooks, because they assume that no one uses print. (Sitton calls this ‘the virus of misperception’).  Market Authority has recently completed an exhaustive study of the San Francisco Bay area which shows that nearly 70% of residents still use a printed phonebook at least some of the time. That same study shows that the average person living in the Bay Area thinks print is only used by 20% of the people. The reality of print usage is more than three times that of the perception.

“The bottom line here,” says Sitton, “is the study indicates that currently nearly 50% of money spent as a result of a direct search for a local business on the part of San Francisco Bay Area consumers comes from a look-up in a printed directory. To seriously impede distribution of printed Yellow Pages directories (through opt-in legislation) would surely cause a vast reduction in the effectiveness of the current most cost effective means of gaining new leads for San Francisco Bay Area businesses. This would be damaging to locally-owned small and medium businesses, especially in this precarious economy.”

Given the current wave of anti-print noise that many consumers are experiencing, we asked what the company does to quantify the whole value of a print directory with an opt-out/opt-in question in their research.  Sitton indicated:

“We asked people in the San Francisco Bay area who report using a printed directory; (68% of the total) if a phone book were no longer automatically delivered and they had to make a call to receive one, would they do so? Nearly 50% said they would not make that call. This implies that print would lose a high percentage of its greatest fans overnight in a Opt-in world.”

Results in the UK where tilted about 8 points more towards digital, but remember their starting point was very different than it was in the US.  Currently many publishers there are already close to a 50/50 split on print/digital revenues, which Sitton says, “Is more because they’ve undersold the print than that they have effectively sold the digital”.

Steve Sitton brings an interesting background to this effort.  He has been in the directional media business for over 25 years, owning and operating 5 different Yellow Page companies during his career as a publisher.  While leading Golden State Directories in California, as early as 2007 he started to hear about the Internet from advertisers.  Immediately advertisers already thought that 50% of the money they were getting was from Internet searches.  The company started some initial research where they interviewed 1500 people door-to-door about whether people were using print or Internet. The results were so over the top in favor of print, it was alarming.  In 2007, nearly 90% of the leads businesses were getting were still coming from the print Yellow Pages.  Internet was only generating less than 12%.

Market Authority, Inc. was founded in 2009 by Steve Sitton.  Using his industry experience, he shaped the research methods to exacting efficiency. All markets they research are scanned for behavioral, demographic, technological, and directional media usage patterns. Market Authority, Inc. performs and records the research, gathers and analyzes the data, with state-of-the art precision; and now is able to define the roles the Internet and print play in today’s directional media industry.

Market Authority, Inc has also become an industry leader in training.  Sitton says: “We are a sales empowerment/market research company. That is a new mix…and it really works. I believe we have the most powerful Yellow Pages training in industry history.”  To date, Market Authority has studied over 300 cities.  Sitton and senior trainer, Layne Snyder, have conducted nearly 170 trainings with over 6500 sales people and managers in the US and the UK.

Given this shift in usage, we asked Sitton where he thought the industry should be heading.  His analysis about what to do with print was simple but direct:

  • Use larger type so that Baby Boomers and Senior’s can read it. Tag this on the cover.
  • In high tech areas, reduce  copies by target-distributing only those over 45 years old. (Let younger people who want a book pick them up at drop points). Use the money saved by  the reduction to make a better product for 45+ people.
  • Research all your markets  and share this research vigorously with every advertiser.

He commented deeper on these suggestions:

“The key for print is not how many people are using it, but who.  If you look at how business owners target the market, they are generally less sophisticated on the demographic breakdowns.  That’s when the sales rep needs to use these results to help the business owner focus their advertising spend.  Nearly 70% of the dollars spent across all size markets in the US are coming from Baby Boomers and Senior’s who still use print to find a business nearly 70% of time (on the average). This is the 70/70 rule. It means, even in urban areas (like San Francisco), a significant amount of money is still coming from print.  The advertiser needs to clearly know who they are selling to and who is their target.”

About Market Authority, Inc.:

Market Authority combines the most targeted print/digital research in the world and the most effective sales training in Yellow Pages industry. Sales reps will understand how to quickly and powerfully get the message across to business owners.  As former Yellow Pages publishers, Market Authority understands what empowers sales representatives, and what closes more sales.  Our nationally successful program renews your confidence and shows your sales representatives how to leverage the results in their local markets. Learn More…                       

For more information on Market Authority, Inc.’s market studies, contact Kari Simpson, at 816-537-7950.

One response to “Separating Perception from Reality – Truth is Power….

  1. Great article, many good products and services have been injuried by false perceptions often put out by individuals with a hidden agenda or just simply misinformed. That includes print Yellow Pages in many markets worldwide.

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