If You Lost 70% of Your New Customers, Would You Notice?

Buyers Don't Rely on the Yellow Pages Like They Used to

Customers' buying behavior has changed - for good. If your business depends on most categories in the Yellow Pages to attract new customers, you've probably seen a decline. Traditionally, people headed to the Yellow Page directory precisely when they were ready to buy. They'd check the listings to find their options, or "let their finders do the walking." Now they've got more choices.

New research by The Kelsey Group in March, 2005 found that 70% of US households now use the Internet as an information source when shopping locally for products and services. These buyers aren't going to the Internet for online purchases, nor to find distant providers. They intend to spend their money in their own community.

The Kelsey Group also found that interviewed individuals felt the search engines were a "better source of purchasing information than Yellow Pages, newspapers and magazines." The trend is being driven entirely by Internet users. Related data from other sources show that consumers who search online for purchases spend more than those using the printed directory.

Demote the Yellow Page Ad to a Smaller Portion of Your Budget

The Yellow Page industry is a Fifteen Billion Dollar industry in the US. While there are more choices of printed Yellow Page directories than ever, the buying habits of the public have moved away from using them. Computer-savvy buyers know the easiest way to find the information they want is through search engines (and since May they can do searches on the run, on their cell phones). But many small or local businesses aren't even listed.

The Kelsey Group's data is consistent with other statistics showing that the Internet has overtaken the newspaper for cars and real estate (major purchases). And it's becoming the "go-to" place for information. A study by imedia Connection found it's "second only to spouses for finding referrals."

To stay competitive, small and mid-sized businesses will be compelled to make sure they're included in search engine data bases. While it's not necessary to have a website, it helps to be listed on someone's (like a local portal or professional group). Enterprises that can't be found by online searchers risk losing sales to businesses they find instead.

Where did the Customers Go?

Many factors influence where and what a person decides to buy. Although the Yellow Pages are no longer an automatic part of the loop, many buyers consult both the Internet and the directory, not relying on either one alone. However, many shoppers only call Yellow Page ads that show a website, even it they don't intend to visit it. It goes to the credibility issue.

What's different?

- Buyers are less trusting and more willing to shop around

- Availability of Internet Yellow Pages (IYP)

- Expanded options and more ways to find them

- Aging population uses the Yellow Pages differently than young people

- Development of unique, narrow niches and specialties

- More choices for a "better deal"

- Increased immigrants and those from other cultures, unaccustomed to Yellow Page use

- Larger cities with multiple directories, rather than one large one

- Local search, whereby the search engines locate suppliers by zip code, state, city, region

Time for a Reality Check - Can You Find Yourself?

The next time you go online (or have a friend walk you through it), see how you rate in some local searches. Conduct a query in Google (then Yahoo, and MSN). Enter your type of business + Your town ("Pet Stores" + Scottsdale, Arizona).

Does your business show up? How many of your competitors are on that list? How many are ahead of you? That list is what your "missing customers" are likely to see when they're ready to spend their money. Does that experience motivate you to make a better Local Search showing?

Next, check out whether your business appears in various Internet Yellow Pages (IYP). Work your way down the list:

http://www.yellowpagesage.com/localsearch.html

Start noticing how visible you are to customers researching their local options online. You really can't afford to miss the boat.

Dr. Lynella Grant Author, Yellow Page Smarts: Make more money from your directory ad in tandem with your website http://www.yellowpagesage.com

Smarter ways to attract more YP customers. Local Search resources Off the Page Press (719) 395-9450

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