Develop Common Links as a Business Priority
One of the reasons people have taken so enthusiastically to the Internet, is the way it permits them to establish affinities with others with similar interests, wherever they may live. Its ability for people to find each other, and connect, is satisfying many of the needs that used to be met by close-knit communities. So, the scope of the whole world, and the power of electronics, combine to bring together a new-fangled form of community.
Businesses thrive and survive because of those bonds. And, the smart ones know it and work hard to protect those intangible links. The foolish ones take such intangible connections with customers for granted, and only discover too late how hard they are to rekindle. Significant repeat customers and referrals are evidence of a relationship—maybe even a sense of community.
Community cannot be established by a single contact or a phone call. There has to be more to it, like repetition, a feeling that someone sincerely cares, and a developing trust. Yet, valuable qualities like loyalty won’t develop without forging those links—customer by customer. It’s a driving force behind organizations and marketing methods attuned to those relationships, and the needs they serve. Businesses need to find ways to communicate that through their ads and activities, whether that’s the Yellow Pages, local promotions, or their Web site.
Online Yellow Pages
Print Directories are great for local markets that won’t be losing their place soon. However, online Yellow Pages have some advantages, as well. And they’re gaining every year. In 2003, the online Directory market was approximately $450 million. The number of online Yellow Page searches is projected to grow 25 percent annually, and to account for more than 30 percent of total Yellow Pages searches by 2006, according to The Kelsey Group.
It’s a mixed bag on how well directory publishers are making the transition. Data is data. But, as long as they consider themselves “phone books,” rather than searchable data bases, they’ll hang onto practices that are hemmed in by old assumptions, which applied more appropriately to a time of ink and paper.
Consumers Like the Added Convenience
Online Yellow Page Directories have been especially useful for connecting with a business in a distant town. It’s a boon for travelers, who want to locate hotels or vacation attractions. And, if you want to arrange to send a gift to Aunt Mildred in Buffalo, finding a place that delivers is no trick at all. For customers, finding a business in the Internet Yellow Pages is faster than looking through directories and cheaper than calling directory assistance.
Business owners recognize Internet Yellow Page Directories (IYP) as an effective way to reach customers outside of their area. Moreover, they’re even more useful for businesses to be in touch with locals who are Internet savvy and who prefer them to a paper directory.Reasons People Use Online Directories
- Do not have access to printed directories
- It’s more convenient
- Can do research before talking to a salesperson
- To avoid the phone message trees to systems
- Not enough information about the products in the print directory
- Can search with relevant search terms
- It’s faster
- Can print off results
- More options or demographic criteria
- International reach (globalization)
However, if a business Web site can be used to support and expand the face-to-face and traditional methods, it now positions a business to a broader market. Business owners either have to be resold in a way that’s realistic, or incorporate new methods, if the Internet is to be relevant for them. Several trends of portals and local search may build some of those bridges, which bring more small business owners into the arena. Since you’re reading this, it’s an indication that you’re Internet savvy, and open to integrating the strengths of both media.
Looking for Increased Exposure
Internet Yellow Page providers provide listings for millions of businesses and individual listings. They also offer an array of other Internet services that compliment its site, like Internet access. They have developed their listings largely from print directories. But, they don’t have the disadvantage of paper directories which are only updated once a year, and therefore, can be kept more up to date. And new businesses can be added any time. It also means a non-performing ad can be changed (another argument for tracking your results.)
As more customers go to the Internet to search for businesses, it’s time to consider having an on-line Yellow Page Directory listing as well. That raises the question—which one? Your local print directories are obvious. There are only one or two. But which of the dozens of online Yellow Pages should you choose? It’s hard to say, since accurate figures to compare them are hard to find.
Start by checking whether you’re already listed in the major ones, and whether that information is accurate and shows up in the right categories. Then, consider whether you’re permitted to add a free link to your Web site. The type of business you operate and whether it serves tourists or travelers, may dictate whether you’ll want to pay for an enhanced listing.
The printed Directory is taking a beating from search engines as more business owners discover the benefits of search engine marketing. A recent survey by the Kelsey Group and OneStat of business marketers show 43% use Web site marketing, and 17% use search engine marketing. While most (77%) small businesses still use the printed directory, they indicate they will shift more of their marketing dollars to the Internet. Search engines and are also driving the visibility of local businesses, as discussed in Chapter 14, on Local Search.
Advantages of an Internet Yellow Page Ad
- Is in full color (for no additional charge)
- Has the option of printable coupons
- Can show links to the advertiser’s Web site
- Convenient to tell email address or fax numbers
- Can show links to other specific products or information
- Lets a reader redeem a coupon online and place an order without leaving home
- Can be searched by category, business name, person or location (by city, state, or zip code)
Since you can reach a national, or even international market, you can broaden your visibility beyond local limitations. Also, since these buyers won’t visit your location, they can’t tell the business size or value easily. Access to non-local buyers can give a competitive advantage, which the business didn’t have before. It would be unwise to simply reproduce the same ad used in the print Yellow Page Directory for an Internet Directory and on your Web site. Although you’ll employ some common elements, space and color work very differently online than in a paper directory. Take advantage of the benefits that each media offers.
The Online World is Here to Stay
The Internet is a sign of the times. The United States has 141,389,993 active Internet users. And that figure is growing by 2.13%, or over 3 million a month! (Source: Nielsen//Net Ratings, May, 2004) According to the Pew Internet Project, 63% of American adults now go online. 88% of those with Internet access use a search engine to find information. That translates into about 111 million in the US. Young people have never been aware of a world without it, so they use it as effortlessly as we’d pick up the phone.
Having a Web Site Is Only One Way of Having an Internet Presence
- Email address for sending and receiving messages – for personal use
- Email address for sending and receiving messages – for business use
- Web site of your own, with your own unique domain name
- Be a sub-domain (after the forward slash) of a site where you have an affiliation, such as geographic area (Portland.org/yourstore or as a product distributor (FancyPearls.com/yourstore.html)
- Have a “store” or way to sell on other sites, such as a mall, or auction sites like e-bay
- Provide products or services that are sold by others online
- As an affiliate of a business which markets on the Internet
By not having a Web site, that doesn’t mean you don’t have an Internet strategy. You do. You’re saying, “I do not have a Web site.” You’re saying a variety of other things as well, some of which will suggest you’re small potatoes or not “with it.”
People now notice whether you display your e-mail address or web address, even if they never have a reason to use either. It says, “I’m making myself available for customers, online and off.” You go up a notch with those who think the Internet is important. (Which is most people world-wide, anymore.)
Your Web site can be used in many ways besides sales. It can describe what you offer and how you’re distinct. It could be selling your uniqueness instead of a specific product or service. In fact, it does that the best. One mistake often made is to think Web site can make the sale or close the deal. It’s not well suited for that. Although it can do very well with lead generation or supplying support information to customers. (See Chapter 14.)
Furthermore, having a Web site doesn’t mean you’re going to change the way you operate. If you provide a service, like carpet cleaning, you need to show up at the house, and you won’t be serving your customers without the face-to-face contact. But, you will be able to serve them in a variety of other ways as well, ways that value their time, preferences, and range of choice, such as providing additional useful information on you Web site.
Even without a Web site, there are some good habits you can start now. These habits communicate savvy on your part to the customers, who are online and who are email oriented. Collect email addresses. It’s like the fishbowl that’s used to collect business cards at the front of the restaurant. Articles and links at http://www.yellowpagesage.com show clever and easy ways to use such information.
Start with a Long-term Marketing Strategy
People are bombarded with advertising—magazines, direct mail, newspapers, billboards, radio, television, and where they shop and work. How in the world can any promotional materials break through of the clutter and get read—let alone acted upon. It won’t happen unless what people see is interesting—and that means interesting from their point of view.
The pace of modern life compels each of us to react to between 5,000 and 40,000 (depending on the source) impressions a day, many more than anyone could ever really deal with. People save their attention for the things they really care about. Promotional materials need to communicate instantly and with total clarity. If your point isn’t obvious, people aren’t going to waste their time figuring it out. If it takes too long, they will quickly abandon it.
In planning for the long term, you want to develop a marketing plan that can get you there. No single activity can be relied on to do all your marketing. Try a variety of strategies on a small scale and find what combination works for you. Then keep refining it. It’s unrealistic to expect a “magic bullet” that can do all your marketing for you.
However, every printed piece and every connection with the public can be prepared so it builds on your long-term marketing strategy. When it comes to marketing, familiarity breeds credibility. That’s how people start getting the idea that you’re well established. Market even when business is not good, so it continues to be good.
What you want to build is name recognition. Consistent repetition builds toward recognition. Studies show that when people go to the Yellow Pages without having already made up their mind, the business most likely to be picked is the one whose name they recognize. That beats out any ad on the page.
Relying on Home-grown Customers
About 60 percent of small businesses report that at least 75 percent of their customers come from within a 50-mile radius. And, local ad spending is worth approximately $22 billion annually.Small local businesses have not embraced the Internet. They know their customers come from their local communities. And, they’re accustomed to using traditional methods like the newspaper, flyers and Yellow Pages to be in touch with their buyers. Technology doesn’t seem to be an important part of that equation. Yet, even if the owners aren’t on the “Net,” a high percentage of their local buyers are. And many of them would prefer to spend their money close to home—even if they locate its availability online.
So Main Street America businesses are missing out unless they find a way to at least shake hands with online activity that could serve them well. That doesn’t require them to become Internet-based, but at least be open to developing trends that build a bridge between traditional and on-line marketing methods.
It could be true that your customers don’t care about whether you have a Web site. But, the reality of changing expectations shouldn’t be underestimated. They might not know they’d like the flexibility it could provide for them. It’s amazing that when something new is offered, how quickly it becomes embraced as a new right or standard. People can’t imagine how they got by before.
Ignoring Progress is a Losing Strategy
What has to be different is a less linear approach to the data delivered in the Directory. It is being used by people in different ways, and they’re accustomed to having a variety of options. So, the ability to find a particular pizza shop in a particular community that’s open the hours that you want puts the directory shopper in control in a way that wasn’t possible in the fat books that are updated only once a year.
As the contact information and ad features are repackaged in a wider variety of ways, it serves a new form of integration. But, it also is re-building communities, where a consumer doesn’t have to choose between print and online directories.
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