While listening to a Podcast between Dave Ramsey and Seth Godin, Godin tells this story about Yellow Pages.
100 years ago the Yellow Pages came out as a partnership between AT&T and R.R. Donnelly. To get regular businesses that don’t normally think about marketing to buy ads they gave them a yellow phone, whose number would be connected w/ their “free” ad. Three months later they would come back to remove the phone and the shop owners would resist because “that’s the phone that rings all the time!” This story highlights that small business owners think “How do I avoid pain?” instead of “How do I go for gold?” This shift in storytelling built a business that, over time, became worth $1 trillion!
Seth goes on to talk about how small business owners don’t know how to buy advertising. That is why this no risk try before you buy approach was so powerful.
Now the traditional yellow pages is dead. The online directories and Yellow Pages are still alive but not what they used to be. I’ve had several friends try YP.com adverting to find out no one was there. And a few others say it works great for them in their industry.
If only they would take a lesson from their old playbook. I would love to see directories include in their contract a number of guaranteed visitors to their listings or number of tracked calls. Or a 30 day trial period. If the service is good and they can visually see it working then they will keep it up.