FEATURES — THE BIG SHIFT: Yellow Pages Losing, Internet Gaining

© 2009 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Spring 2009
Author: Tom Wadsworth
Pages 50-51

Yellow Pages Losing, Internet Gaining

By Tom Wadsworth, Editor

Many door dealers never dreamed this day would come. But it’s happening. The Yellow Pages directories are losing their grip on the fat fistful of advertising dollars spent by garage door dealers.

A new survey by Door & Access Systems reveals that many door dealers are cutting their huge Yellow Pages ad expenses and turning to the Internet to shake hands with new customers. The study reveals a significant shift in dealers’ attitudes toward the importance of Yellow Pages ads.

The new survey, conducted Feb. 10-15, 2009, was completed by 220 garage door dealers throughout the United States and Canada. Many of the survey’s questions were asked in a similar dealer survey in 2003, providing a helpful benchmark for determining changes in attitudes and behaviors.

Less Yellow

The 2009 survey revealed that most dealers still sink major dollars into Yellow Pages ads, and they still constitute the largest portion of dealer advertising budgets. However, there is a distinct trend away from Yellow Pages and toward the Internet.

In 2003, 32 percent of door dealers said that Yellow Pages advertising is “absolutely essential. I’d be reluctant to reduce my spending on Yellow Pages ads.” In 2009, that percentage dropped dramatically to only 11 percent.

Yellow Problems

Our survey seemed to touch a nerve. Yellow Pages advertising bills seemed to have gotten under the skin of scores of dealers from coast to coast.

Dozens of survey respondents voluntarily added comments about this issue. A large percentage of comments spoke to a distinct shift, both in attitude and in spending, away from telephone directory advertising.

A key reason for the shift is inherent problems with the Yellow Pages medium. “Yellow Page vendors are making it difficult to downsize ads and save money,” said one dealer from Maine, “but that’s what we will try to do.”

“I have reduced my Yellow Pages spending because not to do so would have driven my company into debt,” declared an Arizona dealer. “Trouble is, there are a dozen phone books serving our area now.”

An Alaska door dealer echoed that remark. “Yellow Pages cost too much; the ad rates are ridiculous, and there are too many Yellow Pages producers.”

Not Going There

“Bad Bob” dealers that use giant Yellow Pages ads to lure service customers and rack up huge repair bills are also negatively affecting the usefulness of the medium.

“Yellow Pages here are filled with ads of franchised companies operating under several different names,” reported a dealer in the Los Angeles area. “We do not want to be associated with those unscrupulous companies in any way.”

“Yellow Pages is an archaic form of advertising,” criticized a door dealer from Tampa, Fla. He said he is starting to invest in the Internet and television and is canceling all Yellow Pages ads. “It serves as a low-end shopping tool,” he explained.

A Memphis dealer agreed. “It is just an aid for price shopping, and we don’t want to be there.”

Mellow on Yellow

Several dealers indicated that ads in the Yellow Pages are becoming less effective in their markets.

“We are finding that fewer calls per year come from the Yellow Pages,” said a dealer in northern Ohio, “and it continues to decline mostly due to the Internet.”

“We do a telephone survey every few months,” wrote a dealer in Tampa. “Our number-one call comes from doing the original job. Number two is they used us before. Number three is referral or word of mouth. Internet is number four, and last is the Yellow Pages.”

“I have reduced my Yellow Pages spending three years in a row, and sales have not dropped,” testified a dealer in eastern Ohio. Similarly, several dealers indicated that they had already launched a planned reduction of dependence on Yellow Pages.

“We just completed a three-year plan to reduce our Yellow Page ads to nothing more than a simple listing,” commented a California dealer. “We went from 1/2-page ads to 1/4-page, and last year to a business-card size.”

Fingers: Walking to the Web

In spite of these comments and many more like them, 72 percent of dealers say that Yellow Pages advertising make up the largest percentage of their advertising budgets. That’s down from 76 percent in 2003.

In 2003, newspaper advertising claimed the second-largest portion of a dealer’s advertising expenses. But by 2009, the Internet had scrambled from fifth place to second place, bumping newspaper advertising down to third.

Internet advertising is clearly gaining steam. In 2003, not a single dealer said that the Internet was the largest advertising expense. But in 2009, 7 percent said it was now number one.

Three of every 10 dealers say they are spending more on the Internet and less on Yellow Pages. And many dealers commented that this is clearly the trend.

Customer Behavior is Changing

As today’s consumers spend more time browsing the Internet, they are also learning to shop for local services on the Internet. And that includes garage door installation and repair.

“People generally are using the Web rather than a big fat book,” stated a dealer in San Jose, Calif.

“Customers are shifting towards the Internet for purchases,” added an Arizona door dealer.

The Year of the Internet

Many dealers indicated that 2009 is the year they’ll be making the shift to spend less on Yellow Pages and more on the Internet. A Wisconsin dealer said he was “starting this year” to do so.

“I’m converting to that in ’09,” added a Pennsylvania door dealer.

“I have already started reviewing my Yellow Pages accounts at each renewal with the idea of reducing Yellow Pages exposure as I ramp up the Internet,” commented a door professional in southern California.

Reducing Yellow Pages ads and ramping up the Internet is clearly the trend. But our survey indicated that Yellow Pages advertising still swallow the largest portion of door dealer advertising budgets. That portion is getting smaller, and the Internet portion is growing.

Upcoming issues of Door & Access Systems will feature expert advice on how to navigate the maze of ways to utilize the Web. In this issue (pp. 52-53), read our report on a new lead-generation Web site launched in 2009 by Sears Holdings Corporation.

To comment on this story, send an e-mail to the editor at trw@tomwadsworth.com.

Yellow Pages Advertising: “Absolutely Essential”
2003: 32%*
2009: 11%
*Percentage of door dealers who said that Yellow Pages advertising is “absolutely essential. I’d be reluctant to reduce my spending on Yellow Pages ads.”

The Advertising Leaderboard

1. Yellow Pages 93%*
2. Newspaper 30%
3. Direct Mail 20%
4. TV 20%
5. Internet 13%
6. Radio 10%
1. Yellow Pages 88%
2. Internet 26%
3. Newspaper 21%
4. Direct Mail 19%
5. TV 14%
6. Radio 13%
*Percentage of door dealers who said that this advertising medium takes up the largest or second-largest percentage of the dealer’s advertising budget.