Should you advertise in phone directories?


November 1, 2017

Quick, run and hide! The phone directory guy is here!

Do you feel like hiding when your fast-talking, super-friendly and well-groomed phone directory salesperson shows up at your office? Let’s talk about the past, present and future as it relates to advertising in phone directories.

I remember when I started my business in 1984. Because I was working out of my home back then, I met with a phone directory representative at a local restaurant. I signed up for one year’s worth of advertising, and I was scared to death wondering whether I had done the right thing. I was very young and uninformed about advertising then, and had a lot to learn. And learn I did over the years by making just about every mistake there is.

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Oh yes, I took it hook, line and sinker when he told me a much bigger ad would increase the calls so much that our phone lines would be smoking with new business. Even when our lines remained smoke-free, I met with him year after year.

For the first few years, I made the big mistake of letting him sit there right in front of me, drawing out a new ad design on the fly for the next year. I would approve it in real time. Now, I only let a true advertising design professional lay out all my ads, as I want all of my branding to be the same and truly top notch.

Times have changed

When I started my business, there was only one phone directory. Now there are three different directory providers and multiple editions. In my rural area of East Tennessee, directory ads have still worked a little longer whereas in larger cities, the trends and demographics are vastly different, changing faster to newer technologies.

The times have changed so much since I started. Back then it was big, really big, as Barney Fife would say. If you weren’t in the telephone directory, you were nonexistent. Today, print directory ads are going away, and these same folks are trying to get you to sign up for their digital forms of media advertising, such as search engine marketing, search engine optimization, mobile media ads and retargeting ad campaigns. They realize the change, too, as they are coming up with new media avenues to adapt and stay in business.

One thing’s for sure, the customer base is changing. If your website is not mobile friendly, Google, Yahoo and Bing won’t even recognize your business. So get busy and change that, pronto. Your business advertising, marketing and branding campaigns will have to adapt to our ever-changing future.

The case for Yellow Pages ads

More than 60 million monthly consumers rely on, the YP app and The Real Yellow Pages Directory each month, and these users are more likely to make a purchase after searching, research released June 13 shows.

According to comScore, which conducted the research, 74 percent of YP users make a purchase compared to 68 percent of all searchers. In addition, YP users spend an average of 34 percent more per purchase than all searchers. Two out of three YP users start their search intending to make a reservation, appointment or purchase. Furthermore, 91 percent of YP users contact a business after searching. That includes everything from visiting a website or place of business to calling and emailing to filling out an online contact form.


You can reach Ray Johnson, a past president of the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), president of Sevierville, Tenn.-based Johnson Pest Control, and founder of ACES for Business at


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