Should Washington Save the Yellow Pages?

Written by on December 4th, 2008

If the Yellow Pages go the way of dinosaurs and encyclopedias, how will you find new customers?

Yellow Pages

Now that the shock of the 750 billion dollar bailout is wearing off and Black Friday still generated about the same amount of sales as last year, everyone is taking a momentary sigh of relief.

However in Washington as you read this, a furious battle is raging, phones are ringing and businesses, organizations and even governmental organizations are trying to get the ear of congressional leaders in an attempt to get a few million (or billion) of the bail out money.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the Yellow Page industry, which led me to uncover up and coming “small business advertising products” provided by firms like Yelp and Reach Local. My research uncovered a lot of conversations and information about the demise of the Yellow Page industry.  That’s when I started imagining their lobbyists using their connections to find out what angle they needed to get some of the bailout money.

But only for a second.

Because the more research I did, the more evidence shows the industry, while still very competitive, is hugely profitable and they have customers who swear by the results.

Consumers habits are changing

But the talks of the demise are true.

The industry is facing significant challenges as the behaviors of their customers change and new products including Google Adwords, SEO, SEM and integrated products like those offered by Yelp and Reach Local are beginning to take away customers.

Once again the Internet has taken an incredibly profitable business and literally overnight is rendering it obsolete.   In this particular case, it’s hard to devise a solution when the behaviors of your customers are changing.  If they don’t want your product, if it doesn’t solve their need, it’s hard to convince them otherwise.  At my little rural post office in Richfield, Ohio, I see this behavior change just by witnessing the extra garbage bins the staff put out to collect the discarded books that were put in the mail boxes of the P.O. Box holders.

If this change in consumer behaviors continues to accelerate, small and large business owners will have to plan on where they are going to get their customers from.

One of the main reasons I wrote Internet Dough is to help business leaders gain a better understanding that the Internet is changing the world as they know it.  The Internet is changing consumers’ behaviors, eliminating what used to make you unique and as a result, eliminating business models.

It’s happening so fast, most business owners, who are already consumed with the day to day operation of their business don’t see it coming and when they do, they don’t know what to do.  The travel industry, banking, investment, loan, music, TV and radio are all reeling from the changes in the behaviors of consumers.   In their case, they’ve seen the future and it scares them because they don’t have an answer, a path or clear understanding on how they can maintain their market position when the Internet is rewriting the rules around them hour by hour.

So in the end…

Washington can’t save the Yellow Pages.  Only you can.  But, if you are like most people your changing habits is making the printed version of the Yellow Pages obsolete.   These same changes are coming to your industry.  It’s time to get prepared!

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