Phone book advertising – is it worth it, or are the Yellow Pages dead?

If you’ve been weighing the pros and cons of advertising your local business in the Yellow Pages, this post is for you. We’re going to take a look at the return you’ll get from phone book advertising, as well as how it stacks up against digital marketing (local search marketing, specifically).

I’ve written about the difference between phone books and digital marketing/advertising before, but we mostly talked about how to build a digital marketing strategy for the day when the Yellow Pages finally die.

Today, we’re going to look into some more research, and show you how to determine the ROI of your phone book advertising to figure out if it’s worth it for your business.

So, how do phone book advertising and local search marketing compare?

Well, let’s look at the numbers.

Phone Book Vs. Local Search Marketing Statistics

  1. A few years ago, ComScore found that more than half of the U.S. has replaced the phone book with an online search, and that number is growing as mobile usage skyrockets.
  2. According to MSN, 70% of Americans don’t even open their phone books. Only 11% use the white pages.
  3. And, according to Brightlocal’s yearly survey, 97% of consumers have used the Internet to find local businesses in the last year.
  4. Even as far back as 2014, less than half of the population was using the phone book regularly. Still, phone directories are a $3 billion industry (yep, that’s billion with a “b”).
  5. According to CRM Associates, the average Yellow Pages ad brings in more than 80 calls annually for about $800, or a cost of $10 per call. A national display ad averages more than 235 calls per year at a cost of $28 per call, for a total cost of $18,800 annually. – Source
  6. And display ads, on average, have a conversion rate of less than 1%.

We know that phone book advertising has its challenges – you have to commit to a year of advertising, and unless you ask every single person who calls you how they found you, there’s no way to track leads coming in from the phone book.

With local search marketing, though, you can track how many people have viewed your listings and clicked to call or get directions. You can also monitor website traffic and much, much more.​

Still, even with all these numbers reminding us that the phone book is (so far, at least) less effective than local search marketing, they keep printing the phone book. That means someone must use them, right?

Well, sort of.

Who Uses the Yellow Pages Anymore?

Older demographics as well as people in rural areas are still using their phone books to find local businesses, but it’s unlikely you’ll find Generation X, Y or Z picking up anything but their phone to find your business.

Still, if you’re advertising in the phone book, it’s a good idea to figure out the ROI (return on investment) from the phone book.

Time to get out your calculators.

How to Determine Your ROI From Phone Book Advertising

Here’s how to figure out how many phone calls you’d need from one phone book ad for you to break even.

First, take the cost of the ad and divide it by your average sale, then, figure out how many phone calls it takes to make a sale.

For example, if your ad is $200 and your average sale is $30, and it takes 10 phone calls to make a sale, 200/30=6.6 and 6.6×10=~67 people.

That means 67 people would have to call your business from a Yellow Pages ad in order for your phone book advertising to break even. Ten more calls (or one more sale) and you make a whopping $10.

Obviously, these numbers are made up – you’ll have to do the math for yourself and figure out if it’s worth it for your business to advertise in the phone book.

Phone Book Advertising Pros

  • Some demographics still use the Yellow Pages to find local businesses
  • Phone directories are a $3 billion business
  • Larger brands can afford to put their business in the Yellow Pages

Phone Book Advertising Cons

  • You have to commit to a full year
  • It’s difficult to track ROI and depending on the ROI calculation, it may not be profitable for your business to advertise in the Yellow Pages
  • Phone book advertising is less effective than online display advertising, which tends to have a conversion rate of less than 1%
  • 70% of Americans don’t even open the phone book
  • 97% of consumers use the Internet to find local businesses

If you are set on advertising your business in the Yellow Pages, even after reading these numbers, we can’t stop you, but still, you should give digital marketing a try and see which is more profitable for your business. I’m betting you’ll find digital marketing is easier to track and has greater returns.