If you’re a service business, then most likely you’re a local business. That probably means you do most of your business with customers within a 50-mile radius of your physical location. That also means, perhaps unexpectedly, that you need to be online.
Consumer research conducted earlier this year by The Kelsey Group indicates that the Internet’s reach is now equal to or greater than any other local medium. Other consumer research has confirmed these findings.
As more and more consumers get broadband Internet connections (now more than 50 percent of online U.S. households), more of them are turning to the Internet, as they once turned to local phone books, to find local business information.
That brings us to the question above: Where’s the best place for service businesses to advertise?
The immediate answer is Internet Yellow Pages (IYP). That’s because, according to empirical data, for every lookup on an IYP site, 50 percent of those references turn into phone calls to local businesses.
Here’s what 2003 research from the Yellow Pages Association revealed about consumer behaviors and response rates following reference to an IYP site:
While that data seems self-serving, it’s accurate. IYP users are closer in time to buying decisions than search engine users, for example. Search engines are used much more broadly and more frequently than IYP sites. So in advertising on search engines you don’t necessarily catch consumers when they’re “ready to buy.”
The following are the major IYP sites:
- AOL Yellow Pages (distributes SBC BellSouth listings)
- InfoSpace.com (distributes SuperPages listings)
- SuperPages.com (Verizon)
- Yahoo Yellow Pages
- YellowPages.com (jointly operated by SBC and BellSouth)
There are many other online yellow pages sites, and increasingly, newspapers are offering yellow pages on their sites. Access to many, if not most, of these can be purchased directly through local yellow pages sales representatives or indirectly through local online marketing agencies:
Most print yellow pages providers are also now selling search-engine traffic and simplified online marketing packages in addition to IYP advertising. In this way you can purchase both IYP inclusion and search distribution from a yellow pages sales rep. Many of the local marketing agencies mentioned above also sell simplified search-engine packages.
Search engine marketing should not be ignored. Even though it’s less qualified than IYP traffic, search has much more traffic volume than IYP sites. Google, Yahoo and others sell advertising on their search engines and offer free inclusion in their directories:
In addition, Google, Yahoo, AskJeeves, MSN and AOL have “local search” on their sites. As consumers become more familiar with these local search products and usage increase, they will become another important marketing vehicle for local service businesses.
There’s also another, very new form of performance-based online marketing called “pay per call.” This form of advertising offers phone numbers in search-engine ads and drives calls to local businesses rather than clicks to Web sites. Right now, you can buy pay per call from two primary sources (although there will be more over time):
Furthermore, you don’t need a Web site with pay per call; and you only pay when you receive a phone lead. This should be considered for businesses that want and are used to receiving phone calls.
Depending on what type of business you operate, there may also be specialized vertical directories that cater to your industry. Most of these directories have advertising programs. Here are a few examples:
Last, consider placing ads on Craigslist. Unless you’re an employer, listings are free and traffic (if you’re located in a major metro area) is considerable.