yellow page directory pricing

the (real) cost of yellow page ads

To Pay or Not to Pay?

Probably the most important area for yellow pages analysis is the cost of the ads themselves.  Unfortunately, such analysis is made extremely difficult, not only by the complexity of the yellow pages in a local, let alone a national market, but also by the hidden pitfalls and traps which have been set up to snare the unsuspecting yellow page advertiser. 

Optimize Spending: Return on Investment

Spending more is not always the way to keep up with the big guy! This is the essence of guerilla marketing in the Yellow Pages.

Many people decide that the best way to place their advertising is by looking at the competitor. That can be a very dangerous game.  Think about it… there’s only so much money to be made in a particular market. 

Overspending on a large display ad just to “keep up with the Jones's” is not always the answer.  After spending that money on the ad, you have to generate enough business to cover that cost.

Avoid Distractions

We already talked about the complexity of the yellow pages (National Campaigns), and pricing is no exception.  What you may not realize, however, is that the special deals and come-ons offered by the yellow page publishers can rapidly lead you, the advertiser, into a Hobson’s choice, where you have no good alternatives.

For example, let's say you are advertising in a major market with a half page display ad.
Your yellow page representative comes to you with a great offer… “increase your ad size to a full-page and you'll only pay a small additional price for the increase in the first year.” 

What's wrong with freebies?

Well, it depends on the current configuration of the yellow pages in question. lf you have a publisher who guarantees your position based on the number of years that you have run a particular size ad, which is the usual practice, you risk losing your place in line when you change ad size.

Hypothetically, let's consider the XYZ Company who has run a half-page ad in Milwaukee for 10 years.  Three competitors have half-page ads of more recent vintage and place behind XYZ in that category of the yellow page listings.  If XYZ now moves to a full-page ad, but later decides to move back to a half-page ad, the company loses its position and its competitors will be placed ahead of XYZ.

There are lots of other pitfalls on the pricing “deals” offered by your sales representative.  We at Yellow Page Blues would be anxious to hear about (email us) your own experience in this area, or to discuss the pros and cons of special deals that may be offered to you.

Pricing Traps

Special deals are not the end of the story of yellow pages pricing.  That's just the beginning.  Price changes from year to year can make a great buy in an existing directory uneconomical.

Everyone has their pet peeve about pricing in the yellow pages.  Some might say that the worst abuse is the small incremental charges on monthly bills are misleading; they can add up to extraordinary sums.  For example, a dollar or two for an extra line in a listing may seem nominal, but if you list in 100 directories, that extra line is costing you nearly $2000 per year.

For those of us at yelllowpageblues, based on an informal polling of the staff, our choice for "worst abuse" is that of hidden charges.

These hidden charges can mount up to hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars in a national yellow page campaign. Just one example may suffice to illustrate this type of charge.  Did you know that if you place advertising through Certified Marketing Representatives (CMRs) you may be paying more than you should? 

Many publishers hit you with a hidden surcharge of between 3 and 6 percent of your advertising budget.

To make matters worse, most CMRs quietly pass these charges on to you, the advertiser, they don't even let you know about these extra costs  without even letting you know.

For example, Qwest has a surcharge of 6 percent.  Therefore, if you wanted a Half Page ad in the Denver, Colorado directory, you would be paying approximately $1,772 more than necessary (2000 prices). 

Doesn’t That Make You Wonder?

The reason that this hidden charge still exists is three fold:

· First, the CMRs who are in many ways, at the mercy of the publishers, do not want to alienate the owners of the directories. 

· Second, the CMRs don't want you, the advertiser in the yellow pages, to know that you can save money by not using their service, placing advertising directly through local representatives of the publishers. 

· Finally, although not a large amount of money, the CMR receives its normal commission on the surcharge and thus has an economic incentive to collect the hidden surcharges.

From the publisher's point of view, they make more money if you go through the CMR and you pay the surcharge, or else if you place directly with them since they don't have to pay the commission of the CMR.  They feel justified in charging you more for the “privilege” of using a CMR.

After reading this, you may wonder, “What is the value of a CMR?”

The short answer is “did you ever try to deal with the publishers directly?” For the long answer click here.

Other Yellow Page Pricing Problems

The list of yellow page pricing problems and abuses could go on for pages.  Errors in billing, one-sided contracts, arbitrary changes in the run of a book and year to year (almost) automatic price increases, just to name a few.

Another pet peeve of yellow page blues is that there is no price differential allowed for the different headings.  Is a full-page ad under lawyers worth the same as a full-page ad under restaurants or shoe repair? 

The point is that the yellow page advertiser is almost never considered in the price set for yellow page ads. The Burden is on you to make it work and the tool which lets you do this is Return on Investment (ROI).


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