Mini Bikes, Tape Recorders, Leisure Suits and Yellow Pages
The Las Vegas Hilton, 2003: The stagehand said, “This is the stage where Elvis appeared when he played Vegas.” He was helping me set up to speak to the managers of all the local, county and state fairs in the English-speaking world.
When my stage buddy said we were good to go, the floor attendants opened the doors and the crowd washed into the room, thick streams of people jamming the aisles, then branching into little rivulets as they chose specific rows of seats. I went backstage to get last-minute instructions from my hosts.
The chairman of the board looked at me and said, “You’ll be speaking to about 16 hundred members and delegates from the US, Canada, England and Australia. They’re looking for ways to boost attendance at their fairs.”
The board of directors then filled me up with everything they felt I needed to know. When they had finally spent themselves, I asked, “What does your organization do, exactly?”
The chairman answered, “The main benefit we offer our members is a monthly magazine that reports the gate attendance of all the different fairs. We also report which performers and attractions were the biggest draws. The manager in Des Moines whose fair is about to begin wants to know what happened at the Chicago fair that just ended.”
We started walking from the green room toward the wing of the stage when we heard the emcee begin to welcome the crowd.
“But doesn’t it take a long time to gather all the information, print it and get it to the members?” I asked.
“Yes, and that’s a big frustration among the membership. They say the magazine is mostly old news by the time it arrives.”
“You don’t have a website?”
“Son,” he said as he stopped abruptly, “the average age of the people you’re about to address is 72 years old. Many of them are over 80. There’s no one in the house younger than 65. These just aren’t internet people.”
At that moment, the emcee flung his arm toward me and shouted, “Roy H. Williams!” With a final glance at the chairman, I walked onto the stage and quietly took off my shoes. Standing there in my socks, I studied the crowd a minute. They looked at me as I looked at them.
Then I raised my hand and said, “How many of you have used a search engine in the past 7 days to research a purchase you were considering?” Sixteen hundred hands went up simultaneously.
I looked offstage at the chairman. The man was openly stunned. I think he may still be standing there.
Pennie and I found a plastic bag at the end of our driveway last Tuesday. In it were 3 different Yellow Page books. This triggered a discussion between Pennie and me about icons of the past. We recalled the famous Yellow Pages ad of 1962, “Let Your Fingers Do The Walking.” We talked about all the different tape recorders we’d owned. I told her about the J.C. Penney Golden Pinto mini-bike I coveted in 1970. And then I dropped the bag of books into the garbage.
The next morning I received an email from my client and friend, Vess Barnes:
When do you predict the demise of Yellow Pages and their brand-associated websites? Is money spent there basically wasted? Have a great week.
Short Answer: Yes, money spent in the Yellow Pages (and their associated websites) is basically wasted.
Have you ever Googled a product or service and had the search engine direct you to the online Yellow Pages listing for a company? I’ve never once experienced it. Search engines elevate the most commonly clicked links. Think about what this implies. (Okay, I'll spell it out for you: if people were using the digital Yellow Pages, those online Yellow Page ads would rank higher on Google and the other search engines. The ads don't rank high on Google because most people never see those ads.)
During the past few years, a number of our service company clients (foundation repair specialists, plumbers, HVAC companies, etc.) have taken our advice and abandoned the yellow pages completely, moving virtually 100 percent of their ad budgets to the radio. They already have websites, of course. These businesses, without exception, are outdistancing their competitors in the area of new customer acquisition.
I’m fairly certain my position will generate a firestorm of emails from people who feel passionately that I’m wrong. But there are others who will know I’m right.
Are you in that second group? Do you have the courage to slash your Yellow Page budget? Would you like to learn how to craft ads for radio and the internet that will gain and hold the attention of a far-too-busy public?
Join Chris Maddock, Jeff Sexton and me for a business-altering 2-day course at Wizard Academy, January 27-28: How to Write Ads for Radio and the Internet.
Early birds will get the last of the free rooms in Engelbrecht House, Wizard Academy’s spectacular student mansion. Birds who are slow to decide will have to stay in a hotel. But don’t worry, we’ve got a list of good hotels nearby. Get details from Tamara at (512) 295-5700.
It is within your power to make 2010 a much better year than 2009. Are you going to do it?
Do it. Come to Wizard Academy.
Roy H. Williams
Do you have Christmas cards featuring the wise men? As you know, Wizard Academy is named for the wise-ards (wisards, wizards) mentioned in the Christmas story, the ones who followed the star. Would you be willing to send us any wise men you might have? We're going to put them in an album that will lie on a coffee table in the library of the tower at Wizard Academy.
Send what you've got to:
16221 Crystal Hills Dr.
Austin, Texas 78737
(and be sure to add a message and your signature to the back of the card.) – RHW
A vintage German postcard from 1905 by the immortal Raphael Kirchner.
I paid $170 for it because I could find no mention of this image in any of the biographies or lists of Kirchner's work online. I think it could possibly be the only copy of this image that survived. Or if another one has survived, there's no record of it online. Click the wise men to see other Kirchner Christmas. And don't forget to ride the mini-bike into the rabbit hole.