Phone Book or Booster Seat?
Should your company invest in a web site and/or a phonebook ad? Well, lets take a look.
Who owns a phone book these days?”
I overheard at lunch the other day, well as it turns out that many of the people I know, my co-workers, friends, or associates don’t have a phone book. In fact after I started to think about it, neither do I. I went on a hunt to find this book. 15 years ago it was indispensable in every home, and every desk. Now I am sure they are still being delivered to all of these places. I finally found one hidden in a hallway of my apartment building, all bundled up, unopened. Apparently, my entire building does exactly what I do, ignore them or throw them away (ok, be green, recycle them). Even before all of this investigation, I was always shocked by businesses that don’t have a Website. Do enough people actually have a phonebook, and use it for these places to survive?
This question, is especially difficult to answer because the answer will be different for each business. Many different things need to be considered when comparing your options. So lets start by evaluating the pros and cons of the web and a phonebook.
The phonebook, is of course a book, a compact (ok, some can be quite thick) collection of all businesses and people in a community. The cost for your customers; free provided they live in the area. It is sorted into a few specific categories and indexed by either name or business type. So if you wanted to look up a restaurant named “Theo’s” in your hometown, you get the phone book and look in the “white” pages to find “Theo’s” under the “T” section, or look in the “yellow” pages for “Restaurant” and search through the multiple pages for “Theo’s”. If the restaurant paid enough money, you might even find a copy of their menu, if not they probably have a small advertisement with their name, telephone, and address. The audience that a phonebook advertisement can reach is limited to those who live in that area, have that particular phonebook, have not lost it, or thrown it out,. If a change needs to be made, the internet can be instantly updated, allowing for newer, and fresher information
Your Website and Internet presence is a virtual representation of your business, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week world wide. It is indexed and searchable by Websites like Yahoo, Bing, and Google and available on an ever growing number of Internet connected devices. Computers, tablets, cell phones, and PDAs all have the ability to connect to the web and give potential customers access to you. The information your company Website can provide is not limited simply to name, address and telephone number; your business has the opportunity to present any information you want. Space is typically not a constraint, allowing for more colorful and eye catching visual displays that can even include motion. Instead of simply including your address, you can include a map, and even give GPS directions to your business, downloaded directly into your customer’s cell phone. Your page can be automatically translated into many different languages (admittedly not perfectly) giving your company a global audience.
Now there are some cons to consider, your clients must be paying for Internet service to find your Website. They must also have some knowledge on how to access the Internet to find this information. You must invest the time and effort to maintain your site, keeping it fresh and up to date. All of this poses challenges to small businesses who need to get the word out to everyone as inexpensively as possible.
Looking back at our “Theo’s” example, you could grab your phone, laptop, tablet or whichever device you have available, pull up Google or Google maps type in “Theo’s” and find what you are looking for. If you wanted to visit “Theo’s” in New York, simply type it in. Very quickly you will get their Website, pictures, phone number, business hours, their menu, customer reviews, and potentially much, much more.
\Who are your customers?
Having looked at the enormous potential, the biggest challenge to companies only advertising on the Internet, is simply that not everyone is connected to the Internet. According to statistics released by Pew Internet & American Life and eMarketer in 2007, 76% of North Americans were online.
For the Internet users So, we have discovered that the majority of your potential clients are Internet users. Does that really mean that they would rather use it over a phonebook? According to an online poll, yes. A staggering 76% of those polled responded they do not use a phonebook, and those who said they do use one, only 4% responded as frequently
This indicates that the majority of your customers are Internet users that would not use a phonebook, but would look you up on Google.
Well, we have discovered that the phonebook only accurately reaches 3/4 of the population for most of your customer groups. Lets take a look at how the prices break down for each of these advertising methods. Now to be fair to the phonebook and the web, the costs do vary from company to company, and amongst different locations. Even worse, the costs vary dramatically dependant on how complicated your advertisements are. Chris Beasley indicates, “I would say the minimum for a high quality top of the line web site with about would be $1000” on a blog post from 2001 (http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showthread.php?t=18033). Now of course, web hosting, and domain names have an additional cost and if available, can be purchased for a year for less than $100. Not bad, for a brand new Website. Now, unfortunately I am currently waiting on the phonebook company’s salesmen to call me back. So at this time, no phonebook costs (I promise to add them if I ever get them).
What does all of this mean?
Ok, so we have looked at many aspects of this debate. What does it all mean? The simple answer is, you should spend about three times as much on time, money and effort on your web presence as you do in any of the phonebook advertisements, not the other way around. Your presence on the world wide web brings you to a broader audience, and will actually reach a large set of your customers. Times have changed, your business strategy should as well. I am not suggesting you stop listing, or remove your advertisements from the phonebook, but the evidence all show that people are far more likely to use the Internet to find your business than to grab a phonebook. Personally, I will continue to not own one and be just as happy without it.
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