Dear Yellow Pages,
I came home from work last night to find that your company is still delivering unsolicited directories on my door step. As someone who hasn't had a land line or used a phone book since 2000, these books are useless to me. Like I do every year, I walk directly to the recycling bin and toss them. You distributed 540 million directories last year--more books than the entire population of North America. With no strict rules, people can receive multiple books from multiple publishers. This makes no sense. Even though you may deny it, usage is dropping. Although The Yellow Pages Association reported that 87 percent of the U.S. used the Yellow Pages in 2007, a stable number over 2006, that news leaves me scratching my head, seeing that Internet search and mobile applications are increasing.
In fact, in a survey that the Kelsey Group conducted, 47 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 say their first choice when finding local listings is online search.
I'm certain the complaints of my friends and family over receiving these books (why do you need to send three at once?) surely reflect the general sentiment of the U.S. population. Why then do you not provide the option to opt out of receiving them?
To avoid becoming a dinosaur and going the way of the embattled newspaper industry, you must stop focusing on print and start giving customers what they need. Concentrate your efforts online and with mobile to start competing with the Google Maps of the world. Your website should reflect the local communities in which people live. It should serve as a local hub for commerce and information--one-stop-shops for residents to find everything they need about the communities in which they live and to buy and sell goods. If newspapers had shown that foresight years ago, they may have had a chance for survival today.
On these localized sites, you can start gathering data on your customers and businesses to change directory information in real time and you can facilitate targeted email campaigns with news and coupons for your advertisers. Maybe then the high prices local businesses pay in advertising will start to yield valuable results. Most importantly, you can start having conversations with the end customers--the people who are tired of coming home and seeing the dreaded big orange bag containing books on their door steps.
It's time to start evolving with the changing needs of customers. I urge you to start a deep dive within your organization and to create a viable long-term business strategy with the customer in mind before it's too late. If I pull into my driveway this time next year and find a stack of books, I will be sorely disappointed.
P.S. I went to Paperlesspetition.org to request my name be removed from the Yellow Pages mailing list.