Over 154 Years of Service to the Furniture Industry
 Furniture World Logo

Yellow Pages Evolution

Furniture World Magazine


More choices and opportunities for retailers with online sites as well as competition among regional print volumes in many areas.

They've been helping businesses grow for more than 100 years and are an important source of leads for home furnishings retailers. This is especially true for retailers who don't have a huge advertising budget. They are the Yellow Pages.

Consumers are looking for information and yes, in addition to the print versions, there are online incarnations of these ubiquitous books.

There are more choices for furniture retailers that include the proliferation of these online sites as well as competition among the regional print volumes in the same marketing area.

Having more choices means that there is a greater opportunity for you as a retailer to get your name and your message in front of potential customers. At the same time, this proliferation of choices also increases the probability that without your complete attention, you will miss some significant opportunities or waste precious advertising dollars.

The Yellow Pages are more than an age-old "must have" to grow your small business. They are an opportunity to position your furniture business in a new, proactive and potentially profitable light.

Here are some suggestions for getting the most out of your yellow pages print ads.

A new $24 million national advertising sponsored by the Yellow Pages Publishers Association featuring Jon Lovitz encourages advertisers to conceive of Yellow Pages ads in different ways and to incorporate the "Get An Idea" concept. The campaign, because it will change the way consumers view and the frequency with which they refer to the Yellow Pages, means that furniture business owners can position their stores in ways that will help grow business and increase profits. This can be done in a number of ways. Here are some ideas:

There's more to a Yellow Pages ad than just simply phone numbers and addresses. Give your potential customers IDEAS. For instance, if you have a large selection of floor lamps, advertise this in your ad and suggest a new lamp to brighten up a favorite reading area.

Research shows that when using the Yellow Pages, consumers often reference more than one heading. In fact, 21 percent of consumers reference at least two headings before finding what they want. Advertising your business in more than one place can dramatically increase the chances that someone will see your ad and contact your business. For example, advertise under the "Home Design & Planning" as well as "Furniture Dealers Retail" and "Office Furniture & Equipment Dealers" to pick up extra home office furniture business.

Naturally, your business' phone number and address are crucial information to include in your Yellow Pages ad. However, according to data conducted by Statistical Research, Inc., one in five consumers want more information in Yellow Pages ads. The information they are looking for includes such things as store hours, detailed information about products and services, directions and maps, prices, years in business, payment options (such as credit cards and checks), and unique offerings and specials. Anything, in other words, that sets your business apart from the rest. For example, when looking for furniture, consumers may want to know what brand names you carry and what types of wood furniture you sell.

Getting repeat and new customers through your door via your Yellow Pages ad is encouraged by going that "extra mile" and giving them something more. Include advice, or tips, in your ads, such as the best way to protect leather furniture from stains and wear and tear.

Design your Yellow Pages ad so that it includes and calls attention to the unique services and products your business provides. For instance, if you offer discounted or free delivery services or cart away old mattresses, say so in your ad.


Fact: According to SRI, only 13 percent of consumers look in the Yellow Pages for price listings. Forty-six percent are looking for store hours and 33 percent want to know what products and services your business offers. In other words, while price is obviously important, it is by no means the only element to include in your ad. SRI's data proves that customers looking for furniture are looking for convenience, reliability, reputation, and special services. While one of your competitors might offer cheaper prices, you can win over potential business by incorporating this kind of information - along with prices - into your Yellow Pages ad.

Myth: "With so many ads already under my heading, mine will just get lost in the shuffle."

Fact: People use the Yellow Pages as a "search engine" to shop around. Research shows that they don't simply turn to the first, most colorful and eye-catching ad they see. In fact, sixty-two percent of consumers look at more than one ad when they reference the Yellow Pages. On average, customers will look at 5.3 ads before deciding whom to call. And, how do they make that decision? According to SRI, 79 percent of consumers want more information from Yellow Pages ads... they want ideas and information. What exactly are potential customers looking for? Here are some specifics:

  • Currently, 107 million potential buyers consult the "Furniture" heading in the Yellow Pages each year, making it the 27th most-referenced heading (out of 4,200).
  • 46 percent of people who reference the "Furniture" heading are looking for the store hours/days.
  • 33 percent want information on products and services.
  • 13 percent want detailed information regarding the business' location (customers say that directions, maps, local landmarks are appreciated in ads).

What does this mean to the furniture industry? It means that the Yellow Pages remain a powerful tool that business owners can use to reach potential customers. Yellow Pages ads also reach a broad range of undecided customers who can be swayed by what they see in the Yellow Pages. And, developing an ad that provides consumers with the information they're looking for will keep your businesses from getting lost among the ads of your competitors.

With the average adult referring to the Yellow Pages approximately 1.8 times a week, and with almost 17 billion Yellow Pages references made every year, advertising in the Yellow Pages is clearly a must for any successful furniture business.

Online Directories
From interview with Gray Wright, CEO of YellowPages.com

QUESTION: What are the advantages/disadvantages of advertising with online directories?

ANSWER: There are several important advantages to advertising with an online directory versus other traditional venues. With an online directory, you are able to get your site up in real time -- you don't have to wait until the phone company publishes the next edition of the Yellow Pages. Once you sign up, your ad will appear almost immediately.

This also leads into another advantage of online directories, which is that they exist in an Interactive Environment. Since the ad is in "real time," you can easily modify it to suit your current business conditions. Say a company has a huge inventory of bar stools, they can push those through their ads, and then change to another item once the inventory reaches an acceptable level. This means that a company's listing is never outdated.

A final advantage to advertising online is that it is a perfect way for many small and medium sized companies to get their feet wet with the Internet. Even with all of the hoopla about e-commerce, there are still millions of businesses that are yet to take advantage of the opportunities that the Internet offers. Listing with an online directory allows these business owners to take a step in an environment that is comfortable to them - a Yellow Page-type listing. An online directory is really a natural evolution to the Internet for many of these people.

The biggest disadvantage to the Internet is probably everyone's unfamiliarity with how advertising on the Internet should work. The popular count now is how many hits a site received or how many click-throughs take place. This jargon is often confusing to the everyday businessman who has not spent a lot of time with the Internet. And many people who think they know what they are doing do not understand that traffic on a site may not really be customers. It is fairly easy for someone to pay to have the traffic numbers on their site go up, but it does not do their advertisers any good.

When people are looking at advertising in an online directory, they should remember that the Yellow Pages printed book does not guarantee that 15,000 people a day are going to look at it. But they tell you how many they are delivering so you have an idea how many people could access it. The same should be true with an Internet listing that is available to more than 150 million users globally.

QUESTION: What are the trends in online directories.

ANSWER: A few trends that I see in the industry include the following:

  • Consolidation: Some companies, such as GTE, have started massive consolidation movements in both the online and print directory industries. This consolidation will continue, which should help narrow down the choices for most businesses who are looking to get listed online.
  • Community Building: Users are not going to want to go to an online directory just to find numbers and web sites. They will want to be able to do research on the companies. In fact, we are building a place for the business community to come onto our site, where they can research companies, get news and stock quotes, and quickly find services like conference calls and voice messaging.
  • Interactive Ads: With the real-time format of online advertising, ads in directories will become more interactive, and will allow people to purchase products directly from that page. This will also be a great benefit for those company's who do not wish to build their own e-commerce infrastructure.

Return on investment (ROI) can be more simply described as a measurement of how well your advertising is working. But, how do you determine your ROI and turn your advertising dollars into customers and profits?

The best way to determine your ROI is to follow this simple seven-step process, a process that will show you exactly how to measure the effectiveness of your advertising:

One: Begin by determining the number of calls you receive from your Yellow Pages ad each month. Ask each caller where they found your number (note that if you live in an area that has two directories, be sure to ask which one and on which page).

Two: What's your conversion rate? What percentage of your calls turn into sales? You should already have a good idea of what your conversion rate actually is, but if not, look at your yearly sales figures.

Three: Determine the number of sales made by those customers that found your business in the Yellow Pages by dividing the number of calls by your conversion rate.

Four: Plug in your average gross profit per item sold.

Five: To determine your total gross profit produced by Yellow Pages ads, multiply the number of converted calls from Yellow Pages ads by your average gross margin.

Six: Plug in your monthly Yellow Pages investment.

Seven: Your overall net profit gain from Yellow Pages advertising is calculated by subtracting your Yellow Pages monthly investment from the total gross profit produced each month (sales minus costs).

Let's use an example with some figures. Say your business receives 100 calls in a month's time and that your call conversion rate is two. Take 100 and divide by your conversion rate (two) to get 50 (the number of sales attributed to Yellow Pages customers). If your average gross profit per item sold is $50 and you multiply that figure by the number of sales made to Yellow Pages customers (50), you arrive at a total gross profit of $2,500.

If you determine that you spend $600 per month on your Yellow Pages ad and subtract that number from your total gross profit, you will arrive at your net profit gain. If these were your numbers, you would have received $1,900 per month in gross profit over and above the $600 investment you made in your Yellow Pages ad.

Following this formula aids in the marketing planning process and enables you to see how your advertising dollars are working and if they are being invested wisely.

Clint E. Pollard is executive vice president - marketing for the Yellow Pages Publishers Association (YPPA). Pollard began his Yellow Pages career with GTE Corporation in 1977. He became vice president of public affairs for GTE Directories Corporation in 1987; vice president marketing & communications in 1988; vice president national accounts in 1994; and vice president/ general manager west region in 1995. Questions can be sent to FURNITURE WORLD at editor@furninfo.com.