Friday, March 25, 2016

Directories May No Longer be at the Top of the List

In recent weeks I have had several encounters, in various forms, with directories as a media/advertising channel.  Do they make sense for small business?

I think we can agree directories have long lost their luster from the days when the massive phone books landed on the front door step.  Even overlooking the reality that hardly any one has one in their home (or business) the directory publishers themselves have made strategic moves to offer services beyond the traditional directory listing.

I'm bearish on directories.  A few years ago I was willing to concede a meaningful role to directories for some types of businesses (e.g. home services, food delivery, etc.) and especially not business-to-business I am retreating from even that qualified position.  Search has become everything.  Published directories take up space.  Online directories are one step removed from search.

The directory publishers I have seen recognize this and are trying to accommodate search in a way that they hope adds value, for example, adding review capability.  The problem is that they're merely duplicating what's already there with established market share.  Examples include Yelp, Google, Angie's List and so forth.

For the small advertiser, there are some serious concerns about directory listings.  Can the publisher return impressions that match or surpass others?  Do consumers actually use the tool(s)?  Is it too easy to be lost in a matching field of competitor listings?

Bottom line: Look very hard at directories'  offerings.  Compare to alternatives and think about how the directory is used, if so, by your target market.  The old days are gone and directories aren't the go-to resource they once were.

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