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Self-Storage Yellow Pages Advertising in Troubled Times

Sue Weiman Comments

How many times have you heard the Yellow Pages aren’t used anymore ... that it will be an extinct medium in five years? And how many times have you heard those who track Yellow Pages advertising on a regular basis say, “If you cut your Yellow Pages budget without measuring the response and return on investment (ROI), you’ll be throwing out the baby with the bath water”?

Let me begin by acknowledging the relationship of self-storage and advertising in the Yellow Pages has shifted. Yes, things are different. In a nutshell, the days of “if you build it, and advertise it in the Yellow Pages, they will come” are gone.

Usage of Yellow Pages directories by consumers seeking storage may have dropped, but not nearly as dramatically as Web-bloggers and Internet-dependent techies will have you believe. Let me clarify this in numbers: 20 years ago you may have gotten 85 percent of new customers from Yellow Pages. Now the average is closer to 60 percent. More important, the average ROI is still about 3 to 1. As an average, that means some directories and/or markets may not even deliver a break-even; others may bring in a 6-to-1 return. The only way to know conclusively is to measure the performance of an ad with call tracking.

Then and Now

In the old days of Yellow Pages advertising, the publishers would charge full rate, rarely offer discounts, and those rates would go up at least 5 percent every year. Advertisers might not have liked it, but they grudgingly paid whatever was necessary because the medium delivered.

Now publishers are offering discounted rates and many are investing in phone numbers that track the ad performance in order to prove value to the advertiser. They are providing these phone numbers free of charge, along with a monthly (or even online real-time) tracking report. As a storage owner or manager given the responsibility to protect a very large investment, it is incumbent upon you to know what marketing and advertising programs work.

Enter Into Negotiations

You can take advantage of this climate of economic alarm and misinformation by negotiating with your Yellow Pages rep. Don’t count on getting the same size ad at a renewal rate lower than you are currently paying because that rarely happens. However, you should ask YP reps to put their money where their mouth is by providing a free tracking number to prove the value (or lack thereof) of an ad.

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