If you’re of a certain age, you probably remember the satisfaction of flipping through the Yellow Pages. Whether you needed a plumber to fix that leaking faucet at home or the phone number of that new restaurant in town, the Yellow Pages have long been the gold standard of local directories.
Today, Yellow Pages is still putting businesses on the map—the print and digital map. After more than 100 years in business, Yellow Pages is not only an industry-leading online directory service, but also a prominent digital marketing partner. They offer services to help businesses manage their online visibility, reputation, rankings and lead generation, all as a means to earn more customers.
We sat down with Sherilyn King, senior vice president of sales, marketing and customer service from Yellow Pages, to talk about the evolution of the company, kicking bad habits to the curb and the power of marketing in the digital era.
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The evolution of YellowPages.ca
In an era where the phrase "Let your fingers do the walking" has leapt from page to screen, Yellow Pages has reinvented its directory services to align with the digital revolution. For entrepreneurs eager to start a business, this modernization of a time-tested service offers a new frontier to tackle small business challenges in the online realm.
Our conversation with Yellow Pages sheds light on how they've navigated the shift and what insights they can offer to small businesses aiming to thrive in a connected world.
Amanda Bellucco-Chatham (ABC): Can you share about the pivotal moment when Yellow Pages transitioned from a print directory/phonebook to an online platform?
Sherilyn King (SK): As you may know, we are leaders in the directory business in Canada. And we understood that there was a need in the market to evolve from a print-only business to an online business; our customers needed it, and their customers needed it. So, we had to change the perception of YP from being just a print directory to an online digital marketing company, and [demonstrate] how businesses would benefit from our help with their business plans—for both their online and offline marketing.
ABC: Would you say that that perception shift was a challenge, or was it something that happened more naturally as you evolved?
SK: I would say it still remains a challenge for us. We're an established 100-plus-year-old company that people still perceive as a print directory business. So, it's up to us to continue educating businesses and consumers about all the digital products that we offer to help businesses in Canada with their marketing.
ABC: How did Yellow Pages go about building (or expanding) its own reputation online? What did that process look like?
SK: It's a lengthy and ongoing process. Over the last number of years, we have worked on evolving YP’s brand and reputation. We modernized our logo slightly from its original walking fingers to more of a pebble, to symbolize our evolution from print to digital. We changed the look of our [print] directories to show consumers that we can help them discover local businesses in their communities from an online perspective.
From an advertising perspective, we practice what we preach. We advertised our services both organically and paid, through Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and even digital out-of-home to businesses looking for someone to help them with their advertising needs. Most recently, we have focused a lot of attention on our reputation, employing numerous strategies to increase our online ratings and reviews.
ABC: Of the things you just mentioned, were there any strategies that you think specifically were a success in terms of marketing and branding?
SK: I don't think there was one thing that was a particular success. It was the combination of everything that we've done. Our multi-channel approach of getting in front of businesses from all stages of their journey in selecting an advertising partner has been very successful. A key element for us is our face-to-face team that's also out promoting what we do and helping to educate businesses on the services that we offer. So, I don't think it's just one thing, I think it's a combination of all the things we've done.
ABC: Sort of a big picture approach.
Bringing your business to the digital forefront
Building a strong offline and online presence is key for business growth in the modern age. Having mastered this transition themselves, Yellow Pages offers advice on the crucial steps and strategies that business owners should consider to fuel business development and growth.
ABC: Pivoting a little bit more towards small businesses in general. Do you have any advice for the best way small businesses can prepare to get their offline business online? And what would be the first thing you suggest they do?
SK: First of all, they need to make sure people can find them. We know that many consumers are looking on various platforms to find a small business. As a business owner, you need to make sure that you're online and on multiple platforms, whether that's through a website or Google. You cannot assume that consumers are only checking one platform.
My next piece of advice is: it's not always easy. Consumers are looking online for quick information. They want to make sure that they can find what they're looking for, whether that be your product or service, or your hours or location. You need to make sure you are present and that your information is up to date and accurate too. It involves time, and as a business owner, you need to make sure that you have a partner that will help you with all of this.
ABC: What are some bad habits or “old ways of thinking” that you would urge small businesses to ditch when approaching digital marketing?
SK: I would say that their engagement is critical to their success. If they get themselves online and then they don't update their information, or they don't respond, or they're not making changes, then people will feel they're not relevant anymore. Or, people will feel that maybe that business doesn't exist because, “I checked: the hours say they're open, but I went there, they're not open." Engagement both online and offline is critical to make sure that people understand a business is still relevant, and that the consumer can gather the information they need from that business.
ABC: How about your biggest pet peeve when it comes to how businesses handle their marketing?
SK: I think my biggest pet peeve is when a business owner thinks it's easy. They think it's easy to establish [themselves] on Google. They think it's easy to manage their online presence. They think it's easy to make updates. But what's happening is there are multiple platforms where a consumer can find you.
Some consumers will look on YP.ca. Some consumers will look on Google. Some will look on Bing. Some will look for a website—and if you don't have a website, they think you're not in business.
Many business owners don't realize how complex their digital strategy has to be or how fragmented the market is. And so I think a lot of businesses think they can do it themselves, it’s “easy”—and then they don't understand why they're not appearing in search, why their optimizations are not working, why they’re not appearing organically in rankings…all of those things are not easy.
ABC: One thing that comes to mind when talking about YP.ca is the concept of future-proofing. In your opinion, what's the most impactful strategy for future-proofing a business in a rapidly changing digital landscape?
SK: That's a great question. I think the key is having a digital marketing partner that you can trust. You need to have a partner that stays on top of the latest trends and that has been in business for a very long time. We're here to stay, and our mission is to help small businesses navigate today’s confusing digital landscape.
At YP, our team of experts stay on top of the latest trends. We also pick partners that we can rely on. We're partnering with the biggest and best—like Wix, Google and Facebook—so that we can help small business owners be informed on how best to execute those strategies. I think that's the best way to future-proof your business: finding the right, trusted, credible partner to move forward with you.
Your trusted business partners
There’s a lot to learn about how to run a business successfully, from understanding how to build a website to making that website convert customers. But with a team like Yellow Pages Canada in your corner, you can skip the guesswork and have professionals take your brand to the next level.
Yellow Pages rounds out its marketing acumen and proven track record of success by partnering with trusted brands like Google, Facebook and Wix. This shared expertise offers a unique blueprint for success, providing tools and strategies essential for small businesses to thrive in the online marketplace.
ABC: Pivoting for the last few questions, I wanted to actually get more into the concept of Yellow Pages specifically working with small businesses. How does Yellow Pages Canada help businesses optimize their online presence for search engines, and how does Yellow Pages Canada support businesses in adapting to these evolving trends?
SK: We have a team of specialists and they're constantly ensuring we follow the best practices. For example, when Google does an algorithm change, our team is fully aware and is adapting to see how we can help both our customers and our own yellowpages.ca platform.
ABC: Are there any specific industries or market sectors that have seen the most success on YP.ca's digital platform?
SK: We're here to support all businesses and all verticals. However, some of our most successful verticals are home services, professional services and health services. There’s still value on our platform for all businesses and all verticals.
ABC: Looking ahead a little bit: What future initiative Innovations can we expect in the digital marketing space?
SK: We're constantly evolving our products and offerings to provide the best, most relevant and the most competitive products for consumers. We do that by evolving our products, but also through our strategic partnerships. We will evolve as our partners evolve, and as our partners enhance their products, we will ensure best-in-class offerings.
ABC: Final question: How do you think businesses can benefit from the dual power of Yellow Pages’ digital solutions and Wix?
SK: We chose Wix as a partner because we believe in the Wix brand. As Wix continues to evolve both their business and their products, we believe we can offer our customers the best website products on the market. Where we come in and add value is for the businesses that do not want to do it themselves. Our team of experts will take care of setting up and managing all of the work to get your website live. And then, of course, there’s all the work needed to promote your business—which is also where we come in.
ABC: It seems it can make all the difference to have someone who's actually an expert in the marketing and branding piece to complete the whole puzzle for you so you're not left scrambling trying to figure out “How do I do all of it?”
SK: Time is the most precious thing that a business owner has. We often hear from business owners, “I'd love to grow my business, but I don't have time because I'm doing the day-to-day functions.” Well, let us help you grow your business by building the right online strategy, and then you can focus on your business. If you're trying to focus on your business and build your digital marketing strategy and update your website and update your social campaigns and optimize your website and, and, and…the business owner will just run out of time.
ABC: Yeah, it ends up sort of diluting the effectiveness of each of these very vital components when you're not able to focus properly on one specific thing.
SK: And it's very difficult for a business owner. They are very familiar with their business—whether that be home services, restaurants, professional services, etc.—but how do they stay educated with what's happening in the digital marketing landscape? They would actually have to set aside time every day, every week to check what's going on with Google, Facebook, website platforms, etc.—and then they don't have time to focus on their business. Partnering with a company like Yellow Pages provides a turnkey solution to help businesses grow so they can focus on their business. The digital advertising landscape is constantly evolving so it's more important than ever to partner with someone that you can trust, like YP.
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