The Yellow Pages is negotiating the world of the web

For this week’s missive, I have to declare a conflict of interest.

Because as amazing as it may seem, my tiny web services business is competing for the same hearts, minds and ultimately wallets as monolithic Yellow Pages.

In fact, the Yellow Pages’ umbrella Sensis is competing with every web designer, developer and doyen that looks to the smaller business market for its custom.

And these interlopers aren’t just based here in Australia. Everyone from Google down to low cost developers in regional India and surrounds are all wanting a piece of your lucrative online marketing budget.

For Sensis it’s strange new territory.

A long and winding road

As if negotiating the massive move from safe old print to the online world hasn’t been treacherous enough.

Massive sums have been invested in strategising and experimenting with services as diverse as search engine advertising to eCommerce enabled websites.

And results have been sketchy to say the least. Who can forget their acquisition of a license to operate the then leading search engine AltaVista back in the late 90s?

First they blew away its branding value by renaming it “Go Eureka” and then were blown away themselves by the meteoric rise of then upstart Google.

In hindsight the AltaVista license wasn’t a bad idea. But even the sharpest strategic minds would not have seen the Google juggernaut approaching in the rear-view mirror.

Grappling with the age of digital

For the rest of the noughties it tried but ultimately drew blanks in a number of attempts at entering the digital world.

All against a backdrop of a rapidly declining print advertising market.

Now it is aggressively advertising a suite of online marketing services in an attempt to woo back its rapidly defecting smaller business customers.

But for the first time in its history, it finds itself but a bit part player in the world’s biggest stage production.

Most in the digital services world eye their enormous advertising budgets with a shade closer to green than yellow.

Who wouldn’t love just a few minutes of the primetime television coverage their multicoloured mini-me’s dance across?

Not to mention the scores of staff they employ in an attempt to rule the online roost.

But are their bridges burnt?

One suspects however, it will take more than massive advertising budgets to win over struggling and somewhat scorned smaller business operators – particularly when many are on the record as feeling more than a little peeved at their treatment when Yellow Pages dominated their advertising allocation and consequent sleepless nights wondering how to pay for it.

The number of small businesses persuaded to up their expenditure to a larger, more colourful and localised ad in yet another category would number the tens of thousands.

And now there are such a bevy of capable, keen and less corporate digital marketing players out there, how many might be well be tempted to take their promotional dollars elsewhere?

Time will no doubt tell.

In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.


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