It's a fact. People these days don't refer to their paper directories more than once or twice a year, if at all. So as a business owner, perhaps having a listing isn't such a good idea after all, especially when you consider one entry can set you back anywhere between a hundred and a few thousand pounds.
Since the 1880s, printed business directories have allowed companies and individuals to list themselves and their contact details, allowing customers to get in touch and use their services. The directories are sent to households and offices at no charge and are replaced, usually annually. Businesses that are listed pay a fee and then sit back hoping potential customers see their advert and contact them with work.
But times have changed and all business owners today should be made aware of some of the clear disadvantages of a paper directory.
First of all, financially you are committed to a minimum one year fee and the amount will vary according to which part of the UK you want to be listed in. So if your business operates in certain areas you will pay far more than in others. And of course if you want to be listed in more than one area you will need to pay more than one fee.
Secondly, because the listings are published and delivered once a year you cannot change your entry if your contact details change. This can be frustrating to both you and your customers and lose you business.
As for value, should you be looking to set yourself apart from the crowd, think again. You cannot give much detail about what you offer, so it is difficult to differentiate yourself from other outfits offering a similar service. Throw in the rising trend from customers demanding ratings and business owners relying on paper listings find themselves in an impossible situation.
So what's a solution? A good alternative is to use an online business directory or better still an internet based recommendation and ratings service. Sites like these not only allow you to advertise yourself but also to build up written ratings which future clients can review when deciding whether to use your service. Your contact details and the work you have achieved can be kept bang up to date, making it relevant and useful to both you and your clients.
Online services also make financial sense. Some do not ask for an upfront fee and many don't expect you to commit to anything like a year, so you can spend as much or as little as you like according to how effective the advertising proves to be. This makes budgeting and cashflow much easier and cuts out waste.
And the perks don't stop there. Online listings offer a solution to calls from customers with work which have no bearing on what a business offers. Online sites often allow you to include descriptions of the work you do and let you show photographs so that people wanting to use you know what to expect.
The more sophisticated online directories are even democratic. Unlike the one way approach of paper directories, where business owners simply advertise and wait for calls; many online directories allow you to see what jobs are out there and which ones you'd like to do.
The whole process of acquiring work becomes more proactive and fair when sourced through online sites. Paper directories in comparison are an expensive, old fashioned and uninspiring approach to getting work. This is why an increasing number of business owners are choosing online listings as a means not only to advertise but also to grow their business.