The Phone Book Scam – Watch Out!


Some phone book companies are resorting to sneaky, and in some cases, dishonest high-pressure sales tactics to retain their dwindling customer base.From “giving away” print ads to promising number one placement in Google search results, these companies are convincing thousands of business owners to throw more money at a dying industry.
In this video, Eric Spellmann explains how to detect these schemes and, more importantly, how to respond. Don’t sign another phone book contract until you watch this video!


Note from Eric: Below, you will find a word-for-word transcript of this video. I provide this as an aid for the hearing-impaired and for those who might just want to read it rather than watch the video. This conversational style is not reflective of how I write. Be nice! Hey I’m Eric Spellmann with Spellmann & Associates. And today is a big topic I get asked a lot about. The Phone Book Scam. In other words, you get a lot of these phone calls month after month from people claiming to be with a phonebook and they’re trying to get you to sign up for some sort of online advertising. Well in this video we’re gonna go over the question you need to ask and what you need to know. But, before we do that, let me give a little bit of a disclaimer.
First, I’m not including all phonebook companies into this. In fact you’ll only hear me name 1. Second, not all phonebook sales people do this. So I don’t want to get a lot of angry emails from people who work for the phonebook companies saying they never do these things. What I’m going to be talking to you about is what some of them do. Also, the phonebook can still be useful. If your demographic is older, and if your demographic still wants to use a phonebook, it can be useful. But for the majority of us, that’s just not the case anymore. So let’s dive right in.

Basically let’s understand the history. Basically from a phonebook standpoint you have the White and the Blue listings and then the Yellow listings. The white and blue are typically and totally free. And in fact, a lot of the single line listings in the yellow parts are free also. And so whether you spend $1 with them or not, you’re going to show up, even if it’s just a single listing that appears like everybody else.

A lot of these phonebook companies made their money with emphasis in ads. Since a standard listing is totally free, the only way they can make money is by bolding it, making it bigger, giving you a box to write an entire ad in, by being seen before everybody else. That was the only way and a lot of people did that. They looked to their competitors and said I want a bigger ad. And then next year a bigger ad. And there was a lot of back and forth. And all along, the phonebook companies were making a lot of extra money! (01:53)

Do People Use the Phonebook Anymore?
In order for this model to work, it depended on everyone using the phonebook. In other words, the only way to find things, the only way to find the phone number, the only way to find the business, the only way to do that was with a phonebook! Well, not so much anymore. Fast forward to today. Basically, most people don’t use them anymore. You would be hard pressed to find someone who’s used an actual paper based phonebook in the last month, if not the last 6 months!

What most people are doing now is they’re just Googling it. If they need a plumber in their city, they’re simply typing “Plumber in (the name of their city)”. Lot of people I ask are also using Siri. Keep in mind that smart phone is what they’re using more and more often. They say that in a couple of years, more people will be using mobile devices than PCs to access the internet.

And so Siri and the Google version of that are getting smarter and smarter so that you can just hold it up to your mouth and say “Siri! Give me the top 10 plumbers in this city.” And she’ll just list them for you, instead of giving you a bunch of pages. And that’s important to understand. People are starting to look at Google and Bing and YAHOO! and even Apple’s Siri as simply their Answerers – their go to Answerers. And so they’re not pulling up a book anymore, when they can easily pull out their phone and ask them.

A lot of times when phonebook people approach you, they’re talking online now. No longer is the talk about the print version. They claim to be the number 1 hear all, say all, do all premier specialist at online! And a lot of times they’ll say “We can get you at the first page as part of our contract!” But keep in mind what they’re not saying. When they say they can get you to first page, they’re not necessarily talking about your website; they’re talking about their web pages! That might have you listed as part of that.

They even say you can get a website. So if you don’t have a website, they say you get one. And what I mean by that is they will build you a 1, 2 or even 3 page site that has some pictures in it and some information. They don’t ask you questions about marketing, they don’t ask you questions about who you’re trying to reach, and they definitely don’t do a lot of SEO, which we’ll talk about.

As part of this, they’re throwing in the print for free. They know that the value of print is going down but that most people still see some sort of value. So when they offer to put you in the phonebook for free or let you keep your existing ad you had last year for free, you might see value in that. But realize, no one’s going to those things anymore. Right now most phonebooks are being used to hold up computer monitors. And there’s some other things we’ll talk about in a second which will make you realize that the print version, in my opinion is useless.

So what is the scam? Well first of all the first page truly means it is their listings. What they really mean is that the phonebook’s listings will come up first. And if you click on it, it doesn’t go to your website; it goes to the phonebook page. And on that page will be listed a whole bunch of people including you and all of your competitors. And then if you click on that link for you, it still doesn’t go to your website, it goes to a page that they created for you.

And on that page there is a tiny little link that says view the website or go to the website. And only then will people actually make it to your website. So when a lot of these people promise you on the first page of Google, keep in mind they don’t mean your website. They mean their listing of all the people who you compete with, and then, from there people could choose you.

They own your website and you got to read the contracts carefully. A lot of these phonebook people own your website that they build for you. Which means if you ever decide you don’t want to do business with them anymore, you don’t get to take that website with you. You don’t get to keep it. They turn it off and you have to start over completely from scratch!

And if you had them register your dotcom (.com) for you, well they own that too! And so if you leave them, they still own it. Now you can’t fight them. And I’ve helped a number of customers fight. But it takes a lot, and I mean a lot of resource to make it through all of the red tape to get your domain. You’ll never get your website, but you can at least get your domain in some cases if you fight hard enough!

The contract is nearly unbreakable. Once you sign up with them, you’re in. So if you certainly decide midway through you want to have your own website, you don’t get any money back and you still owe them all of that money you are paying every single month! I’m a big fan of going with a company which offers you a month to month. They make you pay all of it for a full year upfront but there should always be a month to month option. Things change too quickly in the online arena.

They don’t give you Search Engine Optimization! In other words, they don’t go in and work on your website. Remember, all of their SEO efforts are going to make their page show up first on Google and not yours! And so they may enter some of the basic SEO stuff but they’re not constantly checking to see where your website ranks on Google and then making changes to it and then adjusting if a competitor gets ahead of you. So they may claim to be doing that, but they really don’t. Once they get it up there, you’re in and you’re done.

The other big one, and this may be the biggest one of all. Did you know that in a lot of states print delivery is no longer required? They’ve actually set up what are called opt in, where the only way you get a phonebook is if you requested for it. Not all states have done that, and in a bunch of states they still have to deliver it to every door step.

But believe it or not, the phonebook companies themselves are demanding from the states that they not be required to deliver phonebookseverywhere. And in the states that have an opt in policy, where people have to specifically request to receive a phonebook, we’re seeing only about a 2% participation rate! That’s right. So this print that they’re giving you for free is only going out to about 2% of everybody, NOT everybody.

People if you have any questions on this, just let me know. Visit my website ericspellmann.com or visit my facebook page and I’m happy to help. Once again, I’m not necessarily trashing sales people for phonebook companies.

But realize that when you’re gonna be putting your business online, understand what you’re getting and know it, ask the right questions, make sure you own everything and then and only then you can make the right decision about whether phonebook advertising is still relevant for your business. I am Eric Spellmann; I’ll see you in cyberspace.