Using Directories

Helping Prospective Purchasers Find Your Micro-business – Online and Offline

Man looking up a directory entry

Offline and online directories can be useful

When someone is looking for a provider of a product, where do they look? They might see a well-timed advert in a newspaper or a magazine, but often they’ll either go online or look in a paper-based directory. Even if they go online, they may look up an online directory such as yell.com (now called Hibu).

Using directories is great from a potential customer’s perspective because they bring all suppliers together in one place, but it means you will be listed with your competitors. Standing out from competitors then becomes very important. There are two secrets to getting noticed:

  • Choose the right directories and classifications
  • Tailor the advert to what searchers are looking for.

Directories should be your first choice of advertising and marketing as people using them are actively looking for providers of a product or service.

Choosing the Right Directory

Directories can be classified in the following ways:

Woman looking up an online directory

When deciding which directories to use, consider how your customers buy

  • General business. An example would be Yellow Pages which is classified into different categories to make it easier to find a provider.
  • Local area. Many communities have a listing of the businesses in that area.
  • Trade-specific. This could be a listing of accountants, for example, or insurance companies, builders or marketing consultants.
  • Industry-focused. These would provide listings of suppliers or services to an industry or sector, e.g. services for accountants, for example.

These directories can be either online, offline or both. A micro-business can analyse its customer’s behaviour and then determine the right classification of directory and also whether the online or offline versions would be better. Guidance on analysing behaviour can be found in Customer Purchasing Processes.

Tailoring the Entry

An advert in a directory is usually called a listing or an entry. Your advert will be listed alongside competitors offering potentially the exact same product as you, so a searcher needs something to indicate to them why they should contact your micro-business, rather than the company listed next to you. In addition, you will have a limited amount of space in which to promote yourself.

Free listings are usually available but only limited information will be provided to searchers, perhaps only the name, address and telephone number. A paid-for listing will give the micro-business more space to promote itself and also be displayed in a more prominent position. Paid-for listings can also help with search engine optimisation.

If you’re advertising in a specific section of a directory, you don’t need to waste space telling the searcher what you provide. For example, if you run a cleaning supplies company, don’t say ‘we provide cleaning supplies’ if you’re advertising in the Cleaning Supplies section. The searcher will already know you do that, otherwise you wouldn’t be listed in that section of the directory.

Instead, say why they should contact you rather than anyone else, e.g. ‘full range’, or ‘free delivery’. In fact, your unique selling point. You can read more about this concept in Unique Selling Points.

Also, identify who is most likely to buy from you and tailor the directory advert to their specific needs, rather than making it too general. You can read more about how to do this in Finding out Who Your Customers Really Are.

Finding the Best Directory

The first step in using directories effectively is to identify where prospective purchasers are likely to look for potential suppliers, then advertise there. In the online environment, try searching for providers of your product and see which directories rank highly. Then you can consider the costs of each and establish a plan within your budget.

Directories won’t always feature in a micro-business’s marketing activities – they don’t suit everyone. For guidance in establishing whether they could work for you, read Types of Advertising and see the role they might play – they are the primary source of Reactive activities.