Marketing to Intent, Not Eyeballs

content vs intent


Old school marketers always seem to get hung up on the number of eyeballs. I’ve always been a database and direct marketer, so I liked getting the right eyeballs rather than pushing advertisements in front of all of them.

Businesses like the Yellow Pages like to tout the big numbers, too. I read once that 87% of the U.S. Population used the Yellow Pages in 2007. In reading the fine print, this was assumed through a phone survey. There are too many questions that need to be asked when someone throws a big number at you like that, like:

  • What time was the phone survey done?
  • What was the demographic of the people surveyed?
  • How many conversions were made from Yellow Page use?
  • What was the average Return on Investment for a Yellow Page advertiser?
  • What demographic did those people reach? Does it match my company’s target demographic?
  • What’s the definition of used?

Ignoring the big numbers, what the Yellow Pages do have going for it is intent. When a user opens the Yellow Pages, they are on a mission and that mission will most likely lead to an engagement with the advertiser.

Search engines provide some of the strongest intent. If I search for “best mp3 player”, chances are that I’m going to review and eventually purchase what I’m looking for. This is why so many businesses are blogging – to provide their products and services with great search engine placement for the keywords on how firms and consumers are searching for them.

Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) is a little different. These business directories tout both great search engine placement AND the big numbers. My belief is that IYP actually dilutes the ability of a lead to connect to your business because they have to:

  1. Search
  2. Find a directory
  3. Navigate the directory
  4. Select your site from the directory
  5. Navigate to your site
  6. Convert

When you purchase for placement in an IYP, you’re letting the IYP be the owner and gateway to your business rather than your own website. Additionally, the searcher can’t simply just Search, Land and Convert – they have to navigate the directory. Too many consumers and businesses lose conversions by being 1 click too far away.

Content versus Intent

Taking intent into consideration, and not the big numbers, businesses need to be skeptical about social networks, too. I see a lot of folks speaking about successfully gaining business through Facebook. I don’t doubt there’s an opportunity for commerce there, but I do have doubts as to a visitor’s intent to make a purchase.

In short, avoid the hype and prioritize your online marketing investments where intent and opportunity are the greatest:

  • Start with great search engine placement – through optimizing your online store or taking up corporate blogging.
  • Leverage that content through other social mediums.
  • Work on upselling and retention strategies that incorporate Email Marketing and Mobile Marketing.


  1. 1

    The article didn’t say exactly, but I’d be willing to bet that this survey only covered HOME telephones. Obviously it excludes the kind of people who don’t have home telephones or don’t care to take such surveys. I think that significantly changes the end result of the survey.

    • 2

      I agree with you James. I’m always leary of ‘telephone surveys’ since so many in the online demographic either don’t have a home phone, don’t answer their home phone, or they’re actually at work during the hours the survey is completed.

  2. 3

    I think that I can answer your questions regarding the methodology used for the Yellow Pages telephone survey.

    Interviews are conducted every day of the year except for New Years, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    The medthodology employed is random digit dial which means that every landline phone number has an equal opportunity of being chosen for the survey. This methodology results in a sample that is projectable to the entire U.S. adult population.

    86% of people who said that they referred to the Yellow Pages said that they had either already made a purchase or intend to do so.

    The average return on investment from local display advertising is $13 of revenue for every $1 of investment.

    Because of the way the survey is administered, the demographic profile reached mirrors the U.S. adult Population. The typical Yellow Pages user tends to be 25-49, college grad, HH income> $60K, family size >4, Moved 3+ times in past year, and lived at their current location under one year.

    The definition of a user is someone who opens a directory and looks at one or more ads.

  3. 5

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