When is a Yellow Page Consultant Not Your Consultant?

It’s strictly a matter of semantics. Notice the difference between “a” and “your.” It makes all the difference in the world. Let me explain. But first a word about my background.

I was a Yellow Page consultant for almost 25 years. During my tenure, I advised various businesses on planning their programs. It involved recommending headings, sizes, directories, layouts, headlines, and other elements that could ultimately spell success or failure. These people relied on my judgment because I was the expert, They were busy running a business and delegated their insurance, accounting, legal issues, and advertising to the professionals in the appropriate fields. And why not? How could any one owner wear that many hats and do them all well? So we offered our expertise for the betterment of the company.

Ah, but which company? What do I mean, you ask? I mean where was my true allegiance? To the client or my publisher? Who paid the bills? A case could be made for either one. The people that were my clients had ads in the book. Those ads produced for me a sizable commission, so I owed them a lot. But the Yellow Page publisher that hired me wrote the weekly pay check. They also provided my car allowance, health and dental benefits, 401K, pension, and work space. Whew! How to decide? Well it’s pretty simple. Without them, I wouldn’t be consulting to those clients.

Therefore the answer is more cut and dry. I first am employed by the directory company. They give me the accounts to manage and quotas to fill. They also provide certain products that I must introduce each year and promote to my customers, whether they need them or not. So, when I go out to visit with John Jones of JJ’s Appliance Repair, I am doing so at the behalf of my bosses. Sure, I want them to place lots of ads and get lots of calls, but I also have another agenda. I have to persuade them that they need the latest and great item that the publisher wants to push that week, regardless of whether or not my customer actually needs it.

Does the typical Yellow Page advertiser understand this relationship? Some do and some don’t. Most hope that I am truly looking out for their best interests, and I am, the majority of the time. But, on other occasions, I have an ulterior motive that is set in motion by an unseen force: that of my real boss. It’s a fact of life for many other media consultants but not always obvious to the clients affected. Is it a bad system that puts the requirements of the publisher before the advertiser? I’d be lying if I said no. I always tried to do the right thing but often times I was guided toward an end result that didn’t place the emphasis on customer service. I realized that the publisher had the right to put certain demands upon me and I had to pass them on to my accounts. It’s just a fact of business life in commission sales.

In summary, how should a business person treat their media consultant, be it Yellow Pages or otherwise? Well, they can remember this article and attempt to divine the real reason for the sales call. When the representative brings up a slew of new products, they can politely decline, or ask that the current program be settled first. Once that is handled, then the secondary reason for the visit can commence. After all, the poor consultant has been given a mission by their employer and they have to accomplish certain tasks to keep their jobs. If it requires you listen to a sales pitch, then listen and decide for yourself. But keep in mind that a consult is not necessarily your consultant, they are a consultant. And then you will be better able to deal with this appointment and all future meetings.