Let your fingers do the trick: how the Yellow Pages reinvented itself

Pedro Gomes, CEO of the Yellow Pages [Courtesy]

Let your fingers walk. This eye-catching advertisement from yesteryear comes to mind when you hear of the Yellow Pages. The company was one of the most important business directories of the analog era.

Even though in some advanced markets such as the UK its print edition has been cancelled, Yellow Pages is still alive and in business, especially here in Kenya.

It can, perhaps, offer a case study for businesses on how to adapt to changing times through digitalization and innovation.

Yellow Pages Kenya is now a “full-service digital agency” covering print and digital services. It has established itself as a solution provider for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) offering website development, social media management and email marketing services.

Rich database

Present in Kenya for 30 years, the company exploits its rich database of more than 100,000 companies registered on its various platforms.

Yellow Pages CEO Pedro Gomes said Business that the firm is anchored on three pillars: The iconic label, the database and its sales team.

“One of our biggest annual investments is to update our database, which now includes additional features such as geocodes, payment methods and photos of services and products, among others”, a- he declared.

The company offers free circulation of its 300,000 copies of its printed directories annually for the various markets in which it operates, including Angola, Sao Tome, East Timor, Mozambique, Cape Verde and Tanzania.

Gomes, who describes himself as “yellow to the bone”, predicts that the print edition will continue to exist for the next five to 10 years, although the rise of social media and Google has reduced demand for it. printed directories.

“We still have strong relevance in all the markets we operate in,” he said.

Its print offering also includes tourist guides, with the company producing 100,000 copies a year to help market Kenya.

yellow connection

Gomes has also pinned high hopes on his sales reps – more than 50 of them – who he describes as focused and goal-oriented.

“What they bring us is knowledge of the market. Not only do they call clients, but they also meet with them individually. We then use those personal relationships to build partnerships and not just to sell their products and services, he said.

As part of its business growth, the company launched Yellow Connect, a service that helps SMEs grow their brands, both digital and analog. At least 1,000 companies have been integrated into this platform.

He says the biggest challenge for the company right now is distribution due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Most companies have also started working remotely, reducing demand for their directory.

Yellow Pages customers include government, SMBs, and enterprises such as telecoms, banks, insurance, and law firms.

In Kenya, they have around 5,000 customers. Their goal is to increase numbers based on a subscription business model.

The company has diversified heavily to stay alive, expanding its product offering to meet the modern demands of corporate advertising needs.

online moving

The digitization of the company started internally with first building the digital skills of its employees and then bringing most of its services online. The directory has also since been put online.

Now, Yellow Pages helps SMEs take advantage of the online space to grow their business.

One of the biggest challenges for SMEs, Gomes notes, is the lack of manpower, with most entrepreneurs hacking it themselves.

“You find that it’s the owner who does everything, he may have skills but can’t do the job very professionally. What we do is allow entrepreneurs to have free time to focus on their core business,” he said.

Therefore, through Yellow Connect, they help these small businesses in areas such as social media management and growing their brand online.

Gomes, however, said the transition online for most SMBs has been slow, pointing out it could have been faster before the pandemic.

“The pandemic has brought so much uncertainty to the economy. The extra money would have been invested in going online, but many SMEs don’t have such a luxury and need to be careful where they put their money,” he said.

tough decisions

Since arriving in Kenya, Gomes has had to make tough decisions to ensure the survival of the iconic brand. He said anything related to jobs is quite sensitive, having first been tasked with a turnaround plan.

He found a company that lacked good digital skills and departments were out of balance. However, the staff members who were made redundant received good compensation and others were placed in jobs.

Looking at the current crop of workers, he says their priorities are hard to pin down. And it is difficult to understand their drivers such as money, stability or progress.

“They have so many opportunities, ‘if this business isn’t my dream, I don’t need to be here,'” he said.

Gen Z (born after 1996), who are complete digital natives, and Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) are changing the modern workplace, from their interaction with authority to their dress code.

“Yellow Pages has managed to have employees working there since its creation. It serves as a symbol of the company’s longevity and also a testament to how it treats employees,” Gomes said.

Business risks to watch out for

How familiar are you with your business environment? Have you done a risk assessment to determine what traps might be lurking in the dark?

Calvin W. Soper