San Francisco Bans Yellow Pages: How Should Your Business React?

by Marcos Cordero on June 2, 2011
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Last month, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to effectively ban the Yellow Pages. In an effort to reduce the 7 million pounds of paper waste processed by city each year from discarded Yellow Pages, San Franciscans will need to “opt-in” if they want to continue receiving its delivery beginning in 2012.

A less stringent program in Seattle that requires residents to “opt-out” of delivery resulted in more than 100,000 canceled phone books, and San Francisco’s regulation can be expected to create an even larger decline in distribution. With a greatly reduced audience, Yellow Page advertisements may no longer be the right investment for some small businesses, and business owners now find themselves reexamining their traditional marketing plans.

So what’s the best response for local businesses, or for any business challenged by changing environmental regulations?

When choosing a new marketing strategy, it’s important not to think narrowly. While San Francisco’s new law is a very targeted regulation, it reflects a wider interest in promoting sustainability. Similar ordinances such as San Francisco’s ban on plastic bag distribution and the city’s mandatory composting program show that while specific regulations may have a precise impact, the more overall concern is on broader goals like waste reduction. By orienting practices to fit these general trends rather than a specific ruling, businesses can stay ahead of the regulatory curve.

In understanding the bigger picture from these individual regulations, small business owners can also predict the most likely targets of future regulation. For San Francisco businesses, tracking the trends may mean increasing investment in online marketing efforts. Exploring new techniques like QR codes allows businesses to reach customers in increasingly diverse ways, and to provide an increasingly wide range of information about your business to potential customers. At the same time, moving away from more traditional advertising that could be targeted by future waste reduction initiatives can help make sure your business proactively complies with the environmental rules.

All businesses will continue to be affected by environmental regulation, but with the right planning, small business owners can move above future uncertainties. By understanding the trends and using the bigger picture goals for guidance, every business owner can prepare for coming changes and stage your business for a green future.

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