The Yellow Pages is not as popular as it used to be. The internet serves the same function for a lot of people. However, plenty of people still use it, AND many of the same issues that applied to yellow pages adverstising will apply to internet ads.
I used to get good value from my yellow pages ads. These days I get a good return from internet listings, primarily from lawyers.com and findlaw.com. I always put a lot of thought into these adventures. So, for what it's worth, and in the hopes it will help, here are a few thoughts about yellow pages and internet advertising....
1. READ WHAT'S ALREADY THERE!!!!! I can't emphasize this enough. I used to look at the Yellow Pages lawyer ads for all the NYC and surrounding counties. Don't just thumb through them, look carefully at the categories, look at the approaches the lawyers are taking. Of course, if you specialize, look at the lawyers in your field. The more carefully you look, and the more you think about it, the more you will notice. A few examples:
- You may notice full page ads, usually for plaintiffs personal injury. If you think these ads are VERY expensive, you are right. These firms can afford it, they only need a few home runs to make these ad outlays pay off. After the full page ads, there are usually ads alphabetically by specialty. In these sections a lawyer can take a partial page, or a few extra lines. THESE are the ads most small firms should focus on. They are affordable, and you can easily calculate how much business you'd have to do to make the ad profitable.
- Some ads feature the attorneys location. I think this is smart, a lot of clients make their first call based on convenient location.
- Some ads mention fees in various ways. How to handle this is an important decision. For some reason, the contingency fee lawyers rarely talk about the percentage. It's almost as if nobody wants to compete on this aspect. This is a curious phenomenon, considering that competition and advertising has deflated the fees in most areas of general practice. In personal injury though, one third is rarely challenged. I thought about breaking ranks and advertising a 25% contingency fee, and featuring this. I wonder what sort of retribution would have ensued from all the self-righteous "we look out for our poor clients" plaintiff's attorneys. If someone tries this, please let me know.
- Try to think of the client process in searching for a lawyer for the kinds of cases you want to get. In the late 80's a lot of rental apartments were converting to co-op ownership, and there were many closings to be had. When I looked in the yellow pages, I saw that all the lawyers put their ads for co-op closings in the "real estate" sub-category of the lawyer ads. Most lawyers would consider this a "real estate" matter. I had noticed that MANY clients, who had always lived in rental apartments they were now buying from their landlords, thought of this as a landlord/tenant matter. There was a category for L&T, but it was full of eviction ads, tenant rights ads, and Housing Court ads. I called the yellow pages and asked if I could list in the Landlord/tenant section, and put the following words in my small ad "Co-ops and condos, contracts and closings, reasonable fees". This cost (in approx 1985) about $75/mo for the Manhattan and Queens yellow pages. For a year I was the only ad listed like that. I got a TON of business from those ads. The next year, a few more lawyers used my strategy. I always wondered whether they thought of it themselves, or whether the yellow pages sales reps tipped them off.
- The internet has similar considerations. The big question there is always "what kind of searches will clients do". You want to show up on the first page of the major search engines. It's worth putting in the thought and money to have this happen, and the only way is to think as the clients will think.
- Get feedback on your ads. I always ask where a referral came from, this is standard and we all do this, for a lot of reasons. I would add this....if I establish any kind of rapport with the client, I try to see what about my ad, or my internet listing, helped make the contact. I make this a regular practice. You really learn about your ads, and your potential client base, and you can make adjustments on this basis.
- Maybe this is an oversimplification (though I don't think so), you have to get out your pad and pen and calculator and RUN THE NUMBERS. This applies to a lot of things in practice, and I am sometimes surprised how lawyers don't do this....so tomorrow I will talk about it more.....