Yellow page telephone books are distributed within small geographic areas which may be ideal for lawyer advertising, when the lawyer is not interested in clients residing more than 30 minutes from the law office. There are small yellow page books encompassing one or more villages and larger countywide yellow page books. Costco® is able to offer low prices because they buy products in very large quantities. Similarly, the more people advertising reaches, the less it costs per person, but the more it costs overall. Advertising in a county-wide yellow page telephone book is more cost-effective than in a village yellow book, but more expensive. Advertising on radio will reach more people than a yellow page book, while advertising on local TV will reach still more people. The most expensive and most cost-effective advertising is national TV which will reach the most number of people.
In the 1980s, yellow page advertising was very effective for personal injury lawyers. There were fewer lawyers advertising in yellow page books than there are today; there were very few lawyers advertising on TV; there was no Internet; there was only one Yellow Pages® telephone book and at the time it was extensively used. Today there are several countywide yellow page telephone books for each county and usually at least two village yellow page books. Some people stack several books on top of each other and use the one on top. Others will keep only one yellow page telephone book and throw the others out. Some people even keep using old books and throw out the new ones. Will your ad be in a book that’s on the bottom of the stack or the one that’s thrown out?
Advertising fees for yellow page telephone books have risen dramatically over the years, quite probably due to an attempt to maintain profits. While faced with rising printing, distribution, sales and overhead costs, yellow page books have lost advertisers to competing yellow page books, TV and the Internet. Today, for the cost of a full page advertisement in just two county yellow page telephone books, a lawyer can advertise on TV and reach four to eight times the population of two yellow page books. More importantly, a substantially higher percentage of the population will actually see your advertising on TV. If you were to advertise in all of the yellow page phone books in all of the counties in your area, you would be spending enough money to have the largest budget on TV of any lawyer in your TV market and would have enough money left over for radio and billboards.
An effort by yellow page telephone book publishers to produce more revenue has led to the uncovering of additional real estate in yellow page books. Advertising is now available on card stock with a tab protruding from the telephone book; the front, back and spine of the yellow book; the front and back covers; and even Post-it Note® style stickers glued to the front and back of the yellow page book. Due to so many lawyers with full-page yellow page advertisements, lawyers looking to stand out have raced to the covers.
The problem with advertising outside of the lawyer section is twofold. First, it is more expensive since you will be paying a premium price for increased visibility. The second and most important is that I heard from a personal injury lawyer who moved to the back cover. After his inside page wasn’t performing as well as it used to, he moved to the back cover. This resulted in a large increase in calls, but a substantial decrease in call quality. Most of the calls were for Landlord/Tenant problems and none of the calls were related to personal injury, which is what he advertised for. His biggest complaint was that because the yellow page book is only distributed once a year, he continued to receive calls throughout the year that were unrelated to personal injury, taking up the valuable time of him and his staff. He was extremely annoyed that he had to continue his monthly payments for advertising which he gladly would have paid to get rid of.
If you’re considering advertising on the front, back, spine, post it note, or tabbed insert of a yellow page book, you can eliminate annoying, unwanted calls by using a vanity phone number that is specific to the area of law you’re advertising for. For instance, rather than using a numeric number or a vanity number that is generic to the practice of law such as 1-800-LAW-1212 which will generate a lot of unwanted calls, license a vanity phone number specific to your practice such as 1-800-BANKRUPT, 1-800-DIVORCE, 1-888-DRUG-CRIMES or 1-800-HURT-911®. Practice specific vanity phone numbers provide the advantage of attracting callers only for the particular field of practice.
Using any vanity phone number in your yellow page advertising will help your ad to stand out from the others. A vanity phone number will impress potential clients, create instant perceived brand recognition, and give your law firm instant status and credibility. Any vanity phone number will increase your call volume. A really good vanity phone number will make a substantial difference.
Don’t even think of letting the yellow page publisher design your ad! You get what you pay for. At best, if your ad is designed in the US, you’ll get a generic ad changed for you. It will look like others in the yellow page book. At worst, it will be designed in India by someone who doesn’t understand your business. Considering the annual cost of a yellow page ad today; 20 to 60 lawyers competing for attention in the lawyer section; and an ad design that can’t be changed for an entire year, you need your yellow page ad designed by an agency that understands yellow page advertising. Yellow page advertising has issues that are very different than any other type of advertising. The cost of a custom professional design is very inexpensive. I recommend Joe Brown at Kenyon Design Group.
Since yellow page advertising is printed once per year and cannot be changed until the next year, it is important that you carefully review your advertising to make sure that it doesn’t violate ethics rules. This will also be a consideration if you’re planning to move your office to a new address and possibly a new telephone number. Additionally, some people keep using old books. If you do not have a vanity phone number, make sure that you use a portable 1-800 toll-free telephone number in your yellow page advertising. Additionally, make sure that you include your web site address.
Unlike yellow page phone books where your advertisement appears next to 10 or 20 others, television gives momentary exclusivity. Only one television advertisement can be seen at a time. Additionally, broadcasters attempt to separate like advertisers so that two lawyers usually do not appear one after the other. Furthermore, people with serious injuries are usually either in a hospital bed or in bed at home where it is difficult or not even possible to gain access to a telephone book or the Internet. Seriously injured people in bed are usually watching TV and will call a lawyer they see advertising on television.
The public’s perception of media (see pdf p. 24) shows television trumps all other media as the most effective media among adults, age 18 and over, in every category: Most Authoritative, Most Influential, Most Persuasive, and Most Exciting. TV was voted Most Influential media by 81.8%, with newspapers far behind in second place at only 8.5%. TV scores 66.8% Most Persuasive with newspapers, again, a very distant second at 14.2%. Television was also voted Most Authoritative media by almost twice that of the second runner up, newspapers. Of course, TV swamps all other media for Most Exciting. Finally, adults age 18 and over are 3 times more likely (see pdf p. 25) to learn about products from television than from the next most likely source.
My suggestion is that for personal injury lawyers, yellow page advertising be used only by law firms that are also advertising on TV and billboards. For law firms with geographically smaller practice areas, that typically do not advertise on TV, such as criminal law, divorce or bankruptcy, yellow page advertising will continue to be a valuable source of clients.
If you have decided that yellow page advertising is right for you, there are many more things that you should know. For instance, where there is more than one yellow page telephone book in your area, how do you know which one to advertise in? What size ad do you purchase, where in or on the yellow page book do you place your ad, and how do you design it to stand out from the others? Choosing the right book may result in a good experience however, choosing the wrong book can result in a quiet telephone. Choosing the wrong spot for your advertisement can result in unwanted calls. Not using an independent professional to design your yellow page ad can result in wasted money. Whenever planning an advertising campaign, whether it be in a yellow page book or on TV, always use an advertising professional to plan and design your campaign and advertising.