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Ask The MAM — Yellow Pages Advertising

Dear MAM: A I recently went out on my own as a solo. I’m trying to decide whether it is worth ponying up for an ad in my local yellow pages. What is your take on yellow pages advertising? Sincerely, James S., Milwaukee, WI

Dear James: I know many attorneys that have continuously spent big bucks on yellow pages advertising. Trust me, if they were not getting results that made the purchase profitable, they would not be re-upping for annual commitments that can run close to six-figures in certain markets.

Yellow Pages advertising for lawyers are pricey and competitive. The sales reps for many of these outfits (there are now so many yellow-papered directories with choices and options that you need a rocket scientist to figure it all out) rarely make it easier to compare apples with apples, not to mention get a listing of price quotes and options. I recently dealt with a Verizon rep in one of my law firm customer’s markets that never gave me a straight answer on deadlines, prices or options. When the proofs arrived, they were wrong. Yet, in many markets, the books have the lawyers convinced they have no choice but to do as they are told! Pay up, shut up and be happy you get in the book. If it was up to me, he would have lost the business. Lucky for him.

Remember the following…(1) Yellow Page ads are targeted toward consumers. If you are targeting corporations or small businesses, there are probably more effective ways to spend the cash; (2) you should be able to track calls and clients that get to you via these ads. Figuring out true ROI in this day and age is often hard. In the case of yellow pages, it is usually rather easy to know if you are profiting on the venture. If an ad cost $30,000 and you know that it led to fees of $90,000, well, stop crying. If you received a lot of off-target phone calls, people price-shopping and a few cases totaling three grand, think again; (3) take the time to make your ad stand out and try targeting an audience as opposed to shooting bbs at the side of a barn; (4) price shop among “yellow pages” options in your neighborhood. They players in your city or suburb may differ from my own; (5) be wary of online yellow page knockoffs and telemarketing schemes making you think that you will appear in “your” yellow pages, instead of a poor facsimile.

Finally, do not hesitate to ask colleagues that advertise in your market about their experiences. The ABA Law Practice Management section also sells a good book on the art of attorney yellow page ads. Of course, be sure they are ethically sound. Let me know how things work out for you. Sincerely yours, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY