Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why are so many lawyers still being taken for a ride down the yellow page road?

It’s astounding how yellow page sales people are still able to persuade so many lawyers to
waste so much money on advertising in a nearly extinct media format that sits unused in drawers, closets and back rooms. What’s even more unbelievable is how they are able to get lawyers, of all people, to sign a one year contract that cannot be canceled, modified or legally challenged. But such is the case. In every major U.S. market there are double and full page ads for numerous law firms under multiple categories. Some law firms are paying tens of thousands of dollars a month!

Spending more and more to “keep up with the Jones's” is the essence of guerilla marketing in the yellow pages. Lawyers are led to believe that they absolutely must have as big and as many ad pages as the competition. Every year this ridiculous scare tactics scenario gets played out over and over. Lawyers are told that if they do not spend as much as last year they will lose their all so important placement in the book. Now more than ever, your law firm needs to break this wasteful and ineffective habit and start advertising for the future.

One of the biggest problems with yellow page advertising is the lack of frequency. In the course of one year, how often are people going to open the book and see your law firm’s ad? The majority of the population probably won’t see that ad at all. By comparison, for that same amount of money you spend monthly for a full yellow page ad, your firm could be airing thousands of commercials a month on local television and cable. With that kind of frequency you’ll build name recognition and top of the mind awareness. Plus those airtime slots are exclusive, unlike the yellow pages where your ad appears somewhere between dozens of others. With television, you bring your ad to the masses, but with yellow pages, your ad sits somewhere waiting for the masses to come find you.

I’ve always viewed the yellow pages as a secondary advertising source. By the time a potential client picks up the yellow pages to find/call a lawyer, they should already be aware of your law firm. Can you imagine a layperson attempting to decide on a lawyer by simply looking at all those yellow page ads? They might as well open the book and select a page blindfolded! But what about that survey that found that consumers consider the yellow pages the most acceptable form of lawyer advertising and that half of those surveyed would select a lawyer based on a yellow page ad alone? Sorry, but I don’t buy it. Those types of surveys are commissioned by the yellow page companies and questions are designed to produce biased results. The fact is that most people are not going to select a lawyer from a yellow page ad like they would a plumber for an emergency leak or clogged drain.

I also don’t buy the number of monthly references or impressions claimed by those yellow page sales people. According to yellow page guidelines, an impression is defined as a reference to a directory within the last 30 days. The references include both personal and business use. In the case of a personal injury law firm, that means the impressions include not just potential clients but also all other types of business matters. So, many of those calls that your law firm receives every month that are not from potential new clients are included in those yellow page usage estimates. Based on national usage levels, of the yellow page users who made contact with an attorney, 30 percent made “a purchase”. Well, in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, the numbers breakdown like this. There are approximately 1700 lawyers listed A to Z in the Columbus area yellow pages. According to that 30 percent figure, 34,232 new clients a month sign up with yellow page advertising attorneys. So there you have it. Welcome to the Land of Oz where each and every one of those 1700 lawyers signs up 20 new clients per month!

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