Editor’s Note: In a more recent post, I talk about taking risk and being first! Check out: A Law Firm Marketing Lesson on Being First
Within the next five years, Yellow Pages will be completely obsolete. It is arguable that this hasn’t happened already. Yellow Page response rates are steadily declining. Fewer people are using them every year. At the same time, the monthly cost to maintain your same sized ad continues to rise.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, Yellow Page advertising was a very effective form of marketing your law firm. Very few lawyers advertised on TV. The internet was not available to the general public and, until the breakup of “Ma Bell” in 1994, there was only one phone directory. All of these factors made advertising in the Yellow Pages very cost-effective.
Since 1994, there has been a steady decline in the effectiveness of Yellow Page advertising. This ineffectiveness has been more widespread in certain geographic areas and has rapidly increased in the past four to five years. There are several reasons for this. Today, more and more lawyers are spending more on TV advertising. The increasing use of vanity numbers such as 1-800-LAWYERS, 1-800-HURT911 and 1-800-HURTNOW means fewer people need to look up phone numbers. There has also been an influx of Yellow Page directories. Some markets have anywhere from two to five directories. All of these factors have substantially reduced the return on investment for Yellow Page advertising.
The internet has had the biggest impact by far on Yellow Page return. First, most people searching for any type of business will search online for contact information and to perform research. A growing percentage of people can even search for phone numbers on their cell phones. Also, the Yellow Page directory companies know that their large books are becoming a thing of the past! Many directories such as “The Yellow Book,” AT&T’s “The Real Yellow Pages,” and Verizon’s “Superpages” have invested millions of dollars on the internet and are now pushing pay-per-clicks and banner ads on their online sites to supplement their declining Yellow Page print revenues.
According to Verizon’s own internal marketing division, if a person already knows who they want to call, 80 percent go to the White Pages to find the number. Based on my experience and research, a majority of Yellow Page “callers” are price-shoppers – or, as I like to call them, “tire kickers.” This is someone who has already been turned down by four or five previous attorneys because they don’t have a case.
Today, for consumers to use the Yellow Pages, they must:
- Not have a name in mind.
- Not have been recommended to a firm by a friend or neighbor.
- Not have internet access (75 percent of Americans do have access).
All of these things must happen simultaneously in order for someone to utilize the Yellow Pages to “search” for an attorney. So, as you can clearly see, Yellow Pages are slowly, but surely, become a dying medium for lawyer advertising.
However, Yellow Page ads do work in some markets. The more rural the market, the better chance you have of actually getting a reasonable return on your Yellow Page investment.