Larry Bodine, who writes the Law Marketing Blog wrote an interesting piece this week called, Evidence That Yellow Pages Are Trash.

As you probably know, lawyers and law firms are among the most prolific Yellow Page advertisers. Larry mentions that in his local pages, lawyer ads run from page 497 to 538, with little to distinguish themselves other than pictures of gavels and scales of justice.

Sigh. This means I am going to have to get on my lawyer-marketing soapbox again.

As many of you know, I used to be a lawyer and one of my peeves is how poorly lawyers and other professionals market their services.

Frankly I believe this is one of the reasons practicing law is such a high-pressure profession. Poor marketing leads to taking on bad clients with bad cases who leave swaths of stress and frustration in their wake. Many of the cases and clients in a lot of lawyers' files are there simply because they couldn't afford to be selective.

Good marketing enables all professionals to be selective and lets them work with the people they really want to work with.

Back to Larry's article. Larry looked out his window one morning and saw what appeared to be a bag of trash laying in his front yard. When he went out to throw it away, he found it was the local Yellow Pages. His point is that the lawyers who bought expensive ads probably would not have preferred to have it presented as trash in someone's front yard.

I will grant Larry's point that Yellow Pages could be presented much better, but my mind took what he said and went off on its own direction. I believe Yellow Page advertising could be productive for professionals if they were handled better.

Instead of cookie-cutter ads with gavels, scales of justice or pictures of stern looking lawyers, why not use these ads to offer free information kits on different areas of the law?

For example, if I were looking for a lawyer to handle my medical malpractice case, do you think I would be attracted to an ad that listed medical malpractice within a laundry list of other specialties? Or do you think I would gravitate to an ad that offered a free booklet or case study on medical malpractice?

This is the difference between one-step vs. two-step advertising strategies.

Decades of direct response advertising and generations of copywriters have proven that two-step advertising, in which a person merely has to request free information, almost always gets a higher response.

Alternatively, a one-step ad which requires that the person must call a phone number to schedule an appointment, requires much more of a commitment on the person's part, and therefore gets a much lower response.

Two-step advertising requires less of an initial commitment on the part of the potential client, but gives the firm the opportunity to build a list of prospective clients and follow up with these people with subsequent mailings or emails.

These days, the term, Permission Marketing is used interchangeably with "two-step advertising." The ad's sole purpose under this strategy is to gather a list of prospects and follow up with them by offering valuable, free information. Repeated contact with potential clients who have opted onto a list invariably converts more of them into actual clients.

What kind of information can be offered both as the initial inducement to opt in or as follow up material? Problem-solving information pieces like white papers, list articles, FAQs, or case studies all make excellent free info products.

The added benefit with these materials is that they all position the lawyer or other professional as an expert in that area of their practice. They go from someone who just mentioned "medical malpractice" as one of several areas within a laundry list, to someone who is knowledgeable enough to have written material about it.

So, Larry Bodine's point is very well taken that Yellow Page ads may lack a lot in their presentation, but I would urge professionals who do Yellow Page advertising to simply write ads that are intended to build lists of prospective clients.

COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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I've had an online yellow page ad for four months and sit in position one for my category. No calls and no leads. Nothing. It's an amazingly overpriced product.

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