Internet vs. Yellow Page Advertising for Lawyers in the Inland Empire.

Phone BookAs a lawyer in the Inland Empire, you may be asking yourself if it’s more beneficial to advertise in your local phone book, or put your marketing dollars on the Internet. Before you read further I need to disclose… you may have read my profile know that I previously worked for a large yellow page publisher in the Inland Empire for about 5 years. Every advertising & marketing decision needs to be carefully considered, this is not an article to endorse or denounce the efficacy of advertising in the phonebook. My opinion may be biased, but I’ll try to be honest and forthcoming.

Every form of advertising has pros and cons, and if it produces an acceptable return on investment you should stick with it.

Here’s a few things you should consider when deciding on yellow page advertising.

1) Which phone books in your target geography get the best usage? How would you even find this information out? This may be something that has to pass your sniff test, but you should know that usually the “Telco” or telephone company directory in a specific geography has a more complete distribution over the independent directories like Yellowbook. For instance, currently San Bernardino County is mostly owned & operated by Verizon, while Riverside and Corona is owned & operated by AT&T. These books are typically more expensive to advertise in compared to Yellowbook, but who really cares if it’s 2 or even 10 times as expensive as long as it delivers a relative ROI. Conversely, most independent (non-telco) directories are generally going to be less expensive, but may deliver less ROI. This is going to be trial and error… expensive trial and error.

2) Does your target audience use phone books to find lawyers? Most lawyers these days inform me that response rate & new client acquisition to yellow pages advertising is steadily declining if not completely dead. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t get any business off a yellow page ad, it just means that in today’s world it’s less likely than in the 80’s and 90’s. Most consumers want to do research on an attorney before they drop a hefty retainer, they want to know who’s going to help them in possibly the worst moment of their life, and they want to know what qualifications you have and why you’re different. Information that just won’t fit into a half page, full page or double truck ad.

3) What should I put in my ad? Many attorneys, and business owners in general, find it safe to do exactly what everyone else is doing in their advertising message. Unfortunately, this creates confusion because the only thing that ends up different in every ad is the phone number. Separate yourself… there’s a reason people hire you, what is it? Now… what is it really? If you decide to run a phone book ad the worst thing you can do is look like every other lawyer in every other ad. Without differentiation you are forcing the consumer to retain you based on what they understand… price.

Internet advertising is different because it’s hard to deny how people use the Internet. Google has maintained roughly 65% market share, and Nielson recently reported that nearly 50% of cell phones sold are smart phones that connect to the Internet. Furthermore, your presence is now accessible to people around the world, not just to the people who got the phone book. After all, the client hiring you may not even live near your office. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when advertising a law firm in the Inland Empire region of California online.

1) Simply having a website is not the same as having it found by keyword searches. Many attorneys proudly declare that they have a website. Although this is a great start, a website only has value as an advertising tool if it can be found for a desired geography and keyword search terms… being found only by searching your name is like saying “here’s where you can find my business card online”. I don’t say that to be cynical, but any advertising only has value if you have an audience. If your audience is only people that already know you, you’re only helping repeat & referral clientele to find your phone number and address. You need to be found on page 1 of Google in your desired geography for search terms relevant to your practice focus, because that is where your non-referral market is finding the lawyer they will hire. I can help you with this.

2) Should I hire someone to handle my website? Most often the answer to this one is yes, after all, your busy practicing law. However, the person to hire is the hardest to determine. Many attorneys start with someone they know, or someone they’ve worked with in the past. Often, this will be their yellow page sales rep or “I.T.” guy who helped network their office… this is very understandable but usually detrimental to the effectiveness of their online success. These are usually the clients who say “I tried doing a website and it didn’t work”. (Of course, I hope that you would talk to me because of my experience and LexisNexis backing, but that would just be a shameful plug). Let’s get something straight now… Internet marketing is not as easy as placing a printed ad, or setting up a computer network or server. It’s exponentially more difficult when your competition is hiring a professional legal marketing firm, like me, to push weaker websites to the second page.

3) How much should a website cost? This is the magic question on everyone’s mind… and the answer is that the investment should be in line with the return. This conversation will always go back to Return on Investment. Whoever designs your website it should position you as authoritative, credible and high quality. Can the person partnering with you on your law firm’s website demonstrate successful projects and provide testimonials from other attorneys? Will you get any service after the sale or launch of the site?

I hope that this article has helped in your research, and I hope that you’ll call or shoot me an Email, or comment below with you opinions or helpful hints. If you’ve already invested in a website, maybe it’s time to market it with PPC.

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