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Monday
Mar302009

Med Spa & Laser Clinic Yellow Page Advertising

yellowpages225.jpgThe Fools Gold of Yellow Pages Advertising.

A discussion about usage patterns and investing in the Yellow Pages directory. It’s something of an institution for many small business owners, and I know that many owners out there are terrified at the idea of not running the biggest possible ad they can afford. So far though, I’ve never spoken to a business owner who could substantiate their belief in the power of the Yellow Pages to generate business. The normal answer I’ve been given is ‘yes it works, no I don’t know how well’. Considering the pricing, I would hope it works damn well! It’s easy to drop $20K+ on a few inches of paper.

It amazes me just how many plastic surgeons and dermatologists advertise their presence in the Yellow Pages. (As well as med spas and laser clinics.) If you’ve got one of those big yellow stickers that say “Find me in Yellow Pages” stuck to your car, your door, your wall, or god forbid- included on a brochure or website! Stop what you’re doing right now, go outside, peel it off, and burn it*.

Telling your potential patients that your laser clinic or med spa can be found in the Yellow Pages is a terrible way to promote your practice. If you’ve made enough of an impression that they want to contact you again, you’ve already done the hard part. You’ve stood out from the crowd, you’ve had their attention. Don’t waste this valuable opportunity on a useless referral. Those four evil words “Find me in Yellow” serve the company that owns the directory, not you. Heres some things to think about:Yellow Pages is not strictly alphabetical, it’s a competitive listing. The ‘No.1’ position goes to the highest bidder, with the earliest application. Your prospective patient has to troll through pages of your competitors advertising to find you.

You’re encouraging people to comparison shop. Now that they’ve gone to the trouble of pulling out the phone book, it’s not that much more trouble to just do a quick ‘call around’ and find out who has the best price. You just lost your advantage. (You'll recognize the phone calls that come asking how much for a unit of Botox, laser hair removal, or Thermage.)

You risk that their attention will be drawn to someone else. You could pay a little more for bold typeface, and a border… but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re still buried amongst 15 pages of other plastic surgeons, laser clinics, dermatologists and med spas.

If you want to refer them somewhere, point them to your own website! At least there you won’t give your opposition the chance to steal your patient!

Note: I said your own site. Medical spa and plastic surgeon directories function just like the Yellow Pages, inviting comparison shopping and driving your prices down. And providing a competitve zone listing? Bullshit used to sell to docs who don't know better. There is no 'exclusion zone' on the web. Anyone looking for a laser clinic will damn well find all of your competitors anyway. (I'll be posting about this topic extensively since I get a lot of questions about how to do SEO and SEM for med spas.)

Are yellow page ads working for your laser clinic?

Simple answer: They weren't for me. I pulled the Yellow Page ads for all of our med spas. (Seven clinics in four states.) Over the last seven years, I have found that the money that is spent or should I say gouged on Yellow Page ads is better spent elsewhere.

Yellow Pages were at one time popular before the Internet and competition. In many markets, there are six Yellow Page competitors who are all publishing books. In order to run a full-page, full-color ad in all of them, I would be looking at about $20,000 a month, which I think is absolutely ridiculous.

Yellow Page salespeople will tell you that 50% or 40% or some other percentage of people who are looking for your type of business are going to be able to find you in the Yellow Pages.

That is true... kind of*.

What really happens is people hear about your med spa or dermatology office and then they will search for you in order to find out your telephone number. That's a vastly different value proposition from the way that Yellow Pages are really sold to you as which is direct advertising. The Internet has made it so easy to find any information. The Yellow Pages for the most part are now irrelevant.

Now, I've tried individual phone numbers and a number of other things in order to track our ROI, but what we find out when we actually talk to our patients (every patient that comes into one of our clinics is given a questionnaire in which case they fill out where they heard about us and also if they have heard about us before) the vast majority are just using Yellow Pages in order to look up our phone number. (I think probably 100% of people who fill out that they called us from the Yellow Pages also fill out that they have heard of us someplace before) Of those same patients only about 3% do not have Internet access. As more and more people switch to the Internet for their information needs, the Yellow Pages become less and less relevant, and the opportunity cost for that money becomes greater and greater.

I would be interested in hearing what your thoughts are on the Yellow Page ads that you run (or don't).

Reader Comments (8)

We've cut way back on YP expenditures.....no loss in patients.
Next year, we're planning to cut YP even more.

The marketing budget is now spent on other things, especially SEO.

03.31 | Unregistered CommenterTF

I believe you make some great points, but I wonder if advertising only with the online yellowpage providers, such as yellowbook or yellowpages.com is a necessity in a large market like NY metro.

Do you have any comments about Citysearch.com, which I believe can be a big waste as well --it's essentially listings similar to the yellowpages...

03.31 | Unregistered CommenterMyDerm

@ My Derma and TF
I'm not a fan of general directories. You're paying to be put in front of everyone when you're really just wanting people who are 'potential patients'. Citysearch will tell you how many 'hits' your listing is getting but that's really useless. You want potential patients at a listing or page that you control completely. IE; you have your own domain on it... (Disclosure: Medical Spa MD is looking into building out a system that would do this.)
I went from spending $40k + a year to 0 with not a single attributable lost patient.

Look at all the newspapers that are folding. Print is dying. The web is the new market. If you're not advertising there correctly you really are losing patients.

We have been in the YP since we have opened 4 years ago. The money we spent is not seen in the return. Most of the clients we get from the YP are for massages. That would be a lot of massages to cover the cost. We are going to completely pull out of the YP but we do advertise in Skirt, some tv (local only) and on the web. We are currently looking for a company do update our website. Any other suggestions? Can you define "advertising corectly on the web"?

Lisa: See the information about "MAPA" at the top of this web site. You can join MAPA for only $1.00 (membership information is included above) and participate in a number of helpful activities that we - as a group - are involved with. One of the most exciting new projects is the group development of two state-of-the-art web sites. One web site is a group site to help educate and recruit patients in your geographic area. Check it out. The membership will be splitting the fee for the development of the site so everyone will benefit. There are a number of experienced practitioners and technical people involved so I am sure it will be done professionally.

Its sad how many ad agencies including once reputable companies like the Yellow Pages are taking advantage of doctors who don't know better. The sad thing is that traditional media is no longer effective, even with the best marketing strategies put in place. One book that I like that many docs that are interested in learning about new media marketing should read to gain a fresh perspective is Seth Godin's book, "Meatball Sundae". I highly suggest reading it so that you can see how social media marketing really can benefit your practice. Thanks Medical Spa MD for this great post!

hmmm! nowadays you are making some great points, but I wonder if advertising only with the online yellowpage providers, such as yellowbook or yellowpages.com is a necessity in a large market like NY metro.and the marketing budget is now spent on other things, especially SEO.

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