January/February 2003  Volume 29, Issue 1
January/February 2003
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edited by Milton W. Zwicker


 Effective Yellow Pages Advertising for Lawyers: The Complete Guide to Creating Winning Ads .
Kerry Randall.
(ABA Law Practice Management Section, 2002.)
$54.95; LPM Section members: $44.95.
PC: 511-0478.
(800) 285-2221;

Reviewed by Ross H. Fishman
As a marketing professional, I have long marveled at the wretched quality of Yellow Pages advertising. Shrieking red headlines. Cluttered, chaotic layouts. Endless bulleted lists of practice areas. Clichéd clip-art gavels or eagles. Groups of suits in front of bookcases, their toothy grins mocking your devastating injury, divorce or incarceration.

One flaccid, look-alike ad after another seeking the same readers' attention. Firms spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars each year buying a directory page-then they unthinkingly fill that valuable space with an ad that was thrown together in 15 minutes and tossed in for free. These ads are "designed" by commissioned sales reps, or by the same high-volume layout assembly line that laid out all the competition's ads.

As a result, instead of finding innovative new differentiation strategies, most firms end up with one of the publisher's standard layouts and whatever clip-art flag, handcuff, scales of justice or ambulance that has not yet been used for a competitor. No one tells the firms that it is the quality of the ad that makes the difference between a flipped page and a phone call. A powerful ad has a dazzling image and a headline that draws you into a carefully honed message that resonates with the purchaser. The overall ad is an eye-popping piece of printed artwork that grabs you and shakes you with a powerful story. This is critical, because there's no second best in the Yellow Pages; only the best ad gets the call.

If you choose to try it yourself, many books promise to help you improve your existing ad. Most of these simply compare the various bad ads to see which ones stink less. The least bad ad is proclaimed the best-hardly a strategy on which to stake your annual income. Effective Yellow Pages Advertising for Lawyers takes a different approach and is perhaps the best of the self-help books. It is a practical handbook that offers simple, effective ways to improve a Yellow Pages advertisement. Although it won't turn the reader into a professional designer or creative strategist, for motivated readers willing to go through the well-designed exercises, it should lead to a much better ad.

The author, Kerry Randall, makes a compelling case for employing certain proven strategies, such as: (1) identifying a differentiated strategy, (2) focusing on a narrow target audience and (3) cutting the fat to make a cluttered ad more readable.

Further, he hammers the important difference between getting inside the buyers' heads and merely "selling your stuff." Selling from inventory is one of the most fundamental mistakes made by lawyers in a wide range of marketing activities, from advertising to cross-selling.

Here's a representative exercise. "Look at everything in your ad. Evaluate: Is this what my potential customers want? Or, is this what I want to sell? Grab a red pen and strike through every copy point in your ad that is selling your stuff. Then, strike through every graphic … that is selling your stuff." All good advice that is routinely ignored by too much Yellow Pages advertising.

There are many similarly thought-provoking exercises throughout the book. Studious readers who take these exercises seriously should dramatically improve the quality of their Yellow Pages ads.

Simply, if you undertake the effort to walk through the exercises, your next ad should attract more calls and more business than it did this year. It's worth the investment. I give this book a 7 out of 10 and recommend it to all lawyers who are committed to improving their Yellow Pages presence.

Ross Fishman ( ross@YP-Ads.com) is a lawyer, CEO of Ross Fishman Marketing, Inc., and President of YP-Ads, Inc., an ad agency specializing in creative Yellow Pages advertising for lawyers, at www.YP-Ads.com.

The Power of Simplicity: A Management Guide to Cutting Through the Nonsense and Doing Things Right.
Jack Trout with Steve Rivkin.
(McGraw-Hill, 2001 ed.)
$14.95. ISBN: 0-07-137332-2.

Reviewed by Milton W. Zwicker
Many people say they want to lead less-complicated lives. According to Jack Trout, "The way to fight complexity is to use simplicity." Students of business development know Trout as a co-author of two brilliant books on marketing, Positioning and Marketing Warfare. Another of his books, The Power of Simplicity, has been on business bookshelves for a while, yet it is also one of those books that has staying power because of its insights into its subject. The author takes some of the big issues that many businesses-including law firms-face and he shows how to get them right.

For example, consultants and academics have made a cottage industry out of the need for better client service. Some press the need for more and better client feedback. Some preach about how to keep clients for life. The lists of slogans and complicated diagrams that consultants use to convey their brand of client service are endless. Trout, however, reminds us that we sometimes complicate client-service marketing. "But if you want it in simplest terms, the whole 'discipline' of customer service is based on two commonsense ideas. You should treat customers so they (1) buy more, and (2) complain less."

Trout also offers his viewpoint on mission statements, which many law firms have adopted: He believes they are of very little benefit.

Also of interest to lawyers is what Trout writes about the lack of focus in decentralized companies. As I read those pages, I thought about the books and articles, mostly by consultants, extolling the virtues of practice groups. The idea behind practice groups sounds like Trout's description of a decentralized company. See what you think: "Digital Equipment was a company that fell victim to decentralization's allure. Under a massive restructuring plan, the company reorganized into semiautonomous business units that were able to set their own advertising, pricing and marketing strategies. While Digital decentralized, it watched its lead in 64-bit workstations disappear. Now the company is in the process of disappearing, as Compaq owns it."

The author even attacks goals, a sacred step in many strategic planning models. Trout believes, "Goals are responsible for mucking up marketing plans." You may disagree with that opinion, but if you read what Trout says, you will, at a minimum, never look at goals the same way again.

He also has a different view about growth. Law firms have grown in size and complexity during the past 30 years, and it raises the question of whether they see growth as their chief goal. For Trout, "Growth is the by-product of doing things right. But in itself it is not a worthy goal. In fact, growth is the culprit behind impossible goals."

Whatever you think of Trout's specific views, it's hard to disagree with his call for simplicity. He writes, "When you pursue simplicity you are on the side of the world's leading thinkers." I'm all for being on their side. What side are you on?

Milton W. Zwicker ( zwicker@zwickerevanslewis.com) is Managing Partner of Zwicker Evans & Lewis in Orillia, ONT, and the author of Successful Client Newsletters (ABA, 1998).