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Does yellow mean more green?
Twenty-seven percent of respondents to our survey say yellow page ads rank among their most effective marketing tools. But that's not enough to bank on.
MORE THAN HALF OF VETERINARIANS surveyed say they advertise in a phone directory. Yet many of you who do advertise say you're not sure whether it helps attract new clients, according to the 2004 Veterinary Economics Myths Versus Truths Study. (See Figure 1 for more.) And there's disagreement, even among experts.
Pro: A good return for some practices
"Compared to other external forms of marketing, phone directory advertising is the most cost-effective for my practices," says Dr. Dennis Cloud, a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and owner of three St. Louis-area hospitals. Dr. Cloud's receptionists ask new clients how they learned about his practice. They often find that it's a combination of word-of-mouth and directory advertising.
"They might remember my name then turn to a phone directory to find our number. Or they may just look through the directory and our hospital name pops out at them as sounding familiar," he says. "Two of my three hospitals are in areas where residents move in and out, so advertising is extremely beneficial there."
Get more bang for your buck
One caveat: Dr. Cloud says if you don't want to pay for a large display ad, he'd skip it. "If you can't be a big gun, you might be just as well-served with a simple listing," he says. "If you place a medium-size ad on a page full of other medium-size ads, your message won't stand out to potential clients."
Con: Surveys show limited response
Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory board member Bob Levoy works with doctors in a variety of medical fields. He surveyed podiatrists and found that they see limited results with directory advertising—and he believes veterinarians likely see the same thing. "An exception might be a practice located in a highly transient area, such as one with a military base or in a resort area," he says. "Still another might be a practice advertising 'language fluency' or some other special feature."
The right approach for you
Not sure whether you should start—or continue—marketing your practice in the phone directory? Try tracking your clients, as Dr. Cloud has and as Levoy recommends. "Ask your clients on a client information form how they first heard about your practice," suggests Levoy. "If clients mark phone directory, follow up by asking whether they came across your ad on their own or heard about you elsewhere and used the phone book to find your number."
Levoy recommends that you survey clients for 90 days to get a clearer picture of the marketing efforts that drive them through the door. Then use the information to evaluate your efforts, including any advertisements you bought.
Are they reliable clients?
Dr. Cloud conducted another survey that tracked longevity and income produced per client, broken down by how clients heard about the practice. "There was minimal difference in longevity or income produced among clients who heard about us through personal referrals, signs, phone directory ads, and rescue groups," he says. "For us, this finding dispelled the myth that clients gained through personal reference are the best. I've used phone directory ads for many years, and I plan to continue."