Marketing a Medical Practice in the Yellow Pages
by Keith Borglum

Using The Yellow Pages Effectively: Special Rules

You might think that having a listing in the phone book is an outdated concept; but not so! The Yellow Pages is usually the fourth best investment you can make in marketing after Signs, the Internet/mobile and Direct Mail. A properly crafted freestanding sign is #1, but that option is not available for most physicians. A properly crafted Yellow Pages ad is not a magic net to bring in tons of patients, but a reasonable flow of new patients to complement other marketing efforts should be expected. The Blumenthal Study in 2015 found that the YP still impacts 14% of consumers, so if you have a $1,000,000 collections practice, that can equal $140,000! This especially applies to consumers of local professional services whom don't have a referral from family, friend, Facebook, or YELP. Remember that your Yellow Page listing can also appear in Internet searches.

Even though today many patients turn to their insurance plan benefit books to find a member physician's name, some still "shop" in the Yellow Pages. The patient who typically turns to the Yellow Pages to find a doctor has certain identifiable characteristics. They frequently are over 50, new to the community, or new enough to be a first time consumer of medical care. In American society today the isolation of the individual and transience of our population leaves many patients without trusted friends whom they can ask for a referral. Many patients are looking for a specialist to whom they can self refer, either not knowing they can ask their primary care physician for a referral, not knowing that their primary care physician can perform the care desired, wanting a perceived higher level of care, and/or not wanting to tell their physician they want a specialist. There are also those patients that are looking for their existing physician's name and number to schedule a visit. Most of the patients looking are female.

Once the patient opens the Yellow Pages we know that they are usually looking for: Physician type, specialty or services, close location to home or work, a familiar name or attractive image, consumer benefits such as price, hours, insurance accepted etc. We also know that patients usually read from left to right and top to bottom, see bigger images first, and stop and call as soon as they find the right ad.

Knowing these factors, we can decide how to target the message to get the type of patients we want. The first thing to do is open the Yellow Pages and look at your competitor's ads in the General and Specialist listings for size, placement and message. How would your ad look to a new patient, or an existing patient in comparison with others? If you have no competitors you don't need to do much. If you do have competitors, consider their ads in your ad planning.

There are three types of ads available:

Regular listings. These are the small text lines that virtually every doctor has. They are free in the General listings and cost extra in the Specialist listings. You can also pay extra for bold, color and extra lines.

Informational listings. These are the ones in-column with boxes around them with expanded information and some customization available.

Display ads. These are the bigger ones out of column, biggest first, oldest next, with full control of content.

With all the above in consideration, we can offer some special rules for physician ads:

Don't pay extra for white page upgrades. If the patient knows your name they'll find it. Don't usually emphasize your name in Yellow Page ads for the same reason.

List in the right book. The right book is the one everybody in your town uses, not the multitude of other ones that solicit you for ads.

List in enough books. With the dividing of some counties into multiple books, you might need to be in all those books. Certain specialists may list in multiple states.

List in enough places. You should be in every specialty category that reasonably applies to you. A family physician could be listed under FPs, OB/Gyn, Sports Medicine, Industrial Medicine, etc..

Be seen first. This may require a larger size ad or a fictitious name to get alpha prioritization, unless your name is Dr. Aardvark. This is mostly a factor of location, not color of ink.

Include your web page URL in the ad, because the patient might not have found it in an Internet search. This will take them out of the YPs directly to your website and reduce their discovery of your competitors YP ads.

Emphasize geographic location. City, area of town, cross street or nearby landmark are all appropriate. Avoid maps as they use too much valuable space.

Use name recognition. If you've got it, flaunt it. This includes logo, prominent sign and other ad capitalization. (Are you sure you've got it with strangers? There are only so many Mayos and Scripps around!)

Maintain a good image. Keep it professional, tasteful, eye catching yet effective. We know photos outpull graphics, which outpulls most text. Certain borders outpull others. If you use a display ad plan on investing at least the equivalent of one month's ad cost in getting it professionally designed by someone that knows Yellow Page rules and strategy. The free design service provided by the Yellow Pages is often worth exactly what you pay for it.

Craft an effective message. This is where the real art comes in, beyond the scope of this article. In brief, first focus on benefits to the patient , then substantiate why they should trust and choose you.

Monitor results. You won't know if you should change your ad the next year if you don't know how many patients and what kind of patients come from the ad. Sometimes just a word or two can double or triple response. Don't be afraid to change it if you think you can get a better response or if competitive circumstances change.

There are situations where Yellow Pages don't pay due to overly competitive circumstances. An example is for cosmetic surgeons in Los Angeles. There are just too many ads already. Otherwise you will probably find that an investment in the Yellow Pages not only can provide a steady trickle of new patients to your practice, but make good investment sense as well.

Author Keith Borglum is a consultant and medical practice appraiser with Professional Management and Marketing, 3468 Piner Road, Santa Rosa California 95401.

Member or former member National Association of Healthcare Consultants, Society of Medical Dental Management Consultants, American Medical Association's Doctors Advisory Network, American Academy of Family Physician's Network of Consultants, California Academy of Family Physician's Consultants on Call, and the Institute of Business Appraisers. Phone for consulting information. Permission is granted to reprint or quote any portion of this article provided that both the author and publication are named and two copies or the quoting journal are immediately mailed to the publisher.

Phone for consulting and appraisal information.

Permission is granted to reprint or quote any portion of this article provided that the author, firm, phone and city are named and two copies of the quoting journal are immediately mailed to the author at 3468 Piner Road, Santa Rosa CA 95401.