I actually stumbled across this technique completely by accident when searching for a home cleaner in the Yellow Pages. There was a large full page display Ad and when I called it, the phone number had been disconnected.
At first I thought I had called the wrong number. Then, when I called it again (double-checking of course to make sure I had the right number), all I got was the “beep-beep-beep” sound that confirmed that the number had been disconnected.
I was amazed to say the least. Here, a company had spent $30k to place a full page Ad, only to have the number misprinted? Surely it was an error. So – I did a little digging out of curiosity only to find the cleaning company had gone out of business.
I couldn’t believe my luck. That particular edition of the Yellow Pages still had six months to run, and surely there were going to be plenty of people calling that number. So – I immediately contacted the phone company and bought the number.
Two weeks later, I created a joint venture with another cleaning company and took 20% of the resulting sales. All we did was set up a separate phone line to handle these new inquiries so we could track the results. Not only did we get new business, we also had repeat customers of the bankrupt business calling and we managed to get over 50% of these people to do business with us.
Talk about easy money!
Now, of course not many businesses who place full page Ads (or even half page Ads) will go bust throughout the year. However, if you look long enough you will find 1 or 2. A more systematic approach is to subscribe to an insolvency site that publishes new bankruptcies. When you are notified of a company gone bust, you can then check if they have an Ad in the Yellow Pages first, then buy the number once it’s disconnected. In my experience the phone number is almost never sold when a small or medium sized business is put in liquidation.
Also, there are lots of unpaid listings in the Yellow Pages that get disconnected or no longer apply to that business. The reasons vary, but usually the smaller businesses are operated out of home and when the owner moves or sells his or her business the number sometimes doesn’t get changed over.
Of course, there’s nowhere near the same amount of value in unpaid listings but they do still work. Otherwise they wouldn’t be there. My advice – don’t pay more than $50 for phone numbers that are in unpaid listings. –Marcus Maclean