Flickr picture by Dok1

In my recent travel, I bumped into a couple of young entrepreneurs (early/mid 30’s) who just launched their local search engine optimization (SEO) / search engine marketing (SEM) firm. Very knowledgeable about online advertising, it turns out they’re ex-Yellow Pages sales representatives.

They tell me they quit to create their own company because they were tired of having to sell online Yellow Pages ad products they didn’t believe in. They were reading about Google, Facebook, Twitter and felt the products they were offering to SMBs wasn’t up to par with other online options.

Hmmm…

In the last 10-12 years, directory publishers’ sales organizations went through huge changes. Most of the publishers had to go through a re-engineering of the sales personnel ranging from hiring online-savvy sales individual, giving packages to older employees who couldn’t adapt, offering training, training, and more training to the sales force to get them to sell online YP ad products (outside of print) and then a new basket of products that includes web sites, videos, Google AdWords, etc. Huge efforts. But it’s a well-known fact that directory publishers still don’t really like to re-sell third-party branded products like Google AdWords (which partially explains why Google recently launched their own telesales effort).

Thinking about these entrepreneurs, I was reminded of this interview I did with Seth Godin two years ago. Godin had told me “Google is the Yellow Pages” which would make a jump into SEO/SEM natural for ex-YP reps.

And it got me thinking. Smart merchants want to buy smart advertising but the corollary is true also: smart reps want to sell smart advertising. Sometimes it’s print Yellow Pages, sometimes it’s internet Yellow Pages but sometimes it’s Google AdWords. And if smart entrepreneurial reps don’t get the products they think their customers will buy, they might choose to leave and create their own company.

This means two things for directory publishers (and probably for other local media sales forces as well):

1) Sales rep retention might become an issue if publishers don’t properly execute their multi-source product strategy, by offering best-of-breed ad products.

2) This might force them to fully embrace their “one-stop shop for SMBs” sales strategy, without looking back, even if it means selling Google AdWords without any directory component.

The whole Needium team has been extremely busy in the last few weeks with a great opportunity to present in the startup competition of the LeWeb conference in Paris and a trip to the BIA/Kelsey conference in Santa Clara. After trialing Needium in Montreal last summer, we’ve also been busy scaling our operations to support multiple new cities (15+ and growing) and business categories (30+ and growing) in North America and Europe.

For readers that need a refresher on what Needium is all about, my company Praized Media has developed this new social lead generation service that extracts/filters implicit and explicit local needs being expressed in social media and narrows them down to those that are related to specific business categories. Things like “can you recommend a good hotel in Chicago?” or “my car just broke down”.  Based on business categories, we sell a fully-managed service to local advertisers where our community managers, using the Needium dashboard, engage with these people via Twitter, on behalf of advertisers (using the advertiser’s own Twitter account) and convert them to potential leads.

You can watch our presentation/pitch at LeWeb on YouTube. All this recent activity has resulted in excellent media coverage, a subset of which you’ll find below.

In English:

In French:

For people interested, you can always read our complete press coverage on the Needium Web site.

So, what’s next for the Needium team for 2011? Having proven that the product works really well and is delivering positive ROI to our Montreal advertisers, we’re now scaling our local sales efforts and have hired a small team of direct media sales consultants in Montreal to “prototype” the Needium sales process and develop supporting material and metrics. Our sales strategy is to expand geographically outside Montreal (North America and Europe right now) by striking reseller agreements with companies that possess a local sales force. Our work in Montreal will give us solid experience to help our channel partners as they introduce Needium to their advertisers.

We’ve started receiving opportunistic channel inquiries and, in parallel, have been approaching companies we think would have a great “sales” fit for Needium.  These channels include lead generation companies, local search engine marketing (SEM) firms, interactive agencies focused on small businesses, radio, television and local newspapers.  We’ve realized that a social/local/real-time product like Needium fits very well within a sales organization that deals with local advertisers, believes in the social media opportunity and deals with ad products that renew often (daily or weekly).  If you’re interested in discussing Needium reselling opportunities, don’t hesitate to e-mail us at sales@needium.com

All in all, the last few months of 2010 have been very exciting for us. We think 2011 will be even more exciting as we scale our sales and operations and help prove that you can deliver short-term ROI with social media!

Business finds a happy Needium on Twitter

This is a post about the Kelsey Group’s DMS ’09 conference which happened last week in Orlando.

In a presentation titled “Global Yellow Pages: A Prescription for Future Success”, Charles Laughlin and Neal Polachek from BIA/Kelsey (the new name of The Kelsey Group) exposed important trends and offered a new way to look at the future for directory publishers.

Current trends:

  • Over time, print Yellow Pages usage (as an advertising vehicle) is down for SMBs
  • Advertiser volume (i.e. the total number of advertisers with a relationship to a directory publisher) is decreasing
  • Average average revenue per advertiser (ARPA) is up (i.e. squeezing more money out of current advertisers) but EBITDA margins are down
  • Share of revenue coming from online products is up (10% of total directory publishers revenue in North America, 25% in Europe)

Future trends:

  • Publishers will sell leads instead of products (i.e. need to move away from print/online nomenclature)
  • The business model will evolve (blends traditional and performance-based advertising + fee-based services)
  • There will certainly be a change in the publishers’ cost structure (when revenues go down, margins go down also)
  • We will see a changing sales force (training, recruitment, smaller channels, outsourcing)
  • We will see a changing core print product (more local, more vertical, smaller, less categories)

Neal then exposed what I think is a revolutionary new way of seeing the world and coined a new era for the Yellow Pages business: ” Presence, Performance, Permanence”

Kelsey BIA Presence Performance Permanence

“Presence” is defined as “Be found”. It’s usually fee-based. It includes product like signage, listings, print, banners, search/SEO, digital outdoor, door hangers, radio, cable TV and mobile TV. I think we could also include things like website building, Facebook & Twitter profile management, etc.

“Performance” is all about driving leads. It’s performance-base and includes clicks, calls, forms submitted, store visits, inquiries, etc. It could also include coupons exchanged.

“Permanence” is to help the advertiser retain customers. This works on a fee for service business model and includes ratings, reviews, online reputation management, online booking, customer reminders, customer updates, retention strategies, telephone training, etc.

The list of business opportunities Neal presented was certainly not exhaustive but I like how this model helps organize product initiatives under large umbrellas. I also like the fact that social media is now part of the overall Yellow Pages strategy via things like ratings, reviews and reputation management. The whole industry seems to be waking up to the disruptive power (opportunity and threat!) of social media I think we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg there.

I will be in Orlando next week for the Kelsey Group DMS ’09 conference. I haven’t missed many of those great events over the years and I’m looking forward seeing my industry colleagues in person.

Here are the presentations/panels I don’t want to miss:

Tuesday Sept. 22, 2009

  • “Moving Multiproduct Selling Beyond Bundles”. The interesting challenge directory publishers face today is to transform their sales organization into one that’s able to sell online advertising-only, not just print/online bundles. There’s also the new real-time Web which will create opportunities to launch time-sensitive offers and coupons, requiring multiple touch points during the year. That’s something directory publishers need to improve. See this conversation between Michael Taylor and myself on Linkedin (you need to be a member of the Kelsey Group Linkedin group to see it)
  • Kelsey’s User View and Local Commerce Monitor. Always interesting data points on users and advertisers.

Wednesday Sept 23, 2009:

  • The keynote from David Swanson, Chairman and CEO, R.H. Donnelley. As RHD prepares to exit bankruptcy protection, it’s going to be interesting to see how RHD is expecting to reinvent itself.
  • “The Global Yellow Pages Leadership Forum: Answers to the Tough Questions”. This should be the highlight of the three-day conference. Six global industry leaders will discuss the opportunities and challenges of the local industry. I wonder who will replace John Kannapell from AOL who was just let go.
  • “Mobile Search & Yellow Pages: The Business Model”. Four senior mobile managers from directory publishers talk about the importance of mobile, their strategy, and the business model. Curious to ask them about their “big ideas” around mobile.
  • The second keynote of the day, David Krantz, President & CEO, AT&T Interactive.

Thursday Sept 24, 2009

  • The keynote from Donat Rétif, CEO, Truvo. I saw him speak at the EADP conference back in May but given that Truvo wants to be innovative in the directory space, it’s going to be interesting to get an update from them.
  • “Print Yellow Pages 2013: Critical Changes to the Core Product”. Very curious to see if we will finally hear about real print innovation.

The conference is held at the [praized subtype=”small” pid=”79b0fad769b11f4b8998b682a0374edd7f” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”]. If you’d like connect in Orlando, send me an e-mail sprovencher AT praizedmedia.com

I will be in Orlando next week for the Kelsey Group DMS ’09 conference. I haven’t missed many of those great events over the years and I’m looking forward seeing my industry colleagues in person.

Here are the presentations/panels I don’t want to miss:

Tuesday Sept. 22, 2009

  • “Moving Multiproduct Selling Beyond Bundles”. The interesting challenge directory publishers face today is to transform their sales organization into one that’s able to sell online advertising-only, not just print/online bundles. There’s also the new real-time Web which will create opportunities to launch time-sensitive offers and coupons, requiring multiple touch points during the year. That’s something directory publishers need to improve. See this conversation between Michael Taylor and myself on Linkedin (you need to be a member of the Kelsey Group Linkedin group to see it)
  • Kelsey’s User View and Local Commerce Monitor. Always interesting data points on users and advertisers.

Wednesday Sept 23, 2009:

  • The keynote from David Swanson, Chairman and CEO, R.H. Donnelley. As RHD prepares to exit bankruptcy protection, it’s going to be interesting to see how RHD is expecting to reinvent itself.
  • “The Global Yellow Pages Leadership Forum: Answers to the Tough Questions”. This should be the highlight of the three-day conference. Six global industry leaders will discuss the opportunities and challenges of the local industry. I wonder who will replace John Kannapell from AOL who was just let go.
  • “Mobile Search & Yellow Pages: The Business Model”. Four senior mobile managers from directory publishers talk about the importance of mobile, their strategy, and the business model. Curious to ask them about their “big ideas” around mobile.
  • The second keynote of the day, David Krantz, President & CEO, AT&T Interactive.

Thursday Sept 24, 2009

  • The keynote from Donat Rétif, CEO, Truvo. I saw him speak at the EADP conference back in May but given that Truvo wants to be innovative in the directory space, it’s going to be interesting to get an update from them.
  • “Print Yellow Pages 2013: Critical Changes to the Core Product”. Very curious to see if we will finally hear about real print innovation.

The conference is held at the [praized subtype=”small” pid=”79b0fad769b11f4b8998b682a0374edd7f” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”]. If you’d like connect in Orlando, send me an e-mail sprovencher AT praizedmedia.com

In less than 6 weeks, many decision makers from the Yellow Pages industry and other directional media companies will be attending the next Kelsey Group conference called Directional Media Strategies ’09.  Two of [praized subtype=”small” pid=”66afa9c1b5e4cd2f613f200ec61d955d” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] analysts (Charles Laughlin and Matt Booth) organized a preview web conference yesterday to explain the “meta-themes” of the conference. They are:

  1. Embracing accountability (for example, with print pay-for-perfomance ads)
  2. Transforming the sales channel (becoming multi-product, digital and explicitly performance-based, sales training needs with those changes)
  3. Reinventing the business model ( every aspects of the Yellow Pages business model is under scrutiny, 12-month cycles, etc.)

The session became very interactive when Charles asked the attendees (more than 100) to vote on three different statements.

The first one, “In 5 years, what percentage of total directory revenue will be generated by performance-based advertising programs?”, produced some interesting results. 35% think that between 25% and 50% of total directory revenues (print and online) will be performance-based. That’s what I think as well. It will be a combo of preserving current advertisers with some advertiser gain as well.

webinar-poll-01

The second question, “in 5 years, what percentage of directory advertisers will be handled entirely by an automated/self-service sales channel?”, also produced some interesting results. 37% think that it will be “between 10% and 25%”. I’m not a big believer in self-service in the short/medium term. I think it will be “less than 10%”.

webinar-poll-02

The third question, “In 5 years, what percentage of large metro print directories will be produced in a size similar to that of a mini or companion?”, did not produce a clear winner. For my readers not in the industry, mini or companion directories (also called neighborhood directories in Canada) are smaller, more geo-focused print directories. Based on my personal experience, I always feel my neighborhood directory is always more relevant than the big Montreal-East book and when I use a print directory, I usually use the neighborhood edition. I think publishers will have no choice but to embrace this new format/model. I voted for “between 50% and 75%”.

webinar-poll-03

The conference is being held at the [praized subtype=”small” pid=”79b0fad769b11f4b8998b682a0374edd7f” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] in Orlando. You can register here.

I will be attending the conference. If you want to meet, make sure we connect by e-mail (sprovencher AT praizedmedia.com) beforehand to schedule some quality time.

In less than 6 weeks, many decision makers from the Yellow Pages industry and other directional media companies will be attending the next Kelsey Group conference called Directional Media Strategies ’09.  Two of [praized subtype=”small” pid=”66afa9c1b5e4cd2f613f200ec61d955d” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] analysts (Charles Laughlin and Matt Booth) organized a preview web conference yesterday to explain the “meta-themes” of the conference. They are:

  1. Embracing accountability (for example, with print pay-for-perfomance ads)
  2. Transforming the sales channel (becoming multi-product, digital and explicitly performance-based, sales training needs with those changes)
  3. Reinventing the business model ( every aspects of the Yellow Pages business model is under scrutiny, 12-month cycles, etc.)

The session became very interactive when Charles asked the attendees (more than 100) to vote on three different statements.

The first one, “In 5 years, what percentage of total directory revenue will be generated by performance-based advertising programs?”, produced some interesting results. 35% think that between 25% and 50% of total directory revenues (print and online) will be performance-based. That’s what I think as well. It will be a combo of preserving current advertisers with some advertiser gain as well.

webinar-poll-01

The second question, “in 5 years, what percentage of directory advertisers will be handled entirely by an automated/self-service sales channel?”, also produced some interesting results. 37% think that it will be “between 10% and 25%”. I’m not a big believer in self-service in the short/medium term. I think it will be “less than 10%”.

webinar-poll-02

The third question, “In 5 years, what percentage of large metro print directories will be produced in a size similar to that of a mini or companion?”, did not produce a clear winner. For my readers not in the industry, mini or companion directories (also called neighborhood directories in Canada) are smaller, more geo-focused print directories. Based on my personal experience, I always feel my neighborhood directory is always more relevant than the big Montreal-East book and when I use a print directory, I usually use the neighborhood edition. I think publishers will have no choice but to embrace this new format/model. I voted for “between 50% and 75%”.

webinar-poll-03

The conference is being held at the [praized subtype=”small” pid=”79b0fad769b11f4b8998b682a0374edd7f” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] in Orlando. You can register here.

I will be attending the conference. If you want to meet, make sure we connect by e-mail (sprovencher AT praizedmedia.com) beforehand to schedule some quality time.

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