Monthly Archives: October 2011

And now they want your phonebooks…

A lot of discussion is going on over at Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government site on a topic near and dear to those of us in the industry – this fanatical
urge to want ban phonebooks
.

Finally, someone presented all of the factors:

:… But is banning the phone book really the best way to save trees? A quick rundown of some key statistics puts two very key holes in the “ban the phone book” theory of  environmental reclamation. First, as it turns out, the Yellow Pages aren’t actually made from five million fresh trees, cut down in their peak to bring the phone book to your door. They’re actually made from mostly recycled material or the byproducts of other paper manufacturing, non-toxic dyes, and inks, and unused directories are “upcycled” into other things. You know that coffee cup that your non-fat soy latte with non-dairy whip comes in every morning, that says it comes from “90% recycled materials?” It’s likely made out of your old phone books.

And although city councils and environmental groups like to pretend  that just because elementary school students and hipsters practically see their laptops as a fifth limb, not everyone uses Google search and Yelp to locate local resources. The Baby Boomer generation, which makes up a huge chunk of American disposable income (and holds nearly 50% of American wealth) uses the Yellow Pages at a staggering rate.  Almost 85% of Boomers picked one up last year to search for a name, address or local resource. And as for that “perpetually connected” generation, Gen Y? Nearly 66% of them used Yellow Pages last year. Nearly 50% of all consumers turn to the Yellow Pages first to get information on businesses in their area. And, of course, that’s leaving out specific statistics on the population that liberals most often forget to consider–lower-income populations. Lower-income populations without continued access to the Internet are the most in need of a resource for directory
assistance…”

In a related item, the Valley Yellow Pages people have also posted a great little YouTube video to further address the many myths that surround the entire green/yellow pages/recycling discussion:  click here.  Every publisher should consider doing a similar clip and making sure their local government officials see it (can we make it required viewing??).

YP Talk has advocated for some time that it is time for this industry to start pushing back, to respond to these egregious accusations/mistruths/flat
out lies, and set the record straight.   Glad to see some progress is finally being made.  But the battle is far from over.  Keep educating your local community on the value that our industry products bring to them.   At the end of day, I doubt you will see any of these environmental zealots looking to help a small business market themselves.  They are too busy looking for the next target to blame.

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Editors Corner: The End of An Era

The announcement yesterday that Joe Walsh has resigned as CEO of Yellowbook (U.S. division of UK-based Yell Group) after 24 years with the company certainly marks the end of an era.

We first interviewed Joe for a YP Talk article back in December, 2004 (link to full interview) just as the first Internet based products were starting to
arrive.  If you had an opportunity to spend a few minutes with him, you very quickly understand how he was able to orchestra the growth of Yellowbook from a very small independent publisher in Long Island into a billion dollar independent publisher with a significant presence in most major U.S. markets.

We noted at the time that Walsh’s Yellow Pages career was a textbook Horatio Alger story. He started as a sales rep for a small service directory company in the Washington, DC area in 1982. He joined Yellow Book in 1987 where he quickly rose to become CEO in 1992. Walsh acknowledged that he closely studied people who are top achievers. By 1992, he had changed the company’s focus to entirely Yellow Pages and started on the first of a string of acquisitions buying a series of small books in New Jersey from Gannett Company. In 1999, the company was sold to British Telecom, where BT agreed to provide a $1.8 billion dollar war chest for further acquisitions.  Within two years, Yellow Book had acquired over 30 publishers. In June, 2001, the directory services (Yell Group) were spun off from BT and acquired by the private equity groups Apax Partners Ltd. and Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst. In July, 2003, Yell was listed on the London Stock Exchange following a successful Initial Public Offering (IPO). In January, 2004, Apax Partners Ltd. and Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst sold their remaining holdings
in Yell.

Walsh has instrumental in Yellowbook’s efforts to growth through the acquisition of smaller independent publishers, sometimes at sales multiples that raised eyebrows.  And while acquisitions of any type will always result in a few ruffled feathers when the acquired company is transitioned to the “Yellowbook way”, by and large, the company became highly proficient at completing these mergers in a relatively seamless, efficient way.

Most recently, Walsh was one of the first industry leaders to sense the need to transition the company again, but this time from a predominated print focused company into an operation that will generate an increasing share of its revenues from digital and non-traditional products in the future.  Other major publishers have followed, all with mostly mixed results to this point.  As a result, Walsh could arguably be considered one of the most impactful leaders ever in the Yellow Pages industry.

I believe Walsh’s departure marks the end of an era as the major players in the industry are now mostly being led by executives who have little to no roots in the industry, as was the case for the better part of the industries one hundred plus year history.  The industry is definitely in unknown, uncharted waters now, with captains that really may not understand how their ships run or even agree with their primary current engine, the print Yellow Pages.

Some industry watchers believe this was not a big surprise, given the changes being floated by Yell’s new management team.  But the reaction of some of the Yellowbook people seemed to be the opposite.  Netherless, Bob Gregerson, who will assume the CEO spot on an interim basis, has very big shoes to fill as he pushes the company reinvention rock up a very steep hill.

For long time industry veterans such as myself, this truly does feel like the end of an era where the industry’s future business direction was clear and leadership was a personable,dynamic lot with deep roots in the business.  Between environmental battles, the heavy push to convert to digital products, and significant overall changes in the media advertising world in general, perhaps Walsh was again a visionary with the statement he made in an email sent to Yellowbook employees:

“…Now is therefore the right time to hand over to someone who can lead our company into the next stage of its life…..”

If someone at Yell/Yellowbook knows what that next stage looks like, give me a call, as this change seems contradictory.  As Walsh noted in our 2004 interview:

“…I think it is vital that people win. It’s vital that your people succeed. Because if they don’t, it is not their fault, it is the leaders fault. You either picked the wrong hill, or didn’t have the right plan, but taking that responsibility is very important. I describe it in management development courses with the regional managers or conferences with the reps that we view the business structure as an inverted triangle where the people who touch the customers, the sales reps and the managers are at the top, and the guy running this company, me, is at the bottom. For everyone in between, their job is to allow those people making commitments to the customers to over deliver, to remove
obstacles, to speed the process along. I view my job as providing clarity, removing obstacles, and letting the folks doing the real work everyday get their job done…”

I’m not sure that job descripotion had changed much.  For Joe Walsh, I don’t think this will be the last we hear from him.  Winners don’t quit, they just find new challenges.  Both Walsh and Yell/Yellowbook will now have the chance to pursue those new challenges…

 

RASCIL Factors Still Work

Many of you are familiar with Jeffrey Gitomer, the sales guru who puts out the weekly online newsletter “Sales Caffeine” (subscribe here) as well as sales seminars and other instructional products/services.  In this week’s newsletter he offered a very simple story, and obviously some sales pointers, which are very applicable to the yellow page industry.

The short version of the story is that Gitomer needed a rush order of buttons for an upcoming conference.  After the compulsory Google search he clicked on the two larger, more well-known companies only to find their websites totally useless in helping him complete as order.  Instead, he went to a third site which had no customer ratings or reviews (kind of like just having a regular listing in the printed Yellow Pages).  Because their website contained all the key RASCIL factors (remember that from your sales training days?), and they demonstrated a high level of customer service, he was able to give them the business, and the opportunity to mock the other bigger players in the space.

So how you may ask, does this apply to the yellow page industry?  Thanks for asking.

First, if you’re going to be online (or in print, or on my mobile phone), great.  But you still need to have all of those RASCIL factors covered in your site/in your ad SO CUSTOMERS CAN ACTUAL CONNECT TO YOU.

Gitomer has a great suggestion:  “…Go to your website right now and try to place a $1000 order. Can you do it? If I need to talk to you, how easy is it to access a phone number or email address that goes directly to a person? Is your phone answered by a live human being? Or are you, “trying to serve me better by selecting from the following nine options, which have recently changed”? …”

So what are those RASCIL factors?  Let’s review:

Reliability: Many people who see an ad in the print or online Yellow Pages
have probably never heard of you before. Appropriate information might include:

  • Years in business;
  • Size of the business;
  • Family and/or locally owned
  • Licensed, bonded, insured
  • Guarantees or warrantees offered
  •  Association, Chamber memberships
  •  Special training and certifications
  • XYZ always in stock

Authorized products and services: If you look across all advertising media, millions are spent promoting brand names. And buyers are looking for those special brands.  Tell them which brand names your business is authorized to sell, service, or repair.

Special Features: What makes you different the competition? Author Barry Maher notes the following in his sales seminars

“..The first question I ask a Yellow Pages advertiser is, “Why should someone call you instead of one of those other ads?” Often that gets me a blank stare, but eventually they come up with three to five things, the most important reasons why someone should do business with them instead of the competition.

The single most amazing discovered I’ve made in 20 years of working with Yellow Pages advertisers is that those three to five points are almost never in their Yellow Pages ads. Sometimes only one or two are missing.  Often all five are….”

So why should someone call your ad instead of one of your competitors’?

Completeness of service: Think about it, Yellow Pages shoppers are looking at ads for what reason?  Because they are looking for information (ok “ads) which offer a full range of relevant products and services to solve the need they have.  Now.  Locally.  Advertisers should have anything that’s a significant part of their business in their ads, including but not limited to:

  • A working telephone number they can be reached at;
  • Hours of operation;
  • Credit cards accepted;
  • Additional services that make you more appealing, e.g. evening appointments, no extra charge for weekends or holidays, free estimates/consultations, we help you with your insurance
    claim, valet parking, etc. etc.

Illustrations. What draws your eye to a certain ad on a busy page?  It’s the picture(s)!  Is that picture worth a thousand words?  If not, find one that is. And please make it big enough so I understand exactly what it is you are trying to sell me.

Location:  Dah!.  We need to find you Mr. Business Owner, and I most likely haven’t been to your business before, or in some time.  Tell me you are at the corner of Main and Pine streets, or just behind Walmart.  If it’s more complicated than that, include a map/map link. As for your phone number, make sure it’s large enough so that no matter when potential customers decide they’ve read enough and they’re ready to call, they can spot it immediately.   Is
your website address (for a print ad obviously), email, and other key contacts
included?

It’s not rocket science but those RASCIL factors really do make a difference no matter whether the ad is in print, online, or mobile form…

News U Can Use – October

These news items are brought to you by Kuk, Baldwin & Associates:

PET NEWS.     The dog day care business is getting big, as indicated by the fact that the average cost range for an 8-hour day is up to $25-$32 ($35-$55 for overnight boarding) – and also by the fact that some of the high-end facilities require dog owners to complete detailed applications.  There are even cases of
dogs being “expelled” for misbehavior (Personal Journal, 8/11/11)….Nationally,
the cost range for a dog or cat physical exam by a vet is $35 to $46, while
repairing a typical fracture can range from $725 to $1200.   More people are now comparison shopping for veterinary care (Consumer Reports, 8/11).

ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES.     In a survey of over 45,000 readers with a variety of ills, Consumer Reports (9/11) rated several alternative treatments used, including chiropractic and acupuncture.   For chronic back pain,
36% used chiropractic, with two out of three saying they were “helped a lot” –
while only 8% used acupuncture, with 41% giving it high marks.   For headache and migraine, 15% used chiropractic and 45% rated it effective.   And for neck pain, 41% used chiropractic with two out of three choosing “helped a lot,” while 10% tried acupuncture, with 44% indicating it was effective.   The average cost of a chiropractic visit for respondents was $71; the average for acupuncture was
$66 a visit.

TRAVEL AGENCY FACTS.     The American Society of Travel Agents reports that as of this July, there were 14,380 retail travel agencies in the US – down from 16,504 in 2009 and 25,924 in 2002.   And while it’s true that many travelers now go online and make their own arrangements (especially airline tickets), agencies still handle over 50% of all travel sold in the US – a segment amounting to more than $146 billion in sales annually.    That’s an average of about $10.5 million worth of travel per agency.   The biggest reason some 30% of
travelers still use traditional agencies almost exclusively – especially for
foreign travel – is the security of agency support while on the road (USA
Today
, 8/30/11).

Find out how to be at the top of your sales performance by clicking on www.kukbaldwin.com.

Other recent media/advertising news:

Even Amid an Economic Slowdown, Growth is Forecast for  Advertising

Panelists at a recent Advertising Week event indicated that even
with the ongoing slow U.S. economy, advertising revenues are expected to continue to rise for next year and 2013.  2012 will have the advantage of being a
Presidential and major Congressional election year, as well as the summer Olympics to further stimulate media spending.  (Source)

Internet Ad Revenue Grows  to $14.9 Billion in first Half

Internet ad revenue reached $14.9 billion in the first half, up 23.2% over the first half of last year, according to a new IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report conducted by audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

But Look A Little Deeper:  Google Banner Ad Click-Through Rates Slip

According to a Google survey, despite efforts to make banner ads more appealing, their overall rate for click-throughs declined a bit last year,
to 0.09% from 0.1% two years ago.   However, significant differences were noted for the types of ads, with a 250×250 pixel ad using Flash winning a 0.26% click-through rate. (Source)

 Newspaper Print Ad Spending Drops for 20th Quarter

Given the prior article about Internet ad revenue, would it surprise you to know that U.S. newspaper print ad spending fell for the 20th consecutive quarter, dropping 9% in the second quarter to $5.19 billion, according to the Newspaper Association of America. But the “good” news was that their revenue from online advertising was up 8% to $803.4 million.  (Source)

Times Can’t Be All That Bad:  Super Bowl ad slots nearly sold out

Advertising space in the 2012 Super Bowl is nearly sold out, with just five 30-second slots up for grabs, reports NBC Sports’ sales chief, Seth Winter, who says each of the spots will cost $3.5 million. Winter said he expects all of the inventory will be sold by the year’s end. NBC is stipulating that marketers who run ads in the big game also purchase ad space across other NBC Sports assets. (Source)

 Mobile:  New Mobile Metric Platform Charts Calls, Duration, Demographics

Good to see long time industry supplier Telmetrics rolling out their new “m.Call” platform.  Designed to measure the click-to-call performance of mobile ads and includes call duration and user demographics.   Also works with regular business numbers, which means that special call-tracking numbers are no longer necessary. (Source)

Mobile:  Yahoo! Also Wants to Play

Mobile search accounts for less than 15% of Yahoo!’s total search volume in the U.S. right now, but that number is expected to grow to 25% to 30% in the next few months.  Mobile ad revenue is projected to post 100% year-on-year gains.  All of this from Shashi Seth, senior vice president of search products at the Web portal.   (Source)

Mobile:  Online Retailers Seeing Surge, Believe They are From iPad

Mobile devices account for 22% of Rue La La’s revenues, with iPads
alone making up half of that, according to company Chairman Ben Fischman,
speaking at Shop.org’s Annual Summit.  “Our iPad sales are through the roof,” Fischman said, echoing reports by another online retailer, Ideeli, which also said the Apple tablet is responsible for about half its mobile sales.

Does your company have an iPad apt yet?  (Source)

How Steve Jobs Impacted The Yellow Pages Industry

 

The recent announcement of Steve Jobs death, while not totally unexpected given his battles with cancer, was still very sad, disheartening news.
Millions have hailed him for his vision, his innovation, his genius, and for leadership in developing products and services which will continue to influence
our way of life and the way we work for many years to come.  He will be badly missed.

How big is his passing?  Tributes to Steve Jobs began flooded social networks Thursday immediately after his death, with some Apple fans posting images and videos of themselves and the Jobs-inspired products they use. Jobs’ Stanford commencement address in 2005, where he openly discussed the reality of
dying became one of the most viewed YouTube videos that day with 1.5 million viewings.  And on Twitter, shortly after his passing was announced, there were 6,049 posts per second on the subject, topping the 5,008 after the reported death of Osama bin Laden.

After having some time to digest this sad news, I’ve come to realize that even the Yellow Page industry has been affected by this giant.  Our industry is a technology user and the wide range of products Jobs championed at Apple have had a major impact on the industry.

Let’s start with the original Mac PC platform.  The graphic artists in our industry swear by it even to this day.  Its capabilities have allowed our industry artists to create millions and millions of good looking, creative ads which help advertisers present their business to buyers in a superior fashion, well beyond anything they could have created.  Ask those artists whether they would be willing to give up their Mac or their first born, and most will hesitate to answer quickly.

Most recently the development of the iPhone or iPad – have completely altered the ways our industry connects local buyers and sellers.  It has been less than 4 years since the iPhone was first introduced.  Can you even remember a time when we didn’t have such a wonderful mobile device?  The App Store opened even more new ground, and now, just about every Yellow Page publisher offers a mobile app.

A little less than two years ago, had you been asking for this next new technology — a tablet/PC/something more iPad.   The device was wildly popular from the onset with 300,000 iPads being sold on their first day of availability. By May 3, 2010, Apple had sold a million iPads, half the time it took to sell the same number of iPhones.  During an October, 2010, conference call, Jobs revealed  that Apple had sold more iPads than Macs for the quarter.  In total, Apple sold more than 15 million first generation iPads prior to the launch of the iPad 2.  There appears to be no end to the growth of these devices as competitors have jumped in with their versions.  And the impact to the Yellow Page industry?  Some publishers now have their salespeople across the country relying on them to facilitate the entire sales experience, everything from prep to completing contracts with their advertisers.  A more robust Yellow Pages experience will also follow for these powerful devices.  The possibilities appear to be endless.

Beyond just the devices and services, let’s not forget how Apple under his tutelage has also seen a meteoric rise in stock price, rising some 53%
in 2010 only.  If you have money in a mutual fund, most likely you also owned some Apple stock through the fund and have profited.

While it may be time to say goodbye, it’s also time to say thank you Steve Jobs.  Steve, we are already missing you…….