It only comes once a year, and it’s about to happen again. The Local Search Association annual event – Search Starts Here: A Blueprint for Making Local Pay Off will be kicking off April 13-16 at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.
This year’s event has a diverse agenda and speakers from across the pond and the search space to discuss current industry trends, lessons learned, success stories, new technology applications, and useful innovations in the local search industry.
To get a better understanding of what to expect at this conference we sat down with Association president Neg Norton find out more. The conversation occurred just after the Associations major legal victory against the City of Seattle’s distribution ordinance.
YPT: With the court victory in Seattle, will we see you doing a couple of big victory laps at the conference?
Norton: I would but I don’t want to pull a hammy! There is no doubt that a lot of our efforts have been focused on legislative activities over the past year. Clearly, this was a big win for the industry. However, we need to keep doing what we’re doing, promoting the Opt-Out site, honoring consumer choice and ultimately getting the industry back on a path to growing again. We plan to get into all of that at our upcoming conference. We’ve got a great agenda and some really top-notch speakers.
YPT: We noticed your recent announcement about your keynote speaker. Tell us more.
Norton: We were excited to announce that Jean-Pierre Remy, CEO and President of PagesJaunes Groupe will be our keynote speaker on opening day. What’s exciting about this is that PagesJaunes is one of the greatest transformation stories across any media; newspaper, magazine, YP as they moved from print to digital media.
For those that may not know, PagesJaunes is the Yellow Pages publisher in France. Approximately 59% of their $1.5 billion in annual revenue comes from its digital offerings. They also enjoy 45% margins. So Jean-Pierre Remy gets credit for having led this remarkable transformation from France’s traditional print publisher into one of the world’s most progressive local search companies.
For publishers in North America, Jean-Pierre can provide some insights on how to use their “cash cow” print products to help fund their digital development as the transformation continues. Generally, many companies are still trying to find the most effective and efficient way to market an array of products and services to local businesses with limited budgets.
Right before Jean-Pierre we have Paul Plant, Founder & Principal, of Radicle Consulting who has worked a lot with John Pierre’s team. Paul will comment on his work with PagesJaunes as well as a recent report published by the MIT Sloan School of Business/Cap Gemini Consulting titled “The Digital Advantage” that featured PagesJaunes.
YPT: Tell us more about the overall agenda
Norton: The agenda has a good mix of strategic and tactical topics including discussions about transformation, sales effectiveness, what’s working in mobile, how print directories fit in the product mix, the Hispanic market and a lot more.
On Day 2, we just added Jason Finger, CEO of CityGrid and Dan Levy, Director, Small Business, at Facebook where he is responsible for sales, marketing, and service for the millions of small businesses who use Facebook to connect with their customers and grow their businesses. He’s going to talk about the new Facebook’s “Nearby” feature that has captured a lot of press recently. We expect he will share insight into some of the recent updates to Nearby as well as plans for future updates such as the addition of information from third-party services.
Facebook’s Nearby combines the social elements of Facebook with its geo-location services by allowing users to find local spots that friends have checked into or “liked” such as restaurants or other local stores and businesses. In addition to social information, users are provided with addresses, contact info and hours of operation for these local businesses. Facebook also goes a step further by tapping into the hugely successful online reviews space with features that allow users to rate and review local businesses and recommend them to friends.
Prior to Facebook, Dan started his own marketing business – Justarrive, and spent seven years at PayPal.
YPT: You really are pulling in some big digital players for speakers.
Norton: It’s a good mix of key players across the local search space. Greg Sterling is working with us on the agenda and he’s helped tremendously with the content and is also participating as a speaker.
YPT: What are you expecting in the way of attendance at the event?
Norton: Our internal goal is 500. We’re cautiously optimistic as we are actually ahead of pace in registrations from where we were in prior conferences, and we’re also doing well on sponsorships, but there are still several sponsorship positions available. It’s a great way for people to have their businesses featured at the event. People can call Terri Stabnick at 248.244.0743 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
YPT: In a time of tight corporate travel budgets, why should people want to attend this event?
Norton: We try to present an event that has strong content so people can come learn from others who are doing interesting, creative things. We also have a lot of opportunities for people to network, to get to know others in the industry better. And of course, it’s Vegas so there’s always an opportunity to have a little bit of fun.
YPT: Is there any discounted pricing for the conference still being offered?
Norton: Yes. If people register by February 13th they can receive the Early Bird rate, which is $200 off the full registration price.
YPT: Are you still planning to do the Strategic Exchange Sessions?
Norton: Most definitely. And if people sign up today for a Strategic Exchange Session (SES) sponsorship, they also get one full registration to the conference on the house! But they have to hurry. The sessions are where attendees can meet and discuss strategic opportunities with the industry’s key partners and suppliers. We have sold out sponsorships for the sessions at our last couple of conferences.
Sunday’s agenda starts with our annual golf tournament, the Strategic Exchange Sessions, and in the evening the Industry Excellence Awards ceremony. Just a reminder for your readers that the Industry Excellence Awards, which showcase the industry’s most creative marketing ideas, plans and communication tools, creativity, know-how and implementation compare to the competition are still open for submissions until February 8. (For past winners, categories and more, click here!)
YPT: What can we expect to be different this year?
Norton: This year you might expect to see a lot of new faces in the crowd, people from Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yelp, and other heavy hitters from the online space. In addition, we plan to feature start-ups with new products/services during the Lightning Round session. We started this last year and people really liked it!
YPT: What can we expect to hear in your presentation?
Norton: Good question. I’ll have to start thinking about this! Obviously, I am going to talk about the marketplace changes and how the LSA is evolving to ensure we continue to meet the needs of our members. We had a lot of success this year and we want to make sure we keep the momentum going we earned this year.
We are really looking forward to seeing everyone in Las Vegas at the Planet Hollywood Casino & Resort!