Tag Archives: IYP

View From the Corner Office – An Interview with Richard “Rick” Hanna, Executive Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Dex One

Rick Hanna jumped into the deep end of the pool nearly two years ago when he was appointed Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing of Dex One Corporation, responsible for all sales and marketing functions.  Hanna did have the advantage of extensive background from the technology and telecom sectors to help him navigate a company and sales organization in the midst of monumental change, all within an industry undergoing equally significant transformations.  With responsibility for leading the company’s transition from a product-centric to a customer-centric organization, the company is moving quickly to transition from a mostly print centric publisher to a provider of  a wide range of print and digital products.

Most recently, Hanna served as President and CEO of RRA Partners LLC, working with companies focused on broadband network deployments.  Prior to joining RRA Partners, Hanna served as Chief Operating Officer at Motive Inc., where he led the sales, marketing, operations and product development functions.  He has also held a variety of senior leadership positions at at AT&T, Cidera, the small/medium business division at MCI, MFS-Intelenet, and Teligent.

We recently had a chance to sit down with Hanna at the SMB Digital Marketing Conference, to discuss his insights on the changing realities of selling advertising to SMBs, the challenges of reshaping Dex’s sales organization, and the pending merger of the company with SuperMedia.  Obviously there were a number of areas specific to the merger with SuperMedia that Hanna could not discuss, but I think you will enjoy some of the insights he could provide.  And we even didn’t hold it against him that he is a graduate of the University of Central Connecticut.

YPT:  Have you found any surprises since you joined industry nearly two years ago?

Hanna:  One of the first surprises was that yellow pages was actually a growth industry as recently as 2007, so the market is shifting rapidly.  Now it’s a constantly evolving market.  As I said in my presentation this morning, if you believe you’ve caught up, you’re probably still in denial.  But back to your original question, I’ve found it’s really not much different from other industries I have worked in such as the AT&T Long Distance SMB division.   The cultures were very similar.

YPT:  How long was merger with SuperMedia in the works?

Hanna:  We originally started discussions last fall.  They kind of quieted down over the winter, but then started up again seriously this spring.

YPT:   When do you think the merged group will be able to get things turned around and begin so see increase revenues, and ongoing profitability?

Hanna:  I can really only speak to the trajectory Dex One is on.  We had been seeing strong growth of upwards of 50 percent in our Digital product revenues recently.  The combination of our Dex Bundles, Dex Guarantee Actions (DGA) and digital growth, has us on a trajectory to turn positive by 2015.

YPT:  Was the shift from print to digital products as much an issue caused by the poor economy, as it was market demand?

Hanna:  We have gotten more aggressive with our digital products as our customers have become savvier as to how to use these digital products.  More and more SMBs are beginning to grasp the importance of leads and not worry about the platform that generates them.  They know their customer base is changing and shifting but they aren’t sure how much or where they are moving to.  Most business owners know they need have some presence on Google with at least a $200-$300/month investment.

YPT:  So why then is Dex One best positioned to capitalize on this shift?

Hanna:  The exciting thing is there really is no dominant, “700 lb. gorilla” in this space.   There are a lot of smaller players trying to serve SMB with a variety of products, but only a few have the full product suite that Dex One offers.  Even more important is the long standing relationships our sales force has with our SMB customers. They have depended on us for years to help market their businesses. Now, with our digital portfolio and bundles they are trusting Dex One for print and digital services.

For Dex One to be successful, we first needed to build the system and support structure to handle the new products.  We also needed a revised, sharpened hiring focus, in order to make sure our sales force better matched our current market opportunity. We are hiring more digitally savvy sales people, including New Business Hunters, which is different for Dex One.  This process took time to get in place across our national sales force.  It took us about 4-5 months to really gain momentum in refreshing our sales force.  We have learned a lot and now have over 1,000 new sales people in our force, representing a 60% refresh over the past two years.

The combination of the investment in digital products, our 21st Century sales force, and sales automation tools have really paid off for us in 2012.  Our Digital grow will be around 40% for 2012, and our bundle penetration will achieve our target of 60% of our revenue in Dex Bundle, including our Dex Guarantee Actions product.   Currently, we are running above 70+% penetration on our bundles, which means better retention, increased revenues and a very solid base to sell more new products to our customers on an ongoing basis.

We have also changed “ how” we call on our customers. In the past, our sales cycle was more of an annual basis, tied to the print cycle of the directory. Now, we are calling on our customers on a continual basis. We call it “1, 3,7, 11” – which are the first, third, seventh, and eleventh months of an annual cycle. We measure their results, sit down and review product performance, and in general, provide a higher level of service to our customers. This requires our sales force to be more efficient. This is where our efforts on sales force automation, especially delivering automated proposals on the sales reps iPads, makes a big difference.

Additionally, we have a sophisticated, search platform that really sets us apart; our DexNet platform, which sometimes internally is referred to as “science project that went well.”  We have a team of algorithmic PhDs in Santa Monica working on improving our platform each day. It is more than a full time job to keep up with the myriad of changes that Google, Yahoo, and others make to their algorithms on a constant basis.  This business is just too complicated for small boutique digital consultants or agencies to effectively serve the typical SMB customer, who spends $300-$500 a month on their digital marketing. Our biggest competitor in SMB is this local digital consultant, or as we call this segment “I got a guy.”  With the market changing as fast as it is, we truly believe the best-informed marketing consultant/sales representative will win the day in the SMB marketplace. This is again the reason why we are investing in comprehensive, multi platform training for our sales and support teams.

YPT:  How have you changed the profile of the sales people you are recruiting?

Hanna:  We found that just having multiple years of digital background wasn’t enough, especially if you are missing the core selling skills.  Making sure you are matching their skill set to the specific job is critical.  Base retention sales is very different than new business prospecting. We had to make sure we were recruiting the right skill for each of our positions. Even with an improved hiring profile in sales, we still have to expect that a 30% turnover is normal in large SMB sales forces.  This is part of the culture change as well. We have to be able to balance our sales relationships with our customers, in conjunction with the transformation to a cutting edge, marketing services sales force.

YPT:  With this expanded product set, are the days of the one call close gone?

Hanna:  Fading, maybe not totally gone, but heading that way.

I do believe the bigger change is the multiple call plan I mentioned earlier. By servicing our customers during the year on a more regular basis, the renewals and new product sales happen more organically.

For new business, we are training to be more prepared going into the first call. Plus, with our automated proposal and presentation tools on the iPad, we can accomplish a lot more on the first call.

Our goal is to be as efficient as possible, as the old saying goes, “time is money.” Bottom line, we want to make sure our customers and prospects alike fully understand our value story, and are confident in their purchase decision with Dex One.

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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…….

A Time To Lead…

I had a call recently from a very frustrated sales manager who works for one of the large publishers that has been struggling.  He wanted to know what was going on in the industry, and what I thought the future looked like.  Despite his many years in the industry, clearly he was dismayed with the current state of affairs.  It’s a conversation I‘ve had with more than a few of you lately.

The more we talked/complained about the growing perception that print is dead, the rising onslaught of out-out/opt-in legislation aimed at the Yellow Page industry, and a host of other issues facing the industry, I realized it was time for a reality check.   While I have no special crystal ball, several things seem clear to me:

  1. If you are expecting a large media advertising blitz from the industry associations to remind the world that print Yellow Pages are
    still the most powerful local advertising and shopping tool across all media, I hate to tell you, it’s not going to happen.
  2.  If you expect that the paper atheists who see our print
    products as the source for the environmental issues on the planet, to suddenly get it and realize that print Yellow Pages are less than one percent of the typical municipal waste stream, and that the industry uses waste products (not virgin wood) to make our paper, your prayers are not going to be answered.
  3.  If you are waiting for your publisher company to
    initiate a significant TV, radio, and billboard campaign talking about the ongoing, verifiable ROI value of a Yellow Pages program, don’t hold your breath.
  4.  If you’re expecting your sales trainers or senior sales leadership to provide you with some magical bullet that’s going to make every small business fling open their doors and shout with glee that today is the day I’m going to get excited about the opportunity to buy Yellow Pages advertising, hell will probably freeze over first.

Now is definitely a time for each of us, individually, to the take the lead and stop waiting for someone else to resolve all of these issues.  To survive, to prosper, it’s
time to take the initiative to move things ahead in your world, your little
part of the industry.  As a former manager once told me – don’t try to boil the ocean, just make your part of it better.

Let’s start some basic meat and potatoes strategies.  My observation has been that those reps who continue to be successful in this industry despite an extended economic downturn, despite significant issues within their own company (such as bankruptcies), and despite the perception that print Yellow Pages are dead, are the reps that still do a couple of very simple  things really well:

  • They turned doors. Could you imagine the impact if every sales rep in this industry could have one more discussion each day with a small business about the ROI they can receive our Yellow Pages
    program? Just one more.  One. Assuming a typical industry ratio of one sale for each 10 doors opened, if every rep in the industry made the effort each day we would see an immediate 5+% plus increase in total industry revenues. Can you imagine what that would also do to each reps income?  Net net:  they can’t buy from you if you aren’t talking to them.
  • They don’t wait for corporate. One rep shared with me how they spent their own money to buy thank you cards for each of their advertisers, and then over a weekend (when the weather wasn’t very
    nice) they wrote out personal thank you cards to each of their advertisers for a recently delivered book.  Not long notes,
    but short personal messages thanking them for their business. This rep even paid for the mailing costs to send the thank you notes out. Would it surprise you that the new/additional orders that this rep received from appreciative advertisers resulted in a 15-fold commission increase vs. his out-of-pocket costs? Why are you waiting for someone from marketing to suggest/require that
    you implement such a program?  How do you think your advertisers would respond if you sent them a personal note?
  • They provide their own air cover. Even if your publishing company isn’t doing TV or radio or billboard advertising, have
    you thought about getting together with several of your fellow account executives and grabbing a booth at the next local small business Expo or home show? If you do the ROI on this one, it only takes one or two new sales to more than offset your cost for this effort.   Isn’t it time you start investing in your own career, your own future??
  • They tell real-life value stories. In YP Talk I have covered a range of situations where those print Yellow Pages have been
    invaluable to me. For example, the case of the broken garage door opener (link), replacing a floor (link), or finding a local carpet cleaning service (link).  Don’t you have several real-life stories of
    your own just like these? Then why aren’t using them in your sales presentation when the objections come up that no one uses print Yellow Pages anymore?  If you and 3 other reps got together, combined your actual, real life experiences, don’t you think you could put together a killer testimonial handout to use with non-advertisers?
  • They understand that the RASCAL factors still
    work.
    It doesn’t matter whether were talking about print or digital or mobile, if that business doesn’t have those factors in their advertising, they are going to lose out on business.  Do you run down that list of RASCAL factors with each potential advertiser that you’re working with? Why not?

The time is come for the 50,000+ people who make their income in this industry to get over it, and to individually stop waiting for some magically event to occur, and start rowing on their own. There are no white knights anymore that are just about to come charging down the hill to save the day. Instead, it now requires each of those 50,000+ people working a little harder to move the needle forward in their little corner of the world.

Now the list of suggestions above was very sales centric.  However, all of you that work in this industry that think your aren’t in sales, really are.  You just aren’t  commissioned for it.  While at the kids soccer game or during that Saturday barbeque when someone starts complaining about the fact that they just
got “another Yellow Pages today”, how do you respond?  When you favorite ”green” sister goes on a rant about how print Yellow Pages are neutering the earth and destroying the forests, do you politely take the time to correct the record for her?  When you do business in the local store, do always take the opportunity to remind them that it was a good thing they had that ad
in the Yellow Pages, or you probably wouldn’t have found them?

Together these individual efforts will help things move forward much better and much quicker than any multimillion-dollar TV ad program, which we already know isn’t going to happen anyway.

It’s a time to lead.  Will you take the first steps?  Let me know more about what you are doing at ken@yptalk.com.

 

 

Preview of Yellow Page Association Conference

The 2011 Yellow Pages Association (YPA) conference is fast approaching.   This annual event will be held, Saturday April 16,to Tuesday, April 19 in Las Vegas, NV, at Caesar’s Palace.

This year’s theme of “Search Starts Here,” emphasizes the pivotal role that local search is increasingly playing in our industry. New offerings, new partnerships, the growing role of social media and continuing print to digital media conversion will all be hot topics in 2011. YPA President Neg Norton indicated that the Search Starts Here theme was selected “because 2011 is such a pivotal year for our industry and it sets the tone for great discussions about the shift towards digital integration that we’ve been talking about on our blog and in our other member communications.”

As a result this year’s agenda is also more diverse, with a lot more around social media and mobile.  Neg indicated that the agenda is a “better reflection of what our members are doing these days and where they see growth opportunities.  We have several new supplier members from outside of the traditional Yellow Pages space.  Print Yellow Pages will still be an integral component and major focus but the social media part is reflective of the change we are seeing around us.”

We asked Neg why in the midst of tough economic time which has reduced travel budgets, why should people from the industry plan to attend?   He noted the three main objectives of the conference:

  1. A focused, strong agenda which will give people specific ideas to bring back to the office.
  2. Numerous networking opportunities to let people connect.  It is one of the few opportunities that people in industry have to connect with their peers to understand the challenges they are also facing.  Currently attendance is tracking about the same as last year so a turnout in the 450+ range of attendees is expected
  3. Have some fun

A strong lineup of speakers has been assembled.  A recent addition is a keynote address from former Governor of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty, who has formed an exploratory committee regarding a run for President. Coming from very humble roots, Pawlenty has always been a strong supporter of small business, a key customer of the Yellow Pages industry.  Through a balance of innovation and leadership he helped Minnesota balance its budget, cut spending, reform health care, and improve schools without raising taxes.  Attendees will also be receiving copies of his new book, “Courage to Stand”, which you can get signed immediately after the close of the General Session on Tuesday, April 19th.

Some other key speakers include:

  • Dan Danner, President, National Federation of Independent Business
  • Yvette Liu, Facebook
  • Rachel Pasqua, VP Mobile Group, iCrossing
  • Marc Tellier, President and CEO, Yellow Pages Group
  • Martin Tobias, CEO/President, Tippr

Instead of the traditional exhibition hall format, YPA will again offer a unique concept used last year of “Strategic Exchange Sessions”.  The new format was hugely successful at last year’s conference, and will continue in this year’s event.  With an SES location, companies can make appointments with industry executives and set the stage for profitable business initiatives.  The meetings are held in a suite, by the pool or in private table areas arranged for by the YPA staff.  Norton noted that “many of the suppliers found it to be an incredibly productive business development effort. The opportunity to sit down with a key decision maker is what makes this structure so unique.” Of course, the level of interest in a supplier’s products or services will be the ultimate gauge for how successful these sessions are for suppliers and potential customers. 

Another staple of the conference are the Industry Excellence Awards which are the annual recognition point for excellence in the industry.  Categories this year have been revamped to reflect the increased importance of digital media.

All work and no play leads to a very dull industry event, so there are a few activities to have some fun and network further such as the BuyYellow.com Tennis Tournament, and what would a Yellow Pages industry event be like without a golf tournament such as the BuyYellow.com Golf Tournament which will be held at the Arroyo Golf Club. 

Environmental efforts by the industry have grabbed a lot of the headlines lately.  Neg indicated he will provide an updated status on these efforts as part of his presentation.  Neg seemed optimistic that some resolution in several of the key discussions YPA has been pursing could be achieved by conference time.  “We’ve had a very strong, diverse coalition come together including small businesses in San Francisco to help put pressure on the Board of Supervisors.  We’re working very hard in Seattle to get the recently passed opt-out legislation overturned.  Optimistically, with success in these two efforts we will be recognized as an industry that can’t be taken lightly.  The industry IS doing a lot of the right things to be responsible corporate citizens and doesn’t need additional regulation.”

We also asked Neg about the struggles some in the National channel are having.  He commented that “CMRs that invested in their businesses over the years and diversified their offerings to include online while not abandoning print are doing fine.  They are in a good position to serve their clients more effectively.”

While the conference will also be an opportunity to understand more about the efforts of the YPA staff over the last year, Neg commented on one new effort that will be covered at the conference – a social media campaign test through Twitter that is underway with several national advertisers.  It would drive ads to the front page of Twitter with links to a special landing page.  To find out more you have to be there.

Are you registered yet?  What are you waiting for?  Click here to complete your registration NOW!!!!

Tech Talk – How will new electronic gadgets impact Yellow Pages print usage?

A recent Pew Internet & American Life bimonthly report – Americans and their gadgets provided some interesting stats on how the “digital” world has exploded far beyond the traditional PC desktop and is now showing some significant impact to many industry segments.  But will it also impact print Yellow Pages?

The pace of adoption of new, lower cost tech toys into everyday life is certainly startling.  No long are the hot new toys only available to just the tech geeks.  The average consumer has a dizzying array of devices they can now choose from which offer the “anytime, anywhere” access to news, information, friends, and entertainment.

Some of the key findings were:

  • 85% of Americans now own a cell phone. Cell phone ownership rates among young adults (18-29 year olds) has now reached an eye popping 96%.  For this demographic, mobile phones have almost become a “necessity” of modern communications.  How did we use to survive without them?
  • 76% of Americans own either a desktop or a laptop computer. Since 2006, laptop ownership has grown dramatically (from 30% to 52%) while desktop ownership has declined some.
  • Just under half of American adults (47%) own an mp3 player such as an iPod, an exponential five-fold increase from the 11% who owned this type of device in early 2005.
  • E-book readers (such as the Kindle) and tablet computers (such as the iPad) — the hottest new toys are still relatively new arrivals to the consumer technology scene and are owned by a relatively modest number of Americans.  Expect that to change after this upcoming holiday season.
  • Adding it all up, eight in ten American adults (78%) own two or more of these devices.

So where does all this leave the Yellow Page industry?

First and foremost, who is going to work with small businesses to recast their advertising messages onto these new media? Obviously their traditional advertising programs will need to be modified, updated, and resized to work in each of these different digital worlds. Publishers clearly understand this need as they have begun to reposition their sales teams as true multimedia consultants who were delivering leads to the doorstep of the advertiser and asked they not be as focused on what the platform is.

Secondly several publishers have indicated that despite the perception that the print product usage is rapidly declining in larger metro areas, call tracking volumes continue to go up. This isn’t possible if people aren’t using the print books.  Print is NOT dead, and won’t be for a long, long time.

Clearly we are headed towards a more diversified digital world with the advancements now available across a wide range of technology. For these new platforms to succeed robust, informative, and accurate content will be needed. When it comes to small and midsize business advertising, the yellow page industry is ideally positioned to be the supporting provider across all of these platforms whenever they are ready for local advertising information.

 

Is Advertising Missing It’s Best & Biggest Target??

We’ve all heard the same old message of doom and gloom about how people aged 18-34 never use print Yellow Pages, that the industry needs to come up with new ways to attract their interest and their spending, etc. etc. etc..  But it seems like that focus on the younger demographic may be misplaced.

A recent study by the Nielsen Company indicates that Baby Boomers (that age group that has an estimated  78 million strong in the U.S.) are spending 38% of CPG (consumer package goods) dollars, yet less than 5% of advertising dollars are targeted to adults 35-64 years, which include Boomers (born 1946-1964) and the latter half of generation X (born 1965-1976). Could marketers be missing the biggest piece of the market with their obsession towards the younger groups???

This from Pat McDonough, Senior Vice President, Insights, Analysis and Policy at the Nielsen Company:

“..Boomers should be as desirable for marketers as Millennials and Gen-Xers for years to come; they are the largest single group of consumers, and a valuable target audience. As the U.S. continues to age, reaching this group will continue to be critical for advertisers.”

Some additional findings from the Nielsen study about Boomers:

  • The group dominates 1,023 out of 1,083 consumer packaged goods categories (yes, they are buying lots of stuff)
  • Boomers are big online shoppers, comfortable using email and messaging to stay in touch.
  • Boomers comprise 1/3 of all TV viewers, online users, social media users and Twitter users (Was that an AGH!!! I just heard from all the Millennials..)
  • More likely to have broadband Internet access at home (who says Boomers aren’t wired??)

So why are most marketers ignoring more than half of the affluent Boomers, those with the money to spend, and only targeting only to 18-49 year olds??  I really can’t tell you.  Sounds like they are really missing an opportunity here.

Our take:

Every Yellow Pages advertiser needs to know that if you want to reach those Boomers who have money to spend, who are ready to buy locally NOW, our print directories are there for them 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with no special connections or wireless communications required, they often come in larger print (so we can see things easier), and they are organized in a manner which is logical and easy to use so they can find your business quickly.

Did I also mention our IYP and mobile products are pretty good too???