SuperMedia and the ‘Yellow Pages’ Brand

Given the apparent “de-emphasis” of the print yellow pages on the new company website, one of the questions I asked SuperMedia (formerly Idearc) CEO Scott Klein is how central the yellow pages are to its business going forward. He said some interesting things that both affirmed the YP part of the business and suggested the company was more aggressively diversifying as well.

“Clearly we’re turning up the heat on our online and our direct mail offerings,” said Klein. “Yellow pages will continue to be a very important piece of what we’re doing and it will be for some time to come. But we’ve made good progress on the other revenue streams.”

The company is selling three types of ad products:

  • Print directory
  • Online listings/ads/etc.
  • Direct mail

Klein made the point that the company had “re-engineered” various processes associated with its online offerings. “Our customers can now use a watch instead of a calendar,” explained Klein. He’s referring to the length of time from when an order is placed to when it goes live online

In discussing how the company thinks of itself he reiterated a point made before that SuperMedia is positioning itself as an advertising agency and not simply a YP publisher.

I asked him what would happen to the “SuperPages” brand. Klein told me it would be sticking around. Super becomes the umbrella label that ties the company’s products together.

I asked about how the “Super Guarantee” was doing. Klein said that the program had exceeded expectations and was helping drive usage.

“We’ve seen meaningful spikes in registrations and healthy improvement in possession and usage.” He said that the company uses Gallup to measure possession and usage and that in “90% of measured markets; possession and usage are up in double digits.” Klein added that call tracking numbers indicate increased call volumes from the print directory.

The “second iteration” of the Super Guarantee ad campaign will begin to air in March.

I presented Klein with the new conventional wisdom (reflected in this Financial Times piece) that print is dead, etc. and asked him were the reps seeing this attitude in the field. While he agreed that this attitude is pervasive he said that the third party research they present (e.g., Gallup) “is irrefutable.”

According to Klein the reps are incentivized (sorry) to make multi-product sales and may lead with different products in different markets and verticals. He pointed to mobile as being something that the company could sell to restaurants and its EveryCarListed auto site as a foot in the door for auto dealers that didn’t exist for the company previously.

“An unanticipated byproduct [of EveryCarListed] is we can sell them other stuff. Some of these guys that had abandoned YP are now interested,” explained Klein.

Asked about the company’s mobile performance, Klein said “All my expectations have really been exceeded.” He added that the usage frequency the company is seeing is greater on mobile than online.

I asked whether the company would be going into more verticals such as EveryCarListed or make comparable acquisitions in vertical segments. Klein said that it was “likely” that there would be additional vertical efforts and some “small acquisitions.” (There are plenty of small companies in the local segment.)

One larger question to ask is whether the “yellow pages” brand continues to be viable over time. SuperMedia isn’t using that term obviously but it’s otherwise closely linked to the print directory.

What do you think? Is it time to ditch the “yellow pages” brand?

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18 Responses to “SuperMedia and the ‘Yellow Pages’ Brand”

  1. Kyle Kazak Says:

    @Greg

    For the company to survive they had to find a faster way to deliver their offering to the end consumer. The Yellow Pages as a brand name holds a tremendous amount of value and they just need to find a way to reposition the company so the average business owner doesn’t just think of outdated books when they hear the term Yellow Pages, rather a cutting edge means of advertising.

    Nice post.

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    Do you think that can be done?

  3. Kyle Kazak Says:

    There are the kind of people who understand internet marketing and they usually the ones a top the SERPs, and dominate free directory listings/industry specific websites.

    There are people who always have advertised in the print Yellow Pages and will have little to no resistance to reposition their campaign to their online medium, based solely on the YP brand name and trust every word they tell them.

    Then there are the people who aren’t as keen to these new advertising mediums, who sometimes do and don’t have websites. This is the hardest sale as well as the most difficult to inform them.

    I personally think that the task of repositioning an entire company is best known for a form of print advertising is next to impossible, especially in as many verticals as they are in (~2,200).

    The one company that seems to be doing this is Yext.com, they have chosen 12 or so verticals that they can/have dominated in and started selling local advertising and websites to them. They just closed a decent sized VC round, I am very interested to see how they plan on scaling this. As we all know, the key to this equation is sales. Yelp, Reach Local etc. all have north of 65-70% of their employee-base are salesmen, trained in local search.

  4. Mike Stewart Says:

    To answer your question…. No. SuperMedia will only be capable of positioning the business away from print centric focus if it invests in creating sales consultants like myself. I recently spoke with a former RVP of Idearc who left the company in Sept. She stated that they are not planning to train reps on service but just what it takes to get the sell. Unlike the print offering, the search business demands service & management. Margins are tighter. You must invest in mediums, verticals, and content. Training is something they seriously are terrible at. I am just sayin……..

  5. PHOTO: Kansas City Wizards on the Cover of Yellow Pages | Kansas City Wizards MLS Announcer Says:

    [...] SuperMedia and the 'Yellow Pages' Brand « Screenwerk [...]

  6. ArizonaBusinessOwner Says:

    Mike Stewart, I read your comment and have read your blogs as well. You criticize SuperMedia (formerly Idearc Media) of only training salespeople to sell – isn’t that the job description? Sales is the driving force behind every organization. Your comment seems more like an opportunity to badmouth your former employer. You also should learn how to spell before posting. I an writing as a true fan of Superpages.com and have discovered that it is delivered through multiple channels including iPhone and Blackberry. 191M American’s have mobile phones, a large percentage use them for local search. The Superpages.com app for Blackberry and another app called Poynt are leading the way in changing how we search for businesses, movies, best gas prices, etc. Your search results are delivered via your exact location via GPS technology. Search results are sorted by the businesses closest to your location. These apps are amazing when you are in a city that you are unfamiliar with. This is just the tip of the iceberg for SuperMedia, I look forward to seeing more of their newest and latest search tools. I also own a business and SuperMedia has helped me experience tremendous growth in sales. My consultant is not pushy, very professional. She educates me on internal market research as well as articles and important marketing trends that are important to my business. In closing, I may set up a blog like yours, Mike. It will be a pleasure to educate consumers on the latest trends in marketing. In closing, I may set up a blog on SEO vs SEM and methods of marketing that are cost effective yet produce a high ROI. I promise not to bash my former employer and I will spell correctly.

  7. Longtime Idearc vet Says:

    I can’t comment on the previous poster’s experience with SuperMedia but I can reflect on trends that are emerging inside the company.

    Decrease and cancel rates are north of 25% in most canvasses in the footprint. Businesses just don’t see the value proposition as they once did. The company is suffering from fallout from years of price increases on products that have delivered ever-declining call counts (not the reverse as Klein has suggested).

    Management has been unable to roll-out products that have enduring demand. They typically launch new initiatives that modify the previous failed ones. Then they whip the salesforce to deliver new revenue from those initiatives. After they fail, then there’s another roll-out just behind it.

    On balance, Media Consultants are poorly trained. When encountering knowledgeable customers, they typically cannot defend their products’ shortcomings or prices. They have failed miserably with their search products – cancel rates on their SEM products are so high that the Consultants expect that few of their clients will renew them. And as they tell Wall Street about their exciting new plans in the electronic local search space, they get rid of their President of Internet, Briggs Ferguson.

    This company is all about the buzz and not the meat. They are abusive to the Consultants (using CRM software salesforce.com to punish them for activity levels) and to the customers who have complaints. Turnover is extremely high – exisitng employees are in the survival mode right now.

    Before I invest with any company, I start with a simple question – do their customers like and need the products/services they offer? If the answer is yes, then I analyze their financials.

    Super Media fails that test. Revenues (and profits) wil continue to decline as the company struggles with poor demand.

  8. Mike Stewart Says:

    Yes I bash them….. why? I was there from 3 months post High School until late last year. I was a 3 Time President’s Award Winner at the company. I was successful while print yellow pages dominated the market. I refused to put my clients in contracts that I felt jeopardized the future of his/her business. This is not the sales culture at SuperMedia.

    Sales reps are permitted from participating in social media. Sales reps have quotas that are unrealistic and create churn for both the client and the rep.

    I was disgruntled because they did not welcome the change needed to turn the company into the “Local Small Business Advertising Agency” which Scott Klein “preaches about.” He is the best case of crony-CEO lip service that has yet to exist.

    Am I a blogger? No! Do I have blogging talent?…. sure don’t.

    Do I have a subject that people are eager to learn about? I am sure the 3,000+ future displaced colleagues who are riding the Titanic have huge concerns and fear. I want to relieve that fear and let them know that if they take the time and effort to keep up with media—————> which is now becoming more and more “DIGITAL” that they may to become better prepared for the tsunami ahead.

    Meanwhile, feel free to call me “disgruntled” or point out my spelling errors.

    Cheers,
    Mike Stewart

    btw, http://www.ILoveSuperPages.com is for sale… I am not renewing it!

    I do have http://www.DeathToYP.com … it has a better ring to it if you ask me. Saturation Distribution and Ethics will kill the Yellow Pages, if that doesn’t do it the smaller agencies with less overhead and reduced margins will!

  9. SuperMedia Boosts ‘Super Guarantee’ Program « Screenwerk Says:

    [...] when I spoke with SuperMedia, as the company emerged from bankruptcy earlier this year, CEO Scott Klein he said that Super [...]

  10. SuperPages.com Adds SuperGuarantee to Mobile Apps « Yellow Pages Association Blog Says:

    [...] to Greg Sterling’s blog Screenwerk, SuperMedia CEO Scott Klein credited the SuperGuarantee program in January with helping drive “meaningful spikes in registrations and healthy improvement in possession and [...]

  11. Why Multi-Platform Advertising Is Key In Local Business Search Says:

    [...] generate “meaningful spikes in registrations and healthy improvement in possession and usage,” according to SuperMedia’s CEO. Other programs are increasing the availability of performance metrics for local businesses to keep [...]

  12. Why Multi-Platform Advertising Is Key In Local Business Search | Practical Local Search- Seattle and Bellevue WA Says:

    [...] generate “meaningful spikes in registrations and healthy improvement in possession and usage,” according to SuperMedia’s CEO. Other programs are increasing the availability of performance metrics for local businesses to keep [...]

  13. No Name Please Says:

    Ask Scott why he is outsourcing the Yellow Page work to India? He’s already laid-off hundreds of individuals with more to come.

  14. anonymous Says:

    I have an appointment for an interview and it is already crazy. I am wondering if I should keep the interview. They sent me an email to download a ton of information that I am to pretend to sell without any training on their products yet. I do not want to over or under promise and it is not even the job I applied for. Go Figure. Maybe I will not even show if they are this confusing to work for.

  15. Londa Maclauchlan Says:

    the guys at Methode Electronics sanctioned these dividends,

  16. Pappy T Says:

    Stay away, stay very far away form this “company”, and I use this term loosely. Sales people are misrepresenting the superclicks product. Out right lies. Billing mistakes every month. Have spent hours documenting and on the phone. Have spent hundereds of dollars on fees to my lawyer. Just say NO to this soon to be out of busniness gang of thieves. Tell your friends.

  17. Lisa Says:

    Pappy T is correct. We have been trying to cancel the supermedia yellow pages for several years, sending the book back with a written cancellation. I spoke with ‘supervisor Collette’ today and she was rude, giggly, and hung up on me. This is one of those companies that once you place an order, they send you a new book every year – I assume standing order was the default. The first person I spoke with “Brenda” said they don’t accept cancellations except by phone. Then “Amber” said they do but they don’t accept books back – no return policy even if the box was not opened. Then ‘Collette’ says we must have wanted the books since we had a standing order and paid for them. When I told her we ended up paying for the ones we had, she started to laugh and talk over me. Unprofessional people, uninformed and bad news company.

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