Local Publishers What If . . . ?

If you’re a publisher with a local sales channel or an independent local sales channel, you need to have an answer to the following scenario. (Let me start by saying this is just my speculation informed by no specific conversations with anyone.)

Here goes . . . Yelp had 200 mostly telephone sales people. Google tried to buy the company. It appears not to have worked.

Google now steps back and says . . . “Hey, we’re Google; we’ve got a pretty strong brand and we think this local thing is pretty important. What if we hired our own telephone sales force and tried to sell our local listing ads that way? And what if we combined it with a traditional media campaign to broadly expose the SMBs of the world to the existence of these ads?”

Yodle and before them Leads.com told me that local advertisers can be sold over the phone. Others have shown this too.

In my view Google could become very very effective in acquiring SMB advertisers with the approach I’ve described . . . and you get 30 days free to try it out.

If you’re a local publisher or sales channel how do you compete with this? Again this is pure conjecture on my part (no wink, wink; I’ve heard nothing).

Here’s how you’d have to compete if this were to happen:

  • More and better customer service/true consultative selling
  • “We don’t just give you placement in Google results, we put you on Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook . . . ” (as well as traditional media)
  • Cultivate real trust with the local advertiser

From what I know this approach would represent a cultural shift for many YP publishers, even though they’re saying things like this publicly.

In another way, this is the same question as: “how does the local retailer or SMB product seller compete with the big box?” In most cases the answer is: they can’t. But those that do successfully compete do so with great service.

4 Responses to “Local Publishers What If . . . ?”

  1. Andrew Shotland Says:

    Your thinking aligns with a new policy that Google is using with Adwords resellers – It is insisting that resellers disclose how much of their clients’ media budgets are spent on Google. Seems to me this accomplishes two things:

    1. Shows advertisers just how dependent these resellers are on Google traffic
    2. Puts the Google brand front and center (as if it weren’t there already right?)

    This certainly will soften up any SMB for when they get the call from Google.

  2. Chris Silver Smith Says:

    Your rhetorical questions align precisely with what I actually asked Google representatives circa 2006, after Superpages.com partnered with Google in a reseller agreement, among other things.

    Back then, a few of us went out to dinner with a couple of the Google representatives, and they were stating how much they liked our extensive sales staff. I asked, roughly, “…well, why doesn’t Google build out local sales staff as well?”

    They stated that it was not their core competancy, and they felt it would be more effective to partner with companies which were able to supply the premises sales relationships.

    I wasn’t altogether convinced by the answer, since Google has a few sales reps in most major US cities already, even though those salesmen are for National accounts as opposed to SMBs. To me, it eventually seems to make sense to possibly cut out the middlemen and make more sales directly. Purchase of a company which already has the sales staff would be a quick leg up on accomplishing this — and that is one of the major components they would have gained with the purchase of Yelp.

    I think that there are a number of companies that are evolving to compete by using the tactics you’ve listed. ReachLocal particularly comes to mind, since they’ve expanded to have a broad sales staff and they effectively sell ads for SMBs into many channels. Webvisible is doing similarly, I think, although I don’t believe they have as many feet-on-the-street. Some of the established directories are evolving in this direction as well, with their partnerships with the major search engines and other channels.

    I think your strategic tactics are dead-on correct and vital to insure competitiveness. However, I’d note that they’re all dependent upon one assumption: that there will be continued, significant competition with Google. There must be other search engines with sufficient traffic to sell into, which Google cannot sell directly into themselves, and other large publisher sites and social portals. With Google increasing marketshare against other search engines, news sites, map sites, IYPs, and etc — the assumption of a sufficiently competitive landscape seems slightly undependable.

  3. Greg Sterling Says:

    Chris:

    There are source of traffic other than Google: FB, print/traditional media, Twitter, mobile, IYPs, verticals, other search engines. It just becomes more difficult to piece together a program w/o Google which is arguably the single largest source of traffic

  4. Pavel Dolezal Says:

    Hi Greg,

    Nice thoughts.
    We at Ataxo have been selling PPC to Locals for more than 4 years.
    Today we have more than 10 000 customers in Europe and all is done via telesales.
    Happy to share more info with you.

    P.

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