Despite losing their dominance in SMB marketing, and stuck with a traditional paper book product that is mostly appealing to tradition-based advertisers, yellow pages leaders shoulder on, post bankruptcies, as high volume sales machines. The key to their future success is to develop and leverage state of the art digital platforms that can tailor solutions based on high end analytics and seven or more digital channels.
YP.com is the biggest player in the space with 3,000 sales reps. Now owned by investors, the company has new leadership that isn’t bound to the truisms of the “old” industry, including CEO Jared Rowe, a former leader at Cox Auto Group, and EVP Stu MacFarlane, who has been a long time investor and entrepreneur in local (including a stint as the founder of InsiderPages).
On stage at LSA17 this week in San Diego, and in private discussion, Rowe and MacFarlane painted a picture of a company with an enviable customer base, unmatched number of feet on the street, and a technology platform that is poised to deliver the highest number of leads at the lowest cost for advertisers — especially those that are focused on high end, considered purchases.
“We make the phones ring in a big, meaningful way,” says Rowe, who notes that YP is the beneficiary of local’s fragmented marketplace. “I love a big, local sales team; I love a messy market.”
The perceived advantages are especially strong in the five to ten mega-verticals that Yellow Pages do best in. Home services, for instance, are still heavily slanted towards yellow pages. It is a vertical in which the yellow pages brands still have a unique value for advertisers and consumers alike.
Competition, however is increasingly stiff. In our example of home services, YP.com is facing a host of well-funded competitors, including Yelp, HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List and now, Amazon and Google, too.
The key, says MacFarlane, is to “go deep” vertically. YP has real advantages over the automated digital marketers because it can target an SMB’s marketing efforts around hat the sales reps learn during annual visits with customers. Each rep fills out an extensive, standardized survey of SMB capabilities. “The horizontal companies can’t burrow down vertically like we can,” says Rowe.
But scale matters, too. One thing that YP won’t do is risk its scale advantages by building custom solutions for each and every customer. The priority is to drive the cost per lead down, and integrate more product solutions. “If you want something that is super custom, give it to a local stylist,” says Rowe.