Category Archives: Sales Channels

Ex Reach Local CEO Revisits Home Improvement; Groupon is Lead Investor

ReachLocal cofounder Zorik Gordon left the company last year after veering sharply to the left with ClubLocal, a consumer-facing brand that would collect home improvement pricing and reviews, and assign jobs to home improvement pros.

Now, Gordon and several ClubLocal alumnis are back with Serviz, a similar service that has launched in southern California after running a beta since February. Groupon is Serviz’s largest investor, with an undisclosed ownership share. ReachLocal, where much of the intellectual work was developed, still controls 19.8 percent of the company.

Groupon could theoretically apply its sales forces to recruit home improvement pros, but Gordon tells us that Serviz is being launched with its own sales forces. Most of the core concepts remain the same from ClubLocal –recruit consumers with convenience, price and service guarantees and a strong review base, and recruit home improvement pros with guaranteed work. “They are fundamentally on demand home services,” said Gordon. “”What we’ve done is focus on transparency, and transparency of pricing. Uber has shown what it takes to really hold and disrupt the conventional ecosystem.

The key differences this time take off from this theme: there is a focus on sole practitioners, who have more flexibility in their time and ability to charge, and ultimately, much lower prices. “You don’t need to charge $250 for a home visit from a home tech, who is being paid $15 an hour,” said Gordon.

Gordon acknowledges there is a lot of competition in the space, with the emergence of players like Thumbtack, Pro.com, Handy, Home Joy and even Amazon coming in, all building on a base that already has Angie’s List and Home Advisor.

Amazon will come in as a marketplace, and won’t be a direct competitor, he says. In fact, he hopes to participate in the Amazon marketplace. “No one is going to come to your house with an Amazon shirt,” says Gordon.

The other services range from what Gordon characterizes as directory listers, like Thumbtack and Pro.com; to low end service fulfillment players like Handy. Serviz will work at higher point in the value chain by focusing more on specialized service providers like HVAC and electrical. “We’re building a horizontal platform around higher end home services,” he says.

Zorik Gordon and Thumbtack CEO Marco Zappacosta are among the initial speakers appearing at Leading in Local: Interactive Local Media, Dec. 3-5 in San Francisco. Get early pricing now.

A Look at Yodle’s $75 Million IPO Filing

Yodle — part of the class of 2005-2007 SEM-focused Independent Sales Organizations that took on traditional local sales organizations — filed this week for an IPO that could raise $75 Million.

The filing provides insights into Yodle’s evolution, and the evolution of the local online sales space overall, which has moved towards cloud-based automation. As Yodle notes, it not only provides its customers with an online presence, but mobile and social presences as well.

“Businesses need a comprehensive digital presence that includes a professional quality website that is easily discoverable and optimized for mobile devices, exposure on leading online directories and ratings and reviews sites, and tools to communicate with customers via email, text messages and social media” notes Yodle in the filing.

The company’s customer base currently consists of 44,800 local businesses, making it one of the largest sales groups. These customers helped it achieve revenues of $161.9 million in 2013, with the average customer of its flagship product paying under $300 a month – or less than half what they’d have to spend if they purchased similar functionality a la carte, says the company.

Many of Yodle’s customers belong to one of several vertical categories. For instance, the company reports that it has account relationships with 6,400 dentists (out of 166,500); 4,500 plumbing, heating and air conditioning contractors(out of 226,500); 3,400 lawyers (out of 165,000 ) and 1,200 landscapers (out of 459,600).

Yodle has also focused increasingly on servings “brand networks” — national franchisors, manufacturers and multi-location businesses that are targeting locally. As the space evolves, the competitive picture has evolved as well. Yodle’s filing notes that rivals for local business marketing budgets now include a wide range of players, including traditional Yellow Pages, direct mail campaign providers and advertising and listings services on local newspapers, magazines, television and radio.

Other competitors include online search engines, online business directories, providers of digital presence offerings (i.e. GoDaddy, Main Street Hub, Web.com); providers of digital marketing solutions, such as SEM companies; and productivity and office management tools, such as Constant Contact, Demandforce, MailChimp and Solutionreach.

Yodle Launches Centermark for National Local Entities

One of the hottest trends in local marketing is “National Local,” which accounted for 32.1 percent or $42.5 billion of the $132.5 billion spent on local media advertising in 2012. BIA/Kelsey projects that national’s share of local ad spending is expected to grow to nearly $51 billion by 2017. While sometimes obscuring “local local” marketing efforts (i.e. SMBs), the rapid rise of Mobile, effective Geo Targeting and marketing automation has permitted local to scale in unprecedented ways for national brands, franchises and retailers.

Yodle, for one, has been really zeroing in on maximizing its national local opportunities. The company provides marketing services to 40,000 local businesses, including a wide swath of national providers, such as Merry Maids and Miracle-Ear.

Today, the company announced the formal launch of its Centermark suite for such national local players. The suite has been launched as part of The Yodle for Brand Network division – as of July, its revised name for national local services. “Not all brands are national, and many national organizations don’t view themselves as brands,” noted SVP Fred Voccola, in explaining the new name.

Centermark’s various features include local SEO, social, local mobile and scheduling services. It has been in beta for the past six months with 2,000 customers, including franchisors, manufacturers and multi-location operators.

Voccola explains that the company’s primary goal with Centermark is to provide a consistent local Web infrastructure that provides better SEO and ultimately, conversion rates and ‘actionable business intelligence.’ It is not just to understand what the revenue was. We’re interested in what lead sources were used,” and external factors that may have contributed to a sale or other type of engagement, including left field factors that defy conventional wisdom, such as interest rates or weather, he says

More critically, the use of suites like Centermark can strengthen the bond between national brands and their local entities, says Voccola. At BIA/Kelsey, we have observed that weak online and mobile offerings from brands have caused many franchisees to take control of their own marketing activities, often with mixed results. That probably doesn’t serve anyone’s goals.

Local’s New Year: Some Thoughts and Predictions

Over the years, we’ve seen some major paradigm shifts in the transition of local marketing to digital. In 2003, it was the rise of Google search as applied to small business –to this day, the biggest thing that ever happened to local. In 2007, the paradigm shift was the rise of Groupon and prepaid deals as a way to drive customer acquisition. This opened the door for all kinds of non-advertising marketing, from Facebook and Twitter to Card Linked Offers.

Right now, mobile is THE paradigm shift – both as a media channel, and as a geolocation device (Mobile hasn’t been a factor yet as an ewallet. But that is sure to come, with a whole new set of implications.)

Nothing happens in 12 month cycles, but this is what I see happening in 2014:

Hyperlocal Fails to Win Destination Status, Gets a Better Life as Feature
Hyperlocal seems so compelling; contextual content that can draw users who can be microtargeted on a block by block basis. But on a super hyper local basis, it hasn’t scaled as a business model or as a compelling destination site. AOL’s Patch is reported to be winding up as an independent entity, and National Local hybrids such as Examiner.com haven’t made an impact either. The one remaining super hyperlocal site is Next Door Networks, which has raised a $100 Million war chest. The site is based on user generated content and local cells of 30+ users. It is a much cheaper model than Patch’s local staff. But will it win sustained participation from users? My bet is that it won’t. But does that mean that hyperlocal is dead? In fact, hyperlocal is everywhere – in reviews, posts, articles, maps and enhanced listings. Its use is sure to grow.

The Sharing Economy Spawns Multiple Vertical Sites
One of the big local breakthroughs has been the development of shared listing sites for apartments (Airbnb), vacation rentals (BRBO) and rides (Uber). In 2014, we expect to see shared listings become more ubiquitous, with multiple entries per verticals, and the addition of many more verticals. We also expect to see an entire ecosystem grow around these sites. As AirBnB’s Joe Zadeh noted at Interactive Local Media in San Francisco, solutions are being added based on need. For instance, Airbnb has developed a freelance photographer program because hosts need good pictures of their apartments.

Social’s Impact In Local Is Too Fragmented, But Dedicated Word of Mouth Sites Make a Dent
Social leaders like Facebook and Google+ have tremendous volume at the local level. Facebook, alone, has over one million SMB advertisers. But its local usage is so fragmented that local can’t be a real focus at the vertical level. Review-based sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List get closer to the mark, and have broadened their reach beyond restaurants and service professionals, respectively. But they leave plenty of room for smaller Word of Mouth sites that can specialize in certain sectors (i.e. Plumbers) and really dig in. Look for some of the industry’s most innovative leaders try to break through with new models in 2014, including Justin Sanger with SupportLocal; Gib Olander with Local Viewpoints; and Matthew Berk with Lucky Oyster.

‘Big Data’ and Non-Advertising Marketing Boost Local Leads
The ability to base marketing on user engagement and behavior is a fantastic opportunity. Big data, specifically, mixes and matches various data bases to determine the likelihood of engagement. It has been successfully applied to support advertising campaigns. But can users be targeted as a substitute for advertising budgets? And looking forward, can transaction activity, store inventories and user location be wedded to search behavior as part of e big data? This is a greenfield opportunity in all respects. What we are looking for is the transformation of retail email and social lists to leads and promotions. Look for big data players such as Radius Intelligence, Retailigence, xAd, Urban Mapping and LocalBlox to showcase new opportunities in leads and geotargeting.

The Hunger for ‘Attribution’ Drives Big Data and Transaction Marketing
One of the biggest problems for local marketers is proving attribution – especially as users effortlessly move from a banquet of “spreadable media” – everything from articles to email to social media posts to YouTube. It is another reason we are keen on transactional media and loyalty media – the receipts say it all. Look for the gatekeepers of transaction media and loyalty marketing–everyone from Living Social to First Data, Bank of America, MasterCard, Amex , Google Wallet, PayPal and Square – to edge their way into consumer marketing.

Online Shopping Goes Local via Delivery
Interactive Local Media has largely been defined by tech factors, such as geofencing . But the growing use of online by commerce giants such as WalMart, The Home Depot, Amazon and eBay; their development of regional warehouses and delivery networks; and use of Facebook Connect-like one stop shopping suggests a new front in the war for local commerce. The imposition of local sales taxes also suggests a level playing field with local businesses. eBay’s purchase in 2013 of the Shutl courier service, and its expansion to multiple markets, really showed where this might lead.

Happy New Year everyone, and thanks for reading and being part of the local community.

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LIL ILM: Go Daddy CEO Blake Irving Focuses on ‘Discoverability’

 

GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving said during his opening keynote at Leading in Local: Interactive Local Media in San Francisco that the world’s leading domain registrar with 12 million, mostly SMB customers is moving beyond the “polarizing tactics” it has used to get attention in its early days, and changing its brand image and marketing approach.

We’re about a lot more as a company,and Go Daddy is really about helping people to easily start, confidently grow and successfully run their own ventures,” he said. A lot of the company’s attention is about discoverablity, he added. “Discoverability is key to customer acquisition.”

Discovery marketing moves people from selection to intent to purchase to loyalty. The goal is to make it actionable, said Irving. Omnichannel Web and mobile services are a major part of this.

While the company is adding new services such as Locu, it is also adding to its traditional registration businesses. GTLDS domains enable micro targeting, with such entries as “.Luxury” and “.Camera,” he noted. Such efforts are likely to boost the company’s average customer value, which is $123 a year. Acquisition costs are running the comapny around $45. Figures are consistent around the world, he said.

ReachLocal Moves Away From Consumer-Facing ‘ClubLocal’

ReachLocal announced today that it is moving away from its new ClubLocal business, which connects consumers with service providers. The publicly-owned company said that it is now considering a deal that would allow ClubLocal to be taken over by a “major” local entity along with a group that includes ex CEO Zorik Gordon and CSO Michael Kline. At the same time, ReachLocal would maintain a large investment in the business.

It is not a done deal. The company said it will “go shop,” or look at all options for the ClubLocal business until December 24.

ReachLocal’s move last Spring to develop “ClubLocal,” a consumer facing business to assign home repair jobs to vetted local services, met with some head-shaking within the industry. Reach has been seen primarily as a B2B service that did not appear to have the core competency or brand to work with consumers.

The service, however, went ahead and launched in Dallas and San Francisco, perhaps spending between $12 million and $15 million on the initial development and rollout. The main idea was that if Reach could provide SMBs with leads and actually process transactions for them, it would make for a much longer lasting relationship than simply relying on advertising solutions.

One of our BIA/Kelsey users of ClubLocal in Dallas reports that it provides excellent service. But there haven’t been extensive reports on its early business results. Soon after the launch, however, there may have been internal dissension about the company’s strategic direction.

CEO Zorik Gordon left the company, along with President Nathan Hanks. CSO Michel Kline had also announced plans to leave, although at the end of 2013. No explanations have been provided for any of the departures. Hanks is not part of the new group that will run ClubLocal if the proposed deal goes through.

In a discussion with BIA/Kelsey today, interim CEO David Carlick and CFO Ross Lansbaum wouldn’t comment on the executive departures, but noted that there is a search going on for a fulltime CEO; that Reach has become more of an enterprise business; and that B2C services such as ClubLocal are “not really our sweetspot.”

Carlick also noted that ReachLocal is going full speed ahead with its new ReachEdge product, a marketing automation and website project for SMBs. In fact, the company is accelerating deployment in Canada.

“Edge is the back part of ReachLocal – getting people to look at the local merchant Website and other offerings, and converting those visits into customer engagments,” said Carlick. “We have found the things that our clients tend to be worst at – like turning merchants into customers. We achieve results that are 200-300 percent better than what most merchants do now.”

More Exec Changes at ReachLocal Amidst Advertiser Growth

We’re watching ReachLocal closely, and note some changes at the company. Reach has been pushing the envelope as it transitions from a company that is largely dependent on reselling search and display to one that has a deeper relationship with SMBs via a wide range of platform services – and a direct relationship with consumers as well via service leads, placement and transactions.

Today, during its 3rd quarter earnings call, Reach announced the departure of President (and SMB Digital Marketing Keynoter) Nathan Hanks. Hanks follows founder Zorik Gordon out the door and will be replaced by CRO Josh Claman, who joined the company in August 2012 from Dell and NCR. Interim CEO (and DoubleClick Cofounder) David Carlick remains in place.

The announcement was made during the company’s Third Quarter earnings, which emphasized that the company has expanded its advertiser base 11 percent from a year ago, to 24,600. It also grew its advertiser campaigns 11 percent , and now has 34,600 active campaigns.

Additionally, international operations in 16 countries have become increasingly important to the company’s revenue mix, with 34 percent of its revenue now coming from international, up from 29 percent in 2012.