Category Archives: Yellow Pages

Merchant Circle ‘Relaunches’ as Directory-Centric Site

A few years ago, Merchant Circle pushed the boundaries of SMB marketing,– getting claimed profiles from over one million SMBs with just minimal staff but the latest in social marketing (and telemarketing) techniques. The site has continued to develop after it was acquired by Reply!, Inc. in 2011 – it continues to gain new profiles — but it may have the perception of fading as a top local play.

Reply! is now relaunching Merchant Circle with an eye towards making it “the best directory site on the Web.” The relaunch focuses on leveraging the 1.6 million member merchants with speedy searches, and more of an emphasis on user experience – especially, Reviews and Expert Answers, and the mobile experience. In general, merchant profiles will become more of a “showcase” rather than a flat listing experience.

The site is a major improvement, with a slick, updated design. We especially like the globe-like local maps highlighting reviewed businesses.

The consumer-facing design launches this week. An updated dashboard with self-managed Merchant Circle profiles including blogs, images and Q&A –will be launched at the end of January. A dedicated mobile app will come later in 2014.

With the relaunch, “the merchant’s persona is front and center,” CMO Chris Mancini told BIA/Kelsey. “This relaunch will continue pushing that mission forward. Our research shows that SMB’s need simple solutions for their online marketing and we are dedicated to providing that without breaking their bank account or their timeclock.”

SMB Digital Marketing: Yellow Pages CTOs Talk about Winning at Digital

CTOs are having the most interesting conversations at legacy media companies – or at least, that would be the conclusion of a stimulating dialog that took place last week at Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing between BIA/Kelsey’s Charles Laughlin, Warren Kay, YP CTO Darren Clark and YPG CTO Paul Ryan. Why? That’s where the reality of sales force transformation takes place.

Clark said that Digital started as YP’s “guest house.” Digital accounted for 1/6 of revenues just five years ago. But now, “the guest house is (about to) get bigger than the main house.”
He noted that the company is providing three main digital products. Presence, Performance and Leads. They’re all focused on how we send people relationships, not just leads. We need to get them to connect and build and manage their lists.

Another huge issue is productivity. How do you get someone to be two or three times more productive,” said Clark? The answer is to manage channels and decision support systems. In fact, the company still plays a vital role for the simple reason that most SMBs aren’t really ready for DO It Yourself. “We have a role to play, and capabilities,” he said.

YPG’s Ryan similarly noted that YPG is about to cross the line where digital accounts for the majority of revenues. “We can’t just make it as a reselling channel, “ he said.

The traction in digital has caused the company to rethink it as more of a “strategic advantage” instead of simply erasing all the information every year and starting anew “We are the listing providers in Canada for Google, Yahoo and others,he said. “We know about these businesses.”

It has been something of an uphill battle, however. “The pace of change really hasn’t been there,” notes Ryan, who has been with YPG for about a year. To change the culture, YPG has been launching products every two weeks. “That is the DNA we need in this space in order to compete with well-funded startups. “We are not just screwing around. We believe we can win.”

LSA 2013: Mobile Promotions Show True Value

Ads aren’t just valued for bringing in calls and walk ins. Local businesses increasingly place value on consumers looking up maps and directions, or participating in loyalty efforts, notes SuperMedia Director of Mobile Development Chris Folmer, who was speaking on a panel at The Local Search Association conference April 16 in Las Vegas. “There are lots of ways to drive true value,” he says.

Loyalty programs represent a real growth opportunity. Consumers are already engaged with the client. They need to maintain the relationship,” says Folmer. He notes that SuperMedia is rolling out a number of new loyalty programs. The programs are great acquisition tools. They are “really good to talk to new clients about. They really like it.”

The traditional backbone of loyalty programs have been text messaging, he adds. Texts really deliver results, and are “exploding” for SMBs. The key is to “get people to want to engage in content.” But they can also be tricky because they are so easy to unsubscribe from. “It only takes one bad offer for someone to opt out,” he notes.

Speaking on the same panel, Placecast SVP Blair Swedeen also emphasized strong results from text-based programs. Promotions sent out when consumers are near a store result in a 2.5 x boost in frequency, and a 22 percent purchase rate. There is also a 5 percent increase in average order value, he notes.

Increased smartphone penetration has greatly expanded the universe for smart offers, says Swedeen — smartphone users will also get push offers on their Apps and emails. “Most customers want delivery across all channels,” he says.

Edo Interactive VP Jeff Fagel says that texts in fact have already been surpassed by smartphone emails. Apps are also proving to be very effective. Merchants that have a promotion on a mobile app are seeing a 20 percent boost in their response rate.

Redemption rates are also soaring. A program that Edo ran with Subway, for instance, achieved a 15 percent redemption rate across the board. It drove the value of purchases up 30 percent. Moreover, 40 percent of those customers who redeemed offers came back at least once or twice in the next 90 days.

The key is driving “the right offer to the right customer,” and keeping it simple, adds Fagel. “There is nothing as impactful as ‘thumbs in faces,’” he says, noting that mobile offers will see 10-15x redemption rates of traditional coupons.

SMB Digital Marketing Conference Adds: ReachLocal, Belly, Yelp +++

Our inaugural SMB Digital Marketing event keeps building and building. We’re being welcomed to Chicago for the Sept. 17-19 event by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and have already announced key speakers, including Dex One CEO Alfred Mockett, Constant Contact CEO Gail Goodman and Demandforce CMO Patrick Barry.

Now, with early discounts ending today, we’re announcing a number of new speakers. On the keynote front, we’ve added ReachLocal President Nathan Hanks. Reach, of course, is one of the largest independent sales organizations in the local industry. As industry watchers, we are always watching them for SMB insights and innovations.

We’re also adding a number of industry leaders, and some great innovators. Belly CEO Logan LaHive has gotten a lot of attention in Forbes and other places for his efforts to provide an “act two” to the deals and promotions space via loyalty for SMBs. Belly is being backed by Groupon co-founder Eric Lekofsky and Andreessen Horowitz among others. We’ll be keenly interested in what he has to say alongside other loyalty leaders, including Cartera SVP Marc Caltabiano.

Another great add to the program is Repair.com GM Chris Spanos. Repair.com, backed by insurance giant NEW, is building a platform for service leads that also includes ServiceBench.com. Spanos joins an all-star panel that includes Angie’s List Ecommerce head David Kerr and Deluxe Corp VP and GM, SMBs Gordon Henry (Deluxe = America’s biggest check printers, Orange Soda and MerchEngines).

Mobile is going to be a big topic here too. Speaking on a mobile session is App Express CEO Mary Beth Brendza (formerly with User Friendly Media) and SMB Commando Dick Larkin, who will share his insights into text-based marketing from his day job as VP, American Marketing and Publishing.

Finally, we’re excited to add Yelp’s SMB outreach leader Darnell Holloway, who will share some of the insights that Yelp has learned along the way into what makes SMBs tick – and not. Holloway will complement two full panels of SMBs that we’ll bring in to talk about what they really find useful in digital marketing.

Keynoters:
Alfred Mockett, CEO, Dex One
Gail Goodman, CEO, Constant Contact
Patrick Barry, CMO, Demandforce/Intuit
Nathan Hanks, President, ReachLocal

Featured Speakers:
Mary Beth Brendza, CEO, App Express
Ron Burr, CRO, CallFire
Marc Caltabiano, SVP, Cartera
Stephen Gibbons, VP, Dex One
Gordon Henry, VP, GM/SMBs, Deluxe Corp.
Darnell Holloway, Leader, SMB Outreach, Yelp
David Kerr, GM, eCommerce, Angie’s List
Logan LaHive, CEO, Belly
Dick Larkin, American Marketing & Publishing
John Pletz, Sr. Reporter, Crain’s Chicago Business
Shawn Riegsecker, CEO, Centro
Chris Spanos, GM, Repair.com
Pam Springer, CEO, Manta.com

We’ll be announcing more great speakers in coming weeks (hint: one of them starts with a ‘G’, ends with an ‘E’). But early discounts end today. Why not sign up here and save?

Reply’s MerchantCircle Relaunches; Heavier Consumer Focus, Less on Listings

MerchantCircle, which was sold to Reply.com in May 2011, continues to rethink the traditional Yellow Pages small business model. The company today unveils a web site that is less oriented towards directory listings, and more oriented – it hopes — towards winning more consumer traffic, generating more SMB leads, and better monetization.

While the new platform has been launched on the core Merchant Circle site, it will soon be available on a white label basis for other publishers, such as Internet Yellow Pages and City Guides. A key driver of the move has been the company’s desire to leverage a larger consumer base for Reply’s “clicks or leads” model.

MerchantCircle has actually been moving towards a “social commerce” model for some time, in recent years adding Answers, community content and other features. But EVP Darren Waddell tells us that the site has now more clearly moved away from an IYP “silo” model, where consumers basically encounter a business and its merchant page.

“It is not about the merchant value proposition,” says Waddell. “It is about helping consumers to connect with local business owners in a meaningful way.” Consumers will be able to seek requests for quote, see pictures – which Waddell stresses are “really important”; build deals; enter business subscriptions; and access the company’s trove of six million+ pieces of user generated content. Merchants, meanwhile, move up from a simple IYP-like enhanced listing to Reply’s Marketplace.

“We really blew out the entire MerchantCircle front-end,” Waddell adds. “We’ve developed an entirely new look and feel.” In beta tests involving up to 10 percent of its user base, the new, improved MerchantCircle has yielded a 2.5 X improvement in consumer engagement.

Being consumer friendly has also required Merchant Circle to crack down on merchants that were aggressively gaming the site and hurting its credibility. “It was a small but loud minority,” notes Waddell. “Algorithmically, we’ve really cracked down on people gaming the system.”

Initially, some of its merchants have not been pleased with the changes, which put most non-featured businesses below the fold. Waddell notes that some merchants on the site’s forums have been “really upset,” but MerchantCircle is sticking with it’s more balanced approach.

In the long-run, the company believes that they’ll realize they’re better off with the consumer-friendly features. In the meantime, Waddell suggests that Merchant Circle has hit an effective balance , with 1.2 million active merchants being able to respond to a strong volume of consumer requests – a capability that he believes is unmatched in the industry.

Waddell appears at ILM East March 26-28 in Boston on our all-star “Local Business Success: Picking Winners” session, along with AT&T’s Maria Kermath, Schedulicity’s Dave Galvan and SMBApps’ Randy Parker . Register here.

New at ILM West: Google, Facebook, SoLoMo Day +++

ILM West is shaping up to be one of the great ones. Taking place Dec. 12-14 in downtown San Francisco, ILM West really reflects a sea change in local marketing from advertising to the new hybrid model of advertising and commerce (i.e. prepaid deals, reputation management, mobile app sales etc.).

We’ve made some big additions since our last update, starting with Google and Facebook. These add to the existing lineup, including our “rock stars” (Clear Channel CEO and industry legend Bob Pittman AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher, Media News Group/Journal Register CEO John Paton and Deseret Media and former Harvard Business School Professor Clark Gilbert), and major sessions on deals, offers, verticals and the whole spectrum of local trends.

We will pursue three unique angles on Google at ILM West:

1- The local efforts, under Marissa Mayer’s local team. Jeff Aguero, head of local marketing, will present on everything local, from Zagat, to Google Places, to the Big G’s new “Get Online” program for SMBs. These strategies have really developed since this summer.

2- The global reseller effort. Global Channels head Todd Rowe will engage in an in-depth conversation with BIA/Kelsey President Neal Polachek on all his efforts.

3- Google Mobile. Mobile and Local Search exec Surojit Chatterjee will provide insights into this critical area for Google as part of our All SoLoMo morning on Day 3.

We’re also going deep with Facebook at ILM West. Facebook’s new local leader Matt Idema is our afternoon keynote on Day 2, with a lot of new details and a progress report on the local and vertical strategies. On Day 1, we are also taking a special look at working with Facebook’s platform with execs from Trada, Oodle and Kenshoo Local/Social weighing in. Eager but not sure how to play with Facebook? You will be when ILM West is done.

The SoLoMo event on Day 3 itself is going to be quite the cornerstone for ILM West. Curated by the research teams from our Social Local Media and Mobile Local Media programs, SoLoMo features top line data; and indepth and fresh looks at SoLoMo implementations from leaders at Google, AT&T Interactive, Zaarly, PayPal, XAd, JiWire and AppStack (Steve Espinosa’s new project.)

You can see the full agenda here. And register here.

Remember: We are making a donation to the SF/Marin County Food Bank for all registrations that come in by Thanksgiving.

NeuStar Buys TargusInfo, Parent of Localeze, for $650 Million

TargusInfo, a major direct marketing tools provider and the parent company of Localeze, a “Big 3″ provider of business listings, will be acquired by NeuStar for $650 Million in cash. The deal enhances NeuStar’s positioning as a leader in authentication services across the Internet and voice networks, whether fixed-line, cable, or mobile. Authentication is expected to dramatically grow with the boom in digital services such as movie downloads. Both companies are based in Northern Virginia.

Localeze’s listings business is not the biggest factor in the acquisition, but the division’s focus on enhanced SMB and franchise profiles will likely fit into the mix. TargusInfo is perhaps best known in the direct marketing world for its lead gen scoring techniques which evaluate the likelihood that a lead will turn into a sale. TargusInfo is also well known for its Caller ID verification service, among other real time, on demand information and analytics services. It helps process more than 100 billion annual transactions around the world.

TargusInfo posted $149 million in revenues for the year ending September 30. Combined, the two companies earned $732 million.

“The people who know both of us understand that billions of times every day Neustar and TARGUSinfo flawlessly help people find each other, connect to one another and share.,” notes Neustar CEO Lisa Hook in a blog post. “By combining TARGUSinfo’s leadership in Caller ID and online information services, such as lead verification and scoring, with Neustar’s strengths in network information services, including address inventory management, network security, and marketing analytics, we will be able to greatly extend Neustar’s ability to provide its customers services based on unique, non-replicable datasets.”

Localeze President Jeff Beard told us that “at the end of the day, it is all about providing real time intelligence about identity. The vast majority of that is consumer identity,” he says. Beard adds that Neustar’s interest in TargusInfo is on several levels, including local search. Major tech companies such as IBM, Intel and others are all getting more involved in local search as part of their broader activity, he notes.