Category Archives: Yellow Pages

Local Onliner Bookshelf: ‘Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future’

We’ve all seen that the true tech visionaries defy conventional wisdom to define and create new markets. If Steve Jobs is the Michael Jordan of tech visionaries, than perhaps Elon Musk is the Steph Curry.

Musk has caught everyone’s attention, focusing on the big things that change people’s lives (payments, transport and power). At this point, he’s largely responsible for building everyone’s favorite electric car (Tesla), revolutionizing space transport (Space X), playing key roles in the new generation of electronic transactions (PayPal) and he’s also played, on the side, in solar power (Solar City). His vision for “Hyperloop” supersonic travel recently earned him a 90 minute audience with President Obama.

Business Week Writer Ashlee Vance’s new biography, “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” is quite a read. Based on over 200 interviews, Musk is shown as a true innovator who paired good timing with a relentless drive and work ethic. The book also details how Musk, like so many tech leaders, was slowed by personal issues and a super competitive nature that seemingly doesn’t know when to stop.

The dual stories of modern space transport and electric car development are properly the focus here. But, of course, I wish the book spent more time on the early Zip2 years from 1995-97, when Elon and his younger brother Kimbal were just out of school and launching Zip2 in Vancouver’s Gas Light tech district with $28,000 of their father’s savings. Zip2 was a pioneer in integrating maps with business listings.

While the Zip2 section is a short part of the 400 page book, many of us in the local community got to know Musk at this time, and some of his signature characteristics (i.e. his charm, his micromanagement of projects, his reputation as a strict taskmaster). Desperate to keep his company afloat, Musk is described by Vance during this period as something less of a visionary than a “huckster.”

After a merger with Barry Diller’s Citysearch derailed amidst angry accusations of misrepresentation on both sides, Zip2 jumped deeper into the arms of its newspaper partners. The newspapers bet on Zip2 to help them become the next generation’s Yellow Pages for local SMBs.

The newspapers’ sales staff was basically unprepared to tackle low-priced digital listings, however, and the papers were also unable to drive enough traffic to the listings. Musk and the VCs and newspapers luckily were able to unload the failing operation to Compaq Computers for $250 million. (Compaq naively thought it would succeed in local sales by leveraging its computer sales network to moonlight as local ad sales people.)

But from nothing comes something. Musk took some of his $22 million share from the Compaq sale and moved on to develop what eventually became PayPal. And then, almost simultaneously, Space X and Tesla.

The book fascinatingly details the deceit and treachery of the VC community and executive colleagues. It also breaks new ground in detailing how Musk went to the brink, spending his $200 million + PayPal fortune on Space X and Tesla. Indeed, he was so broke, he took to flying on Southwest Airlines and had papers drawn up to sell Tesla to Google (Larry Page is said to be a best friend). It was only at the last minute that he was rescued by a major deal with NASA to use Space X rockets.

The book may not have the fluency of the greatest Innovator bios. Some of these would include James Gleick’s Genius about Richard Feynman, Walter Issacson’s Steve Jobs, and Brad Stone’s The Everything Store about Jeff Bezos. But it’s a fascinating, well written and well researched tome, confirming that what it takes to be successful at the highest levels is a thick skin, a mission to rapidly succeed, important champions, independence, and immense capital.

Sneak Peek at BIA/Kelsey NEXT Show: 6 Things I’m Watching For

“End of Big” Author Nicco Mele Keynotes BIA/Kelsey NEXT Dec. 9-10

BIA/Kelsey’s December event has been local’s flagship, and always ahead of the curve in all of local’s iterations. It has been widely imitated, but never totally duplicated! I‘ve been producing it for a long time, but this year, handed it off in midstream. I’ll be moderating some great sessions, though, and the conference team has ended up with 52 hand-picked speakers, a Tech Expo and two full days of programming. Here are some of the things I’m most excited about:

1. The New Cut on Local and Community. Local’s still at the concept stage in a lot of areas. Why think small? Two leaders from USC’s groundbreaking Annenberg School (my alma mater) will point to the new directions in separate keynotes. First up is Nicco Mele, the author of The End of Big (2013), a tour de Force on “radical connectivity.” He’s also fresh from his stint as deputy publisher at The LA Times, where his team’s efforts to seize new initiatives in local had already produced major new revenue streams. He’ll have a lot to say about what’s going to work. Leading off Day 2 is Dr. Karen North, Director of Online Communities, a dynamic presenter who is focused on Millenial applications and behavior – you’ve heard, perhaps, these kids live on the phone?

2. Keynotes from Google and Facebook: The latest in local from the two dominators and trend setters in local. Danny Bernstein at Google is set to highlight its deep linking efforts (Google Now). He is sharing the stage with Button’s Chris Maddern and Local Seo Guide’s Andrew Shotland.

3. Big Thinking about MarTech: Big Data’s impact on local cuts many ways – analytics, leads, targeting, planning, But it’s only a subsegment of the broader “MarTech” movement. Those in the know attend Scott Brinker’s annual MarTech conference in Boston. Scott, who also runs ionactive, is going to focus on local and highlight what’s important and why for us at NEXT. He’ll be joined on stage by Surefire Social’s Chris Marentis.

4. The Mobile App-Driven Marketplace. The mantra is that it isn’t really about search right now, because Mobile apps are driving the marketplace. What’s that really mean for local? One of the best analysts I know is Mark Plakias, who has been running Orange’s think tank in Silicon Valley for several years. He’ll be joined by Quick.ly’s Paul Ryan and DialogTech’s Steve Griffith. This will be quite a session.

5. Local and The Internet of Things. We’ve been pondering iOT’s impact on local — when everything is linked, from transit cards to vending machines. So has the new venture, Instersection, which is a partnership from Google Ventures and former Bloomberg head and NYC Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff. CSO Dave Etherington will provide insights on what they are up to. He’ll be joined on stage by Cisco’s Andy Noronha.

6. Close Up on The New Local Marketplaces. We’ve been saying for a long time that local marketing has gone beyond advertising. Now it’s “closing the loop” with transaction data, offer targeting and complete behavioral profiles reshaping the game. Groupon’s Dan Roarty, Microsoft’s Neal Bernstein and MOGL’s Jon Carder share their insights. Cardlinx CEO Silvio Tavares will add data and help me run this session.

Haven’t got your ticket yet? I have a *little* influence and can get you $400 off. Please use this discount code: LOCALONLINER. You may register here.

At BIA/Kelsey NATIONAL: Top Takeaways

The third version of BIA/Kelsey NATIONAL just wrapped last week in Dallas, following our 2014 NATIONAL event in Atlanta and our 2013 event in Boston. Taking twists and turns as it develops, the topic of “national marketing, local targeting” is one that increasingly relies on digital, which represents a significant share of the $67.1 billion in spending that is forecast for national local by 2019.

Thanks very much to our 64 speakers, hundreds of attendees, sponsors and GoLocal Award finalists for participating with us in Dallas. What are you takeaways from Bia/Kelsey NATIONAL, Ver. 3? Here’s my personal top takeaways:

1. The time is now for National Local, but the industry still needs to catch up. BizHive’s Dave Walker, in a great keynote, cited CMO Council research noting that 57 of CMOs say that local programs are important, but only seven percent of CMOs have a successful program in place.

2. It is critical to leverage social media. The average Facebook user is on 41 minutes day, and national brands have an opportunity to use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Yelp and other social media to develop real scale for local franchises. As U-Haul’s Elnora Cunningham noted, U Haul can give its dealer network direct feedback from over five million reviews. Given all this, SpeakEasy CEO Mike Orren tweets: “So no, Mr. Client, we don’t recommend abandoning the platform.”

3. ‘Closing the Loop’ on attributed marketing should be highly prioritized. As Geary’s Karen Kovaleski noted, marketers need to think across media and organizational boundaries to bring customers to a transaction decision. Google, for one, is actively working on this capability. Google’s Brendon Kraham highlighted a PetSmart case study in which 10-18 percent of search clicks can be tracked back to instore visits.

4. The rise of programmatic sales represents a breakthrough for National Local. Automated selling represents a break-through that local needs to reach users on a targeted, hyperlocal basis. But it needs to be carefully handled. As Sightly’s John McIntyre noted during Rick Ducey’s Programmatic SuperForum: “In the end, programmatic is stupid. It is a (simply) a go-get, go-fetch tool.”

5. All National Local strategies must focus on optimizing Mobile’s micro moments. Just as broadcasters have focused on day parts for different types of marketing, national local marketers must really begin thinking about the different types of activities that people are doing when they look at their mobile phone. Google says that people are looking at Android phones 150 x a day.

6. Platforms can bring local franchisees in line, and also liberate them. As Christian Ward from Yext notes, brands are “schizophrenic” from top to bottom, with the national brand representing one thing, and each local outlet representing something else. Getting “local stars to act like choir boys” is one goal of the platform companies.

7. Going deep on vertical expertise is essential. It isn’t one size fits all in national local. Richards Group’s Rod Ulrich noted that “consultative sales rule,” and that his agency has added a library of vertical materials and a librarian to assist in the effort.

8. The sales structure for National Local must be carefully tailored. The old days of sending someone to Detroit or New York twice a year doesn’t make sense anymore. The Dallas Morning News, for instance, told us that its team of 10 national reps is now down to 2. But national touchpoints remains even more vital, via timely contacts, use of networks and other capabilities.

9. A real role remains for local media and directories. Local newspapers and Yellow Pages still play a real role in targeting locally – and regionally. But it is important to understand and tailor those strengths. The national usage of The Dallas News, for instance, is more than half driven by Dallas Cowboys.

IMG_2372

YPG’s Julien Billot at BIA/Kelsey New Orleans: Digital is Key to Revival

In true disruptive technology style, YPG is separating digital sales from print sales to allow the company to grow overall even as print continues to decline, noted YPG CEO Julien Billot, during a keynote at Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing in New Orleans Sept. 22.

Billot noted that YPG has been leaking revenues, with revenues now 3X lower than in 2008. Growth will not come from existing customers, but must come from new customers. “Ninety percent of its customers still have print products. Meanwhile, “50 percent of non-advertisers do not believe YP is a credible digital brand nor feel that their customers use YP platforms,” said Billot.

To turn things around, Billot is plotting three phases of “resetting,” which he says is different from “transformation.” Between now and 2018, there will be a “return to growth” focused on stand alone digital. The final phase will be dedicated to accelerating growth, with a sustainable digital business — one that is focused as much on media as on sales.

“We are much more in the media business today,” he noted. Much of the resetting will be oriented towards new branding to change the way that people think about YP, he added, noting that he will budget Can $25 Million for the next four years to achieve this goal.

YP’s David Lebow at BIA/Kelsey: No More National Local Wall

The wall between national and local marketing is falling with tech-empowered consumers able to find their information wherever they want it, noted YP EVP David Lebow during a keynote at Leading in Local: The National Impact in Atlanta. “Traditional media companies are the only ones keeping up that wall.”

YP is very much a company in transition, like Gannett, Hearst and others, noted Lebow, a longtime media and online leader with recent stints at AOL and Internet Broadcasting. Like the others, YP’s real and clichéd task is “to grow the growing side of the business in excess of the declining side of the business. It never changes.”

“The question is: how can we be the Google of local search?” asks Lebow. “In order to do that, we need to innovate at the pace of the market.”

There is no question that YP should be pursuing local search. “We don’t want to be in directory. One is a $2.7 billion segment growing at 3 percent, while the other is a $29.8 billion segment growing at 7 percent,” said Lebow. But it is critical to attack the market in a broad way. YP shouldn’t be a content play within a vertical, like a Zillow or a WebMD, he said.

A core focus of the local search effort needs to be in SMB presence management. “Businesses really need to be found,” Lebow said. And that’s where the convergence of national local comes in. “The SMB says it needs leads and loyalty. National says it needs measurement, analytics and reporting. The needs of national and local businesses are coming into one.”

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.”