What is the problem with “Corporate” Advertising Sales? My
Career job at Idearc Media.
The problem is just that….. it is too much about “SALES” and less about “Advertising”.
“Wealth and Prosperity are created from Productivity and Freedom”. – Ron Paul
Now let me jump on my soapbox for a minute:
I was reading a blog today that inspired me to put some recent thoughts in my PERSONAL blog. It seem easy for folks to create some sort of “I hate my former employer” type website with the intent of ranting and raving about corporate wrongdoings.
Let me explain my thoughts on the subject of corporate advertising.
What has changed is that business is no longer local. On the one hand big business tries to appear local when it is soliciting customers, but as soon as there is a problem, big business hides behind what customers forgive as bureaucratic incompetence, but which is, in fact, a well calculated, deliberate scheme to avoid responding to legitimate complaints or having to pay just debts. And basically that is the problem with Idearc.
I look back at my (almost 10 year) career as a media consultant for Idearc Media as a great career. I started the company in August of 2000 as a call center sales rep for GTE/Verizon Directories Corp. My mother, TC at the time worked at Fuller Drive in Irving as a Premise Advertising Consultant. Back in the hay-day of yellow page advertising sales in the late 90’s it was the ‘dreamiest’ sales job of all sales jobs. My mother, who was rookie of the year her first year on the job (top new “sales” rep in the Country), seemed to enjoy her career choice. She made great money to support her family and helped many businesses in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with marketing in and outside of GTE’s core strengths. She had a great customer focus and a pretty strong business sense. A little bit of Nepotism and a bit of being prepared from a stint at U.S. Wireless Communications in Mesquite, I was in the corporate door of Verizon and on my way to becoming an asset to the organization. I loved my job. It excited me to work with folks that wanted to create and share success, who were passionate about the product we offered our clients. Of course from the time my mother started with the company, til about 2002, advertising in the yellow pages was the thing to for most local small and medium sized businesses (SMB’s). It is not like Yellow Pages companies did not hear the internet train coming. Seriously, from 2002 til today has been over 7 years. Take a look at the changes in the internet up thru 1996. You would think as fast as things change related to the internet, folks in the advertising industry would respect the power of the modern PC and recognize that when we (the above average computer user, who needs the PC for work, career, personal, and entertainment purposes) wants information (such as whether to choose a Plumbing Service who has been serving Dallas since 1903 or a Dallas Plumbing Service who is highly active and involved in the local Dallas area community.) It is obvious that the average and above average user would choose to “Google-it” vs picking up a copy of a book that is put on our door step in an obtrusive form. We choose what media we WANT. Do not force things upon us. We choose to Tivo instead of being force to watch commercials. We choose to use http://www.dallasnews.com vs reading the printed copy of the newspaper. We want the choice. I have always told my clients that if you build authority with Google you don’t need to worry about finding a SEO for your Dallas Business Website. What you really need is a great CMS at that point.
One great way to build authority and usage of your product is via subscription. If folks subscribe to you that means they like the same flavor Kool-Aid as you. That also means that they find your information useful. They appreciate it. That is why they subscribed. I would love to be an advertiser in front of that potential marketplace. That is why sites like http://www.linkedin.com, twitter.com, and YouTube.coom are so popular. We love subscription based information. We want more information on what we are subscribing to.
Personally, I choose to subscribe to sites like Superpages.com, YellowPages.com, and Google Search.
We don’t like waste and trash or to be disturbed. Leave our porches alone. Stop littering the world. If I want a phone book I will subscribe. I sold yellow pages ads to clients, but when the company started putting double double double trucks in to make more money I ‘gulped’. Value dropped. When the company stop focusing on rewarding good paying clients but only more and more sales (to folks that had zero intent on paying the bill yet taking calls from paying clients), again… I ‘gulped’. When the company became less concerned about being innovative (don’t even pretend that copying an idea that Service Magic already brought to the market
Did Idearc Media copy ServiceMagic with SuperGuarantee or did ServiceMagic copy Idearc Media?
and selling it to investors in a 30+ million dollar advertising campaign prior to planned bankruptcy is considered innovative), What it did do is lead more horses to the water troff. Heck, I was duped into purchasing more stock with my own hard earned money. Did the folks that run the company besides those who eventually left the company lose important ASSets? Hard to care as much when you are making 850K per year as an executive of an organization.
You see, my mother (who died almost a year ago in an accident) really did work for America’s Small Business Local Advertising Agency” since 1997 in fact. It was considered the “Best Sales Job in America”. Pretty easy job selling a great product like they yellow pages of old. Have things changed? SURE HAVE. The computer for one and Corporate America second. No offense, but I seriously think that Main Street is done with corrupt corporate people who care less and less about employees and more and more about Wall Street and getting his/her drink perfectly remembered and produced at some expensive restaurant….. Cocksure folks don’t deserve to direct Main Street businesses.
If your goal is to reestablish the notion of trust inside and outside the your organization, the first step is to be transparent. We don’t trust the government because it is not transparent. You ask for trust yet the only way to earn it is thru communication and transparency. Is it wise to tell Wall-Street that you are having issues with receivables yet you make changes to the policy that impact sales in a positive manner but at the same time increase the amount of receivables? Is this establishing trust? If your organization rewards folks that are not in the business to make the company profitable, you need to reconsider your business model.
My continued ranting in no particular order:
° Selling Yellow Pages really doesn’t take a rocket scientist
° Yellow Pages industry reluctance to adapt to effective advertising trends was obvious: How long did it take to realize that HEADLINES produce more calls than using the business name?
° Sales reps are not “media consultants”. After every appointment the first question management asks is: “What else do you have working?” Not, “What ideas did you offer the client regarding branding, promotion, message, and distribution?
° Don’t be fooled. Corporate advertising is about corporate dollars. Sales reps try to consult but are measured on Sales Results and not client retention.
° If the Yellow Pages industry really cared about client retention they would have offered you the option to keep the same “media consultant”
° Yellow Pages publishers do not offer detailed training to sales reps on the latest innovations in Online Search.
° Client-focused Accountability is not something that is encouraged… when does the buck stop passing around?
° Yellow Pages pricing is not transparent. This is intentional. The pricing is confusing. This is also intentional. The pricing is intended to help the companies achieve very high margins in print. DUH!
° Internet Margins for Advertising Sales are only high if you are the Search Engine. Makes more sense to push all the traffic and click budgets on internal networks (superpages.com, yp.com, dexknows.com etc vs search engines like Google and Yahoo. Typical margins are in the 5-15% range vs 40-60% that is achieved from print sales.
° Internet marketing is 100 times more complex than Yellow Pages print advertising.
° Internet marketing means you have to speak to your client monthly…….. weekly…… and even daily….. Yellow Pages only requires a single client meeting only once a year. Almost as uncomfortable as the dentist appointment. Price.. Haggle… Size…..Haggle…. Color…. Haggle.
° When will Yellow Pages companies make getting the phone book subscription based, or offer the ability to decline it. If they give you a book thrown on your doorstep you are offered no valid means of disposing it properly.
° Offering a closer relationship to local ad agencies vs employees might save the industry enough money to get margins back to a level they once had. Why? Agencies work for the client…. not the publisher. They do a better job of protecting the clients interests. Media Sales Consultants are really not necessary. Local Media planners in the Yellow Pages industry are hard to find. I have worked with many at Idearc. They are worth that 6-figure income my mother used to earn at GTE Yellow Pages…. over and over!
Honestly, in my opinion… what killed the yellow pages is really themselves. Of course the answer is: Everyone, but the folks company I worked for (and thanks to GTE/Verizon/Idearc and my clients I was gifted with an education that even Harvard Business School could appreciate) Maybe it was its CEOs, managers, distributors, and most of all competitors? Remember when we had only one phone book? What about when there was only one phone company? Prices were high but solutions were simple. Competition created innovation. Phones changed. People Changed. When is the last time someone complained about calling long distance? Verizon has all but abandoned the local phone business. Why? Innovation has made it unprofitable. They are investing in wireless (seriously, who needs a home phone?) and FIOS/TV etc. They want you to use the phone to find a business. That is why I invest in learning more about Mobile Search. Data plans make wireless companies a lot of money! Why would Verizon want people to use Idearc Yellow Pages? Idearc has the Verizon name on the phone book but is no more attached to Verizon than the Federal Express is Federal. (Federal Reserve is private banks)
If want to buy the first spot in the phone book call Idearc, YellowBook, AT&T, or any publisher. Will they skip all the other ads and sell it to you? Sure! All you have to do is show them the money. But if you want the first spot on Google. My suggestion is to find a local ad agency that focuses on local search engine marketing for your business. Someone that understands what it means to create authority, build a positive online social reputation for your company, and be 100% accountable for your online results. IYP companies do not offer SEO! Why? Is it because PPC is the only form of online advertising? No! 85% of advertiser budgets are spend on 30% of Google clicks (PPC) 15% of budgets are spent on roughly 70% of Google clicks (Organic). Organic is not profitable. It takes commitment to the client. A commitment of time and energy that corporate ad agencies have yet to duplicate on a local level. Until educated search marketers like myself get away from corporate influence and start building relationships with CLIENTS. Relationships that require more than a once a year meeting. I don’t believe that print yellow pages is totally dead, but if folks don’t REMODEL the business model it will be. Urban America does not need the phone book. Suburban America still uses it. Rural America will continue using it. The next step in the business model is for companies like ServiceMagic, Home Depot, or Sears to start mailing “Yellow Pages” with contractor lists to homeowners. How about a magazine style “display ad” only monthly publication that folks are able to “subscribe” to? Let’s get real innovative! How about offering tips to homeowner? When is the last time a survey was conducted to see what percentage of consumers want to receive a phone book? Do the phone book companies really care if we want it or not?
BTW, Stay tuned to future blog posts for insights from a former Search Engine Marketing Account Manager who now works at a local ad agency. She previously managed accounts for a Yellow Pages publisher and can offer details into the history of IYP search engine marketing. She is an extremely talented Google Adwords Campaign Manager.
Thanks for reading!
Mike the Google Guru
“Paying your advertising bill should not be so darn stressful.” – In memory of Tomas (a dear friend of mine)