What Could Save The Yellow Pages? 10 Ideas

November 29, 2009

What Could Save The Yellow Pages? 10 Ideas

https://i1.wp.com/nettoolkits.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/yellow-pages-dead.jpgI noticed that not many have re-Tweeted or shared this article. Great suggestions from Chris Smith, another former employee of Verizon/Idearc Media, who is highly regarded as one of the country’s top 10 masterminds in Local Search Marketing. He is a true expert. He is one of the reasons Superpages.com was ranked higher than YellowPages.com and RealPages.com for so many years.

In this article he suggests 10 things the print yellow page industry can do to evolve into a media company of the future.

I strongly agree with the sentiments on saturation distribution, unwanted phone books, and improving diversity and product offering in the internet space.

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Idearc’s potential post Bankruptcy 45% buyout offer by John Paulson’s 20+ Billion Hedge Fund good News?

October 31, 2009

In my opinion, Idearc’s potential post Bankruptcy 45% buyout offer by John Paulson’s 20+ Billion Hedge Fund is really good News.

But I think they need to get the majority share of the company and go all in! Just 45% does not give them the stake they need to create real change in the organization. I don’t think what they are doing is close to being enough to save the Yellow Pages unless they start re-monopolizing. The industry has officially been broken apart since deregulation of the telephone companies and the birth of independent yellow pages publishers.

Recent announcement that current Idearc Employees likely are unaware of:

NEW YORK, Oct 30 (Reuters) – Hedge fund Paulson & Co is seeking to buy nearly half of bankrupt Yellow pages publisher Idearc Inc’s (IDARQ.PK) common shares when it emerges from bankruptcy by offering creditors cash for the shares they are to receive under its proposed reorganization plan.

Under a proposal Idearc filed with U.S Bankruptcy Court in Dallas, Paulson “will not beneficially own more than 45 percent” of the new Idearc’s common stock, Idearc said in a statement on Friday.

Paulson would have the right to name one director to Idearc’s board under the proposal.

A hearing on the deal, which is subject to court approval, is scheduled for Nov. 18. A separate hearing on Idearc’s plan of reorganization is set for Dec. 9.

Idearc Inc filed for bankruptcy in March, as revenue for its printed directories business dwindled amid a shift to online search and advertising.

Idearc was spun off from Verizon (VZ.N) in 2006.

pumpkincarving

The case is in Re: Idearc Inc, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas, No. 09-31828. (Reporting by Phil Wahba)

WOW…..

If Paulson Hedge Fund is making a hard offer for 45% of the company’s stock it might potentially possibly maybe a great move for the employees of the company. Who knows? Something new related to how the company is going to make more money other than the cloud computing-outsourcing bandwagon the CEO is on to reduce expenses (meanwhile in my opinion simply making things more challenging to service the clients, and curb the churn of its mid-level clients.)  The yellow pages have always done well with clients that are “just gonna be represented anywhere and everywhere”.  They are typically your marketplace leaders and have the largest amount of resources and current clients. These folks are just now realizing that the company is best suited handling printed yellow page ads and postcards. Calling a client twice a year to discuss his internet presence by a new sales rep will never work towards the same level of success in search marketing and other forms of more creative media. It is great that the company is just about the last sales organization in America to annoy homeowners with unwanted direct mail postcards. It has been saturating Americans for years with wasteful phone book distribution.  The beauty of the internet: Folks actually ask for the information! WOW… subscription based…. what an amazing concept.  (DALLAS BUSINESS ADVERTISING TIP: Pay very close attention to the smart phone revolution — It may soon become another 2002-2004 when local search boomed the first time.)

Things for Paulson to consider when looking to replace a member of the companies Board of Directors: Idearc has had questions asked about tactics in the past on how it reports revenue, how it reports earnings due to the nature of being a publisher and collections on delinquent advertisers, and last but not least a class action lawsuit over raising credit limits for previously non-high risk advertisers with accusations of executive fraud related to the manner in which Executives of the company were reporting issues with receivables. Just imagine if they took the time to invest in Sales Fraud, accusations related to false contracts, unethical business practices of media consultants, and last but not least the manner in which it reports losses to influence incentive trips and bonuses for managers and executives.  Crony capitalism…… we Main Street folks love it!

I think the board needs to look at how this company has started and where it is now since becoming its own company in 2006.** (remember folks, I started as  a 19-year-old “Telephone Sales Call Center Rep” out of High School back when GTE became Verizon in 2000) ** Idearc was spun off in a very suspicious way Verizon’s part in order to unload some debt. Very disturbing since it had been investing the companies profits over the years to fund other projects (wireless) and then spun it off with the debt to fund another (FIOS/TV) project. Great move Verizon. You didn’t get caught like Bernie  the investment fella or Ken from Enron. Considering two other companies, Hawaiian Telecom & FairPoint Communication, also went bankrupt after Verizon separations; you can’t help but wonder if it was planned.

Paulson’ hedge fund ought to read:

Termination without Cause . If the Executive’s employment with Idearc is terminated before January 9, 2010 by Idearc without “cause” (as defined below), then the Executive will be immediately vested in a pro rata portion of the Shares that would have become vested on the next succeeding January 9, based upon the number of days elapsed from the preceding January 9 until the date the Executive’s employment with Idearc terminates, and the Executive will forfeit any remaining unvested Shares. For the purpose of determining whether the Executive’s employment is terminated without cause, the term “cause” means (A) the Executive’s commission of a felony; (B) the Executive’s grossly incompetent performance or substantial or continuing inattention to or neglect of the duties and responsibilities assigned to the Executive; (C) the Executive’s fraud, misappropriation or embezzlement or a material breach by the Executive of the Idearc Code of Conduct; or (D) such other misconduct detrimental to the business or reputation of Idearc or to the ability of the Executive to fully perform the duties of the Executive’s employment. The determination of whether the Executive’s employment is terminated with or without “cause” will be made in the good faith discretion of the Human Resources Committee of the Idearc Inc. Board of Directors or its designee, and any such determination shall be final, conclusive and binding on all persons.

Time for my soapbox:

Crony capitalists believe that it is acceptable to attempt to manipulate the stock price of a company with false or misleading tactics. I believe in transparency from corporate employers and agents.  Main Street deserves it folks! (It is almost Nov 3rd Elections Time and I am pumped up!)

The poor company has it coming from all angles. Consumer’s hate the industry method of saturation distribution, environmental conscious folks hate the paper waste and tree pulp used when creating yellow pages directories, and businesses see costs increasing and value decreasing. Idearc’s solution to the declining revenue is creating a PPC product that far from being as effective for key advertisers as they claim it is. Idearc does not vSoapbox imagealue organic search on Google which is roughly 70% of all web search click results. Google Maps has also impacted the company’s traffic to Superpages.com’s Network. Is it time for the phone book’s to do more than copy innovations from other Local Internet Verticals like ServiceMagic.com’s Service Guaranteeco or copy ReachLocal’s offering to local SMBs. You know… the Proxy-Site based PPC platform that doesn’t offer analytics (doing PPC without analytics is technically managing what you can’t measure) to the client. Who needs to know what is going on with the website when you have a call report like the phone book. Everything they do is hack work. Sorry, but I left due to the inability of the company to service my clients and not spending my time making “Cold Calls”. It required a significant amount of my time to fix issues with fulfillment. For instance, campaign managers actually go to Google and copy the Adwords campaign messages from Google page results when building ads. They also create generic ads and do not focus on landing page optimization.

If I were investing in the company, I would ask… what does Google offer that you do not? What is Google providing campaign managers that Idearc opts out of with its proprietary system? Does Google have a better handle on PPC than companies like Inceptor which Idearc acquired in July of 2006 during the time the company became its own. (or should I say folks like me invested in it based on the credit markets at the time in relation to corporate debt.)

Maybe this potential buyout by the right party will be a good move for my friends and “family” at the company. I wish you guys luck with SuperGuarantee, SuperSEE, SuperPages, SuperTools, SuperKlein, and the SuperTeam from the antiquated yellow pages whose used to nice fat margins that don’t happen when you service your client unless you quit the “Sales Model” business model.

A word of advice for Paulson,  Don’t be sold as easy on Idearc as the cocksure David Letterman wannabe who likes his drink his Pepsi and cocktail a certain way while having some nonsensical view that advertising in the Yellow Pages is target towards intelligent homeowners.

Here is a video of Scott Klein doing “motorcycle stunts” on Dallas highways in order to pump the sales reps for the future announcement of the fact that the company could not afford the debt Verizon had given it. Scott was so kind that he spent millions to let them all stay at the Sheraton Hotel in Dallas earlier this year for a few days introducing ServiceMagic.com’s ServiceGuarantee as the new Verizon Yellow Pages SuperGuarantee and announcing that he wants reps to have a menu pricing list instead of haggling, they want to charge clients for leads at huge rates that reps today refuse to sell, (almost like selling yellow pages ads that don’t work) and I am sure to cover a few other things.

(Maybe the next ads will be of “EveryDay folks touting of how they used the yellow pages to find something…. gotta love brainwashing folks…. sounds better than a catchy jingle or superheroes or copying companies like ServiceMagic.com)  Things still are not as peachy as the folks a the corporate ivory tower pretend them to be. When it comes down to taking care of the client the company holds very little accountability and while it knew it was having issues taking care of clients it did very little to correct the problems.  (Yellow Pages industry profit margins don’t leave much room for good old-fashion customer service) I really don’t feel that the print and online business can be more than ads based. The company will have a huge challenge adapting to the quick pace of the internet marketplace with social media and changes that the major search engines make. Idearc has very little control when Google holds all the cards (traffic). Why a business owner would sign a 12 month contract for Pay Per Click management is dumbfounding.  When they fail to fulfill the promise that “sales reps” commit to with clients the company pauses your advertising campaigns and you the client get stuck receiving collections calls for a $300.00-$1000.00 per month management fee.

Why do companies feel that they can do PPC better than Google? I have seen what the proxy companies use to fulfill Google Adwords campaign orders and I have seen all aspects of the Google Adwords Campaign Management interface and I will tell you that Google has the market beat. You can combine Webmaster Tools and Analytics from Google and get a great picture of what is going on. The ability to measure and the ability to manage.

The Local Google consultant thing is going to kick the company right in the teeth. Not just me down the road, but what happens when business owners realize that $400.00 per month and no dedicated campaign manager is nuts. For that kind of money you can get SEO advice, Websites and still have money left over to fund Google Adwords.  Only a Yellow Pages publisher would create a rate card for the internet that is as boring as the antiquated Yellow Pages.  You cannot treat the internet like you treat ads in a phone book. Only a yellow page company would get into the internet business via acquisition of a search marketing firm only to end up copying its closest and best competitor. At least with ReachLocal the sales reps are paid residual and try a bit harder service the client. Too bad the sales rep is about as clueless as your average “I know what PPC is but I don’t know how to do it” SALES REP.  Not really the place to get advice on internet marketing is it folks?

Meanwhile, Paulson… if you want to know how to fix the issues in the company, ask the clients.   Good luck with the investment. Time for real change at Idearc! Time for real innovation. Time for folks to stop copying the rest of the industry and be more creative!

If you want to be at the top of Google, the last person you need to speak with is the Yellow Pages! The last thing you need is a 12 month contract for Pay Per Click management.

Pay for the campaign build, pay for the knowledge and help if you need assistance Doing-It-Yourself, pay for options specific to your business needs…….

Oh yeah, and DO NOT ALLOW the Yellow Pages companies to build your small business website. You might just end up with something like this:

http://allactionftworthcarpetcleaning.com (it amazes me that some of the best companies have the worst website, Thanks Yellow Pages!)

When for less money you can have:

http://yourfortworthattorney.com ( template site using open source Joomla Content Management System)

10 Steps to Help Your Dallas Area Business Survive & Thrive During the Economic Recession

Mike Stewart the Dallas Google Guru is here to help!


What is the problem with “Corporate” Advertising Sales?

October 17, 2009

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 copy ServiceMagic or did ServiceMagic copy Idearc?

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.

Last one:
° 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)


How much money does it cost to buy a Dallas Yellow Pages company?

October 9, 2009

How much “in non financial but common sense terms” does it cost to buy a print and online Yellow Pages publishing company? Just a bit more than $600,000,000.00 in my opinion. Based on my prediction, the weather, common sense, and a hunch that’s what I think.

Dallas area publisher Idearc Media who prints the Verizon Yellow Pages, and fellow yellow pages “industry coparties” at R.H. Donnelley Publishing are bankrupt. After being spun off of Verizon, Idearc, (the former Verizon Yellow Pages companies) stock began to fail due to earnings, cashflow, accusations of fraud, questionable sales tactics, a serious decline of print yellow page usage, and a heavy debt burden.

I also agree with Frank Reed and others feel the yellow pages need to be moved from booster seat to grave. Frank Reed said back in June of this year: http://www.marketingpilgrim.com/2009/06/major-yellow-page-publisher-files-chap-11.html

Most Internet marketers have been putting the Yellow Pages in the grave for quite some time now. The sales tactics and question of ROI is something that can no longer be swept under the rug in the age of the Internet and social media. While there is arguably a place for Yellow Page products they are no longer viewed as necessities to small businesses. Even the online versions of these offerings are wrought with confusion over their true value. Add to that the continuing murkiness of online yellow page “products” (i.e. buy x amount of clicks per month) and the future seems kind of cloudy as well.

back on topic……

I wonder if

Back Cover of Verizon Greater Dallas Yellow Pages

Back Cover of Verizon Greater Dallas Yellow Pages

would invest in the print and online yellow pages company? I know he does indeed receive many calls and decent ROI’s from the book. In my professional opinion it works great for Dallas Bail Bond Companies, Plano Personal Injury Attorney, blue collar Dallas Criminal Law Defense, Dallas Air Conditioning services, Pawn Shops, Loan places, Abortion providers, Mortgage Companies (risky loans), Pay Day Loans, odds and end type businesses (*surprises me that many of these headings do not have ads) and a Dallas Plumber here and there.

*best response & ROI ever from a print yellow page advertisement in my career: Local Dallas company that installed commercial shelving in Dallas…… said he was thrilled his competition failed “to see the value in advertising in the phone book”.

Oh, and btw I wanted to offer folks a local dallas area search marketing blogger’s tip: Abraham Lincoln once said: “A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade” (used this quote for a client of mine recently). I think this quote should say, “http://www.dallasSEOguru.com”>A local search marketing guru’s time is worth his stock in trade.”


Idearc Media’s SuperGuarantee…. what’s all the fuss about it?

October 5, 2009

Mondays are typically the day of greatest change.  CHANGE– It is only a 6 letter word but can embrace the meaning of many words. Last Friday was officially my last day as an employee of Idearc Media (it is interesting how folks seem choose to leave or get the pink slip only on Fridays).  I started the company in August of 2000 as a “telephone call-center” sales representative.  Most recently I worked in the (Irving)  Texas local sales office which services the entire state of Texas.  Change has been taking place at the Idearc Media Texas “division” office for the past few months. Personally in my final weeks at Idearc, I had two different District Sales Managers.

Change is also in the air at Idearc as it attempts to fight back against a path of doom and gloom in the print Yellow Pages environment. It is obvious that the above average or average computer user is no longer using the printed media to locate a local plumber or attorney. Although the industry will continue to spit out 5 year old stats from CRM Associates President – Dr. Dennis Fromholzer, who is the leading world expert on “printed” Yellow Pages. You see, the problem with this information is that it is biased. It comes from a source that is paid to produce it.  While working at Idearc,  I found it very hypocritical of the company to ask and push for syndicated research on Yellow Pages as it pertains to the discussion of usage, preference, and the possession of the Verizon Yellow Pages product vs Yellow Book USA’s printed Yellow Pages product.   I am not going to continue the ongoing debate on the uses of print yellow pages, but I want to make sure that folks are fully aware of what is going on.  As an employee of Idearc I was discouraged to discuss what is going on in the industry as well as the company due to the nature of employment. Most recently a very interesting serious of events took place on Ed Kohler’s blog The Deets and I posted about the discussion. Media Consultants at Idearc are instructed to leave discussions about what is going on at Idearc (might also be because policing 3000 sales reps in a social media bathroom wall environment is theoretically impossible) alone via fear of termination. Although it was apparent that Idearc wanted me todrink the Kool-Aidwhen working with clients regarding my personal beliefs of print yellow page usage, I still persisted to reach out and share my opinions. In my opinion what makes a successful media organization is a culture that embraces questions. Questions is how you uncover what CHANGE needs to take place. Idearc Media’s previous (and maybe current–although I have some faith in the new Jefe in town) management team did not want to ask questions. Questions such as how to mitigate issues with receivables and delivering quality leads to non-paying customers. Questions about sales fraud and how serious an issue it is (local sales management folks turned the other cheek in many occasions).  Questions regarding pricing and how a new client can purchase the same size ad for a significantly reduced cost vs an existing advertiser. So many questions and so few attempting to create the solutions to these issues with the right answers.

As many issues Idearc Media has in the sales offices, down the road at DFW Airport the marketing team that Scott Klein has in place have come up with a very well concoct plan to get consumers to use the Verizon Yellow Pages vs other brands in the Yellow Page industry. Since 2001 sales of yellow pages have been falling (an assumptive opinion strictly based on the fact that Verizon did not fully disclose what was taking place with the Yellow Pages division) like a rock. I have seen local Dallas area books come in at negative percentages for years. While Idearc states to the investment community that is was cyclical and due to an economic recession, growth for Google in the local segment has been skyrocketing. Why you may ask? Well my opinion is that Google has more credibility with its offering. Transparency, Price, Usage, and Distribution—- all the things that Idearc states separate its product offering from the competition.

So, what is Idearc’s solution to creating a brand advantage and distinguishing the product from competition this year? The SUPERGUARANTEE program – A $500 reimbursement for Labor on Services Rendered by participating advertisers. When you actually take the time to read the terms and conditions of the product (revised July 30th 2009) it is very clear that Idearc has no intent on being fully transparent. It is more of a marketing gimmick than a real Guarantee. Why you may ask? Here are a few things that you may want to be aware of before getting on board with the FUSS:                               source———> http://www.idearcmedia.com/CammsServlet?assetid=10236

  • Subcontracted services are not eligible for the SuperGuarantee program –  “Subcontracted Services Excluded”
  • You must enter a written contract with service provider prior to services being rendered. Signed by both parties. Labor needs to be itemized
  • Submited claims for the SuperGuarantee must be filed within 30 days of service completion and no later than 90 days from registration date.
  • SuperGuarantee may ask you to obtain & provide to us 2 written estimates of the labor costs to correct the problem described in your claim

and the ones that completely will drive any consumer insane:

  • it may take up to six weeks from the time you submit your claim & all required documentation to complete resolution or payment of your claim
  • Idearc reserves the right to determine that your claim is valid with ” sole discretion”

Well, if politicians and lawmakers actually took the time to read the bill before voting on laws and issues in Washington we consumers would have more money to spend today. So, my warning to advertisers and consumers is be aware of the details of the program prior to participating. I personally believe that Idearc is going the right direction with the SuperGuarantee. It is a step forward to differentiate the product from those of its competitors. The fuss has merit, but just like anything else with corporate marketing, it manages to lose FUSS after reading the fine print.

Personally, I wish Idearc the best going forward. I am no longer with the organization after 10 years due to my inability to conform. I don’t think such a large agency will ever put the client first and foremost before profits. Idearc is accustomed to high margins from the print business, and you just can’t do that with Local Search (we all know that Google, MSN, and Yahoo make all the REAL $$).  In web marketing you must become an authority. Idearc is not in the business of creating authoritative websites online, other than its http://www.Superpages.com, http://www.LocalSearch.com, and http://www.Switchboard.com sites. If they did they would have already upgraded all the sales reps to IE7 from IE6, put an emphasis on content collection, search engine optimization, social media, and the 9 million other things that local search marketing agencies manage do discuss with local small medium businesses.