Yellow Pages Sales People Are Liars.

April 14, 2011

image

Not all.

Just some yellow pages sales people are crooked.

Just got off another lengthy phone call on this particular subject…

Here we go again. Read the contract. Please people!

Help me… help you!

It never ceases to amaze me how many folks call me, post on my site, or submit a request to a business lawyer client of mine on subjects related to Yellow Pages sales fraud, contract issues, ad errors, or just straightup lies or promises to follow-up that never take place. Do the yellow pages have a client trouble ticket support system? 

If it ain’t in the contract, it ain’t the truth and it didn’t/won’t happen.

Do you think the “my Sales Rep said this and that” excuse will hold up in court? Do you even read the papers you signed? Do you have arbitration? They are henchmen. They have always had a sharp axe over your head to renew, sell you based on some bullshit “your competitor is doing it” concept while my own surveys said that my former colleagues at Verizon Yellow Pages own words were, “We never use the yellow pages, except to find those in a competitors book and not ours to sell to.”

The job of many Yellow Pages workers was to design ads, market products, manage sales results, or build crappy looking websites. The job of the sales rep was to move to the next customer.

Rep comes back in the office after renewals on 3 customers (corporate quota was 5 per per day once, which is now 1) and the first thing his boss asks is “did you sell a non-ad?” (Non-Advertiser) It was never really about keeping clients. It was a monopoly. The telcos had a monopoly which became a duopoly (more books… more costs… higher prices.)

A business is always limited by resources, thus they will always have a budget. This is common sense…. but I guess so is reading a contract put in front of you by a potential lier.

Just wanted to add that I was and still am one of the good guys… “an ethicical professional who practices moral capitalism.”

Unlike the yellow pages, I am not corporate and don’t have your business guaranteed for 12 months…. or more if I used some tricks in a contract. Or some legal and collections team dedicated to enforcing the.contract, regardless of what it does to reputation or client churn.


The Milgram Experiment in Crony CEO Capitalism, the Commonalities Between Enron and SuperMedia

September 11, 2010

Stop the Stock Scam by Crony Executives at SuperMedia and Verizon

In the early 1960’s Stanley Milgram, a scientist, wanted to uncover what kind of common characteristics existed in evil people. So he set up an experiment with an actor playing an experimental subject and a real experimental test subject. The real subject would ask a question to the subject (the actor) and then if the subject got the question wrong the real test subject would shock the actor with an “electric charge”, so long as the scientist, an authority,would reassure the test subject that what he/she was doing was the right thing. The electric charge was not real, the actor would scream out in pain as the test subject would increase intensity. Approx 50% of the test subjects tested would continue the shock treatment on the subject to the point of death.

This experiment is a classic example of what is wrong with evil corporations and crony executive leaderships. Test subjects or loyal sycophants will do anything, as long as they have the encouragement of the superior or authority figure.

For 10 years I was a participant in an industry that had an Enron style corporate culture. Regardless of what happened to clients, shareholders, and employees not in management, executives would continue to demand people stay the course. Executives, like Scott Klein the CEO of SuperMedia, had zero investment in the company. Employees who understand the business were told to “shut-up” and agree, accept, and fulfill the changes the new CEO was making. Regardless whether or not these changes are in the best interest of shareholders, employees, or the future of the organization.

Being a corporate leader requires the utmost ethical conscience, honesty, and fraud prevention and corporate crime policing.  Whistleblowers are to be respected and given a podium to speak from.

When the SEC began investigating Enron, Ken Lay reaffirmed traders and other employees that he and the company were frauded by “Andy” Fastow, yet the companies auditor Arthur Anderson was busy shredding evidence of wrongdoing. Ken Lay the Enron CEO shifted all responsibility to Andy, traders, the Government, and anyone else besides the executive leadership.

Jeffrey Skilling told employees to “invest your 401k” into Enron stock while he committed fraud. Skilling himself moved his money out of the stock. His Milgram Experiment was to keep influencing employees that what they were doing was right. Keep selling. Employees had faith in leadership. Leadership does not “fall on a knife” when corruption is discovered. When Scott Klein from Idearc met with employees, while being aware of his bankruptcy plans for the company, he assured employees and investors that the spin-off debt and stock arrangements were “strong.”

In Dallas, at a Fuller Drive meeting, Scott Klein the new CEO of Idearc Media reassured employees that the company was financially sound and had cash on the balance sheet few companies had. Instead of going into detail about the companies longterm plans, Scott Klein proceeded to pander to employees his “7 keys to success,”” a presentation better suited to High School kids.

Atleast, we now know how Mr. DeKlein likes his cocktails.

During the rise and fall of Enron, employees and investors were scammed for more than 20 billion. Just the same, Verizon scammed investors with Idearc stock, as well as FairPoint Communications and Hawaiian Telecom spin-offs. The fraud committed by Verizon, Idearc Executives, and SuperMedia’s CEO Scott Klein will be uncovered just like Enron in years to come.

I respect those who blow the whistle to protect the innocent. Those who are not in leadership or positions of influence. I respect the honest worker who gets up, turns on the pot of coffee and heads to work to do good. I respect the Good Guys, not those that put on a super cape and claim “Good Guy” status.

It is wrong to tell investors you have challenges with receivables yet turn around and increase the credit limitations to clients. It is wrong to tell investors good news while hiding the bad. This is manipulation and dishonest.

Milgram’s experiment emphasizes that leadership is ultimately responsible for corporate culture.

Leadership doesn’t get the axe. Take a look at the 545 folks who run this country. Do they get fired? They work for us voters, yet we can’t seem to fire them and they just blame the bad decisions on co-workers or subordinates.

It’s time to put your big boy britches on fellas. Grab your whistles, proxy statements and voting cards….. Make a CHANGE. It is in your hands. When people are crying out in pain, will you continue shocking them? Do you want the blood of the innocent on your hands? What will you do? I suggest it is time to grab and axe and start hacking away at the leadership team. Time for them to get fired!

(btw, I wonder why would an executive commit suicide? Enron’s executives did after the Justice Department began inquiring about illegal activities. Thousands of people faced with crimes go to prison or face social scrutiny, so why are white collar criminals so spineless that they become suicidal?)

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Verizon and J.P. Morgan Class Action Lawsuit for Investment Scam

April 17, 2010

The Latest Class Action suit for SCAM by Verizon & J.P. Morgan.

http://ping.fm/oKCcz

Well, I am sure you will see a few more regarding Paulson shorting Idearc then buying them up out of bankruptcy. Naked short sellers and hedge funds helped drive the company into bankruptcy (although it was pre-planned and Idearc never technically couldn’t afford debt payments.)  Paulson just got caught shorting a company he basically advised and guided. Wall Street bankers are getting bail outs. Goldman Sachs is in trouble and just got served a nice lawsuit. Paulson, who now owns over 17% equity in Verizon Yellow Pages publisher SuperMedia, is also “implicated” in the latest lawsuit regarding Goldman Sachs and investment fraud.

You run around with thieves and crooks…. that makes you a thief and a crook! Scott Klein is learning from the best crooked Wall Street bankers. Just take a look at his latest round of bonuses, stock options, and incentives for “emerging out of bankruptcy” that was created via fraud from Verizon and the same executive team that Scott Klein is now surrounded with. Here are a few more examples of golden parachutes.

Yet SuperMedia employees either agree with me and are labeled as “disgruntled” or are too damn stupid to see fraud when it is right in front of them. Or they are too damn scared to speak up!

visit the forum dedicated to ending the sales and executive fraud at SuperMedia for more discussion!


What is REALLY wrong with Yellow Pages company products and services?

February 4, 2010

Recently a few bankrupt Yellow Pages publishers sent letters to clients disclosing information regarding previous contracts and commitments.  Does this permit them to no longer follow SIZE & Seniority commitments to yellow pages clients?

Did you know that to curb massive revenue losses, as consumers have shifted away from print yellow pages phone books, the yellow pages industry is now offering ad seniority placement buyouts?

When Bell South began publishing mini-books other publishers quickly followed suit. When one does something… so does the other? Let’s not hope so!

Rumor is post-bankruptcy yellow pages directory publishers are considering offering “select clients” the option of jumping phone book directory placement (old contract agreements that outline size and seniority guidelines) with new “display ad placement buyout options”.

Seems like they will do anything to earn a buck, huh?

How can you trust a organization who fails to keep promises clients regarding these advertising investments. They made a commitment to the client that the ad they purchased would be placed by size and seniority from the date when the contract is signed. The print yellow pages industry has held the “decrease your ad and lose your discounts” AXE over clients heads to persuade clients into keeping ads for many years.  Is the Yellow Page industry selling products or services? Is the pricing fair? In my opinion the yellow pages industry needs to stick to products… not services.  Search Marketing service requires fulfillment and constant attention, something the print industry has very little experience in vs local advertising agencies.

Yellow Pages sites are attempting to become the local resellers of Google advertising. As a local search marketer, I don’t think the long contracts that leave little recourse and zero cancellation options in the event the Phone Book Companies PPC Management campaigns are not performing to expectations. In my opinion this is another means of continuing to grind the axe on cancellations. Without flexibility and a diverse offering (product portfolio) they are going to have continued issues with client churn.

Did you know that when you place advertising on Google’s AdWords interface, not only do you own the work produced when hiring a local search marketer, (I do not recommend  signing a 12 month contract , considering Google does not require such a contract to advertise) you also are able to see what changes your account manager and “PPC coach” made to your campaigns

PPC management Account Activity Reports prevent PPC Fraud by Google Guru

Next topic for Today:

Google Maps vs Yellow Pages searches:

Here is the graph continued and combined with Searches for Yellow Pages companies:

"Yellow Pages" is now obsolete

Who has experienced the greatest and/or most rapid decline in the Top IYP (Interactive Yellow Pages) & local search brand sites?


Notice how much Yelp.com gained compared to the decline of Superpages.com? This goes to show the consumer preference for review based sites  (and why Google was tendering an offer for Yelp.com)

FACT:  Did you know that Yellow Pages print directory usage has declined over 50%?

Has your “Yellow Page Rep” told you about the trends away from print and towards digital that is taking place?

Have print ad rates gone down to accomodate for the decline of print yellow pages and the industry fragmentation?

According to Greg Stewart from TMPDM, “Print Yellow Pages accounts for approx. 28% of Local Search.”

Primary Source of Local Business Information

I will go ahead and state my prediction: Yellow Pages Print usage will be less than 24% of Local Search by 2012! That means the phone books of 2005 (that were over 70+% of local search product or service queries) are now less than half as popular as they once were as a medium. (yet more phone books exist today than ever!

Do you think it is time the phone book publishing industry adapt to OPT IN vs a very misleading OPT OUT method? What are your thoughts? Take my poll!

Cheers,

Mike Stewart

“Your Dallas Local Google Guru”

BTW, Webformance Inc. will be offering call tracking to all clients. If you want to track your phone book, direct mail, email, Google, Video, Business Card, or other advertising investments and see which ones are really bringing the calls….. all you need to do is call: 214-267-9553!

“You can’t manage to get the best advertising if you can’t measure what advertising efforts work!” – Mike Stewart the Local Dallas Google Guru


Is Idearc set for a bidding war?

December 7, 2009

Seems like the Paulson and Company (hedge fund) deal may not go through after all.

BMC offers 225 million on top of 200 million Paulson offer for Idearc Media


Idearc Exec resigns amongst allegations of fraud and cheating local advertisers

December 3, 2009

If an executive of your organization committed fraud and the other executives covered the actions up with an announcement of “retirement”, would you want your company to announce it publicly? PR Nightmare….. who will force Idearc to be accountable for the actions of executives? Is Verizon accountable for the companies debt burden and bankruptcy? Are they taking accountability? Should be not hold our executives to a higher standard? Decisions made at the executive level impact the lives of many families.

The President of Marketing and Transformation at Idearc Media is resigning due to allegations of fraud and using power as an Area President of the organization to get her husband’s paving business in the front of the existing Paving Contractors in the Greater Dallas Verizon Yellow Pages. Doesn’t surprise me folks. This is what I have been saying is wrong with the corporate ethics and culture within the organization. Apparently the latest news is that she authorized a new heading at book close II on the book designated “Pave Stone” which appeared before “Paving Contractors” (and is also a brand name and I am sure the co-op is another issue) thus allowing her husband’s paving company to be ahead of larger full page ads with a much lower cost 1/2 page ad. I recall this going around local management and the media consultant who was required to make the submission.

This is unfair to other advertisers. This is not ethical. Although I do find it disturbing that they are announcing her retirement as President of Marketing and Transformation. Just as fishy as the manner in which the company was spun off with a heavy unbearable debt burden from Verizon (along with Hawaiian Telecom and FairPoint Communications who are also bankrupt from debt burden) to become a stand-alone organization. Verizon used the funds to finance FIOS.

Other questionable potential questionable activities that should be asked of auditors and investors:

  • directives from executives to RVP’s regarding the reporting of sales net losses (nice bonuses!)
  • quarterly decrease and cancel reporting for directory publications (report the losses later with book close extentions)
  • pricing for Greater Dallas advertising under $850.00 per month credit limit (more potential credit concerns)
  • changing credit policy that increases risk while disclosing collection issues to investors (not disclosing the softened credit policies)
  • sales reps disclosing private company information to competitors (sales ethics violations)

Immediately upon taking office as the new CEO of Idearc Media, Scott Klein, hires his former sales manager at the building supply company to head one of the three sales regions, then the same Executive Vice President recently hires his neighbor to be the new Texas area Sales Manager…… And employees like myself who have contributed to the organization wonder why the ceiling is so low at the organization.

This entire thing just sounds like a bunch of cronyism that small business owners and investors might need to be aware of.

For more information stay tuned to http://www.yellowcrooks.com

If this is the level of Corporate Leadership you can expect from Idearc, why would you not want Union representation to protect you? My mother, TC (Stewart) Adams, was a Union Steward at GTE Telecom back in 1997. I always grew up listening to the inner workings of the union. Being a Conservative thinker, I’ve never believed union representation was in the best interest of employees. I remember when management told the Local Dallas CWA Union to leave the building at 4500 Fuller Drive in Irving Tx (the local Dallas area sales office for Verizon Directories.) After witnessing questionable activities and lack of corporate direction from the Executives in the organization, I am starting to think the union might further protect the employees from this mess? I also feel additional confidence in my future as a local search marketing specialist to local Dallas area business owners. Hope other employees make the transition.

BTW, how did Sandy Henjum manage to get on the Board of Directors for the Dallas Better Business Bureau? Are they aware of what she did? Are they going to investigate this action by a board member?

What are your thoughts?

Mike Stewart
-The Dallas Google Guru-
former Idearc Media Consultant from 2000-2009


a look at the Top 25 Things Vanishing from America: The Yellow Pages

December 3, 2009

Great article regarding the decline of print yellow page usage……

Top 25 Things Vanishing from America: The Yellow Pages

Have you seen a study of Yellow Page usage from a source other than one connected to the Yellow Pages industry?

I would love to see a discussion from the publishers of the phone books. I for one am not that impressed with the sources the industry uses to get data on usage.  They assume that folks use the phone book on average of once per week.  Which is far from fact. Not difficult to produce these numbers when you can phone survey 9,000 folks in rural America where the print usage has not declined as significantly. The large former phone company publishers have all but abandoned the rural areas of the country (for the sake of profits) and permitted independent publishers to flourish in these smaller communities.  These are the places in America where one can believe a person MIGHT use the book 51 times in 52 weeks.

Consumer perception is that “Nobody uses the Yellow Pages anymore.”  Advertiser perception is that the value proposition is not the same. The publishers perception is that they need to milk every last drop out of the usage and hope that they can keep up with search engines who are dominating local search. I have a strong feeling the regardless of sentiment towards the industry due to unwanted saturation distribution, the usage numbers are likely in the middle of these opinions. In the meantime, publishers are lowering rates, to fix the value proposition, as advertisers are realizing that the business model for print yellow pages does not have the same value it once did (gotta love the double double trucks or 4 page ads). What does one expect as they had a monopoly and every single year raised advertising prices while attempted to justify it with an “increased distribution, cost of delivery, and yellow paper (the paper doesn’t start out yellow.)  The solution for yellow page publishers is to move to a leads based offering. Sort of the same value proposition that Google offers with Paid Search marketing. How much are these “leads” going to cost going forward? What is a lead? If a lead is a phone call, then what does a duplicate lead cost? The problem is that it is impossible for them to generate the margins of old in new media. Yellow Pages margins of old that allow them to pay fat commissions to sales reps, 6-figure marketing salaries and 7-figure executive compensations.

If your yellow pages ad rep doesn’t offer you an increased position in the phone book for the same cost, I would recommend finding someone to help negotiate the rate of your ad. Otherwise I suggest you spend your money elsewhere and get a better return on your investment without the risk involved in yellow page advertising. The problem with the industry is that the monopolies of old allowed them charge whatever rates they felt they could justify. If the ad was poorly designed or unsuccessful for any reason the company did not adjust the advertisers bill. Now the yellow page organizations are taking the same approach of old to internet marketing by forcing clients to pay for management fees for pay per click regardless of whether or not the client is receiving clicks from search engines. Don’t expect to be able to cancel your contract with the yellow pages for paid search campaigns. The is another significant issue with the business model in my opinion. They might have been able to justify the monthly fees if they actually took the time to consider new ideas like the Ecordia Content Optimizer (a SEO tool for on page content optimization than can utilized on I-Care, the Superpages Web Developement Team, created client sites) and going to new options for web development such as freelance open-source CMS designs that you do not have to farm out to India and clients don’t lose in the event they have a spat with Idearc. Another idea I recommend is purchasing IAC’s ServiceMagic.com brand. Should be easy to accomplish since they already have copied ServiceMagic’s ServiceGuarantee and rebrand it the SuperGuarantee. Or how about they also consider changing the model from a sales model to a consultant model? Is this the direction the company is going in? Nope! Instead of looking to offer better service, they are planning to increase the sales intensity, while doing little to fix the client offering, fulfillment, and knowledge of “media consultants”. I used to tell my clients that the problem with ReachLocal was that a sales rep builds your campaign. The problem with yellow pages is they are used to working with you 1 to 2 times per year and don’t offer much beyond the company offering. The problem with SMLocal is that your sales rep is the one that you deal with and after the sell the clients typically make the choice of not being involved in the creative process of landing page optimization and site design. This is a must for paid search marketing to work. Along with incorporating website analytics and other common sense approaches to search engine advertising.

I am sure that Idearc will move further along in leveraging the Inceptor Search Marketing purchase with the potential to also change the name again to Inceptor or some other clever word combination or term that is not synonymous with debt and bankruptcy failure.

What has my curiosity going is why did Scott Klein let Briggs Ferguson, the former CEO of CitySearch.com, who is the current President of Idearc’s Internet Division (he replaced Eric Chandler, who left the organization to pursue other ventures) go this week. Now that Briggs is no longer with Idearc, are they planning to get new blood in or just lower salary expenses? Was Scott Klein unaware of the fact that IAC had the ServiceGuarantee and was this punishment for failure to disclose such a costly “marketing” mistake? It has also been announced that Sandy Henjum, one of Idearc’s Area Presidents and person responsible for Marketing and Transformation, is retiring in December. {I will be the first to compliment her and state that she doesn’t look even close to retirement age}. I have a hunch that is has more to do with heading jumping her husband’s paving business in the Greater Dallas Yellow Pages (my favorite local phone book.)

For those of you who do not know who she is:

a quick soapbox moment:

I hope this rumor isn’t true. It would be a shame if someone at the top of the organization who personally played a role decisions to terminate others (my former manager, my temporary new manager, my former Regional Vice President, and countless others from the “Old days” who had a clue about the feeling on the street for what our clients felt about our company and the decisions that the company made over the years)

  • Accounting Fraud
  • Saturation Distribution
  • Crony Hiring Practices
  • Corporate Indulgence (company private jet, events, trips, etc)
  • Sentiment of Management
  • Union Troubles
  • Unfair Work Environments
  • Credit Manipulation
  • Deceptive Pricing Policy
  • Harassment
  • Collections Problems
  • Lack of Sales Fulfillment & Accountability
  • Customer Relations
  • SEC Questions

and the worst sleazy sales tactic ever:
**-Working with clients competitors and sharing private company information or helping folks compete-**

and most of all: The history of ignoring good advice by smart employees who were more loyalty to the success of the company and industry than the crony folks the Verizon and Idearc put in place. This is why you can Trust in Google, but not Trust in Yellow Pages anymore.

My mother was an employee of GTE Yellow Pages. That’s how I joined the company just 3 months out of High School. After 9 years and 3 months I can say the company went completely downhill. The reason was not because of folks like my mother or myself. It was because the folks at the top of the organization.

I have a serious amount of respect for many people in the organization. Folks who are ethical, knowledgeable, and always puts the best interest of clients first. I assume this is a common trait of folks who grew up working in small honest family operated businesses (I myself worked for my Grandmother as a kiddo in her old feedstore in Royse City  & Emory TX, at one-time known as, Abney Feed and Ranch Supply.)

It seems as though folks at the organization may finally be getting tired of making excuses for the decline of print. Maybe that is the reason the individuals at the top of the organization are also starting to vanish? It was obvious to me that the folks at the top of the organization are only concerned with low hanging sales fruit. Idearc sales reps are now required to make 40+ phone calls per day, sell 70 dollars in monthly billing per day, track every lead and opportunity in SalesForce.com, while the company turns away from being a boutique internet marketing agency and resorts to what I consider the equivalent of McDonalds.

Today’s internet marketer needs to stay ahead of the competition. Be Innovative. Be Creative. Be Bold. Leverage social media. Leverage Brand and Reputation. Leverage Verticals. And find a local search marketing expert to stay on top of it all.

Being a sales professional at GTE and Verizon Yellow Pages used to be the dream job. Reason for it was the margins. The margins and competition is also the reason the industry is having the problems it has moving forward as a local advertising agency. What do you expect after treating your clients like shit for so long? What do you expect after telling them you are not going to adjust bills for errors you caused? An ad agency does not focus on selling a product. An ad agency does not focus on bargain shopping for the cheapest advertising deal in town. An ad agency does not hold an axe to his client and use scare tactics to sway the clients decision on whether the investment is one that is going to be in the best interest of the business. This kind of treatment and lack of innovation deserve the fate of Polaroid.

Is the yellow pages vanishing? Yes. At what pace? Remains to be seen. It all depends on how fast they react and address the industries competition issues. Now that they have cheated employees, shareholders, pension plans, retirees, etc with crony corporate accounting decisions it remains to be determined if the lack of a debt burden will save the 3,000 sales reps from a dismal future. The only folks to blame for the doom and gloom is the folks in charge of directing the company into the future. The folks that neglected creating a long-term strategy in favor of earnings and cronyism.

I hope the company allows some of the more talented “media consultants” who take the time to learn more advanced offerings in internet marketing to utilize these talents. Unfortunately this will likely not be a plan for the future. America’s small business advertising consultants need to plan to make the transition into local boutique agencies soon. Let’s see if they can learn the ropes of search marketing and small business advertising beyond what Idearc and the yellow pages industry offers (which I must say is very limited.)

Here is a great article from a former employee (and one that I must say I have the utmost respect and admiration for as a local search marketing expert and guru) Top 25 Things Vanishing from America: The Yellow Pages

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Crony Capitalism vs Main Street Capitalism, Duopolies of Economics and the future of Yellow Pages Advertising.

November 17, 2009

Our American economy, politics, and consumer spending market have all become a duopoly.

A true duopoly is a specific type of oligopoly where only two producers exist in one market. In reality, this definition is generally used where only two firms have dominant control over a market.

The most commonly cited duopoly is that between Visa and MasterCard, who between them control a large proportion of the electronic payment processing market. In 2000 they were the defendants in a US Department of Justice antitrust lawsuit.[1][2] An appeal was upheld in 2004.[3]

Examples where two companies control a large proportion of a market are:

What is most common in all these examples is the fear of competition by the capitalists at the top of these companies.  Regular Americans are not afraid of competition. Competition creates better jobs, better, economics, and better political policy. Competition creates innovation. Google is essentially afraid of it’s competition from Microsoft, Yahoo, and the next greatest internet fad or brand. It is what keeps Google on it’s toes and innovating.

What has contributed to making the above companies successful is creating a duopoly. Duopolies can be very profitable for category leaders. The only thing better for a large company is a monopoly. Take a moment and think of the yellow page advertising industry. For many years the local phone company was the only game in town for local advertisers to reach out to local consumers, essentially a monopoly. In 1984 the AT&T Telephone company was broken up. This essentially created healthy competition in an industry that really did not have competition. It was good for consumers since very few options existed at the time other than printed yellow page phone books, thus creating a duopoly.

Fast forward to the Telecom Act of 1996: It opened up competition and gave consumers more choice. Over the next few years  we saw an increased amount of competition among incumbant and CLEC phone companies in the yellow page advertising industry. No longer did the “phone companies” have a duopoly on the yellow page market. GTE Yellow Pages competed with Southwestern Bell Yellow Pages in the Dallas area market. Then all of a sudden we  saw a few independent phone books pop-up (mostly due to employees of the phone companies leaving and starting yellow page publishing companies with investors who saw the huge profit margins in yellow page advertising sales) over the next few years.

So what really happened to the yellow pages? The birth of the INTERNET. Google. Yahoo. MSN. etc., but most of all……” a huge change in the manner in which consumers find information.” Consider this, the internet has only been around for “Local Search” online since about 1999-2000, that is  just about four years post telecom deregulation.  I can tell you that from 2002-2009 the industry has done very little to compete with Google. While losing business to other forms of advertising media (such as Google and direct mail growth.)

The Yellow Page Duopoly in Media is Over

I witnessed the following questionable practices by executives of major yellow page publishers in order to create new revenues:

  • Dave Bethea at Idearc

and last but not least, what I witnessed first hand:

  • Sporting and Concert Tickets to friends and family vs Clients

Competition is good for all businesses (and in politics.) Competition creates innovation. Competition always offers a better value to consumers in the long run. Competition is bad for Crony Capitalists. Competition could have been good for the yellow pages, but since the Industry apparently disregards the feelings of its end-users by inundating homeowners with yellow page waste, It will eventually become a smaller factor in Local Search. Local search online will continue to outpace printed yellow pages. This is a FACT. The problem for Yellow Pages publishers is that they are not Google. They are not Yahoo. They are not MSN. They are FAR from innovative. They don’t ask the right questions. They do not care about the opinions of those that sale to clients. I was told this first hand.

I would love to conduct a poll among yellow page advertising sales reps about the usage of yellow pages. The company never asked for the information the entire time I was an employee? Why you ask? They don’t want me or 80% of the other 6,000 employees to let them know that we do not use the phone book. This is a fact. I have discussed this very subject with folks in the office while at Idearc Media in Dallas Tx.

Now there is the possibility that I am wrong. Considering that the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex has always been the #1 Market for Yellow Pages in the country, I have a feeling that I am correct on my opinions. After almost 10 years at Verizon/Idearc I have come to realize that my employers did not value my opinion or the opinion of sales. Chalk it up to crony capitalism!

Google is currently still a Monopoly in local Search

By the way, be sure to check out the national CMR agency TMP., the largest client for yellow pages companies in the country, on what is happening with phone book usage, advertising rates, and the true value of print yellow pages. You can follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/TMPDM. They are doing a great job of distributing “syndicated” research on the trends of Local Search Marketing. Don’t ever rely on the statistics from the industry. Don’t ever trust a “sales rep” who is not accountable for achieving your results.

So what is the real future?

Cheers,

Mike Stewart

POST SCRIPT:

Great video (very long…….) on Duopoly, Capitalism, and Politics…….


Idearc Execs Sued for Fraud via Dick Larkin at YP Commando

October 13, 2009

Idearc Execs Sued for Fraud

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Short and sweet: Scott Klein said that the company was having issues with collections due to a change from “the phone company” bill to Idearc direct billing. He also stated that they had issues with receivables in 2008 from relaxing the credit policy in 2007 (which I can confirm was something that was not disclosed to investors but only sales consultants.) Klein and his treasurer Dee Jones failed to mention the relaxed credit policies in 2007 after the switch from Verizon billing. This had a direct impact on bad debt. Klein violated securities and exchange rules by not disclosing the relaxed credit policies. The stock dropped 40% after he mentioned the decision he made in 2007 to relax credit policies.

Idearc CEO Scott Klein is not committed to the level of transparency that investors need to make proper decisions on whether investing in Idearc is beneficial to them. I have a feeling that he will not be with the company after a new investor takes over majority share of the company.

The companies executives failure to disclose information to investors does not surprise me. The company fails to discuss issues within the sales organization such as racial discrimination (Spanish Yellow Pages sales commissions in Texas) as well as racial discrimination by Scott Klein’s henchman Jesse Vickers who is black and targets folks that are “white.” It is well-known that these and other issues exist within the sales organization.

I believe that Idearc has a “way-to-heavy” amount middle management people in the way of fixing the company’s customer service issues. When a problem exists, instead of the problem going straight to the person responsible for resolving the issue, the problem is sugar-coated by middle management and the client is left with a bad taste in his/her mouth regarding the way the problem was resolved or lacktherof. Idearc fails to ask the right questions from sales reps and clients. Surveys do not work. Workers feel that survey responses may have a direct impact on employment. The environment in the organization has not been positive since the company has been in the hands of Klein and his cronies.

In my PERSONAL opinion, Scott Klein is just like Obama.  He says what he can to make you think the way he wants you to think, but his policies and acts do not mutually benefit Idearc’s clients, investors, or employees. How many of his announcements and promises made back in the February National Sales Meeting have he actually been successful and made improvements to the company? He is full of crap if you ask me.  The best he can do is create a new gimmick for sales consultants, advertisers, and consumers to be duped into believing is original. Klein copied ServiceMagic.com’s ServiceGuarantee and rebrand it the SuperGuarantee.


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.