Idearc Media is planning to change the companies name after bankruptcy…

December 5, 2009

When my former employer, Idearc Media, emerges from a questionable bankruptcy court the first of the year (on January 4th 2010), what do you think they will change the name to?

  • SuperMedia  www.SuperMedia.com
  • SuperLeads Media
  • SuperGuarantee (ServiceGuarantee) Yellow Pages

Does Verizon want out? Does the media company hurt Verizon’s reputation or vice-versa?

My thoughts:

I like the idea of changing the company name to “LocalSearch” Find It or something that insinuates this. Superpages does not really make as much sense…. It’s just “Super” {Ya Know}. Or what about Inceptor? Nope. I like the idea of naming it Local.com, R.H. Donnelley or IAC. There needs to be a few mergers for the company to sustain viability with a monopolizing industry in Local Search. Make the offer larger and more powerful. When #27 at 30 million visitors is not even close to #1 at 130+ million visitors and #1 dictates your future….. monopolies are your friend. A partnership with Twitter and Facebook…. something to bring new life in the company and offset losses from folks not paying for and not buying yellow pages.

The future name of the company needs to become something that is not the combination of two words like veritas (Latin for truth) and horizon or idea and arc. How about RHD or IAC? I think it is time some mergers take place in the local advertising industry! Hopefully someone other than a hedge fund like Paulson and Company step in and change the direction of the company.

Lets go to an online purchase model for the industry. Make the company more like McDonald’s. Need a web hosting package? Sure… we got it! Need a media consultant for yellow pages? Sure! That will be a number 5. The agent keys the order in the SuperViewable McTools system and whala… you got yourself a great bundle!

If you expect that to work in online advertising….. you need to make a trip to a local Dallas Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing training and networking class by the folks at www.DFWSEM.org, for a rude awakening. That business model only works when you sell listings on a website and print phone book ads. Not the advice you want from knowledgeable “media consultants.”

Yellow pages work well because you don’t have to bug a client after the product is purchased.  The internet, not so much. I plan on bugging my clients everyday… or every other day. Whatever is just enough to keep them on their toes in the ever-changing internet marketing environment!

That SuperViewable McTool system officially means you are no longer worth more than the next $79.00 Super Profile Page you are able to sell each day. What a living. What a great future. What a huge asset you are going to be. Congrats!

Meanwhile business owners will continue to pay for the advertisement of competitors (unlike Google and other forms of marketing) in the antiquated yellow pages due to the credit policies and pricing of the yellow page industry. Time to consider a consumer subscription based rewards yellow page business model if you ask me!

Idearc’s latest ideas from the executive team are failing. They rolled out http://www.SuperYellowPages.com which is an online version of the printed yellow pages. Can someone say “doomed for FAILURE.” Next was the Idearc Challenge (must have come from the Pepsi Challenge while Klein was in charge of Marketing at Pepsi) and that is failing because in many markets for 1/2 the price a YellowBook ad has more calls – a lower cost per call, and finally the SuperLeads was over-priced and the company had dismal sales results from the program. For the State of Texas, I can recall one new client listed in the SuperLeads program. The sales reps are not selling it as Idearc wants to charge over $30.00 per call. Doing the math on the spot with a client and they look at you like your just walked out of the local loony- bin claiming to be President of the United States. Pretty much everything rolled out in the big fancy Dallas national sales meeting back in February was a bust (minus the Menu Pricing, but of course the sales reps are still without “menus”.)

It is obvious to folks in the organization that, aside from copying the ServiceMagic ServiceGuarantee program, the executives of the company have very few solutions to fix the consumer perception of yellow pages, wasteful saturation distribution methods, sales tactics, lack of accountability in fulfillment, and offering a better online marketing solution that incorporates social and organic website marketing. The executives at Idearc Media could care less about what I or other knowledgeable folks who work with clients think about the ideas. The disconnect between marketing and sales is growing due to job cuts. Idearc is also moving account management jobs to the Union areas of the country (due to a 3 year outstanding contract with the CWA) and then will continue moving the jobs overseas to India. At the next quarterly earnings call be sure to ask them exactly what and how many jobs are now overseas. Everything the company is doing only focuses on cost cutting to support revenue. This is fine for Wall-Street investors but doesn’t address the problem of the long-term future of the company. Keep up this mentality and they will continue to piss off clients and lose future revenue from these clients. Just because you can lock a client into a contract, you have not actually created revenue for the company until the client pays for the advertising charges. The company has “hung paper” for as long as I have been in it. Quality control should be the #1 area of investment for the organization. Quality control does not happen when you send account management jobs to India. It may be wise for future investors to also ask them about the churn rate of clients and account receivables issues.

As far as the web marketing boutique you seek……. IS NOT the YELLOW PAGES! This is probably going to be my last comment on the subject as I am going to avoid sounding like a broken record.

(I am sure that the name change is going to create another issue with people paying their advertising bill. Great excuse! Who is SuperMedia Company? lol)

Cheers,

Mike Stewart

(NEWSFLASH: YELLOW PAGES SALES REPS ARE NOT SEARCH MARKETING EXPERTS. THEY ARE NOT ACCOUNTABLE FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAN SELLING. WHEN THE SALES REP MAKES MORE THAN THE PERSON MANAGING THE ACCOUNT YOU HAVE ” ACCOUNTABILITY ” ISSUES. IDEARC/SUPERMEDIA INTERNET MARKETING TRAINING FOR SALES REPS IS WORSE THAN BASIC. DON”T EXPECT GOOD ADVICE OTHER THAN A PRODUCT PITCH.)

Idearc is now SuperMedia LLC

edit: This is for Michelle:


Just got off a long conversation with a potential “new” SEO client…

November 25, 2009

First question is always the same, “What do you charge for SEO on my http://www.InsertHere.com Dallas local website?” The answer is always going to be the same too!

“If I had 10-15 clients paying me $1000.00 per month for SEO, Content, Web Design, PPC, Social Media (gotta love HootSuite for Twitter!) and Link Building, I think that is all I would have to make to sustain my “standard of living.”  That is just about all it would take in order for me to replace the career and “6-figure” income I EARNED as a successful Media Consultant and SEO Strategist at Idearc Media (the antiquated bankrupt publisher of the Verizon Yellow Pages and Superpages.com.)”

Sounds like a plan to me………..  Let’s do the math:

I worked 50-60 hours per week while at Verizon/Idearc Yellow Pages for 9 years and 3 months.

Making my clients a good return on investment in the process (up until the Internet started killing the yellow pages) with my suggestions and implementation of ideas related to online marketing strategies, concepts, innovations, and ad messages. For years I have been promoting my holistic  approach and understanding of Search Engine Marketing (another plug for multi-verticle web marketing folks!)

10 affordable steps to effective local internet advertising

So if you do the math…….  that comes to around $35.00 per hour. Not a bad living, huh? Add in a little bit for the (at one time) great Health Benefits, 401K,  and you have a really great income. Now if you subtract the huge amount of stress due to the companies inability to actually become “America’s Small Business Local Advertising Agency” that they so claim to be, as well as subtracting the profit margins and end with accountability, you have a very rewarding career!

10-15 clients a month for 50-60 hours per week at around $40.00 per hour for work performed on the clients online brand.

That is just about 250-300 hours per year for each client.

Add that up and I just replaced my “corporate job” with one that does more to help local Dallas business owners get good advice on Google and Local Search Marketing.

That is the plan at least. Let me know what YOU think!

I hope all the other thousands of educated “Yellow Pages Media” Consultants can adapt to changing consumer behaviors due to the “INVENTION of the INTERNET”. We all can agree that America doesn’t need more unemployed workers!

Feel free to give me a call folks!

Cheers,

Mike Stewart

http://www.DallasSEOguru.com

P.S. No Contracts…. No Big Collection Agencies….. and Excellent Client Focused Service and you have a win-win for everyone!


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)


Are you paying for your competitor’s Verizon Yellow Pages advertisement?

October 8, 2009

As I said before, I left Idearc recently after almost 10 years with the company. I have notices lately that it has gradually been turning into a hire ’em and fire ’em style culture. The company has been churning media consultants and managers. It is obvious that they want sales. I understand that it is a sales organization.

(I edited this article to add the following supportive quote on my “opinion”)
I am offering a quote from Andrew Rudin’s comment titled: “On My Honor, as a Salesperson . . .”: Why Sales Ethics Matter

Which business risk represents the greatest threat to shareholder value? Natural disasters? Terrorism? Product defects? Piracy? Patent infringement? Lack of ethical boundaries?

If you answered anything but the last choice, think again. The massive collapse of market capitalization at Tyco, Worldcom, and Enron underscores the grave dangers posed to shareholder value when employees lack an ethical compass. The cumulative decline in market capitalization resulting from fraud at these three companies was $136 billion, according to Public Citizen’s Congress Watch.

These scandals originated in the executive suite and required an ecosystem of compliant people to execute. What about ethical problems that originate elsewhere? What happens when ethical violations spiral from what are euphemistically called “aggressive sales practices?” In 1998, ethical violations at Prudential Insurance became so pervasive that the company’s management eventually estimated its liability from the pending class-action lawsuit at $2 billion. Among the voluminous courtroom testimony from the case was this nugget: “Your judgment gets clouded out in the field when you are pressured to sell, sell, sell.”

The company is allowing sales fraud to take place by Hispanic sales reps in the Texas area for Spanish yellow pages products and also paying these reps higher commissions to boot.  (before you throw stones at me for stating this: If this subject were taken to court, I am more than 100% positive that it can be attested that what I am saying is true, and I have documentation to prove such) I think Idearc needs to read this article from Harvard Business School.

Idearc has to keep the print business and is forced to make it work. If it doesn’t work Idearc will not survive as a company. It is too horrible at servicing the internet business and offering the level of service it can offer with a print product. It is theoretically impossible for them to retain the same margin going forward as print rates start dropping and so does advertiser count. Idearc has lost many clients during the recession and it will be a challenge to win them back. I am also sure that they will also consider wiping existing client debt away (which is going to be great for sales reps commissions) to increase the amount of opportunity for sales results once they emerge from bankruptcy. Reminds me of the class action law suit regarding credit limits. Idearc will keep paying commissioned sales consultants for .com and ppc sales when the majority of the money goes to Google and Yahoo but declare the revenue not based on the management fee for PPC but the actual client budget (investors correct me if I am wrong?). Seriously, do you really think that Superpages.com is more than 10% of local search? Although, I do see value in both it’s print and online offering, your typical search marketing “uneducated” Idearc sales consultant is just in it to make a buck from a company that wants to get paid with unachievable margins. Yet in my professional opinion they have a few media consultants at the company who are worth more than weight in gold. Folks that have experience that even Harvard Business School could not teach. Working with so many different industries and on different forms of marketing, promotion, message and ad buying is a huge asset. Just my .02 cents.

If you need further visual proof of my statement on sales fraud… just grab a copy of the SuperDirect Postcard decks for the Greater Dallas area…. why are there so many Hispanic surname painting, remodeling, flooring, concrete, and landscaping companies in the decks? They are not making money if they keep allowing the credit limit to be given so freely in an attempt to show positive sales results while telling Wall Street that it was having issues with Receivables. Company motto going forward needs to be reward good paying clients for quality leads. Stop forcing paying clients to foot the bill for non-paying clients advertisements. Why should a reputable company lose calls to a no-pay business? It is hard enough competing in today’s marketplace without all the fraud. I think Idearc doesn’t need but 5-10 clients per category. Have a set rate per lead. Build a call center to screen the leads. Offer existing worthy clients premium opportunities. Kill all the free listings!

It was also apparent that Idearc wants a culture that rewards calling the same clients over and over with the same old spill. Reps are told to disregard notes that state “do not call” or NITC (not interested in telephone call). Now, I don’t know what Idearc’s upper management thinks about this and whether it is just local sales managers, but the thought of beating a client into a sale does not do much to resolve the issues it companies have with client churn. But hey….. according to some clients they just want your credit card number!

I will also mention that I have clients that are making serious ROI on advertising in the product. It does work. It just takes the right ad message, the right ad price, and the right position in the product. Media buyers need to step in and start buying ads for clients vs commissioned sales reps who have no clue what the business can and can not afford. Transparency in pricing will go a long way to helping the yellow pages industry. Make pricing more like Google and give up on this idea of a “affluent homeowner” using and urban scoped directory that takes a zillion lbs of paper. Heck, I remember someone actually stating that if you stacked the Greater Dallas Yellow Pages one on top of the other it would reach the outer atmosphere…. if this is true…. No wonder Ed Kohler at http://www.thedeets.com is going nuts!

Cheers,
Mike Stewart
(former Idearc Media Consultant speaking out)
http://www.dallasSEOguru.com