ILM:07: RHDi’s Winebaum Sees Verticalization, Simplified Sales

A major benefit associated with R.H. Donnelley‘s $345 million purchase of Business.com in July was getting Business.com founder Jake Winebaum. RHD needed an Internet change agent, and Winebaum clearly fit the bill after having played that role at Disney and other firms.

At ILM:07 in L.A. last week, Winebaum gave his first major speech since taking RHDi’s helm. Solid but not flashy, Winebaum emphasized that RHD already has most of the pieces. Now, it just needs execution to leverage its base of 600,000 advertisers. My colleague Michael Taylor has previously written an excellent post on Winebaum’s address. Here is an additional take.

Product-wise, Winebaum said his focus is on providing relevant leads, better reporting, compelling databases and stronger profiles. Sales-wise, he said RHD is already effectively selling, geotargeting, keywords and category relevance. Winebaum noted that RHD is getting revenues of 60 cents per visit, up 33 percent from last year.

Revenues should continue their march upward as the lines between Internet Yellow Pages and search continue to blur, and sales personnel are being specifically trained for the task. While some industry analysts have been skeptical that YP salespeople are flexible enough for Internet sales, Winebaum said 2,000 RHD reps have been trained to sell Dex Search Marketing in just nine months (note: Dex Search Marketing is the new name for LocalLaunch).

But with RHD reps already selling seven to eight products, it is becoming imperative to simplify the deal. “Internet sales have been compromised by complicated selling rules,” said Winebaum, noting that Google essentially made its splash selling a single ad product.

Winebaum also sees increased opportunity in the industry’s verticalization. Based on his experience with Business.com, “verticalization is definitely happening,” he said. The local search experience is currently generic, focusing on lawyers, plumbers, restaurants and doctors. But it will become increasingly specialized.

He also thinks that video adds tremendous value to the equation, especially with “how to” and “entertainment guide” products. But “it is not a top priority.”

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(Pic by Mel Taylor)

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