Yesterday, I spent about three hours with Idearc Media CEO Scott Klein, who shared the vision he and his management team have for the company. Some of that vision is encapsulated in the rollout of SuperGuarantee, a major new initiative. Other clues are found in several enhancements to the core Superpages site. My biggest take-away: Klein’s overarching mission to reestablish the notion of trust inside and outside the Idearc organization.
Since taking the helm of Idearc in June 2008, Klein has promoted more than 100 managers. While he did bring in a couple of key managers from the outside, he found a wealth of creative and energetic talent right inside the Idearc organization.
Amen to that. There’s nothing like upward movement within a large company to instill a sense of hope in an organization many would have considered leaving for dead a few months earlier. In our view, Klein’s attention to the company’s mental health should go a long way in reestablishing trust among the “rank and file” — in this case, the sales reps and managers who are out there day in and day out meeting with the millions of small businesses that are worried and concerned about the economy.
To those outside Idearc — its consumers and advertising clients — Klein has rightly focused on rebuilding trust. For users of Idearc’s various information brands — the book, online or mobile — the launch of SuperGuarantee is an important step in the right direction. It offers users an avenue for resolving situations where a service provider fell short of the consumer’s expectations. While this is bound to strike a chord with consumers, the ultimate test will be if usage — offline and online — grows.
Having been part of the ValueStar team in the mid-1990s in Northern California and watching closely various other attempts to offer a “good housekeeping” seal, I believe Klein and team are on the right path. But it may well prove to be a path that has more ruts and potholes than a large organization like Idearc can patch quickly. It is a bold move toward rebuilding trust for the Superpages brand among consumers and has the potential to differentiate the brand in the faces of numerous competitors.
Let’s assume Klein and team ultimately succeed in working their “trust me” magic on employees and consumers. Their greatest challenge will be to build a level of trust between the company’s thousands of sales representatives and nearly 1 million small-business advertising clients.
Yellow Pages companies — large and small, incumbent and independent — have spent nearly two decades burning goodwill and trust among their advertisers. Whether they were raising rates in the face of clear usage and/or distribution declines, or simply not being transparent and objective in planning a print Yellow Pages campaign, advertisers — large and small — are reluctant to “trust” Yellow Pages publishers. It is ultimately this constituency that Klein and team — and Yellow Pages publishers in the U.S. and around the world — must address.
As the marketplace moves toward a multiproduct, multiplatform world, the Yellow Pages publishers are in the enviable position: They have a sales channel that is both deep and broad. No other local medium can make that claim. But that claim will ring hollow unless a new trust is established. Klein and team get it, and others do too. Now it’s time to execute.