In Scott We Trust: A Discussion With New Idearc CEO Scott Klein

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.

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. tory

    The SuperGuarantee is not really new, I think ServiceMagic has it already. The BBB used to do something similar but they seems to have disappeared.

  2. neal

    Tory, as I wrote, I worked at ValueStar where we pursued the same concept. What is new is that Idearc has over 800,000 advertisers and many, many users to expose the guarantee to, which may well have more impact on the market than ValueStar in the Bay Area in the mid 90’s and Servicemagic selected categories. Time will tell.

  3. stuart

    You should have your facts before you blanket ALL
    yellow pages to gether!! Speaking as rep my customers
    have full trust in me and my product. It’s call proven value. The fact is that
    Idearc is not trusted in the market place. So please
    do not compare all to them.

  4. Stephanie Hobbs

    I agree that there is much work to be done, but in talking with Idearc employees, there is a renewed energy and enthusiasm. You’re right, it will be about the execution, but they have a great start!

  5. AT

    I agree with Neal’s observation. This is a refreshing “it’s about time” approach to the backbone of our nations economy-
    small to medium size businesses. Whether the SuperGuarantee is new or not is a moot point.
    The bottom line is that Scott Klein and Idearc have vision, they have a story to tell, with a plan, and this
    will restore hope with their customer base, employess and drive awareness to end users for all of their products.
    We have not heard from any of their competitors with such a bold plan to impact the nation like this.
    Idearc is declaring war on the economy!

    It is time for Idearc to execute, and they will need to be ready when their ad campaign hits the streets and the air waves.
    Please keep us posted.

  6. tory

    It is fair to give credit to Idearc for trying something different but lets not get carried away and call it a “bold” plan. This is not a game changer level event or we run the danger of believing in your own press. Now if Idearc were to put their books on a Kindle and gave it away, that would be a world event.

  7. gary Kolls

    You have to give Scott Klein credit for this move. Ideac’s access to so many small/Mid-sized business’s alone gives it an enviable position in the marketplace. Let’s see how the excution rolls out.

  8. Jason

    Stuart, I’m just curious who you sell for/work for. I’d also like some insight into the
    statement that Idearc is not trusted in the marketplace. Compared to what, or whom I would
    like to ask. Also curious what part of the country you work in, might help to understand
    the negativity towards Idearc.

  9. Ed Kohler

    I think a real game changer would be for Idearc to only send phone books to people who request them. That way businesses would know that there is actually a good chance consumers would use them. Real value.

  10. Jason

    Idearc has a contract to publish the Yellow Pages for Verizon. There are regulations in
    place that would prohibit the books being deliverd on an as requested basis. People can
    barely remember what they had for dinner last night in today’s world, little chance
    they would think to request the Yeloow Pages. Aside from that, the Yellow Pages
    are expendable, and not necessary until you need them. That’s like telling someone who
    produces television commercials to only show them to people who want to watch them.
    One of the fundamental differences between the Yellow Pages that Idearc
    publishes and what independent publishers distribute is that the Idearc is driven by
    the telephone company records in core markets. The book gets distributed to every home
    and business in the coveragae area, human error aside. THAT is what creates real value to
    clients.

  11. Richard Soon

    The Verizon Yellow Pages on Kindle? How about the Verizon Yellow Pages on your iPhone and Blackberry. And I do mean the
    Verizon Print Directory in Digital format! Well, that concept is NOW REALITY! In June of 09, they will be rolling out all
    the Westside (socal) directories i.e. Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, etc ONLINE!

    At the moment, the Ventura directories as well as some East Coast books are available just so that users and Idearc clients
    get a feel of what is to come. If you want to experience it first hand, go to http://www.superyellowpages.com and see for yourself.

    I’m not sure the competition is aware that Idearc is going to do a LOT of interactive things to these ads.

  12. Mike Stewart

    Putting phone books on a internet site is like putting “I Love Lucy” on a High Definition LCD Television!

    Are you serious? Why don’t we all just take a step backwards and give up our iPhone, Droids, Video Communication, Web Applications, and revert back to old school means of finding information! How about going back to IE6 while we are at it. Scott Klein is a better sales guy than CEO! http://dallasgoogleguru.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/have-you-ever-seen-a-cowboy-game-on-a-tube-tv-dallas-web-browser-statistics/

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