As I prepare to head off to the “last” Yellow Pages Association conference, I am struck by the incredible transformation the Yellow Pages industry is navigating.
The first Yellow Pages industry convention I ever attended was well before anyone had ever heard of the “Internet.” I made a presentation at a conference in Palm Desert, California, to pitch a national product initiative called “BrandSell.” And while “BrandSell” never really took off, there are at least a dozen of you who will remember those meetings we held around the country fondly — I certainly do. Maybe “BrandSell” was a bit ahead of its time, but it demonstrated to me that the industry could wrap its head around new and innovative opportunities.
Now as YPA prepares to retire its current brand and unveil a new one (widely expected to happen at next week’s conference), I see a very significant market opportunity for local media companies. By our best count, there are more than 50 million SMBs worldwide, most of which find today’s marketing and advertising opportunities complex and confusing and need a trusted and objective third party to parse fact from fiction, hype from help. Every day these millions and millions of SMBs ask themselves, “How do I get my business noticed, how do I convert that presence to customers and then, perhaps most importantly, how do I retain and grow the customers I’ve got?”
Two years ago, at YPA 2009 in San Diego, I pitched the “three P” paradigms — Presence, Performance and Permanence. I am more certain today than I was 24 months ago that this is the right paradigm for the next decade of local media. And the winners will be defined by the “trust” that those millions of SMBs assign to the media channels and the associated media consultants (what we used to call sales reps).
Some quick math suggests that the three Ps could be worth more than $80 billion on a global basis. This represents an incredible opportunity, one that can only be addressed by those able to rapidly adjust to the changing market. This means offering SMBs clear and concise packages of media and services at low cost and via highly scalable and efficient platforms that allow publishers to retain and grow their existing customers while penetrating the huge, untapped “non advertiser” market.
Who would have thought 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago, that the incoming chair of the YPA would the head of the country’s largest independent Yellow Pages publisher. But I guess that’s the point — since it will soon no longer be the YPA, it’s a good thing the association is taking transformation seriously.
Hope to see you in Vegas.