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Dex One Chief Strategy Officer David Sharman shared with us today some of the key challenges the longtime traditional directory publisher is facing as it evolves its business into the digital world. The primary challenge that he sees in the space is the overwhelming choice and complexity of marketing options for the local business.

Specifically for Dex, which works with more than 400,000 advertisers, Sharman talked about three challenges for the media company, includes evolving the culture of Dex. He mentioned that there will likely be turnover of about two-thirds of current staff, inclusive of the sales force. The sales force, as he descibed it, is transitioning from an order taker to solution provider. Another challenge is managing the fact that print is going down while not allowing print to pull down digital. Finally, he spoke about Dex’ debt and the fact that similar companies must manage their balance sheets.

Dex has continued to evolve its product set, making some pretty significant additions in the past year with more new adds coming in 2012. In particular, Dex is in the midst of rolling out SEO, display, social and mobile leads. Sharman is particularly excited about the prospects of social. Partnering is the path that Dex has decided to take, offering solutions from the likes fo Google, Jingle Networks, Yelp, Local Corp., xAD and others.

With the changes in the organization and product set, Dex has experienced sizable growth in its digital bookings since 4Q 2010 — from a 1 percent decline in Q4 2010 to a 37 percent increase in digital bookings in 3Q 2011 over the same quarter in 2010.

Lastly, Sharman commented on seeing “good” margins on the digital business and also noted that Dex is moving pretty heavily in the tele-sales approach in 2012. Outside sales reps are now using iPads for order taking and client communications.

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