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CTOs are having the most interesting conversations at legacy media companies – or at least, that would be the conclusion of a stimulating dialog that took place last week at Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing between BIA/Kelsey’s Charles Laughlin, Warren Kay, YP CTO Darren Clark and YPG CTO Paul Ryan. Why? That’s where the reality of sales force transformation takes place.

Clark said that Digital started as YP’s “guest house.” Digital accounted for 1/6 of revenues just five years ago. But now, “the guest house is (about to) get bigger than the main house.” He noted that the company is providing three main digital products. Presence, Performance and Leads. They’re all focused on how we send people relationships, not just leads. We need to get them to connect and build and manage their lists.

Another huge issue is productivity. “How do you get someone to be two or three times more productive?” said Clark. The answer is to manage channels and decision support systems. In fact, the company still plays a vital role for the simple reason that most SMBs aren’t really ready for Do It Yourself. “We have a role to play, and capabilities,” he said.

YPG’s Ryan similarly noted that YPG is about to cross the line where digital accounts for the majority of revenues. “We can’t just make it as a reselling channel,” he said.

The traction in digital has caused the company to rethink it as more of a “strategic advantage” instead of simply erasing all the information every year and starting anew “We are the listing providers in Canada for Google, Yahoo and others,” he said. “We know about these businesses.”

It has been something of an uphill battle, however. “The pace of change really hasn’t been there,” notes Ryan, who has been with YPG for about a year. To change the culture, YPG has been launching products every two weeks. “That is the DNA we need in this space in order to compete with well-funded startups. “We are not just screwing around. We believe we can win.”

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