The Yellow Pages brand is both blessing and curse for those trying to morph legacy directory businesses into digital solutions providers for SMBs. Yellow Media CEO Julien Billot conceded as much in his keynote presentation at BIA/Kelsey’s recent SMB Digital Marketing conference in San Francisco. However Billot believes the smarter play is to invest in transforming the “Yellow” brand vs. trying to build a new brand from scratch.
Under his leadership, Yellow Media has increased its branding investment from C$6 million in 2013 to roughly C$25 million this year, with the aim of convincing Canadian consumers and businesses that Yellow Media is much more than a print publisher. The end game is more organic traffic to generate higher margin digital sales.
Billot is also driving change in the sales approach and business model, moving to a continuous contact sales model and a product approach based more on selling performance than selling media. The following video shows my Q&A with Billot following his presentation on Day 1 of the conference. Here are a few snippets of what he had to say:
On the Yellow Pages Brand
“Basically when you talk to customers and users, they say ‘Yellow Pages’ is the major reason why customers open the door today, and it is the major reason why they don’t sign with us. So it is a difficult choice…Letting go of the Yellow Pages brand means you lose your main argument to talk to small companies…But if you leave the brand in the situation it is today, it is a handicap and no more an asset.”
On Sales Transformation
“Today our best sales representatives meet with customers six to 10 times per year and spent two hours in each of these meetings. In the past, we would ask, ‘Do you want to be in print?’ and ‘Please sign.’ and it would be over for the year…The time when a sales reps owns the relationship by himself is finished. Now we are into multi-touchpoint relationships. Sales by somebody and upsell by somebody else, on the phone or physically or via self serve. We want to be sure we are having an ongoing conversation with our customers.”
On the Business Model
“We are switching from a placement based product to a leads based product. This is why investing in our media is so important. Because today we sell a leads-based product — SEM from Google. It is good. Customers want it. But it is bad in terms of margin. Longer term we will still sell Google. But we want to repackage into this bundle some of our own traffic to be able to generate more margin.”