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With all the attention focused on the needs and behaviors of SMBs, what about the national channel? (Let’s not forget that national accounts represent roughly 15 percent of total industry revenues in the U.S.) Moderated by conference chair Charles Laughlin, this panel included:

• Nancy Augustine, Senior Vice President, Association of Directory Marketing
• Antony Barran, Chief Marketing Officer, Ketchum Directory Advertising
• Victoria Hart, Director of Sales – National, Yellow Pages Group (Canada)

The first question from Laughlin: How has national changed?

Augustine: The economy has had the biggest impact. 75% of advertisers have cut their budgets in the last year.

Barran: Yellow Pages was traditionally ubiquitous — the gatekeeper for most leads received by an SMB. The role of agencies has changed greatly, too: There’s now a big demand for measurement, and a plethora of media options from which to choose. Clients are demanding very different metrics from agencies. Not just “Is my media plan right?” but “What return are we getting?” and “How do we translate this into language for our finance department to justify our spending?”

Hart: Budgets have gone done while choices have gone up. Patience and tolerance are down. Plus, there has been a change in decision makers, which has changed the meaning of relationships. Relationships are now driven more by information/data than personal connection.

Hart agreed that Yellow Pages doesn’t work like it used to — BUT it still works. She went on to say that the industry has “phenomenal” information but doesn’t package it very well. Victoria’s advice: “Test, test, test. Get in front of things we don’t like [i.e. performance issues]. Make it easy to understand the data.”

Barran added that the challenge is filtering the data the industry DOES have. He pointed out that the Yellow Pages industry is very process oriented. “We can get wrapped up in the minutia of what we do. That leads to a difficulty in simplifying our message. We need to communicate singular ideas better — like other media. Get away from “yellow speak.’ ”

Panelists agreed that a cultural shift needed at agencies. There’s a need to drive an agency team to look at client business in a more consultative way. The need is to explain options, returns, recommendations and benefits. Then, the client should be asked “How do you feel about that?” Be prepared for an iterative process, and focus on getting client buy-in.

Another question from Laughlin was about how different CMRs are coping with the new environment and requirements.

Augustine: “Many CMRs are finding that the decision maker is now the CFO or procurement manager — and they’re heavily focused on data. The decision maker is not the CMO anymore.” Also the print decision maker is frequently different from the online decision maker. In fact, frequently, the print buyer is battling for budget with the online buyer.

Hart: Investment in research is very important, and effective, for CMRs, in selling both PYP and IYP.

Barran: “The media world is very strange right now. We need to deliver metrics and analysis on many more media. We need to be more holistic in how we look at media and advertiser needs. In all agencies I’m familiar with, there has been a Chinese Wall between print and online.” Obviously, this needs to change.

The closing question from Laughlin: “Comparing national to local: Which is more stable, and which is more challenging now?”

All panelists offered opinions, but Hart’s comment may have summed it up: “National is way more challenging. There are so many more media, and the legacy image of print Yellow Pages to deal with. We need to tell our story better. We need to talk about users and usage better.”

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