Yellow Pages Group CEO Marc Tellier thinks the next three years will bring more change for the Yellow Pages industry than the past three. And that’s why he says he has built an organization that “isn’t complacent.”
Tellier sat for an on-stage interview Monday at the Local Search Association conference in Las Vegas. The Local Search Association was the Yellow Pages Association until its new name was unveiled Sunday.
YPG is the dominant directory player in Canada and a leading online company as well. Tellier stressed a number of key areas, including the critical importance of investment, innovation and a focus on customer service. He added that the company’s efforts to sell a wide ranging solution (Yellow 360), and train its reps to do so efficiently is beginning to pay off. He noted that three of its larger markets are now posting growth rates in the 7 percent to 10 percent range.
Tellier amplified a point made earlier in the morning by association chair Joe Walsh, who said the industry’s opportunity is not to maintain its current performance but to capture more of the broader local media opportunity. Tellier said that based on the full suite of products YPG is selling, the defined market for YPG in Canada is four times the Yellow Pages market.
Interestingly, Tellier said more than once during the interview that the companies YPG admires aren’t other publishers or large digital brands but companies like LandsEnd that have built “great customers service platforms.”
Tellier also believes investment is critical, and he asserts that YPG has been more aggressive in this area than other directory organizations. YPG has favored acquisitions and internal development to build out its digital product set. Tellier said he isn’t a fan of outsourcing.
Innovation is also critical, and Tellier said two years ago he decided the company could not just be fast followers, but had to become innovation leaders. He has since added management talent, particularly in marketing, to drive innovation.
“Building new products is not tough,” Tellier said. “The tough part is integrating it back into the core of the business.”
He also believes there is still a lot of residual value in print, and believes its declines have been exaggerated. That said, he predicted that in major metro markets, print will eventually collapse around its strongest categories, namely home services.
“I cannot imagine a world in which there is not a home services directory delivered to your home,” he said.
Some other nuggets from the Tellier interview:
* One reason YPG launched Mediative is that “large customers force you to innovate in ways that local companies do not.”
* He believes the CMR industry needs to consolidate. He said the leading CMRs invest in research and product knowledge, while small CMR shops often do not.
* Tellier believes two-thirds of SMBs want a single point of contact for their local media purchases.
* He also emphasized that YPG has invested in sales. When he started, 51 percent of his sales force was face to face. Today, the figure is 76 percent.