YP CEO Jared Rowe Sees Print As Part of Stronger, ‘Blended’ Offering
November 17, 2016 | Contributed by: Greg Sterling
I was surprised by Jared Rowe — who is quite bullish on the value of print and premise sales. The high-energy YP CEO, who joined the company from Cox Automotive Media Solutions in September, likes YP’s print assets and its local sales force.
I had a chance to speak with Rowe this morning by telephone. He shared some unexpected views with me in a 40 minute phone call.
Previously YP had separated print from its digital business and seemed to be moving away from the traditional directory, emphasizing digital. Yet Rowe argues that print has a significant role to play for some advertisers. However he’s not de-emphasizing digital; he sees them as part of a “blended” or “hybrid” solution.
While he affirmed that print directories are in “secular decline,” he said that for many advertisers print makes tremendous sense. He added that the “efficiency of spend in print is good.” Accordingly, under Rowe there will be a more balanced emphasis on digital and print. But it will also depend on the advertiser and circumstances.
In addition, while many people are moving from premise to telephone sales, because in-person reps are perceived as too expensive, Rowe sees the premise sales force as a key asset. He emphasized that “sales reps have been part of the community for a long time” and that there’s enormous value in “humans talking to humans” directly.
He envisions a more “solutions focused” sales model that better addresses the needs of the customer. Rowe sees more customization in the future: “We want to show you the bundle best for you. We want to focus on outcomes and not tactics.” He also wants YP sales reps to become “more effective partners” for local advertisers.
Rowe equally believes that yellowpages and YP are “iconic brands” that need to “continue to evolve.” He says he’s excited to “help write the next chapter in an iconic brand’s history.”
Rowe was clear that in his mind the company and its products don’t need any major revamp or overhaul. Instead, he says, YP needs to “tune its assets.” He says he was hired because of his expertise is in “applying tech to try and solve marketing problems.”
“We have a great digital footprint; we touch 60 million consumers per month,” said Rowe. “We’re going to continue to relentlessly invest” in the brand and the product. He said that the company has recently doubled the number of consumer reviews generated on a monthly basis, as evidence of its increasing digital effectiveness under consumer product lead Stu MacFarlane.
I asked Rowe about future product direction, about booking and payments and back-office automation for SMBs and whether they were on the table. He said while they have value, YP wasn’t going to become “vertically integrated at the point of sale” or “all things to all people” though he sees YP as an “enabler” of some of those things.
Rowe did offer that YP would do more to help advertisers “nurture existing customer relationships” when asked about consumer acquisition vs. loyalty for local advertisers.
Asked about advertiser loyalty and retention, Rowe responded that “Business is nothing more than making and keeping promises. Tell somebody they’re going to do something and you’ll do it.” Philosophically I agree with most of Rowe’s positions. However I challenged him on execution.
Rowe agreed that the challenge in this vision was in operations and execution. But he has confidence he can make the needed adjustments.
We’ll hear more from Jared Rowe about these and other issues in a keynote conversation at LSA17 in San Diego.