‘Search Starts Here’: A Look Inside Solocal’s Business Transformation

Jean-Pierre Remy, CEO and president of Solocal, gave us a deep look into Solocal’s impressive transformation from a traditional print Yellow Pages publisher to France’s leading local search company.

The transformation has resulted in strong results.  Today, Solocal’s online business represents 58% of revenues, and is expected to rise to 75% in 2015.  Solocal is the No. 1 local portal in France, and ranks as a top 5 destination for web and mobile reach.

So how did they do it?

Jean-Pierre said an intense focus on executing against a simply articulated strategy became the focus of every employee in the company.

Core to the strategy is the company’s focus on “local communication,” which broadened the company well beyond its print history.  Supporting the strategy is a three-pronged approach:

  • Digital content: Jean-Pierre said investing in content that isn’t available anywhere else, is the most important factor in driving value for advertisers and consumers.
  • Local media: Solocal has focused on building leading brands and partnering with leaders in local and social, including Facebook, Bing, and Yahoo.
  • Communications advisors: Retraining and recruiting talented communications advisors who can build trusted relationships with advertisers.  (Solocal has 2,500 local communication advisors.)

Jean-Pierre said the challenge now is for the communications advisors to go deep in their understanding of their clients so that Solocal’s customer focus can lead to specialized and customized offers and media for each client.

“When you go online, you have many more opportunities to help your clients adapt their local communication, but it means you really have to understand their business in much more detail.”

Looking to the future, Solocal is setting its sights on mobile growth, noting that the company is seeing traffic migrate from the web itself to mobile and social.

Jean-Pierre said Solocal must constantly innovate and look for new approaches to leverage social.  The company most recently experimented on Facebook with a brand called “Zoom On.” Zoom On creates an audience within special cities or regions.  Zoom On has been successful in terms of audience traffic, but Jean-Pierre said it still needs to convert that traffic into a monetization strategy.

That’s a key question we’ll all be asking as we continue to integrate social into local search offerings.  Based on what Solocal has done so far, I’m sure they’ll find the answer.

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