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Marquette CEO Chris Cummings: Avoid Running with the Squirrels

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Chris Cummings, CEO of Marquette Group and chairman of YPA and ADM, was the first guest speaker after the official open of Kelsey DMS ‘09.

Chris talked about the importance of focusing on the real issues we face and not getting bogged down in nuisances and distractions. He pointed to a popular EDS Super Bowl commercial that illustrates overreaction through the running of the squirrels.

So what are the real issues?

One is co-opetition – where competitors share common costs and work together where it makes sense, while maintaining clearly defined boundaries where there is competition. Finding a common Internet Yellow Pages platform could be one area where co-opetition would bring benefits to companies and advertisers.

Another is demonstrating value. It’s all about data and our ability to demonstrate value down to the local agent, dealer or franchisee. Using metrics to show value is critical. He noted that we still have some work do on the Internet Yellow Pages side.

Chris also counseled that we need to focus on keeping relationships with advertisers vibrant. They will go to advertising solutions they trust and can count on to deliver results. Stating, “Everyone, including Google, would kill to have the access and relationships that Yellow Pages has with small businesses.” Chris also predicted that Google will hit a plateau soon and will need help selling its services to advertisers who don’t understand the variety of options being offered.

Chris warned that our complexity as an industry will be our demise if we’re not careful. We need to streamline our product offerings to be more relevant and easy to understand. We also need compensation plans for our sales team to incent them to deliver integrated, multiplatform solutions. Chris admitted that “some of us have been slow” to adapt, but that now transformational changes are well underway at Yellow Pages companies.

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