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McDonald and Norton Say Industry Has Opportunity in Mobile-Focused Future

Peter McDonald, CEO of SuperMedia, and Neg Norton, president of the Local Search Association, kicked off the Search Starts Here conference with looks at where the local search industry is headed and how the Association is serving members.

“It’s no surprise to anyone we’re in transformation,” McDonald told the audience.  “It’s a land grab and we have to transform this business.”

McDonald said that Internet and, increasingly, mobile are the future and represent an opportunity for the industry.  Even with the changes, print Yellow Pages still play a relevant role in local media, McDonald said, with 76% who use print making a purchase.  He also pointed to metered line data from CRM Associates that showed that 266,314 measured lines produced 45,365,795 calls in 2011.

Given the complexity of print, Internet, mobile, and social, McDonald said that local businesses can’t figure it out and that the industry’s 16,000 local marketing consultants are in a great position to help them.

“I can tell you that small businesses are absolutely confused … We have to help them with their Google Places page, Facebook, mobile site, reputation, Yellow Page ad.  If we want to keep them, we have to give them results.”

Going forward, McDonald pointed to four things the industry must do to win:

  • Move fast.
  • Partner like we’ve never partnered before.
  • Work hard on customer relationships – not a once a year thing.
  • Produce results.

Neg Norton said that the broad industry changes also impact how the Association serves members.  He pointed specifically to mobile’s role as a driver in both industry and world events like Occupy Wall Street and the Egyptian revolution.

“You have to remember the role we play in this world of instantaneous information and conversation.”

Norton showed 2011 data from Burke that finds seven local media sources – search engines, Yellow Pages, store circulars/email promotions/coupons, newspapers, print white pages, and social networks) have at least 25 percent monthly reach.

“Consumers are using a wide variety of media sources pretty regularly.  If you’re a small business person, that’s a complicated thing to figure out.”

Norton said the industry is in a great position to win in the changing market.

“When you look at direct mail, coupons, we’re selling all this stuff … We’ve got a great lineup of products that can help business”

Norton also spent time reviewing the Association’s efforts to improve dialogue with communities looking at print Yellow Pages legislation.  The Association has brought together a coalition of stakeholders – led by former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb – to help legislators understand the valuable role Yellow Pages companies play in communities.  The efforts have helped ensure that no new print legislation has passed since last year’s San Francisco law.

Norton said that legislators are increasingly aware of how the industry’s products and services promote the idea that consumers should buy locally, which in turn builds economic prosperity; generates taxes, jobs, and growth; encourages vibrant and diverse local shopping economies; and encourages sustainability.

Norton said the industry’s role in delivering this value back to communities is critical.  “All of you make it easy and free for consumers to find information about local businesses.”

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