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With the Past as Our Guide, We Can Define Our Future

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Sarah Soteroff

Norm Hagarty, CEO: By now most of us in the directional media industry have heard about TMP’s unfortunate demise. I don’t believe that this kind of turmoil is ever good. It certainly is not good for TMP’s staff, many of whom will face uncertain job prospects (at least in the short term); clients who now have to scramble to find a suitable (and perhaps less than ideal) directory agency; and publishers who will need to ensure continuity of client programs and that they get paid.

I think the biggest loser in all of this is the directory industry. We have lost a strong competitor and a leader in our industry, one who was very innovative – remember Monster? TMP made us all look critically at our people, processes, training, pricing…which made us better. TMP’s closure will cast a pall over the directory industry and continue to bring doubt as to its viability, despite directories continuing to deliver very strong ROI numbers for advertisers – not all advertisers, but we certainly see strong results for many headings through our testing.

  1. I do believe that this kind of end result can be avoided for most “Yellow Pages” agencies. We need to continue the innovation that TMP started for our industry. We need to offer our clients true value and expand the definition of what we do. If we do that, we will be able to make the necessary margins to not just keep us in business but also allow us to continually innovate. What is it exactly that we need to do…?
  2. Recognize that we are in the lead generation business and leads now come from anywhere – SEM, SEO, Google Places, Facebook, Twitter, etc. as well as directory. This is now a complicated ecosystem that your clients need help in maneuvering.
  3. Ensure your solutions can be integrated and that you are talking your clients’ language.
  4. Continually measure and report on everything that you do. Make sure your measurement processes and tools are transparent and relevant to your clients’ business industries.
  5. Establish KPIs for every program, channel, advertising vehicle… and report against all of them.
  6. Reallocate dollars to channels that are working hardest, be it print or SEO or SEM… and do it quickly!
  7. Work with publishers, search engines and sites to advocate your clients’ interests in order to meet their business objectives.
  8. Have the courage to invest in emerging channels so that your clients can acquire the benefits of your learning.
  9. Invest in your staff – they will be seeing and learning a lot of new things everyday. They need the courage to bring their learning to our clients.

This is a journey that we started at DAC over 10 years ago.  We now have integrated programs for our clients from GE to Xerox to Monro Close to 50% of our business is now in digital.  But it is a journey; one that you must be committed to everyday. It is froth with self-doubt and anxiety. But when you know that you can measure what you do, share your results with your clients, have smart, dedicated people helping to solve problems, you begin to realize that your clients want you to succeed, that you impact their business immediately as well as over time. If they succeed, you will continue to succeed.

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