Speaking digital to print is a lot like working with an unruly horse. You have to be patient, calm and mindful of the horse’s nature for a good outcome. Horses are a particular passion of mine, and every time I am with my horses, whether riding, training or simply caretaking, I learn something new.
Next week I’ll be speaking at a national conference, the Association of Directory Publishers, about the path that customers travel as they move from shopping to buying. Whether selling legal services or $2 million heating systems, that path is fragmented, disrupted by market forces, an avalanche of messages and information and forces that often feel like they are out of anyone’s control.
If you were riding an unruly horse with that much ambient noise, you’d be dumped on the ground in a heartbeat. Horses don’t like surprises and they don’t much like change. They are intelligent creatures, sensitive to the environment around them and cautious about possible threats.
In recent years, the directory publishing business has been faced with change on a massive scale. Valued at its peak at $15 billion in 2008, the industry has moved from print to a multi-media business that includes local search, yellow pages online and printed directories. Its best chance for long-term success will be moving mindfully and calmly through tumultuous change.
I’m speaking before this group because in addition to my role with IMS, I am also the publisher of The Goddard Report (TGR), the leading independent source of news on the yellow pages industry. With feet in both worlds, I have a unique perspective. Back in the day, law firms once depended upon Yellow Pages to deliver a steady stream of new clients. Today the legal profession has embraced a multi-media digital platform that the directory world is moving toward.
Successfully embracing change on such a scale calls for evidence-based, strategic planning that leans on the data, understands the customer journey, however fragmented, and accurately aligns values with customer perceptions. Not a small task for the directory world, but one that can be done.