Yellowbook is the first of the YP publishers to formally enter the group buying space with a new site called Weforia. The company has launched a sales effort in three pilot markets: Phoenix, Boston, Ft. Myers.
Yellowbook’s Mike Wilson told me that he felt a new site and brand would be more effective than launching this on Yellowbook. However the deals can and will appear equally on Yellowbook (on the home page or business profile pages). The deals will also be distributed in mobile and on Yellowbook’s mobile apps.
Wilson cited the SEO benefits and “best of both worlds” aspects of launching the new brand, while syndicating deals to Yellowbook.com.
The sales teams in the three market started selling on Monday. Wilson was “stunned” by the early response he told me. “Deal flow doesn’t appear to be a problem,” he said. The deals will go live to consumers in mid-to-late September.
Asked about how group buying might affect Yellowbook’s other products Wilson said, “We don’t think that group buying is a wholesale replacement for other marketing efforts. It’s imperative that [advertisers] be in other places.” He said this was validated by focus groups of SMBs, where they said they wouldn’t abandon other forms of marketing for group buying exclusively.
Some sales reps are being dedicated to this exclusively. However Wilson said that in the end this will be part of a larger portfolio mix.
Wilson also told me that this sales strategy was part of a larger effort to fine tune sales efforts, which involves adjusting the “canvass” model where it makes sense on a market-by-market basis.
Wilson believes that SMBs will use group buying as an “infusion,” quarterly or semi-annually but not more frequently.
I asked Wilson about an increasingly competitive daily deals landscape and how Yellowbook felt it was positioned. Wilson said that the Yellowbook sales force has an advantage. He also said that if there was a price/margin war, Yellowbook could win. “We can stomach a price war and tighter margins far more so than the startups can.”
Wilson added that Yellowbook might even consider acquiring group-buying sites depending on things played out. But he was especially pleased by the fact that Yellowbook is the first of the national traditional media companies with a local sales force to get into the segment.
Update: YPG in Canada has also launched a daily deals program, so they were actually first. Yellowbook is the first US publisher to do so.