Yodle Introduces Mobile, Radically Simplifies Selling to SMBs

This morning Yodle announced a new addition to its suite of products and services for small businesses (SMBs). The new product addition, which the company says is being rolled out to its roughly 34,000 SMB customers, provides a mobile-optimized website (responsive web design), as well as “mobile ad bidding.” There’s no additional charge for the new services.

This announcement in and of itself is pretty straightforward. It will be very useful to Yodle’s customers to have mobile optimized sites and access to mobile ad inventory — at no additional cost. “Almost 33% of our traffic is now mobile,” said Yodle CEO Court Cunningham to me yesterday over the phone.

What’s more interesting, however, is the positioning of the product and what it reflects about Yodle’s larger packaging and selling of SMB marketing services. Indeed, Yodle has dramatically simplified its products and its pitch.

Cunningham told me that Yodle is now adding channels and tools as they become important (i.e., mobile). However it’s not going to charge its customers for each of them as they emerge. Many publishers and SMB channels are selling each channel or tool as a separate, stand-along product. You want SEM? That’s one price. You want some SEO or mobile? That’s another.

Yodle is bundling up everything “as a feature.” Cunningham explained, “What you’re buying is the state of the art in online customer acquisition.” As the market evolves Yodle will be adding services “for free.” The company is sourcing calls and emails from each of these channels: SEM, SEO, display, mobile, IYP and so on (though not yet social). Cunningham told me he believes social is more of a retention/CRM tool that an acquisition source.

Yodle has a base presence product that costs $150 per month. SMBs then buy a “media package” (calls/emails) at different price points beyond that. Prices can go well over $1K per month depending on much volume the SMB wants. Pricing also varies by category and geography. Many of Yodle’s customers are in the $500 to $1K monthly range.

Yodle piloted the new packaging and sales approach in October of last year. Cunningham told me that the “sales pitch became half as long, conversions (sales) went up and so did customer satisfaction.” He said they received “zero push back” from customers.

It’s sort of a mutual fund approach, where marketing is diversified across channels but bought in a single package. Cunningham said, however, it’s not totally “black box” to the SMB. They are told about the components of the program.

I asked about any fulfillment challenges and Cunningham told me that Yodle can now “predict [traffic] with over 90% confidence.” Previously Yodle didn’t have enough scale and data to do as good a job at predicting fulfillment scenarios. “Setting proper customer expectations is the key to overcoming churn” said Cunningham.

He sees each new marketing tool or channel, whether it’s reputation management, mobile or social, as a “feature” of a unified single product where the only variable is lead volume (though Yodle doesn’t sell “leads” per se). Each channel helps Yodle fulfill the SMB’s program — and expectations accordingly.

I haven’t talked to any of Yodle’s customers; but it strikes me that this is the right approach to the market. In some ways it’s a return to the “bucket of clicks” days, which enabled paid-search to be easily sold by the YP sales force. However there’s a great deal more sophistication behind the scenes or under the hood (pick your metaphor) at Yodle, and the company isn’t selling clicks.

They’ve hidden the complexity and minimized the SMB education the sales reps need to do in order to close. Dare I say it . . . but Yodle may have “cracked the code” with its new more integrated product and sales approach.

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