In roughly September last year ReachLocal founding CEO Zorik Gordon stepped down. Investor and Board Chair David Carlick stepped in as interim CEO. Today, however, the company is naming a new CEO: Sharon Rowlands.
Rowlands is originally from the UK but has been living in New York. I alerted her to the culture shock she’s going to experience as she moves from Manhattan to the San Fernando Valley (Southern California), where ReachLocal is based. I know from experience, having grown up there — it will be profound.
Rowlands has significant experience in SMB-related roles. She was on the ADP and ConstantContact boards. Her CEO history is: Thomson Financial, Penton Media and Altegrity*.
I spoke to Rowlands two days ago and found her candor and attitude to be refreshing. She was forthright about areas where she felt ReachLocal could improve and where it had fallen short.
She told me that her presence on the ConstantContact board deepened her interest in the SMB opportunity. She stressed simplification to “let [business owners] focus on running their businesses.”
Rowlands said that she wanted ReachLocal to do a better job of advertiser/SMB segmentation and to verticalize to better seize on what she characterized as a global market opportunity (sales) and to improve service. Rowlands indicated she wants to “diversify to serve the right [advertising and marketing] package to the right business.”
This discussion of the opportunity shifted into a conversation about what Rowlands thought ReachLocal could do better. She said, “I really would like to see customer needs and intimacy be a real driver of the business. I actually think we can take customer understanding to another level.” If she’s able to pull it off it will go a long way to boosting ReachLocal’s reputation in the market, which today is mixed. (The company wins awards but has many grassroots detractors.)
Rowlands also told me that Reach could get “crisper and faster on execution of the strategy.” She wants to speed things up all the way around. “[ReachLocal] has gone into the appropriate markets but hasn’t done a great job of expanding deeper into those markets.” Translation: there are lots more advertisers to acquire.
Rowlands said that ReachLocal’s “scale, marketing knowledge and resources” were differentiators. She also cited its technology and products. But she acknolwedlged that the market is very crowded and noisy. “The company is bigger than the brand is today,” Rowlands observed. She said she would also be focused on building the ReachLocal brand globally.
The company currently operates in 16 countries. It has 24,000 active advertiser-client running roughly 35,000 marketing campaigns. Its target advertiser-clients generate between $1 and $10 million in annual revenues. The company is now primarily focused on four large local verticals:
- Home Services
- Professional Services
- Specialty Services
Yesterday ReachLocal also reported that its ReachEdge product (launched in September 2013) now has 1,000 clients. The company describes ReachEdge as a combination of “smart website, automated lead follow-up software, and a powerful mobile app.”
*Altegrity was a holding company for US Investigations Services, which performed background checks on behalf of the NSA. Altegrity was shuttered by its private equity owner following the Snowden scandal.