Sensis to act as middle man for SMEs

Sensis has flagged plans to help SMEs connect with customers

Off the back of an 18-month transformation, Telstra’s search and directory subsidiary, Sensis, has detailed its new focus on aiding small businesses wanting to connect with customers using digital platforms.

The company’s chief executive, Bruce Akhurst, told attendees at a Trans-Tasman Business Circle lunch in Sydney that the increasingly digital world had “rewritten the advertising rulebook” and changed the way buyers and sellers find each other and connect.

“We now have what we call a digital dilemma for marketers, it’s exciting stuff there’s no doubt about that but digital advertising has one big gaping hole at the heart of its business model,” Akhurst said.

“There are so many different forms of digital advertising today and they all support advertisers in different ways… But none of them are a silver bullet for solving the digital dilemma for advertisers.”

According to Akhurst, there is no such thing as a single form of advertising to meet everybody’s every needs and the wealth of outlets such as iPads, smartphones, search engines and websites.

“You end up with a legion of one-trick ponies spruiking single solutions that don’t actually tie together; you can’t buy them together, you can’t manage them together and you can’t measure them together,” he said. “On the other side of the table you have a small business owner who hasn’t got the time, the resources or in many cases the knowledge to manage through this maze.”

Eight five per cent of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) don't use social media, Akhurst said, and only 17 per cent of them have a digital strategy.

Commenting on the transformation of Sensis, which involved the company adding a number of mediums to its traditional print format including voice, mobile and online, Akhurst noted Yellow Pages had had no choice but to shift from a directories company focused on the annual release of a print directory to a multi-platform service.

In addition to the 18-month transformation, Akhurst outlined the development of an API in March this year to enable developers to access Yellow Pages content to operate their own sites and applications.

However, developers will face some restrictions when it comes to accessing personal information.

“It’s really only commercial business content that we’ll make available and there’s a list of terms and conditions that you have to sign up to, to be eligible,” he said. “It’s not a free for all. One of the most important things is making sure you use the content appropriately and that we also need to be able to meter that content… We need to feed that into our ROI reports for our advertisers so that they know what use is being made and what value they’re getting from various different sites or various different media that their content about business might be published in.”

Akhurst was insistent Sensis' transformation will not signal the end of the print format, claiming the print directory is used at least 1 million times per week by Australians.

“I don’t believe that the print product of any form is just going to go away totally, on the other usage has dipped quite significantly so there’s going to be a blend.”

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

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