The growing use of geo-data and level of media fragmentation has affected local media companies and agencies most acutely. Vendasta, which has been expanding its business identity from its early days as a local reputation management company to a specialist in digital presence services for local media, has been heavily focused on helping to address those twin issues.
To help it spread the word and deepen its ties in the local space, earlier this month, Vendasta hired former BIA/Kelsey executive Jed Williams, who has been named VP of Business Development and Strategy, a newly-created position.
Williams has spent most of his career thinking about these very issues, most recently at local marketing software company Main Street Hub, where he served as business development director.
GeoMarketing: What led you to join at Vendasta?
Jed Williams: When I look at the opportunity here, I think I look at it on two levels. What’s the opportunity at Vendasta? Then, what’s the opportunity in the local media and the small business marketplace?
I’m passionate about a few core things. I’m passionate about helping small business succeed. Small businesses are being disrupted — the way they acquire customers, talk to customers, retain customers. That has been disruptive, so small businesses have more choices and more challenges and more fragmentation than ever.
I’m very passionate about helping small business figure out the right ways through digital to grow. I’m equally passionate abut the local media states that we all live in, particularly local media companies that have had really important roles from both a content perspective and in advertising and revenue perspective in their communities for a long, long time for generations.
Clearly, their models have been disrupted. They’re in the process of transforming. There’s a great need to do so, particularly on the sales advertising and marketing side. Those are a couple of just my personal passions.
How do you see the opportunity at Vendasta to address some of those disruptive issues affecting the local media marketplace?
The opportunity to work with those entities at Vendasta is primarily based on building out an more even more consultative approach with clients in the space. We can use a combination of the company’s expertise and history, its tools and technology, and the platform concept it’s expanding.
You put all that together, and I think there’s a rich opportunity here to enable media companies and agencies to have more meaningful conversations and connections they’re able to generate with SMBs. At the end of the day, that to me is win, win, win.
As you said, you emphasized that consultative approach that Vendasta has and that obviously plays into what you’ve done before, but can you talk a little bit more about the influences from those past divisions?
The influence of my past two positions will certainly be felt in the one I’m taking at Vendasta. At least, I sure hope so, because I think the dots actually do connect here. As I look back at my time at BIA/Kelsey, which was an immensely valuable time for me, a lot of networking and network building came out of that. Most importantly, it helped create a lot more awareness and empathy for what’s going on in the local space, how it’s being transformed, and just how disruptive that transformation is and how secular that is.
Can you elaborate on those changes?
We’re talking about secular changes in advertising and in marketing and in media. We’re not talking about cyclical changes. At BIA/Kelsey, I was fortunate to work with a number of very important media entities directly and work with their executive teams, their in-market teams, their digital teams. The goal was to help them, oftentimes in the beginning stages and sometimes further down the road, to craft and ramp up a new digital revenue strategy.
How do you think your role at Main Street Hub will influence this new position at Vendasta?
The past year at Main Street Hub was very valuable in a different way. It was certainly related to what I did at BIA/Kelsey, but Main Street Hub sells media directly to small businesses. They’ve got a big channel sales team, and they’re selling directly to SMBs with this suite of digital solutions. They don’t have a “legacy business model” in a sense of selling their own advertising inventory or selling trends or whatever it might be historically. They’re digital pure-play.
There are a lot of learnings in having a sales force that’s engaging directly with small businesses every day and understanding directly from the perspective of small businesses — what their pain points are and why, what they really want, what they’ll use, what they won’t and why. As we talk about transforming sales and marketing teams, it’s good to remember the old adage of local: Advertising and marketing is sold, it’s not bought. That’s truer than ever with small businesses.
As you settle into the new job at Vendasta, what are you initial priorities and how do you expect to shape this role?
Most of my early days are going to be working with large media companies that Vendasta really has great relationships with — our premium partners. There’s still tremendous growth potential with these companies. There’s still a real burning need for them to continue their sales and marketing transformation. A lot of the things that we talked about are greenfield. There are plenty of new areas where we can continue to ramp them up and make them smarter and more effective salesforces using location data, for example.
If you look at my title, I think what I’m talking about there really pertains to the business development and partnership side. There’s also that hefty strategy word in my title. I think it’s a fun word. It invites a lot of imagination about what it means, but I think our challenge and opportunity and mine is to define really fundamentally what strategy means here and how do I can apply that to help this company. That will be really exciting.
You’ll see me do that in a couple of ways: I’ll continue to work with the executive team to shape what our market positioning is, what our go-to-market strategy is. I mentioned in this conversation we’re doing a lot of work around building a holistic full service platform for the companies that we service.
A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com, a news site devoted to covering the creative and strategic aspects of location-based advertising. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost, he has also written for Advertising Age, Broadcasting & Cable, Crain’s New York Business, The New York Post, Newsday and the Boston Globe; he has also covered financial issues for the Bond Buyer and Worth magazine. He lives in Sunset Park, Brooklyn