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Converting A Few Measly Page Views Into Real Business

Yodle, a specialist in placing online ads for small, local companies, has secured $12 million in second round venture funding. Its clients are the small-fries of Web commerce, but large enterprises could learn a few things from them.
Yodle, a specialist in placing online ads for small, local companies, has secured $12 million in second round venture funding. Its clients are the small-fries of Web commerce, but large enterprises could learn a few things from them.Founded in 2005, Yodle has about 800 customers, whose Web sites average a quaint 200 page views per month. That's nothing to a major retailer, financial firm, or media company, but it's significant if you're the local locksmith or auto detailer. Yodle helps mom-and-pop companies bid on keywords, place ads online, and route and track phone calls that result from those ads. Yodle contends that $1 spent on its local ad service translates into $8 in sales for a small business owner.

Google and many others are in the local online ad market, too, but Yodle CEO Court Cunningham argues his company's full service approach will appeal to small companies that don't want to deal with the nuances of do-it-yourself online advertising. Yodle's algorithms automate the process by giving priority to key words and search engines that generate the most bang for a small company's marketing buck. Investors Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Bessemer Venture Partners have now pumped $15 million into Yodle. That's enough, Cunningham says, to get the company to break even by early 2009.

Local online search queries are growing 50% annually and becoming increasingly detailed as users look for merchants in close proximity, says Cunningham. "We're in the early stages of this," he adds. Yodle's on track to have 5,000 customers by the end of next year.

Quality trumps quantity on the Web. Small businesses would choose a dozen strong leads over thousands of page views. Once a connection is established, customer relationship management on Main Street includes a phone call or handshake, word-of-mouth references, and knowing whose kids are entering kindergarten and which ones college. It's a degree of personalization missing from big business relationships.

Yodle launched as Natpal, but changed its name four months ago to something with more of a marketing ring to it. Cunningham is former VP and GM of marketing automation for DoubleClick, the online ad pioneer that reached agreement to be acquired by Google for $3.1 billion, pending approval. Yodle CTO John Merryman is an ex-DoubleClicker, too. In August, DoubleClick CEO David Rosenblatt joined Yodle's board of directors.